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I am a public school teacher. I have four children, three who are in school and doing great. However, my son suffers from SEVERE school anxiety. I will be homeschooling him.

There are so many different options out there! I have no idea where to start and need/want opinions on your experiences.

I don't mind the public school curriculum...however, it moves too fast for him. I am looking for something with some support (especially in math!!)

What are your experiences? Please share. I'm so overwhelmed with what is out there and want to choose the best program for him. I'd like him to be able to move at his own pace.

THANK YOU!
 

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Hi Lana, and welcome to the big adventure!

The most important thing you can probably do at this point to help your son and yourself is to deschool. Deschooling is probably harder for teachers and others who have thrived walking the mainstream route of institutional education than it is for others. I spent 19 years being a success in schools of various sorts, so I definitely know how hard it can be to change one's perspective. Deschooling isn't about becoming anti-school. It's about recognizing how much of what goes on in schools is about large-group, out-of-home, age- and ability-levelled logistical efficiency. And yet those of us who have grown up in the school system tend to view these ideas as being essential to learning in the more general sense.

I'm talking about assumptions like
  • kids who are struggling in one area should devote extra time and energy to that area
  • kids need to be pushed to learn in areas where they're reluctant so that they don't fall behind
  • math needs to be mastered systematically starting with simple skills and working forward gradually through a clear sequence
  • measuring learning through tests and grades is necessary to affirm mastery and identify weaknesses
  • learning should be divided into discrete chunks called subjects
  • learning should be adult-directed to ensure that necessary concepts and skills are addressed

Coming to understand the ways in which these assumptions (may) serve learning in a school environment but don't apply -- and may be entirely counter-productive -- outside that environment is what deschooling is all about for a parent.

For a child, deschooling is about decompressing from the stress and structure of the school system. You don't say how old your child is, but a general rule of thumb is to expect one month of deschooling for every year your child has been in an institutional learning environment. And summer holidays don't generally count because they're part of the school mentality. So if your child is 6 and has attending preK, K and 1st grade, expect him to need until the beginning of December to deschool. For a child deschooling is a fallow period of time where his mindset begins to adjust to the idea that things are truly different now, that his identity as a learner is no longer dependent on how he does or doesn't fit into school's expectations, that he is the pilot of his own ship. Deschooling kids often go through a phase of aimlessness because they're accustomed to having other people make decisions for them about what to learn, what to do, what to express an interest in, how to go about learning. They may seem to do nothing but mope around and sit in front of screens. It can be tempting to interrupt this process and put them to work. But if you can wait it out, what typically happens is that their self-starting sparks of enthusiasm for learning begin to surface again. Deschooling like a reboot of a system that has got all muddled up. It takes time, but it pays off in a big way.

Reading about deschooling can be helpful, although if you're looking around on the internet you'll find that the term is also used to refer to the social-order movement towards deconstructing institutions of learning. What we're talking about here is a personal-level reorientation and reboot. So maybe search "homeschooling deschooling" instead. Here's a decent article. And another.

What a new-to-homeschooling parent can do while their child is decompressing and deschooling is to
1. Forget everything they thought they knew about learning, then ....
2. Not panic over the fact that they know nothing and
3. Turn their energy towards becoming a empathic and sensitive observer of their child's natural learning

Tall order, I know. I've find photo-journaling and blogging about my children's interests, pursuits and learning to be very helpful. It keeps me observing and affirming. My touchstone idea is that any child who is engaged by something is engaged because he is learning something important from it. My job is to try to figure out what that is.

You may find that having a rhythm to your days, particularly since your other kids are in school, will be helpful even while deschooling. I would steer clear of a schedule of learning activities in the traditional school-at-home sense though. So perhaps a board game or card game session in the morning, a walk outside before lunch, and a readaloud or audiobook after lunch while doodling or playing with Legos. Something gentle like that.

Board and card games and Lego will "cover" math for the time being. Let the re-boot happen before jumping in to try to remediate his math issues.

Miranda
 

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I second all that Miranda said. We started homeschooling last September when Little would have started grade 4. I was allowing for deschooling and I would say it was somewhere between January and March when he really started to see himself as a learner. One mistake I made was signing him up for an outdoor Ed program one day a week, he so wasn't ready, and it set him back. Too much like school he said. Even though it was a program for homeschooler. I did start the year with a bit of schooly structure, partly to appease DH, but also Little was worried too about not learning. So I bought a reading and math curriculums and we did a bit each day. I bought levels I knew he could do, because of the trauma he'd had at school, my theory was to only have mastered skills with no new learning expectation. I felt that was a good call.
Deschooling is a family activity is all I would add to Miranda's explanations. Good luck.
Anna
 

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Agree with Miranda. Thanks also for those links to the deschooling articles. I can refer to them since I have no personal experience of "deschooling" in the sense of transitioning from school to homeschool. But the concepts are interesting even otherwise.

I was thinking about why people tend to worry so specifically about math. I think it comes from seeing math as something very separate from everything else, and by the same token an inability to see it in everything else.
 
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