Home schooling is a huge responsibility! You take the power of your child’s only education into your hands. For some families, they were taught through home schooling so they naturally teach their children through home schooling. For me, I was raised in public school and then went to college, briefly! Ha! As a young single Mom at the age of 22 with two small boys, as soon as they were school age they went to regular school. Honestly, I was most thankful for the relief on my budget because having two kids only a year apart in age in daycare so I could work full time cost me about $1200/mth! It really IS cheaper for single parents to work part-time jobs or live off of welfare, if they can pay their bills with that. I never qualified for that because since I was a trained Pharmacy Tech and I had a certain “skill set” I made more than minimum wage which meant I made $50/mth too much to qualify for any state assistance. Oh the joys of that!
I had my first issues with the Arizona school system with my youngest son, Konnor, was in 2nd grade. He had a pretty great teacher and even with his recently diagnosed ADHD and trying to get a handle on his behavioral issues and outbursts of anger (that was extremely unpredictable and rarely the same stimulus) the teacher was great and understanding. I would ask her numerous times how he was doing academically as this was the first year he was actually enjoying school and he had a good teacher so I was optimistic that his academics were on par as well.
He couldn’t read!
Well come to find out before Christmas break he was actually failing his reading portion. The teacher had never given me any info or notice that he was going to get a grade like that! Perplexed, because we would read together at home, I sat down with him with a new book and asked him to read to me. He couldn’t! He tried a few words and got so upset a big outburst occurred. I then realized that the books we would read or he would read to me at home were books we had had for years, which I had read to him many times and he had memorized them! He hadn’t been reading TO me all along. =(
The Arizona school system just doesn’t care
That began my discontent for the school system with their lack of information and lack of a desire to help each student do their best. I realized they really do just PASS KIDS ALONG even if they do not know everything they need to. That year in Konnor’s 2nd grade year they were going to pass him. By April of the following year before 2nd grade ended, we were facing other issues including Konnor’s chronic asthma and allergies as well as eczema and his behavioral issues were beginning to be more than I could handle alone and he was too young for talk therapy as we had tried that as well.
Will Arkansas be better?
So I talked to his father who lived in Arkansas (whom he would visit several times throughout the year and Konnor knew well) and asked if we could do a trial run of Konnor coming to live with his Dad the end of his 2nd grade year and through the summer. I wanted to do this to see if him living in a 2 parent home would help (his dad had now married after our split) and also every time we would visit back home his asthma and eczema would get a lot better due to all the moisture in the air, where here it is so dry and so it exacerbates his health conditions. His father agreed and we took a trip out there.
It was the solution for him!
The last month that Konnor did 2nd grade in Arkansas he went through assessment tests, he had a very caring teacher, his step-mom was already previously involved in the local school system and so she knew a lot of the people at his new school and he got put into a FREE after school reading program! In the month that he went through that program his confidence had already began to grow, with just the concept of reading. Through that 1st summer in Arkansas he was put into a different full-time reading and academics summer camp. It was like a day care except it was FREE and done through the school system. Over that summer he was able to come up a grade in his reading level. Throughout his 3rd grade year in Arkansas with his additional tutoring in reading and focused one on one attention with other subjects he needed help in he was FINALLY able to read his reading grade level, in less than a year in Arkansas. Mostly through the free programs offered in Arkansas that don’t even exist here in Arizona. The progress he showed over that time was enough to show me that I made the right decision for my son. Of course, (people ask me all the time) it was a very hard decision and Riley and I miss him ALL the time. We all talk on the phone often and we visit Arkansas 3-5 times a year to see him and other family. Thankfully, none of this would have been possible if his father and I didn’t have a mutually respectful co-parenting relationship. Our relationship when we were together was pretty horrible and it took us a good 2-3 years to reach a mutual understanding but the type of relationship we have now for our son is paramount and well worth it!
My older son, Riley, who lives with me here on the farm who I am now home schooling is 2 grade levels above Konnor, with them being 19 mths apart in age. Riley was in 4th grade the year that Konnor moved to Arkansas.
