Friday, January 9, 2015

Why We Will Homeschool Another Year

Studying the moon with oreos
Studying the moon in first grade
Kirsten Spall is a high school English teacher turned homeschooling mom. she is also one of the Administrators of the PACT Homeschooling Academy

My son entered kinder above grade level and completed the year having learned nothing new except how to hate himself, “Mom I suck, I am the bad kid.” My heart broke for a good kid who needed a chance to grow. It became apparent that the traditional classroom and school culture was not going to be a peaceful or positive place for my son to learn what he needed to learn. I reluctantly made the decision to homeschool.
We are now in our second year of homeschooling. This December when open enrollment began and charter schools started their application processes, I started to look at site based programs and considered ending my own homeschool journey.
However, in the last two weeks, I have come to the realization that homeschooling is where we belong (at least for another year!) and I want to share why, in case some of you are also struggling.
My son is thriving.
Due to the accepting culture at PACT and the PACT staff, he is getting what he needs and loving it. Parents of his new PACT friends are more concerned with personal growth than being “good” or normal. Since they homeschool as well, we have a chance to get to know each other and the other kids. Social learning is enhanced through class sizes of under 16 and a wide range of school wide events and clubs. In Lego club, they build, play and listen to Minecraft parody songs. In Friendship Club, he performs random acts of kindness to see how it feels and shows off his dance skills.The focus on campus is developing the whole child, because I am doing the academic work at home.
He is being challenged academically on a daily basis and we can let his interests lead his learning.I am continually surprised at the amount of progress he has made academically in areas that would not be available to him in the traditional classroom setting.  In art last month, he was asked to make a mask. He chose to research and create a World War II gas mask. This year he used Minecraft to build American monuments as part of an online history class. Later, for his science workshop he chose to create a three foot nose and become an expert on mucous.
He smiles, hugs his teachers and friends, and has started to find joy in school and learning.
Student in a corn bath smiling

Family and flexibility
The life that we built that allows us to homeschool has had the surprising side effect of making more time for family and making family life easier. At 7:00 each night we are not struggling to cook dinner, get homework done, and get ready for school the next day. He doesn't balk at "homework" because he hasn't already spent 8 hours a day at school only to come home to find more of the same.
When my son is sick, Instead of negotiating and stressing about who will stay home from work, the team I assembled to support me in my working, homeschool mom life continue their normal routine! 
Family life is front and center. We are kinder, more patient, and understand each other better. I am not ready to let go of the flexibility and family life that homeschooling provides.

We have already made major financial and personal sacrifices
Two years ago I left a full time job that I loved and was good at. I threw out my plan to complete a Masters in Online Teaching and Learning. Last year, we sold our dream house and moved into an apartment to make up for the missing income. I gained ten pounds from baking as a way to teach math and fractions. 
You know what? My apartment complex has a gym. Plus, I can do and have all those things when my son is older. At some point, in the near future, he will be in high school or college. I will have twenty years left until retirement. I think that is plenty of time to get back to what I was doing!
My son values his homeschool experience I suppose we could get lucky and find “that program” or “that teacher” who will provide him with an environment that he will love and thrive in. My charter school has a great site based academy with warm, professional teachers who make learning engaging and meaningful. It is lead by an incredible administrator whom I admire. Many of my non homeschooling colleagues ask me when he will return to a “real” school. On hard days, I think that my goal should be to get him back into the classroom.
However, what we are doing is working. When my husband and I  talk to our son about returning to a normal classroom, he says, “hmmm. Maybe in fourth grade I will try another school. I want you to be my teacher again.” Then, he goes on to list all of the people, teachers, activities and things he would miss about home schooling. Minutes later he is talking about the workshops he thinks we should offer and what he wants to learn about next year. 

He definitely does NOT want to take ballet and he thinks that we should hold more military focused workshops. Perhaps, he says, " that talks about how to survive in a Zombie Apocalypse." Why not?

It seems that he had already made a decision and it was me who had yet to surrender to it! I would love to hear about why you will keep homeschooling!


  1. Great reflections, thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like homeschooling is just what he and your family needs! :-)

  2. Kirsten - Such an awesome post. I really appreciate your honesty and reflections. I have learned a ton about home schooling watching you and Robert make the transition. Looking forward to another year.

  3. Kirsten, You have captured some of the big positives of homeschooling, as it offers a learning environment that can meet the needs of students who may not find success in the classroom. I love that you acknowledge how homeschooling benefits family life too!

  4. You're depriving your son of SO much of what he REALLY needs to learn by pulling him out of school -- the "soft" skills of showing up on time even if you don't feel like it; working with kids you wouldn't necessarily pick to be friends on a group project; submitting to the authority of somebody who isn't mommy/daddy; learning that actions have natural, and not always pleasant consequences; studying a subject even if it bores you; exposure to activities/ideas/views that differ from those of your family; and, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, learning that doing your best is nowhere near enough if you can't be bothered to do what's required.

    Everybody expects small children to have tantrums, struggle a bit to make friends, chafe under the occasional teacher that thinks they're a moron -- kids are LEARNING to behave in a non-feral manner.

  5. Suzanne, your observations would be accurate if I was homeschooling in my basement. Fortunately, I don't have a basement so I am forced to create an academically and socially enriching experience. This includes group projects, social interaction, doing things he doesn't like, submitting to authority figures and more! As a highschool English teacher For 15 years I can attest to the ability of homeschooled students to get along quite well in civilized environments and the ability for a group of 32 kids who have been educated in the traditional classroom to spiral down into a Lord of the Flys frenzy over a pair of Nike sneakers. Thank you for your concern!

    1. Correction, Lord of the Flies. Spelling was never my thing....even with 12 years of classroom experience.

  6. Wow Suzanne, I don't know anyone who homeschools like that in the 21st century! I don't have a basement either, so my 7th grade son has to go to work with me every day. He works with adults constantly, runs tech support for our computers, meets and greets new families, assists in the classes with the little kids and takes several classes of his own. He goes to summer camp every year to get away from home. He takes multiage classes where he has real world experiences. Have you ever had a job where everyone lived in your neighborhood and was your exact age plus or minus 8 months?

    There is no value in being bored 5 days a week, 10 months a year for 12 years. Brains are muscles and they work when challenged, stretched and forced to create new and novel pathways. Sure, good teachers can make it more interesting, innovative and challenging for kids. But as a credentialed teacher, I can assure you my training didn't present me with anything related to kids two or more grade levels above. Creativity, ingenuity and innovation is killed in classrooms where kids have no challenge.