Monday, June 19, 2006

a new adventure...

Been a while. Too busy stressing out, I guess. The whole 'school vs. homeschool' decision. It's been consuming us around here. Probably the toughest decision we've ever had to make. There just wasn't an easy answer. We love the kids' school. But No Child Left Behind has most assuredly left the gifted behind. We're not blaming the school or the teachers. Whatever. None of the reasons really matter right now. What matters is doing what's best for Annie. That's our ultimate responsibility. So...

We've decided to go the homeschooling route. Not ideal. But we're going to do our best to make it the very best for Annie that we can. At the very least, she won't spend 80% of her school time bored to tears. Hopefully, we'll jump-start that overwhelming love of learning she used to have. She still has it, actually...just not where school's concerned.

She's as torn over the decision as Rich and I are. She adores her teacher, who would be her teacher again next year because they loop from 3rd to 4th grade. She'll miss her classmates very much...they're a good bunch of kids and every one of them is her friend. And at the same time, she actually feels homeschooling would be best for her. In true Annie fashion, she even wrote a persuasive essay detailing her reasons.

It's nice to finally have the decision made. At least, I think we have the decision made. New York is one of the hardest states to homeschool in. Tons of regulations. Paperwork galore. The first step is sending the superintendent of the district a "letter of intent to homeschool". Did that early last week. At the same time, I wrote a letter to the principal of the school and a letter to Annie's teacher. I wanted them to understand our reasons why we made the decision we did. I wanted them to know how much we love the school. And I didn't want her teacher to take it personally. Anyway, last Friday I got a call from the principal. He was extremely kind. He felt bad that Annie's needs weren't being met. Wished we'd have come to him before we made this decision. Said that Annie was one of the few children he would believe without question when she said she was bored. In retrospect, we really wish we had gone to him before we made our decision. We'd talked with Annie's teacher on a few occasions throughout the year with our concerns. And each time, together we came up with ways to improve things. But nothing ever came close to being an appropriate education for her. We never approached the principal, because (1.) I guess we didn't realize there was much he could do, (2.) we didn't want to get her teacher into any kind of trouble, and (3.) we didn't want to come off as pain-in-the-ass parents and possibly make things worse. But now he wants to meet with us and see if he can't come up with a plan to make things better for Annie there at school. We're so torn. On the one hand, we hate to close any door without at least first checking it out. On the other hand, throwing this whole issue back into the ring again might just be too much turmoil for us all to handle. Rich is going to call him back today. I wanted him to have a chance to hear what he had to say, too. I'm leaving it up to him to decide if we want to open this can of worms back up.

I've been incredibly busy, almost to the point of obsession, since we finally made our decision. In New York, when you homeschool, you have to submit an IHIP (Individual Home Instruction Plan) for each child. It apparently varies from district to district what they actually expect from you. I found a sample "manual" for our district on-line. (Should be receiving a real copy in the mail shortly, since we mailed our letter of intent.) Anyway, our district breaks things down into 12 subjects (math, reading, spelling, writing, English, geography, U.S. history, science, health education, music, art, and physical education). For each subject, you must state what you will be covering and the materials (curriculum, books, videos, websites, etc.) you will be using. You also must describe how you will be evaluating the child's progress in each subject during each quarter. You're given 4 weeks to complete this from the time you receive the packet from the district.

I must admit, it all has me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I can't even really follow a pre-made curriculum. Annie doesn't fall into any one grade level. She reads (not just fluency, but comprehension and vocabulary as well) at a high school level. Her math is at about a 6th grade level. She's much stronger in the biological sciences than the physical sciences. Etc. So I am plugging along, subject by subject, trying to come up with an appropriate and challenging course of action. Trying to gather up resources. Trying to put into words how she will be evaluated.

I guess the good thing about the IHIP is that it will give me a nice plan of action to follow to actually prepare for the school year. And I've got to admit...I've got a lot of re-learning to do. For example, one of the units we're going to undertake in science is "Matter". Frankly, I don't remember a heck of a lot about the properties of matter and the structure of atoms and the periodic chart, etc. Suppose it's going to be a busy, busy summer.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Hi Debi, sorry I've taken so long to read your blog (I've been busy, sick, and had Internet trouble!) Anyway...I know how hard this decision has been for you and as a public school teacher my gut reaction is that you always have to do what you believe is best for your child. It sounds to me like you have Annie's best interests first! I don't know much about homeschooling so all I can do is wish you well and give your moral support! Best of luck in this new endeavor!

take care,