Friday, November 27, 2009

Homeschool to Public School: Update

It's been almost 3 months since the kids have been in public school, so I thought I'd post a little update with how that's going.

Overall, it's been a very positive thing for all of them. I had a meeting recently with several of the school staff and one of them commented that making the decision to enroll them must have been a very hard one. In some ways it sure was, and in other ways it was rather easy. It's a complex thing making choices about your kids education, for sure. Transitioning from being homeschooled their whole lives to suddenly being on a public school timetable and routine has actually been easier however for them, than it has for me. I'm still getting used to this whole "up at 6, breakfast at 7:30, make lunches, send them off to catch the bus at 8" thing. When I did that from 1988 through 1998 when the older girls were all in public school, it was just a normal routine. After having homeschooled since late 1999 until now, it's a little hard to get back into that schedule.

For them however, public school is proving to be all we expected it to be. They're each having the opportunity to learn French, and doing well at it. They're all very much enjoying the exposure to team sports, team projects and the awesome educational technology the school has access to. On the academic level they're being exposed to so much more than they ever could be at home, at their learning level, and I'm very glad for that. They've all joined the book club and we've noticed they're each reading quite a bit more now than they ever did when they were homeschooled. In some ways this is ironic since they have less time to read for leisure now than they ever did before, but I'm just happy that all my kids love to read.

There are a few downsides though and we knew it would be like this. One downside is that the little country school they're at doesn't have the resources or programs needed for developmentally disabled students. Jordan has this disability so after some amount of looking around and tough decisions, Jordan will be changing schools after the Christmas break. I've toured the new school, met all the staff and some of the other kids in the specialized program and think it will be an awesome opportunity for Jordan. She also loves the new school and is looking forward to being part of a smaller classroom setting, and more of an individualized learning program. With the new program she'll be in, it's very much like homeschooling, oddly enough. Smaller student/teacher ratio (the cap is 10 students per teacher), individualized curriculum with a dual focus of academics plus hands-on/applied learning. The bonus is that the school has access to much more resources than I ever did so for her it will be like the best of both worlds.

Another downside, and it's a big one, is the ungodly setting. Of course we knew it would be like this, but the things the kids come home telling us is rather disheartening. Kids at school that use profane and obscene language every day, kids who are prone to violent behavior, and kids who are already "dating". Keep in mind our kids are in grades 4, 5 and 7 and these are the things they're exposed to every day, at their ages. It's a little hard to get my head around kids this age engaging in this kind of behavior but this is the world we live in. It has most certainly given us ample opportunities to discuss, reinforce and encourage in them the Christian morals we are bringing them up with. For them it's been a definite culture shock, since the kind of language and behavior they see in other kids is the kind of language and behavior we wont even let them see in movies, if it's in there. Thankfully, the teachers and staff at the school do take this kind of conduct seriously and take appropriate action when warranted. As we all know, the way kids speak and act is a direct result of what they learn at home, and these kids acting in inappropriate ways are just products of their home environment. If they hear swearing at home all the time, that's the way they'll speak as well. If their parents are letting them "date" at age 10, if their parents are letting them watch raunchy tv shows and movies, this is how they'll turn out. "Garbage in - garbage out" may be a cliche', but it's often most clearly evidenced in the way kids act. In many ways it's not really the fault of the kids at this age, but the parents. Kids just emulate what they've been exposed to. We pray every day that OUR kids will not be adversly influenced by this, but instead will be a positive influence on the kids they've befriended.

So while there are negatives to be sure, there are also definite positives. Academically, socially and spiritually as well, they're being stretched and challenged and growing. There are some struggles here and there and there are also some pretty awesome successes as well. So at the 3 month mark, I still think it was the best decision for them, to transition from homeschool to public school.

We'll see if I still feel the same way at the Spring break point, come next March.

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