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#1 of 11 Old 10-06-2010, 06:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Ladies,

I've been away from the forum for ages, but in thinking about this situation, I thought this would be a good place to kick my idea around.

I have 3 children, ages 10, 8, and 3. When the 10 y.o. was littler, we tended toward unschooling, but over the years, we have become much more structured. (The opposite path of many families!) My oldest is pretty academic and wanted to "learn more", and my middle child really needs some structure to get *anything* done -- even stuff he wants to do. So that's where we are. Dd (10) is doing mostly middle school level work and homeschooling is going great for her. Her friends are mostly other homeschoolers and she's happy with her lot.

But I'm not so sure about my 8 y.o. ds. He's not in crisis -- he's learning and doing fine. He's below grade-level in reading, but he has been working very hard on that and is improving. I just sense that he isn't all that happy. Lately he's been going on about not liking being the "oddball". He's never specified homeschooling as an issue, but when he complains that our Ford Windstar makes us "oddballs", I'm thinking that's cover for something else, kwim? Unlike his sister, his close friends are boys who go to school. He can find playmates at homeschool group, but he's never really clicked with anyone there and made a good friend connection. He's not really an "oddball" type at all -- he's good looking, funny, athletic and well liked by most kids and adults he meets. In addition to these complaints, his attitude has gotten worse lately. Not about anything specific, but just like he's dissatisfied and it's making him testy.

DH and I agreed that we should at least open a conversation with him about how he feels homeschooling is going for him. While we've never "put down" school in derogatory terms, we have played up the benefits of homeschooling vs. school, so I worry that he may have an overly negative view of school, leaving him feeling like he has no good options. If he's feeling dissatisfied with homeschooling, I guess I would encourage him to have a sit-down (along with me) with some kids who go to school -- maybe his best friend who goes to public school, and his cousin who is a few years older -- to go over the pros and cons from a schooled kid's perspective.

Here's what I wonder if a good school can offer him (We have schools of choice and charter schools here, so we'd have several to pick from):

-- Structure above and beyond what I can offer, given my personality and 3 kids. (He seems to do really well with structure, as long is it is paired with fairness. He likes knowing the rules and the consequences.)

-- More interaction with other kids. He's a pretty social guy and he'd love seeing friends every day. I feel pretty confident that he'd make friends easily. The flip side of this is that I wonder if he'd get in trouble a lot for "socializing". I know he would have as a younger child, but I hope he has better control himself better now.

-- This last one is tricky. I've started several times and can't seem to word it right, so bear with me. I wonder if a non-parent figure could help him be a little more confident in his academic ability. Reading is really the *only* area he has trouble with. (Well, maybe some short-term memory stuff as well. I'm not sure about that. If we decided to try school, it would be next year -- 5th grade -- and we would work really hard to have him up to grade level in reading by then.) When his father and I compliment him on his math ability or other subjects, he doesn't believe us. He thinks we are only saying that because we are his parents. He calls himself stupid a lot, even though he seems to have a high opinion of himself in other areas, especially sports and "figuring out how things work". His sister is very book smart, so I think that has something to do with it, even though she never rubs it in his face. Maybe a little favorable comparison with peers and an encouraging teacher would help him realize that he's of totally normal intelligence? I realize this could backfire too, depending on the peers and the teacher. sigh.

My fears (besides all the usual ones about killing his spirit, excess conformity, etc.)

-- As I said just above, that he might get a negative message about his academic ability.

Actually, I think that's the only one. Any other negative experiences I can think of could be pretty easily remedied by going back to homeschooling, which I would be fully ready to do if it didn't work out. But if his self-esteem takes a big knock, that damage could be hard to undo.

I never thought I would be considering sending one child to school while continuing to homeschool the others, but here I am. I know the first step has to be a conversation with him. If anyone who has tried this has some insight into things we should consider or talk about, I'd love to hear it. We would probably send him to a public school with a good reputation, though I would look at charter schools as well. The only private schools around here are religious and we probably couldn't afford them anyway.

Thanks for reading all this if you got this far. I mostly just want him to be both well-educated *and* happy. I've heard grown homeschoolers who appreciated the benefits of homeschooling, but I've also heard those who are not sure that it was the right path for them. I want to be sensitive to my son's right path. That may be homeschooling, but I've reached a point where I'm no longer sure.

Stephanie mom to Brianna (6/00) , Alexander (6/02) , and Ethan (9/07) .
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#2 of 11 Old 10-06-2010, 11:47 PM
 
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Moved to Learning at School, since this is a topic about trying school. I hope you find support and answers here.

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#3 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 12:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks.

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#4 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 01:44 AM
 
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I have a friend with two teenage boys. The 17 year old has been in school all these years and the 15 year old is homeschooled. IMO, it doesn't matter if one goes to school and the others don't, as long as you are happy with it. Whatever works for your family. Kids have their own learning styles, right? Maybe he would really benefit being in school with the peers who he has clicked with.

