Monthly Archives: November 2016

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Why We’re Homeschooling. All the reasons.

Updated 5/5/2017: The new administration at the school we applied to reached out to me because they became aware of this post. They were concerned about public negative perceptions of the school, but were also apologetic about what had happened. I have mixed feelings about that. The weight of an apology is certainly lessened when it comes from a place of trying to protect the reputation of the institution, but I did get an apology and that does something to soften my feelings about how it was handled. Because of that I softened the language in this post, but what happened still happened. 

This coming school year we’ll need to fill out our affidavit that basically says we’re homeschooling. After lots of reflection, thought, research, hemming and hawing, and more thought, we’re doing it. Here’s why:

1. Our abysmal experience applying to private school. It took two years and a new administration to get an apology and acknowledgement that what happened was not okay.*  

1a. Private school is expensive and not only would it make things tight, it would rule out another baby and would ensure that I need to go back to work so I could get medical benefits. Because tuition is the same price as what we pay for our medical insurance.  

2. Our local public school is full this year. I considered them for two reasons. We have an incredibly diverse population at the school (that draws primarily from our neighborhood) and I want Cam to meet and make friends with diverse people, not just the rich white kids that go to private school. We don’t have to go to our public school to do that (all she has to do is walk outside our house because our neighborhood is very diverse), but it was an appealing part of the idea of the school. Also, they have a half-day kindergarten program. Unfortunately, next school year they would push her into first grade because of her age and she is too young. It’s that cut-off date quandary again without the options. 

3. They don’t teach what needs to be taught in any school I’ve encountered. Even with alternative methods they still skirt around the content/skills that needs to be taught. We’re going to focus a lot on anti-bias and social justice in our family for the next four years and beyond and I have not found a school that will do that. But more than that, I haven’t found a school close enough and good enough that steers away from traditional philosophy. Many schools claim to base their education on non-traditional models, but they still maintain that kind of thinking and never get far enough away from it for my preferences. 

From here on out, I probably won’t be posting here very often. I’m working on reviewing diverse books for my library book blog. I haven’t quite figured out what it is I want to do here, although I do really like popping in to talk about books and what is going on in our house. But after the election that all feels very hollow. I am going to try and share booklists and resources you can use in homeschooling that work towards the goal of anti-bias education and fighting racism, sexism and xenophobia. I would point you toward my library blog, but that isn’t really geared for parents. I can tweak content I post there or create new content that speaks to how parents can use resources and I will do that as the mood strikes me. 

*I realized I never did share what the aftermath was beyond saying the admissions department wanted to do some role playing. That never happened and they pretty quickly went into damage-control mode and played the blame game. They took zero responsibility for what had happened and never admitted to being sorry. The admissions office didn’t ask us this year if we’d be applying.  

Learning to Read

We’re all very excited around here because Cam is learning to read. She really started to show some interest a few months ago when she began memorizing the names of the letters and identifying them when she saw them. 

This is most exciting for me because I have plenty of experience with abilities later in the process. All my years working in lower school, and particularly in second grade, I have seen fluency really come together and skills strengthen. But I haven’t seen the start of the process and quite frankly it’s amazing. 

Some resources 

I’ve been looking for resources to help support her and here are some things I’ve discovered. I tend not to like worksheets and things like that, but she’s motivated and interested so I’ve been using them.

First, she needs lots of practice working out the sounds each letter makes. I downloaded a bunch of printables that have her practice letter sounds both by themselves and as initial sounds. Scour Pinterest for these free resources. Here’s a link to a Pinterest search for some of those activities and printables.

Next, she needs to be able to identify the upper and lower case letter as the books she reads in have different cases and different fonts. I bought this game on Amazon that is a memory-style game. It’s nice and she likes Memory so I figured she would be willing to play. Also, here is a search on Pinterest for matching upper and lower case letter games

Then we needed some little books for her to read. Costco has a four or five BOB book collections for $11. I just bought all of them. Many of them are way above her ability right now. One set is called the Pre-Reader Collection and it goes through some skills readers need (like pattern recognition) and also all the letters of the alphabet with their sounds. I find the BOB books totally boring, but Cam likes them a lot. She is also able to read the first few in the first collection. Which brings me to my next point. 

Let’s talk about easy readers

There are a lot of really great easy readers out there. You know them. They have a smaller trim size than picture books, but are bigger than an actual chapter book. They’re kind of short and have large print with spaced out lines on each page. They’re books like Frog and Toad and Little Bear and Cat in the Hat. The thing is, even the easiest ones require a fair amount of skill and ability to read. The vast majority do not use simple short vowel patterns and CVC word patterns (consonant-vowel-consonant). Add to this the fact that a bunch of companies publish them and their reading levels are not consistent across brands. Kids learning to read do quickly put spelling patterns together in their minds and memorize sight words (words you know on sight without having to sound out or look more closely), but it takes some time and practice. They do eventually get to a place where they can really read those types of books, but where Cam is now she needs super basic readers. That’s where the BOB books seem to have the market cornered. 

Waiting until the time is right

So one thing I am trying very hard to balance is pushing her to practice and actually read with not killing the interest she has. I know the more she practices the better she’ll get and the easier it will become. But right now it’s hard and laborious and fatiguing. I’m glad I allowed her to pick the time she actually began to work through it. It’s coming quickly and she’s incredibly motivated. Hopefully she can sustain that interest while her skills catch up. 

A final thought. I know the concept of your child learning to read can be incredibly stressful (as is nearly everything with parenting). Will they ever learn? Will they want to? Will they struggle? What if it happens later than all the other kids? The thing about reading is that by fifth grade, it’s all a wash. With very, very, very few exceptions teachers in the upper grades do not know who read first, second or last. (Well, maybe last. There are children with learning disabilities that continue to struggle.) But those super star readers in kindergarten and first grade? They are not always on top and frequently become totally indistinguishable from their peers. Repeat after me: it all becomes a wash. What does that mean for you right now, with a young child? Enjoy them as they are. They will get there. They do all learn to read. It’s an amazing thing to watch as this whole new word opens up to your child (remember how the world opened up when they learned to talk and to walk? it’s like that all over again, but with a more cognizant person). Enjoy that and don’t worry so much.