Happy (belated) Easter, everyone! We just got back from a super fun trip to Utah, including the Museum of Natural History! (Doesn’t my daughter look a bit nervous beside that T-Rex?) It was AWESOME and I highly recommend it!
In my last post, I shared that we would be changing to a new curriculum. We started that curriculum and had used it for about six weeks when I got a phone call that changed everything.
A fourth and fifth grade spot opened at a charter school that is about 25 minutes away from our house. I had completely forgotten about the application that I had put in there last March. Like most homeschoolers at the end of the winter term, I was thinking about the successes and failures of our homeschool year. My kids were generally happy, healthy and learning, but they were lonely. We were involved in many social groups, but because we aren’t conservative Christians like other local homeschoolers and we live in a rural area, it was hard to fit in anywhere. My kids wished for real friends. So, I had decided to give us a school option just in case. The charter school lottery came and went without the kids getting selected, so I moved on to planning our next homeschool year and put it out of my mind.
When I got that phone call, my gut instinct said, “Yes.” It’s a tiny school and when we visited, it felt like everyone was already family. Academically, they’re the same as other public schools, but the way that they did it was different. It was small and personal. Kids with special needs never left to an outside classroom. They were educated all together. I felt that we were so lucky to have gotten into this special little school, so we went for it!
My kids have been in school for five months now, and while there have been challenges, I learned that some of the ideas floating around in the homeschool community aren’t all that accurate about every public school. I discuss a couple of those myths below.
**One caveat: I entered my kids into school after FIVE+ years of homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method. My kids were ready and raring to go, even with their special needs. They are not academically “on target” by the school’s standards, but they have so much knowledge from the books that they’ve read that they can converse about any topic and make connections to the things that we’ve already studied together. I don’t believe that I could have enrolled them in school and had such a smooth transition without their Charlotte Mason foundation, and many of the aspects of that education will continue as a natural part of our family life!**
Myth #1: It’s all just worksheets, worksheets, worksheets!
Okay, yes, there are more worksheets than what my kids are used to since we followed the Ambleside Online curriculum for five years, but there are also group projects, book clubs, songs, chants, poems, games, fun school-wide competitions, STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and so much more. Most importantly, my kids are collaborating with many other kids from many different backgrounds to do these activities. It is a very rare occasion when they are simply handed a worksheet and told to fill it out alone. The conversations with their classmates and teachers are a HUGE part of the learning process.
Myth #2: Math isn’t introduced in a way for kids to truly understand it.
Guess what I have discovered about the common core so far? It’s consistent with what homeschoolers already know and are doing at home! The math isn’t taught as a “procedure with rules to follow.” The students study one topic in depth from many different angles before moving forward. For example, my son learned multiplication with area models, skip counting on a number line and cross-multiplying. He learned about the properties of multiplication and how he can use them to break tricky numbers into friendly numbers. He learned to round and multiply to find an estimate. It’s every bit as thorough and logical as our homeschool math.
My daughter has had more trouble with math since she has disabilities that directly impact her ability to work with numbers and abstract concepts. I took my years of experience as her homeschool teacher and had her just solve one problem from start to finish, doing each step herself, until she mastered it. Just like Charlotte Mason, I kept her math homework time brief and focused (20-30 minutes), and then we ended the lesson for the day. I communicated with her teacher that this was challenging for her and that she worked slowly, and her teacher was completely okay with her not finishing every problem. It has taken five months to set up a special education plan for her, but using Charlotte Mason’s advice to handle homework was invaluable!
What’s next for this blog? Don’t worry! I won’t remove this blog or its CM resources. I plan to continue using the CM method and Ambleside Online resources in our lives, so I may add new material and articles from time to time about how we’re using it alongside public school.
Who knows what the future holds? For now, public school has made my kids and me a lot less lonely, without sacrificing much in the way of education. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next year goes. We may go back to homeschooling if the newness wears off, but for now, I am happy to report that this transition has been a total success!