Maybe more experienced mamas than me have other opinions? Just my thoughts on reading your post. I hope it all works out for you!

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#5 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 01:47 AM
 
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You described my son almost exactly - very social, likes to know the rules, etc. We homeschooled up until this year, but he requested to start school this year for 4th grade. I was very worried for many of the reasons you mentioned.

He loves it. He was (and still is) very behind in writing and spelling, but we're chugging along and it doesn't seem to be bothering him too much. I did figure out recently that he thinks that the reason he's a bad speller is because he wasn't in school, but I've been presenting it to him as everyone is better at different things. He's got a great mind for science, and a real understanding for math. He can read just fine, but spelling/phonics just doesn't click for him, and well, that's fine. It is what it is.

His teacher is strict, and doesn't give him any passes for being behind, but she also doesn't make him feel bad about it. Our school is pretty good in general, and any complaints I have fall more under the category of the public school system in general (lack of creativity, lack of science, etc.). Some of the kids will make a comment like "You don't now how to spell that?" but not in a teasing, mean sort of way. It bothers him, but not too much.

And, although I hate to admit that this is the case, he seems to be having much better experiences with the kids in school than he did with our homeschooling group. This has been really important for him, and I can tell that he feels very fulfilled by it.

Overall he's very happy in school, and I'm glad we let him do it. I miss the freedom of our time together, but this seems to be working out well for him. If it begins to not be a positive experience, then we'll revisit our decision.

I say talk to him, visit the schools (I brought him with me on the tours), make sure he has a realistic (without being too doom and gloom) idea about it will entail, and then go from there. We did work with a tutor this summer to prepare him, and it definitely helped, so I recommend that for things like basic reading and writing skills.

ETA: I wanted to comment on the trial run concept. This is tricky, because once they start, there are usually things they really like. I mean, some kids hate it and have a horrible experience, and in that case it's easy to say "We're outta here." However, if it's anything like our experience, it would be really hard for him to leave. He's really gotten into the routine and loves the kids and the whole atmosphere. I know that even if something were to come up that was a dealbreaker (bullying, self esteem issues, behavior problems), he would be very sad to leave. So it becomes a little more complicated that just giving it a try, which is something to consider.
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#6 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Oceanbaby. It's helpful to hear. I appreciate the warning about a trial run. I was thinking more of going back to homeschooling if *he* didn't like school. I hadn't thought about the opposite scenario -- if he loved it, but dh and I were less than thrilled. So I'm glad for the heads up on that.

Also, I misspoke in saying that he would be in 5th grade next year. If he went to school next fall, he'd be in 4th grade, so the same as your son. I'm glad it's a good experience for your son so far.

Thanks for your thoughts too, Beppie. You are right that the most important thing is to do what is right for each child, as far as we are able.

Stephanie mom to Brianna (6/00) , Alexander (6/02) , and Ethan (9/07) .
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#7 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 12:57 PM
 
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LONG POST!

We used to homeschool, and then my younger DD started school in 5th grade, and her older sister continued to homeschool. The next year they both went to school.

I believe in doing what is right for each child.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties View Post
My oldest is pretty academic and wanted to "learn more",.. Dd (10) is doing mostly middle school level work and homeschooling is going great for her.
....
I wonder if a non-parent figure could help him be a little more confident in his academic ability. Reading is really the *only* area he has trouble with.
these two sentence were really far apart in your post, but I think they *might* be connected. Your kids are close in age but far apart in ability. Your son may be comparing himself to his sister and seeing himself coming up short in ALL areas. Spending more time with age mates could do wonders for his self confidence. It did for my youngest child.

One of the downsides of homeschooling is that kids are really trapped in their role in the family. If he got more of a real break from that, if he could compare his reading ability to other boys his age, he might see it in very different terms. Peers are good!

Quote:
-- As I said just above, that he might get a negative message about his academic ability.
I doubt that will happen. It was the opposite of our experience (and one of my kids has sn!) The kids in school are really all over the place in terms of ability, it's a far bigger spread that most homeschoolers realize. And the teachers really do just want to figure out how to help the kids succeed.

Both my kids work far harder in school than they did at home, partly because every body else is.

Our experience having one at home and one at school was that school parents were very nice about it, and homeschool parents weren't. It was weird. It was like I was a traitor to the cause or something.

Our younger DD blossomed at school, and our older DD become more isolated, and we ultimately decided to put her in school, too. They are both very happy at school now and we'll never go back.

The thing I would worry about with "giving school a try" is that problems will come up, and if you are only giving it a try, you won't force yourself to work through those the same way you would if you were committed.

