Keeping up

I homeschool my children.  I use a variety of curricula to do this, but at the heart of their education is curriculum from a company called Sonlight.  The company provides online forums for its members.  I used to practically live there, but a few things happened that soured me on them, and when I had gotten over being soured, I was out of the habit of frequenting them.  🙂  Consequently, I don’t visit the Sonlight forums much.

Recently, though, I felt compelled to add my 2¢ to a post, where another homeschooling mother with a middle-schooler wanted to know how the rest of us fit it all in, in order to keep up with the curriculum’s schedule.  She specifically mentioned wanting to stay on course to allow her child to do some of Sonlight’s upper level courses (called Cores).

After I finished my lengthy reply, I thought it might make a good blog post.  🙂  Part of it — testing — I’ve addressed here before.  But, I’m not sure if I’ve talked about child-centered education before, discarding my dreams and hopes for the education of my children, and opting, instead, for what works for them.  So, with a few edits, here goes:

My oldest is in eighth grade, and other than K, we’ve done Sonlight from the very beginning.  Over the years, it has been my goal to finish a Core in at least 18 months, but it has been closer to two years each.  We’re in the last few weeks of CORE FOUR.   On one hand, I’m embarrassed that we’re not where we “should” be.  On the other hand, he’s still learning a lot, enjoying school, and testing way past where he “should” be.  (This past spring, we did the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and, as a 7th grader, he tested, cumulatively, Past High School in all of the subjects, 23 of them, or something like that.)

I was afraid to have my children tested (we’d never done it before), but I felt like I needed to find where the gaping holes were in their education, and address them.  Likewise, if the results showed that they were doing well, I knew I needed to relax a bit, because I had become very uptight about finishing the Core, and feeling the weight of failure that we were so far “behind”.

With the test results in hand, I had to come to the humbling realization that all of my children were far excelling, and it was really just my pride that made it difficult to admit that my 8th grader was doing Core 4.  It wasn’t harming him in the least.

I, too, look at the catalog and part of me is crushed that we won’t get to many of the upper level studies, because we just won’t have time for it, given that he has just over 4.5 years of school left.   However, I think that he’s still going to end his schooling with an excellent education, even if it is not all that I hoped it would be.

I also came to the realization that it was important to go at a pace where they were REALLY LEARNING, and not just rush through so we could check the boxes.   I don’t want to tell them, “No, we don’t have time to really discuss this.  Time’s up.   Let’s go on to the next subject.”  And, unless you have an academically precocious child, each has his own needs that may need extra time to address.  For my oldest (the 8th grader), especially in the areas of science and writing, we just needed that extra time, which, by default, because of time, disallows other subjects. For instance, the Sonlight Instructor’s Guides have a student fly through a chapter (module) of Apologia science in two weeks.  My children were simply not retaining enough at that pace.  So, now, we do the module’s reading, questions, and experiments in two weeks, then devote a whole additional week to study questions and ensuring that they really understand.  Similarly, with writing, as I feel it is an essential life skill, and one which will stick with them for the rest of their life, no matter the field of their eventual career, I feel it’s important to devote “extra” time to it.

One more thing:  I have found that my children LOVE when I find extra books, both fiction and non-fiction, and even movies, which are set within the time period, or focus on the event which we are studying.  Again, this takes “extra” time, but they really learn and retain — and UNDERSTAND — the information when it is presented in a variety of ways, from a variety of perspectives.

Suffice it to say that, as long as your child is learning, PLEASE DON’T WORRY about completing a Core, so that you can get to later Cores.  While I understand that motivation (because part of it lives in my own heart!), please schedule your schooling (both the hours devoted, and the subject matter) according to your own child’s abilities and needs.

By the way, my oldest takes about 5-5.5 hours daily to complete his schooling, not counting any extra reading he chooses to do.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on October 23, 2010, in Books for children, Homeschooling, Parenting, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. A friend of mine shared your blog post and I absolutely love it! And in my heart, I agree with what you’ve said. I have an 8th grader as well and I’ve been so worried about high school (and beyond). My son also has Aspergers (an autism spectrum disorder) and accompanying processing problems, and unfortunately we do not have the test scores to give me any peace of mind. Would your opinions be any different if your son’s test scores were not above average?

    • Thanks for dropping by!! I’m glad you could relate with the post. I totally know what Asperger’s is. My middle son, Grant, has Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which is rather like Asperger’s, only without the obsessions, but with added fine and gross motor skill problems. He has a lot of… life issues, relationship issues… but schooling-wise, he’s doing really well.

      Our developmental pediatrician has been highly encouraging of us, to continue to homeschool, and that my attentiveness to his needs, and being in a more structured, less distracting environment, is helping him both learn, and in life… no one’s going to care for his well-being like his mother. 🙂 Also, we have had people tell us, “Well, if he was in public school, he’d have so much better access to therapy and programs…” BUT, you have to jump through hoops to set those things in place, plus stay on top of the teacher, administration, the district, the therapists, etc. It’s so much easier to handle at home. We had Grant in occupational therapy for years, and his therapist also worked in a public school. She called us her “star pupils”, because I attended his OT sessions, and would take her suggestions and implement them in his everyday. Also, she mentioned many times that OT in school is primarily geared to MAKING KIDS FUNCTIONAL IN CLASSROOMS. As a public school OT therapist, she wasn’t trying to help him be able to bathe himself, or have better table manners, or relate more lovingly with his family, etc. It was all about compliance in the classroom environments. She said a number of times that she wished she could take the two of us “on the road” to show parents what OT *should* be like, but she hardly ever met parents, and none of them attended the OT sessions…

      ALSO… My youngest son, Wesley, has many of the same NLD symptoms, but not severe enough for a full-on diagnosis. He has much greater trouble learning than the other two boys. However, I can give him the attention he needs, and the specific, tutored instruction that he needs. I was very concerned about his testing, yet even he tested about 10 months advanced from his grade level. The beginning of last year (3rd grade), he literally could not spell three-letter words. He even had to be reminded how to spell his name. But, I just kept plugging away, trying best to figure out how he learns, and how to teach him in a way he could understand… I feel that now, at nine years old, we’re finally making some headway. 🙂

      SO. Yes. I still very much advocate homeschooling even for less-than stellar students. With rare exception, they’re still going to do better at home, in a bully-free, lower-pressure environment, taught by the person who loves them best. 🙂 Even if your son is not doing great by norm/standards, it would probably be much worse if he was an 8th grader with Asperger’s in a public school environment.

      I don’t know if Asperger’s has similar stats to Nonverbal Learning Disorder, but the suicide rates for NLD are *ALARMING*. However, at home, my NLD son, if anything, thinks too highly of himself, and feels great about life and the world…. He has a long way to go in life, but I think if I’m able to send him out into the world with a solid education, and emotionally and mentally healthy, I will count his time at home as a success, even if he never attains fabulous success by worldy standards.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to reply to me. I really appreciate your perspective. 🙂

  3. Ah, I really needed this! I’ve just been lamenting “not keeping up” with our school. The truth of the matter is, teaching my kids right where they are at and having the ability to spend more or less time on different areas is a huge part of why I homeschool. Why do I forget?

    I want them to love to learn not just check off boxes. Thanks for the reminder Karen

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