Late last year, Lynette and I made the decision that we were going to pull our kids from their school and switch to homeschooling. It was something we spent a lot of time thinking about before we actually did it, and honestly were pretty terrified.


This was precipitated specifically by some comments that R's teacher made, which led to an angry email I sent to her which was then responded to only with a "Come in and let's meet," rather than an actual answer to my email. Since I was asking her in the email what she was going to do to address my concerns, the answer I got was "waste your time," and that didn't sit well with me.

But it wasn't really just that one comment. It was the thing that convinced me that R wasn't being well served. He's a hyperactive, academically gifted but emotionally somewhat difficult student. The math he was being given was something he had mastered before he actually started school, and we were facing the problem that it was simply too boring to do.

He had homework. Homework that was, frankly, beneath him. We had difficulty getting him to do the work. He demonstrated knowledge by teaching me the assignments and showing me how to do them, but when it came to actually doing them, he resisted. When we tried to get his teacher to work with us to do something that would actually help him, we got a condescending comment that he needs to learn to sit down and do his work. It's a life skill.

At the same time, C was drawing on herself in class. At some point, her paper had gotten taken away because she was having trouble paying attention and she was doodling on it. (Nevermind that doodling is often a side effect of paying attention, especially in kids with attention issues). In addition, her class was overstuffed (33 kids), 10 of them with learning disabilities, and her teacher admitted that he didn't have the bandwidth to see to her needs when the disadvantaged kids needed his time more. While I agree with him in principle, it meant that C's education was to "provide leadership" and help the disadvantaged kids. She resented that.

With both of these in mind, and the knowledge that both our kids are gifted (C has the test scores to prove it) we decided to go ahead and pull them. We signed up for Ocean Grove, an "independent study charter school" that keeps them in the public school system, but doesn't actually have 4 walls and a classroom. The school provides funding for materials and an "Education Specialist" whose primary job is to provide oversight. We have to provide work samples and demonstrate learning, with regular meetings. She gives us advice and helped us with resources. The school has a curriculum library that's absolutely huge (and incredibly badly organized) and we've gotten TONS of books and things from the school. They also do diagnostic testing at the beginning and end of the semester as a gauge of progress, though that only really covers math and ELA.

When we got accepted in January, we had a nanny with an interest in education. Great, we said, she'll do the heavy lifting and we'll supervise and make sure we're getting what we want.

It turned out our nanny and the ES had some disagreements on how things should be done. As parents, we ended up siding with the ES. Over the summer--a week before my surgery--our nanny gave us notice that she'd found a better job and moved on. She gave us 5 weeks of notice, at least, but the timing turned out bad because I had other things going on.

That left us with an interesting choice. Hire someone new, or do it ourselves. Hiring someone would be difficult at the best of times. But I went and had surgery, so I was in no shape to really go and handle that. Plus, let's be honest, the idea of actually going out and trying to hire someone was not entirely appealing.

That left us with...do it all ourselves. While working full time, both of us. The good news is we both have flexible jobs that allow us to work from home significantly. So we can be here. Our kids are old enough that they don't need constant, direct supervision. Lynette's able to work on the go, which has been important for gymnastics, which R is doing 3 days a week now. She can take him and still get her work done.

Late in July, as the nanny's end date was approaching, we realized we weren't able to wing it. Lynette had thought she was going to have to do the lion's share of this herself; her job is significantly more flexible than mine. She doesn't even have an office to go into, whereas I do and I have to go in fairly regularly. Plus I'm more often in the position of "these things have to be done Right Now."

But I didn't want to leave her with that. Also, and this one is just me, I decided pretty quickly that if we didn't work out, in advance, what we wanted to accomplish, we were going to end up in a situation where we weren't sure what needed to be done at any given time, the kids would take advantage of that confusion to do as little as possible, and there would be suffering. So I approached her said I'd be willing to try to dedicate 3-5 hours a week of time to help do direct education and take some of the weight off her shoulders.

That led to some FURIOUS research on curriculum. Research that probably could've taken weeks and weeks. Luckily for me, Lynette had already done quite a lot of research, and she handed me a curriculum she found that she already liked. I used that and expanded on it a little bit.

What we ended up with as a literature and history based curriculum. Both kids are going through the same history course (called Story of the World, which...I'm giving it a C+, I really like some aspects of it but wish it were a bit deeper and sometimes I feel it's a little overdramatized), with C getting a chunk more actual work and extra reading to do, while still covering the same material. They're also taking a California History class at an external outfit called A-Team that we're kind of testing out to see if that works for us.

Because R has attention issues while reading, we've re-instituted nightly reading time, but this time with literature recommended by other homeschoolers, and some writing/quiz work done afterward to help ensure comprehension.

They're both doing a math curriculum called Beast Academy, which is a bit of math designed for gifted kids that uses comics as the guide. They both love the curriculum, but it's pretty dense, so they've got quite a lot of daily work to do. There's some resistance, but they ARE doing it and I have to admit it's really enjoyable to work through the material with them and watch the understanding grow. Especially with C who I think has been a little lax on the mathematics because it's always been boring and she's really been heavily into the ELA aspects.

They're doing ELA through an online program called Time4Learning. Thankfully it's got a nice little scheduling mechanism, so I've been able to schedule a year's worth of curriculum around where we want things to be. There's also a program we've got called Accelerated Reader, which is basically "read anything you want, come take come comprehension quizzes to prove you did it, and you get points and point goals."

And there's a set of science courses from Pandia Press called "REAL Science Odyssey." R is doing a level 1 course for Earth & Space, and so far he's made a rain gauge, an anemometer, and a simple weather vane as experiments. C has a much more advanced one -- which has a monster 740 page book -- for biology that she's resistant to. But I've really loved the material so far, and the labs that it does. Unfortunately she's decided science is boring, so we're having some difficulty pushing her.

We formally started our school year a bit before the school actually starts, and we're now 3 weeks into it. It's a bit crazy, with gymnastics 3 times week, park day once a week, A-Team once a week. Oh and full time jobs. I put much of the schedule into Google Classroom, so the kids can go into the classroom, see what their daily assignments are and do them. We do have to nag them a bit daily, but they're not allowed devices until assignments are done. And so far that's moderately effective.

While this has been a bit crazy, 3 weeks in I'm at least feeling comfortable that the whole system is going to work. Honestly I was a bit terrified when we started that we simply wouldn't have the time and energy to get the kids what they need. We have an advantage: They're very bright kids and don't need tons of direction, so the little bursts of time we're able to give in between to help them through harder bits seem to be working. And the projects we're giving them are mostly more fun that public school. And hey, a lot of 'school' can be done in the car while going back and forth to all of these events.

So it's a bit nutty, but I think we're going to survive it. And I think the kids are really benefiting from curriculum that's tailored to their needs and their academic level.
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merlinofchaos

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