Both my kids wrote slower than their peers and getting up to speed (literally!) with the amount of hand writing was an issue. There was an adjustment period of several months. I think that if you aren't committed to working through things like that and just pull him right back it, it would be worse for him than if he never went. He could come away feeling like he's too stupid to do school, which is something that he knows most of his peers do.

You also might consider hiring a tutor this year for the subject(s) you think might be problematic. I had both my kids work with a math tutor before starting school and I'm glad I did. Continuing to do what we had been doing (which wasn't working) wouldn't have helped them catch up.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 11 Old 10-07-2010, 11:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts Linda. I think you have some good points. (See below.) I'm not worried about him being behind in any subjects, but we would try to get him up to speed in reading.

Update: I took ds to the doughnut shop this evening to have our conversation. Long story short, he is happy with homeschooling at the moment, but he said he'd keep it in mind. He had never thought of school as an option, so it's a new idea. Based on what Linda said about only having his sister to compare himself to, I specifically asked him how he thought he'd do in school compared to other boys his age. He said "Not very good". He thought he'd be in the lower 1/3 of the class. This did not surprise me, really, but I'm glad I asked, as it gave me the opportunity to tell him that I know he would be right on the same level as many kids his age in almost all subjects, with a few doing better and some struggling more. I also assured him that if he did decide to try school at any point, we'd make sure he was able to read what was expected of him before starting.

So, it looks we are just going to sit on this decision for a while and see how things progress. He was pretty adamant that he's happy with homeschooling right now, but he did admit to being bored and dissatisfied often. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I'll let it perk in his brain and mine for a while. It was a really great conversation and I'm glad we had it!

Stephanie mom to Brianna (6/00) , Alexander (6/02) , and Ethan (9/07) .
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#9 of 11 Old 10-08-2010, 03:08 AM
 
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from your update (i just saw the whole thread now) it seems it isnt so much about 'school' but about his fear to put himself in a place where there is a chance he might fail. it seems like he wants to take the leap but is scared to.

i would kinda suggest he try it. talk to him. tell him to go and try it for a month. and if he changes his mind....

i have sat with my dd and told her i want her to enjoy school. if she is working too hard to get the A she needs to slow down and get Bs and Cs. at this age this is ok. i know dd seeks a lot of 'my' opinions and i throw it back at her. what does SHE want? it doesnt matter what "I" want.

i would say instead of focusing on school talk to him about life. be a little more vocal about your own failures and upsets when they happen. share with him how hard it is sometimes for you to make decisions.

i would keep on having little conversations.

i've seen sometimes my dd really needs me to believe in her when she cant. when she is scared to take that step i tell her how much i believe in her and all i want is for her to try and see. and if she doesnt like it at least she tried. i dont want her to say she doesnt like it without trying.

i think once your son goes to school he will find life is full of disappointments. he may like certain things but find he doesnt like certain things about school.

now about the 'oddball'. yes he can be an oddball inspite of being "he's good looking, funny, athletic and well liked by most kids and adults he meets." dd is an oddball and even i will admit that. it may not fit into your definition but i can see as i see my super social child play with others. she has always been different and she tries her hardest to play like other kids.

i have shared my life (oddball too) and talked to dd about her own stuff. that has really helped her. i do silly things in public to show i dont really care what people think of me. working with her since she was 3 (when she first called herself an alien) has really helped her self esteem. that its ok to be different. that with her difference she gets along with some kids. and doesnt with others.

i think u just sitting down and having these chats with your son will make a HUGE difference to him. really HUUUGE. sometimes dont ask. just say. think thru your mouth and not your head all the time. he may not respond or look like he is ignoring you but let me tell you he is listening. and noting.

my bro and i were like dd and son. i was 'smart' and my bro was good looking and funny. i hated us being compared.

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#10 of 11 Old 10-08-2010, 09:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts, Meemee. We will certainly keep having conversations and keeping an open mind about what is right for him in any given year. We did cover the oddball territory and I got a pretty clear idea from him where he feels the need to conform (clothing, especially) and where he doesn't. He was quite adamant that he liked being different in some ways, which I was glad to hear. It was a very productive and warm conversation. It was also a fairly long one. I didn't recount it all here.

Stephanie mom to Brianna (6/00) , Alexander (6/02) , and Ethan (9/07) .
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#11 of 11 Old 10-08-2010, 10:29 AM
 
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Luv my 2 sweeties, I wonder if there's any opportunities for him to do another kind of trial run. If it was summer I'd say try to get him into a more academic summer camp. I know the science museum here runs several. That would allow him to see where his public school age-mates are in somewhat of a schoolish setting without sending him to school for a whole year. Are there any year round schools in your area? There may be some camps or track-out programs he could join, or maybe some afterschool activities, but not sure that would achieve the same result as a more immersive experience. Anyway, just wanted to throw that out there as a bit of a way to test the waters without jumping in with both feet. Glad you were able to have a conversation with him about school and good luck to you both!

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