Thursday, July 9, 2015

Off To School For Some of the Garcia Kids

If you know me, then you know I’m sold out on home schooling.  To me, it feels like the natural thing to do, the way most mothers would feel about giving birth—the first option is to deliver normally….and a C-section is a go-to only when necessary.  That’s how I am about home schooling and public school.  Home schooling is my default—public school is my back-up plan….when my health or something else is at risk!!  I guess it helps that I’m a teacher, and that I’ve always loved teaching kids…..for me, I have a hard time believing that anyone can teach my kids as well as I can!

That being said.…..I have to admit that the last two years have taken a lot out of me, with seven kids on all different levels….three who didn’t speak English or even know the alphabet.  It hasn’t been easy home schooling so many children with various needs, who come from such different walks of life.  

Luke (13) already joined the public school scene last school year.  It was either that or he and I hating each other, and I opted for the “getting along with my kid” option.  And in April, Steven (15) started public school, being admitted into the visually impaired program.  

We are going to send Grace (12) to school this year as well.  She has no special needs, but could, in my opinion, use a year of someone else making her do school work instead of me.  She is lively and happy and extremely helpful to me at home, but no matter what I’ve tried….online curriculum, workbooks, interest-led learning, etc. I have trouble getting Gracie excited about learning.  She’s happy just to cook and clean and take care of children. And so it causes some stress at home, since we don’t live in the 1800’s and I am required, by law, to provide her with an academic education.  

My saddest, and most uncertain decision is my little Jojo (turning 9 in November, but tiny like a 6 year old).  In a moment of weakness this year, when I felt like his speech wasn’t improving at all, I had him re-tested at our elementary school.  To my surprise, his scores went up so much since his first testing, that the IEP team recommended he be placed in a regular 1st grade classroom and receive 17 hours per week of pull-out services in speech and language, etc.  It’s an offer that is hard to refuse, but he is such a joy to our everyday life that I can barely stand to part with him.  He makes me laugh all the time and is so darn cute!!  And with me, his academics (and yes, even his speech) really are coming along so much that I can’t think of why on earth I’d send him anywhere else.  Yet, sending him to school would give me one big advantage—and that is that I’d have more time to spend working with Benjamin, who really needs to learn in a one-on-one setting.  So, it’s looking like I’m going to reluctantly send Josiah to 1st grade this year…..though don’t be surprised if he only makes it to Christmas and then I snatch him back home!! (Update.....he only made it to Christmas and I snatched him back home!!  A wasted five months of not learning anything and not really seeing a difference in his speech!  He would bring all these papers with scribble scrabble home in his backpack, and I was like, "Does the teacher even know he's in there?!....27 kids, btw! )

Benji (12, but more like a 9 year old) will continue to be home schooled because he really needs one-on-one instruction.  The nice thing is, he’s my easiest child to home school—he is incredibly motivated to learn.  I have several paid subscriptions to online educational programs, and he can literally spend hours working on those, during the times I can’t be working directly with him.  It’s amazing how far he has come in these last two years. To think that he came here not knowing a single letter of the alphabet in Bulgarian, nor even knowing how to write his own name, and now he’s reading simple books and spelling simple words.  He still has a long way to go but he has the motivation to succeed.  

Sara (11) and David (6) will be my regular home schoolers this year.  They both like to learn, and I’m looking forward to taking their education to a higher level. I’m deciding on a once a week school program for them to attend, in which they will get instruction and peer interaction and will come home with an assignment sheet to complete for the rest of the week. I’m excited because the schools I’m considering use a lot of the same curriculum that we already use, and that same Charlotte Mason style of teaching/learning.  This will also give them some outside accountability so I don’t have to be the one requiring everything from them. (Update--we chose Veritas Classical Schools and I love it!)

That’s the Garcia family home school story for 2015/16.  To be honest, I feel a little sad only home schooling half of the crew this year.  I see other moms of large families home school successfully and I wish I could make it work here as well!  But to preserve my sanity and health, I’m thankful that I have the option of relying on public schools to help me shoulder the load….at least for this year. One year at a time….may the Holy Spirit always lead us in his wisdom!

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