In two days Calvin will graduate from high school. His education (and his siblings') has been such a huge part of my life. I thought that I'd muse on it for a while. I know that my homeschooling friends will be interested even if no one else is.
When Calvin was three, he was ready to learn to read. All the signs of readiness were there, and he started to find words on his own. ("There is a word in the alphabet! A real word!") He loved language. I did what I always do: I researched it. How do children learn? Pros and cons of early learning? Because of my research, I decided to homeschool. Because of my intuition and my observations, I decided to hold off on teaching him to read.
I held off because I had the gut feeling that if I taught that boy to read, he would spend way too much time reading. I felt that he needed to work on some other areas (social interaction and gross motor skills). I was pretty sure that if he could spend hours in books then he wouldn't do the hard work needed to increase his skills in those areas where he was lacking.
This is the only time that I held off on teaching something that someone was passionate to learn. It is generally not a good idea, but was the right thing in this case.
He started first grade (we skipped kindergarten) two months after turning six. It was crazy-insane, and I can't believe we did it. Freddy was three weeks old, Isabelle was an extremely challenging two year old, and Lucie was a very independent and helpful four year old. We had a mother's helper for four mornings a week so that I could do the school stuff with Calvin. I still ended up holding/feeding the newborn most of the time and dealing with the problems of the two little girls.
So Calvin homeschooled for eight years. He begged to learn piano when he was eight. He begged to do "real" science when he was ten. He got dissection supplies as a reward for doing well. He was super smart and quick to learn. I had to bump him up a couple of years in math when I discovered that his behavoiral problems were related to his lack of challenge.
He had this strange energy that HAD to be used up by mental challenges. The only subjects that worked to use up that energy were math, Latin and French. After a year or so with the languages, they didn't work any longer to use up that energy. It was as if his brain had become wired to understand them, so the challenge was gone, even with harder work.
Calvin loved homeschooling. He wrote an essay this past year about his varied schooling and said that homeschooling was the hardest. He always had to do work that was exactly what he needed. He had no classes that he could slack off in. He also credits homeschooling with the academic success that he would experience in school.
So, what did we use to homeschool? Different things work for different people. If I were choosing today, I would make different choices. There are so many wonderful materials out there! He used Saxon math and then Jacob's (he credits Jacob's with teaching him all kinds of unusual methods and short cuts...he used to share them in his high school classes when the other super smart students were wondering how he got done so quickly).
He used Apologia science, but I would change that. He used Rod and Staff grammar and that is excellent. Best thing out there. We used Tapestry of Grace for history, but I would switch to the product offered by Pandia Press. He also read a ton of books. I had to drive to different libraries just to find him enough books to read. He devoured them. That was the single most challenging aspect of his younger years. I can still feel stress when I think of it.
Best parts of homeschooling: reading classics aloud to all the children, the books that we made, co-op classes, spending all day outside.
Calvin went to a very small Catholic school for the last four months of eighth grade. He learned a little bit. All the children had to go so that I could get over the Everlasting Case of Mono. When it was time for ninth grade, we decided to keep all the children in, and Calvin went to the public high school.
That was a catastrophe...although he did discover his sports there (cross country and tennis). The academics were not at all challenging. He used to write essays in fifteen minutes and get 100% on them. I begged for the math teacher to give him more challenging work, but he refused (said that it would be favoritism). He had one teacher that he really liked, but it was a physical science class and he had already done that class at home, in co-op, and in 8th grade. Good teacher, though.
He started to get angry due to boredom. I remember going to a meeting with the principal that all parents were invited to (about 16 showed up). I asked about academic rigor; she seemed confused. The very next day this is what Calvin did in school: one movie, one party, two class periods spent doing a jigsaw puzzle (500 pieces...he almost finished it) in the library, one period cleaning an art cabinet, one period reading for fun, and one spent doing science experients (that he had already done in previous years). I'm not making this up. It was astounding. It was daycare.
That spring, the local boarding school, a boys' military academy, opened their doors to day students, and Calvin was the first one signed up. The academics were great, very rigorous math and science programs. The foriegn language was disappointing, but that is the case in so many places. At this school he was treated like an individual. They let him take two math classes and then skip ahead. He jumped right into AP classes (at my insistance) and did well. The academics were great, but he took a lot of crap from other students. They were jealous that he got to go home and sleep in on the weekends.
His education there was great, but the military aspect was not. I felt that the teachers were not respected by those above them, and Calvin suffered due to other students' problems. He spent two years there, got 36, 36, 36, 35 on ACTs, did well enough on the PSAT to be a Merit Scholar, and had the valedictorian spot. He could have stayed when we moved, but decided not to.
His senior year has been spent at a small, academic private school. There are thirteen students in his class (twenty-five in Isabelle's 8th grade class). He only has five classes there, as he was fiinished with everything else. He spends one hour playing piano and one hour as an IT intern. The academics are good. The students are able and focused. It is a wonderful, relaxed environment compared to his last school.
The IT internship has been the best thing about his year. He loves the work. The employees love him because he fixes things for him. When I was meeting with Isabelle's teachers, they all took the time to tell me how much they like Calvin. Learning that he enjoyed working helped him make his college choice.
The best parts of regular schooling: my clean house, advanced classes that go toward college credit, friends.
So Calvin has spent time in homeschool, Catholic school, public school, military school, and private secular school. He says that his current school is ideal.
As for his education, it was kind of a cobbled together mess. He was our guinea pig when he was little, and it took time to figure out what worked. He spent a lot of time in classes not learning anything, but I know that he was learning life lessons along the way. He went to school with a lot of boys from Mexico, South Korea, and China, training his ear to understand accents. He also saw a lot of kids having a rough time and exhibited compassion.
All in all, I'm happy with his education. He is finished studying everything but math and science. He knows what he wants to focus on and is ready for it. I knew that he would be taking that route, so I really wanted him to have an in-depth humanities education before he left home. He does. He also has the communication skills that he needs.
In July he begins school at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. Kettering is a co-op school; it is required. He will study for 11 weeks, then work for 12...year round. He will graduate in 4.5 years with two years of work experience and degrees in mechanical engineering and applied math. His high GPA and test scores got him scholarship money that almost pays for half of his tuition and fees. He will earn the other half working. He has credit for his first semester of classes from AP work. He is so ready to go and focus on his future.
The Search For New Land – Part 2
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