5th grade for Riley
For Riley, 5th grade was not a bad year but it was a year that we, unfortunately, moved around a lot. So with 3 school changes throughout that year (totally my fault) he had a hard time making and keeping friends although he did meet 2 boys that he became good friends with that he has managed to remain friends with even after we moved away. His academics never suffered though. During that year I was not concerned about him being in school. Since he didn’t struggle much in school like Konnor, I never worried about him. But my main concern with the school system these years was due to a state wide budget issue the Governor was talking about cutting the already dismal extra curricular programs in elementary schools. Which meant the one day a week that Riley did art and music, he would entirely lose.
To me, in comparison to me going to Kindergarten through 9th grade in Arkansas, Arizona schools always lacked on the extra academics. I’ve always hated that my kids might get LESS from school than I did when I was growing up. I think academics are crucially important but what promotes a well rounded student and therefore, well rounded adult, is being exposed to many different types of studies including ones that encourage creativity and promote life skills, not just book smarts.As you could never survive as an adult with book smarts alone.
When we moved to our little farm I was considering home schooling him because if I didn’t he’d have to move to a whole new school AGAIN and I felt bad for all the changes. We would be living in a more rural area with no bus stops anyway and so I began heavily researching home schooling. At this time I was just looking into the idea and rules and didn’t really talk to many people about it. I decided to go tour the local school that is K-8 which meant he could stay at the same school for 3 years until moving to high school and that to me was a positive thing, to give him some academic stability after all of our recent moving around.
The school tour
The tour went great and I was pleased to find they had a school community garden which supplied produce they used in the cafeteria and they host a weekly gardening club for kids who want to help maintain the garden and learn about it. On top of that they didn’t require any school supplies as they were a type of public school where most of the kids were at or close to the poverty level so the state would donate funds to them to provide school supplies for everybody. I found that interesting but I did like that it would save me money! Then we discovered that kids in 6th grade and up all get a school laptop (a Chromebook) to use for their in class studies. They were not allowed to take them home but at least half of their work in class would be done on the laptop. I thought that was really cool and Riley being a computer guy loved the idea of learning online. So we discussed it and decided he’d go there!
The beginning of the end
Just before Fall break Riley had his first 6th grade parent teacher conference and I was excited to see how he was doing with his grades. Neither of his teachers had contacted me with any great concerns. One day I had ran into his teacher in the office and I had asked how he was doing and he said Riley forgets to turn in assignments sometimes or would be day dreaming in class when he should be working. These weren’t a giant concern of mine. Come to find out, he was FAILING in language arts and had a D in his favorite subject, Math. Not only did the teacher say that his D in Math was due mostly because he would not complete or turn in class room assignments but he then went on to greatly insult him in a very negative tone. I myself even felt threatened and intimidated by how he was talking to us both. The other teacher who was present acted as if she was used to him and just annoyed by his delivery. I was bothered that this teacher who spends over half of the day with my son was so harsh and insulting. He didn’t even act like he was interested in finding a solution to the problem or telling me ways that I could possibly help Riley. He spent 10 mins talking about what Riley does wrong, how he’s a loner (rude as hell, in my opinion) quizzing Riley on if he REALLY has friends outside of class or not, telling him how he needs to stop staying in lala land. He never once gave constructive advice but just insult after insult and I was taken aback. I tried to be friendly with the teacher, out of respect, I am never one to cause a scene. I did make sure to tell the teacher that on Riley’s last AIMS Math tests through the state the end of last year he had placed “exceeds expectations” in his math area so it was really odd to me that he would now have a D in his best subject in less than a few months time.
We left and as soon as we got out of the classroom I stopped Riley and said to him, “Does he talk to you or other kids in class like that often?” and he said “What do you mean?” and I said “How he was kind of rude and saying all the things you do wrong?” and he said “Well…yeah.” He obviously didn’t think it was an issue but Riley is so mild tempered and sweet that when he feels threatened or put down he just resorts inside himself. He’s not one to defend himself or speak up, and that is one thing I hope I can help him with over this next year because I believe the root is lack of confidence.
He had one more half day of school and then he was out for a week for Fall Break. Over the course of Fall Break I dove head first into educating myself on home schooling. I knew that the time was now. For him to be doing so poorly in his favorite subject meant to me that he was not happy at school or he wasn’t learning well in that type of environment. So the decision was made! In my next post I’ll cover what I found in my research and how I decided on which curriculum we are using now.