When our White Pine was 4 1/2 and attending a WONDERFUL Montessori preschool we faced a school dilemma. Where should he go for Kindergarten? You see, White Pine wasn't a typical preschooler. White Pine worked along side the Kindergarteners at Montessori for Math at 3 1/2, and at 4 1/2 was already reading well above any of the older kids. Even his Montessori teachers weren't recommending he return for his Kindergarten year. Instead, they recommended HOMESCHOOLING.
But homeschooling wasn't something that we had discussed. I'm a certified K-8 Maine teacher! We weren't "against" homeschooling so I did start doing research on it, trusting in Pine's top notch Montessori teachers. In the meantime, I did a long term substitute teaching assignment in Kindergarten as an education aid to a little girl with Autism.
We lived in a tiny town with just ONE Kindergarten class, and although the teacher had 20-odd years under her teaching belt, my time in Kindergarten only reinforced our decision NOT to send him off to there the following fall. Her class was taught to the "average" and by they Thanksgiving were working on counting to 30 and the sounds of consonants. How would White Pine fit in? The week I finished my subbing HE was finishing up Charlotte's Web and had learned his multiplication facts to 3 (to play a game at the library).
So, we started looking at other alternatives. There were independent schools that required not only tuition costs but HOURS AND HOURS of "volunteering". We both worked; Blue Spruce worked full-time+ and I worked part-time but also took care of our daughter who was 2. And then there were the private schools with their HIGH tuition costs and lackluster answers to my questions. And let's not mention the 3 hours of commuting every day just to get him to and from school! In the end our answer was there: HOMESCHOOLING.
We decided to try it for a year and see what happens. Well, this year is our 8th and we're now homeschooling 3! Our days aren't perfect, but we're reminded all the time of the wonderful benefits of homeschooling.
- We're able to provide individualized curriculum that closely matches our kids' learning styles, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Each one is different!
- The kids have more time to just be kids! HOURS aren't wasted on lengthy, unneeded teaching, settling students down from interruptions, waiting in lines and at bathrooms, filling time while other students finish up, or riding the bus to and fro. Most of our school days are finished in half the time of public or private school, leaving hours for reading, biking, exploring nature, cooking, building, playing games, and BEING WITH FAMILY.
- Our daily schedule doesn't adhere to someone else''s. We wake up naturally and ease into our day with a relaxed breakfast. We finish school when each kid works at their best. We can go on field trips weekly if we choose without time restraints and paperwork. We can take days off when we're sick or Dad's not working without worry and doctor's notes "excusing us". We can stay up late to watch falling stars or the World Series and sleep in late the next morning. It's OUR schedule!
- We can follow OUR interests. What we study isn't designed around a standardized test or what the state deems "guidelines". Sure, we have to teach all the main subjects and get in our 175 days just like public schools, but it's OK if we spend 12 weeks studying Ancient Egypt or Fractions. There is no "Ancient Egypt is studied in Grades 4-6" when my kids are K and 3 or Fractions "start in 4th grade".
- There is less of a concern about peer pressure, bullying and unacceptable behaviors. I'm sure there are some who probably think I'm over-protective, stifling and keeping my kids "from the real world", but the fact is that some every day COMMON behaviors in school would be AGAINST THE LAW if done in the adult workplace. Why put young kids in that situation when WE (as adults) wouldn't put up with it at OUR jobs? I did say LESS of a concern. Bullying is everywhere! J has been bullied at campgrounds! And really, why would I want my daughter encouraged by friends to wear those terrible LOW rise jeans or pants with sexually suggestive words on the bum? And when you REALLY think about it: Is being around age-mates all day in one building having someone tell you what do to when and how do it the "real world"? Or is socializing with community members, old and young, learning to time manage and problem-solve in day-to-day activities, and work with various ages the "real world"?
Despite all that, we aren't against public or private schooling. Sometimes it IS for the best! And our kids know that if they ever would like to go to school and experience what it has to offer, they can (although they must commit for a full year). We're even considering it for part-time high school! But for now, this works!