So, as I have been sharing with friends and family that we will be homeschooling next year, I have received an almost uniform response that experienced homeschoolers would probably not be surprised to hear: “What about socialization?” and “What about diversity?” and most recently “Don’t you think you could work with the school to enhance his curriculum?”. In a sense, these are the easier responses, because, really, almost every homeschooling/unschooling blog addresses the socialization issue at some point and there is plenty out there about making sure your child has real-world exposure to people from different cultures and different backgrounds. The really hard question comes more as a statement, “I can’t believe you would homeschool.”
I have worked in public schools in Florida for the last 18 years. For the last 11 years, I have been semi-administrative as a reading coach and then the coordinator for two different International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programmes. We have built our whole family life on the cycles of public school life, and for the last 17 years I have felt the sacrifices my family and I have made in serving other children have been worthy and almost noble. The change has come, for me, because my son is growing so fast, and I feel like I am missing it.
A bit about the J-man here:
From the first time I ever saw his face, I looked into his eyes and could see that he was unusually intelligent. I know that most parents think this, but there was almost an eerily alert quality to his gaze that convinced me that there was more going on here than with the average little tyke. Like most one year olds, J-man loved hearing his favorite stories read to him. The great Where’s Spot marathon of 2009, saw J-man recovering from his cleft palate surgery with nearly non-stop narration of his favorite book. By the time he was two and a half, he was reciting entire books in the car, and by four he was reading on his own. This is not that unusual, except he was choosing to read National Geographic books about dinosaurs written on the 2nd-4th grade levels.
When it was time for my little buddy to start school, we fell in love with the concept of Montessori. Here is a place, we thought, that he will get to advance at his own pace and have the autonomy to choose his daily activities. He excelled at Montessori. He was writing stories with the letter manipulatives and illustrating stories that he and I would make up at bedtime.
In his second year at Montessori, once he was one of the older students in the class, he started to have challenges both behaviorally and academically. He tended to want to choose materials that were more appropriate for his new younger friends, and his behavior started regressing dramatically. So when it was time for kindergarten he came to school with me, and started in the International Baccalaureate.
Here his behavior in class got better, though he started showing anxiety when presented with problems without concrete solutions or that required creativity. He became a perfectionist, fearful of trying difficult challenges, if he wasn’t sure he would do well. At the same time, we had introduced him to some math videos for him to watch at night as he was going to bed, if he wanted. He advanced quickly and soon was doing far more advanced math than his kindergarten curriculum.
The problem here is that the public school curriculum would have him still working with addition until 2nd grade. He is reading far above level as well. Some people say that I should just try to skip him up a grade, but that really isn’t the answer either, as emotionally he is a little young for his age.
So we plan on letting him lead the charge on making friends that he likes, that might be younger than him, and studying what he wants which will likely be further along than what his friends in traditional schools will do.
So far this summer he has fallen in love with Roald Dahl, and spontaneously started what we called an author study in school. He is keeping a binder of all of his robot drawings and practicing descriptive writing by describing their capabilities. I feel pretty good about letting him take the lead, because he is already doing it. He is a sponge, and my job is to let him soak everything up!