We're on the back end of our first year of home-schooling, and you may be wondering how it's going. Well, join the club, because so are we!
Kidding aside, some aspects are going wonderfully, there are other things we know we can improve, and, because that parental second-guessing doesn't go anywhere when we put our teaching hats on, there are also areas where we have no idea how we're doing. All we can do is try.
In September, when we were hunting for a learning group to augment our individual studies, Abby Barras, the director of Cartwheels & Coffee in Carytown, suggested the Athenian Academy. It offers enrichment classes for home-schoolers on a class-by-class basis. We've maintained a steady schedule of four classes a week — history, art, literature and a basic kindergarten-skills class — and it's been a fantastic way to make sure The Boy has some interactive learning time with other kids. He can even bring a lunch and stay after class for socializing.
Speaking of Cartwheels & Coffee, that's been another important card in our home-schooling deck. Home-school recess can be a lonely time. Local playgrounds are all but abandoned on weekdays, except for babies, and what 5-year-old wants to hobnob with babies? Fortunately, there are always other home-schoolers hanging out at Cartwheels & Coffee, and the regulars — The Boy included — play well together and have developed a rapport.
Sometimes it's not other kids he's craving. Sometimes it's just anybody but us. I'm not offended; if I had to be around me 24 hours a day, I'd get sick of me, too. When that's the issue, a trip to the grandparents' house is just what The Boy ordered. One of the great things about home-schooling is that weekdays aren't a constant blur of trying to get everything done around that big block of school time — if Baboo wants to have The Boy over on a Thursday afternoon, that can be arranged.
I know all of you hardliners are out there slapping your rulers on your palms. "Nothing but socializing! Tsk tsk! You haven't even mentioned the academics!" What of it? Part of what drove our decision to home-school was feeling that kindergarten shouldn't be a time to memorize and do drills. Yes, we practice reading and writing. Yes, The Boy has learned simple addition and subtraction. Do we have a set curriculum and a scheduled time every day during which we work on each subject? Not hardly. For the reading, we do have workbooks, but the worksheets Tad makes about monsters and robots are more popular. We're not pushing the writing yet, but whenever The Boy has an important memo for us, we help him write it down. We aren't pushing math yet, either, but he's developed some impressive skills from playing his Jump Start computer game. Games? Instead of tests? Say it ain't so!
Listen. Back during my classroom-teaching days, the clinical director of the juvenile facility where I taught once complained that she stopped by my classroom and found a student on the computer writing a personal letter during school time. Never mind that he couldn't write a sentence six months prior when he was admitted. There is a method to my madness.
That said, does it still feel like madness? Some days, yes. Do I feel like we're doing a perfect job as home-schoolers? Not by a long shot. Of the options available to us, do I think we made the right choice? Absolutely. There's definitely room for improvement, and we're improving all the time. And that, ultimately, is what learning is all about.