Sunday, January 6, 2013

When I Knew I'd Homeschool

I was the room mom for my son's 1st grade classroom. I was the mom who didn't cry when her child walked into school on the first day of school. I was the mom who cherished the freedom of having my child in school for 6.5 hours a day so I could work from home in peace. I volunteered whenever I could in the classroom and was involved with the PTO, even when my health didn't allow for helping as often as I'd have liked.

I'm also the mom who challenged the status quo. The night owl mom. The mom of a night owl. The mom of a 'busy' boy who's a sponge. The single mom. The mom who has a mobility disability (polymyositis). The mom who didn't care if my son missed 30 minutes or a whole day of school since we'd be learning at home anyway. The mom who constantly uses the world to teach her child basic skills. I suppose I'm the mom who's "crunchy" or "unconventional" as well.

I pulled my son out of public school mid-year, right before holiday break. I was going to wait until after the break, but fate had other plans for us. Best laid plans and all.

First grade started with a challenge. Last year, my son spent the second half of kindergarten in a school in IL while I recovered from my illness. His class size was smaller there, but even though the school was rated somewhat lower than his kindergarten class here in WI, he learned so much while he was gone. I was really impressed when he got awards for math and reading. Getting him reoriented for first grade here was a concern for me, so I talked to the principal. I was somewhat reassured, but determined to be watchful.

I had high hopes for first grade. This was the year of 'real' learning. Even though he was in all-day kindergarten, this was the year of serious reading and math and everything else he'd need for success. I didn't expect coddling or super-fun playtime all day. I also didn't expect things to go so badly. Besides the fact that my boy kept getting sick from the kids, which in turn got me sick too, he kept telling me he was bored. I brushed it off to silly kid-not-liking-school-itis.

When I explained my disability to his teacher, and how we might be a little late sometimes, she basically told me the first 30 minutes were REALLY important. Once I started volunteering in the class, I saw this wasn't exactly the case at all. When I called him in to tell them we were going to an event where the President was speaking, during the election, I was met with, "Um, what?" in disbelief. I saw it as a huge learning opportunity, but I suppose the Xerox with the two candidate checkboxes should have been enough, right?

Our first parent-teacher conference in October really threw me for a loop. I had some questions about the reading books he was bringing home since they were books he was reading in kindergarten. I assumed everyone was getting the same book and it was leveled to meet everyone's needs. Not the case. In fact, it was based on an assessment he was given.

The assessment indicated he was only a pre-reader, and it was because he'd made up his own ending on the assessment book and was 'failed', even though the sight word test proved otherwise. When the teacher indicated she recognized the discrepancy but did nothing, I was livid and basically told her she'd be retesting him to place him in the right reading group. His math assessment was worse! One part stated he couldn't count by 10's to 100 -- even though he did it in the car with ease when we left. When she indicated he was having trouble focusing, and had I talked to his pediatrician about it, that's when I knew I was going to research homeschooling. I felt like all the learning and progress he'd made was being lost!

I'd already started telling some of the other moms that I was considering it and the school had until December, or at least the next conference, to show me something better. The struggle to get him to school every single morning started getting ridiculous. Not even normal tantrums. Full blown hysteria. Then I started volunteering in the classroom. I found the teacher's style didn't mesh with my son's personality -- or mine. Granted, I'm not a warm and fuzzy person, and I can be short with my son, but I'm still encouraging. Her tone was exasperated and harsh when correcting the kids. She has a reputation as a yelling teacher. It held true.

I got my son's report card in early December and once I saw it, I was done. I wasn't waiting for the holiday break. I'd done my research regarding state laws, I'd talked to my best friend who's homeschooled for almost four years, and I had a slew of information about curriculum creation. I figured out how many hours were left from the required 875 a year, filled out the required form online, met with the principal out of courtesy, helped in my son's classroom for the holiday party and we were done with public school for good!

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