Thursday, October 2, 2014

our learning landscape

back to school time has come and gone. our friends in public and private school have posted their *first day of ___ grade* photos on facebook. we've attended our local homeschool group's *not back to school* picnic at the park. many have has asked us what we're doing this year, especially interested in diana, wondering if her experimental year in public school for fifth grade would turn into a permanent career change.

ander is attending public school again, 3rd year in a row, now as a second-grader.  he's actually pretty pleased about it at the moment.  he really likes his teacher and so do i - she takes a genuinely interested, respectful, encouraging, focus-on-the-individual-learner approach towards her students. ander comes out of class at the end of the day talking about something he's really proud of, about playing with his friends at recess, about books he selected at the library, about something fun he learned in math or pe or music. he greets teachers and staff and fellow students with smiles and waves. he does groan just a bit about getting up in the morning, but his overall experience seems positive.  we feel fortunate to have a place where his curiosity is appreciated and where he is surrounded by friends who appreciate him for himself.

diana is back to homeschooling. we consider her past year to be a great success in terms of discovering how she'd manage in public school. she blew myths right out of the water about being *one of those weird homeschool kids* by easily forming friendships, getting involved in activities, and impressing her teachers with her enthusiasm, knowledge, and skills. diana's note: i am so awesome!!

here's the thing, though. she liked having the structure and schedule of school but craved the flexibility of allowing more and sustained time to concentrate on her work. she liked being around her friends all day but the severe limitations on actually being able to have deeper conversations or mix with other students were quite frustrating. she was surprised by and resented the general culture regarding what was deemed appropriate reading material, having been brought up with an expansive repertoire. having to take time away from actual, active learning to prepare for SOL (standards of learning) tests made her feel like the last weeks of school were a waste of time. her suggestions for engaging in learning experiences that were complimentary to the curriculum were often met with, "sorry, that sounds really interesting, but we don't have time in the schedule for it." and getting access to the advanced academics teacher to work on algebra in math class for only two days per month was agonizing.  diana craved more. she appreciated that she stood out and was recognized among classmates and students as smart and academically capable, but it was lonely at times to be one of the few who loved to read as many books as she could get her hands on and enjoyed having challenging assignments.

diana threw herself wholeheartedly into the school experience and i think she did so admirably. she engaged in learning both inside and outside of class time. she was enthusiastic about in-school and out-of-school activities.  she qualified for and finished quite well in the geography and spelling bees. diana's note: i finished 4th in the geography bee. woo-hoo! she raised money during the school-wide fundraiser. i won a whole tent! she sang in the chorus and played viola in the string orchestra.  she served as a library assistant and wrote for the student newspaper.  she participated in gems club and also odyssey of the mind as the only girl on the upper-grade team (which did quite well at competition, i might add). that was because of my awesomeness. 

those efforts took a toll on her, though it took us quite a while to recognize the effects.  over time, she began to fret about homework. she lost interest in reading for pleasure and griped about the reading log she was required to keep. talk about fun things she learned at school came less frequently. she realized she had started to take on the attitude she saw in others - to do just what was required and no more. her best hours for creative exploration were taken up by school, and she had little social energy left by the time she got home to follow her creative endeavors other than playing online games.

so, after much discussing, exploring of options, and soul-searching, diana, steve and i agreed that homeschooling for sixth grade was the best choice.  now into the formal school year, diana is starting to rediscover her passion for reading and art.  she has time to work on projects in minecraft, watch the cosmos reboot series, and read about current events and discoveries in time and smithsonian.  she joined a homeschool girl scout troop, excited to be a cadette with all the privileges and responsibilities of that level of membership.  she's taking voice lessons and honing her craft of writing fantasy fiction at compass, a local homeschool enrichment co-op.  she's delving into mathematical concepts with her dad and exploring the basics of electronics with me. most importantly, she has the support she needs to nurture her curious nature again, thanks to the mentoring skills i developed in my project-based homeschooling class this summer.

i feel like i can exhale now. you won't find me engaging in much debate about the pros and cons of one kind of *schooling* vs another. i have children in public school and homeschool and that's because it works for us. our choices reflect mindful consideration of individual and family needs and goals and values. i'm releasing myself of the worry of *did we make the right choice* and embracing the gratitude that we *have* a choice.  it'll all turn out just fine. diana's note: yesss!!! i am awesome!!!!! :)


  1. so much of this is familiar to me through my friends and their children. diana, you are awesome!

    “i have children in public school and homeschool and that's because it works for us. our choices reflect mindful consideration of individual and family needs and goals and values. i'm releasing myself of the worry of *did we make the right choice* and embracing the gratitude that we *have* a choice. it'll all turn out just fine.”

    i wish everyone would have this awesome attitude! <3

  2. Awesomeness in all of you and willingness to explore! Miss you!

  3. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey, Dawn. It is wonderful to read about the discoveries made when different paths are taken. xx