Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Living in the Gray Zone Between Classroom Education and Homeschooling

I live in a gray area between the belief that with reform, our education system can address the needs of our learners and the idea that a student is best served not as a student, but as a child being taught by an interested, engaged parent at home. Occasionally, these worlds collide when I am least expecting it. Sometimes, by a well meaning, smart, caring colleague who asks a good question.

"Is he learning?" the question hung in the air. This question came after complimenting me and my job share partner on our work at PACT and asking how my son liked PACT.

I looked at my colleague who asked the question and then across the desk at my job share partner and fellow homeschooling mom, Tracy. I replied with something like, "Yes, don't you know who his mom is? The kid is ready for 11th grade English ... today he dissected a prompt." We all smiled and laughed.

His question stuck with me all day. 

Is he learning? The question didn't anger me. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. When my son was in a charter school classroom and then a traditional classroom, that question is not something anybody ever asked me as his parent.

The belief that the system had trained his teachers to teach, that the system would ensure that his teacher would teach him, and that he would learn, prevented that question from being asked to me.

He wasn't the first to ask me the question. "Is he learning?" or "How do you know he is learning?" It is often asked by people in my life who are curious about measuring growth outside of the system.

That afternoon, I watched as Robert answered his question.

I spent the day at home watching Robert use salt dough clay, a knife, and paper to create his own topographic map. Later that night, he responded to the first reader comment on his blog, All Things Boss,  and I overheard him talking to his non homeschooling friend about how, "... our current war is a war against terrorists and that it is unclear if there is a way to win." while his friend patiently listened. Before bed, we decided his second blog post would include a You Tube video about his Nerf gun collection.

It has only been since I started homeschooling that I can confidently answer those questions. YES he is learning. I see it every day. I see it in a way that no test or assessment can measure. I am intimately aware of his progress and growth in a way that I could not have been when he was in the classroom or that I could ever have been with the 180 students that sat in front of me when I was a classroom teacher.

While I was at home watching him learn, students in classrooms were starting the 7 hour process of standardized testing that will answer this question.

Next year, when Robert is old enough for SBAC testing I won't opt out. He doesn't have any disabilities that prevent him from showing his learning in this format and test taking is a skill that I want him to have experience in before he is in a high risk testing situation.

For those who are NOT intimately connected to his growth and progress, it can serve as a measuring stick. It is one way for me to view him through their eyes.

As much as I live in the gray area between school and homeschooling, so does he.




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Join Us For The BIG Day of Giving! Food Trucks and Art!


Kick off summer by feeding your appetite and your face!


The “Eat Your Art Out” event is on May 5 from 5:30-7:30 at the corner of Del Paso and Blackrock Dr.


This family-friendly event will raise money to support Natomas area students as part of the Big Day of Giving. Sactmofo will provide the food trucks and NAEF will be providing performance and fine art!

The Big Day of Giving is a 24-hour fundraising competition between non-profits in the Sacramento Region. During the event, NAEF will be competing for prize challenges throughout the day. Incentive partners who are providing a pool of pro-rated incentive dollars to amplify every donation.  Donors can be assured that their investment will go farther!  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Taking Care of You

Kirsten is a homeschooling mom of a second grade boy and administrator of the Natomas Charter PACT homeschool Academy. You can contact her at kspall@natomascharter.org.

Many of us have started to feel the wear and tear of running the household, raising kids, teaching our kids, driving to workshops or sports, and trying to be a good spouse or partner.Where did the enthusiasm and anticipation for the new year and new curriculum go? You are not alone.

Homeschool teachers and classroom teachers face this struggle. Yes, even the "professionals" go through cycles of anticipation, disillusionment, and rejuvenation. As a mentor for new teachers to the profession,  I often show my "newbs" the chart to the right and tell them that all teachers feel this way, go through these emotions. It doesn't mean that you aren't meant to homeschool or that you are not doing a good job.

It means that you have put your heart and soul into an imperfect process. It means you care so deeply for your children that you want the best for them. It means you are a thoughtful, reflective teacher who is constantly thinking about the how and why of teaching.

It means you shouldn't quit!

It also means that you should take care of yourself! The teacher (and parent!) side of you needs a break.

Take a 10 minute bath, check out a book from the library for YOU to read to yourself, connect with a friend online, attend a church group you enjoy, go to Target all ALONE, or walk for ten minutes at night before the sun goes down. The point is that you need to do something for yourself before you can be fully present and ready for the rest of your day or the rest of your school year.

This Spring Break, instead of trying to charge through two more weeks of learning, we have taken a total break. A TOTAL break. My son can hardly believe it. Each morning he asks me, "No school work today?"

I have also taken a break from lesson planning, assessing, getting his work ready for the next day, answering work emails (okay maybe a few emails!), and thinking about how to be better, more.

Yesterday, I played with Robert and his friends, laid out by the pool, and watched way too much Housewives. I don't think I did anything productive. Oh wait, I did mail out a letter.

Giving in to my need for self care has felt a lot better than giving into my own self doubt.

So take a few deep  breaths this Spring Break. Enjoy a moment for yourself. Give someone an extra hug. Enjoy a moment with your favorite cup of coffee or sit in the sun.

Next school year, is only a few months away.