Friday, March 9, 2012

Education opinions wanted

My husband and I have a pretty big decision to make sometime in the very near future. I'm so torn that I'm going to toss this one out to the internet and see what others have to say on the subject.

The education system where we live is very, very bad. We live on the border of Mexico and the culture here is incredibly different than anywhere else I've ever lived. (For the record, I have lived in central Iowa, NE Iowa, Missouri, Utah, central Texas and now here.) My husband is a military brat and he's lived all over the world. (After graduating high school in Panama, my hubby joined the Air Force. He's been everywhere!) He equates a lot of what we experience where we live to what it's like in less-industrial parts of the world and even third-world countries.

Poverty is rampant in our part of the state. Gang activity is active. Within the culture, children speak Spanish until they are plunked into school. Much of the first few years of school are spent helping children learn English. All of these factors make for a less than ideal school environment.

Couple this with all the rules and regulations of No Child Left Behind and the school environment becomes even less ideal. Needless to say, I've been horribly disappointed.

For all these reasons and more, we chose to place Herman in a virtual academy when he started high school this year. This hybrid kind of homeschool is working rather well for us!!

Because the testing environment really kicks in in third grade - we have decided for sure that TT is going to stay at home next year. It is my plan to enroll him in the same virtual academy that Herman attends. (TXVA accepts kids in 3rd through 11th grade - 12th grade will be available next year.) TT's anxiety is off the charts this year. Schooling at home will allow him to work on a pace that is good for him. And it will allow me to not emphasize the annual state testing so much. Yes, he'll still take the tests. But I'm not going to blow their importance out of perspective.

That leaves me with the decision of how to school Bart. (I don't have to decide anything for foster kids in our family. They are required to attend brick and mortar public schools.)

All about Bart:

Bart is 7 years old. He's currently in 1st grade. He gets straight A's. He's reading at a 3rd grade level. He's writing for fun. (He just wrote a small chapter book based on some research he's done!) He tested last year at the end of kindergarten and was placed into the gifted program this year. Thankfully he does have a wonderful teacher! She gives him harder math, spelling and reading assignments. She does a very good job of channeling his extra energy. In fact, during a conference last night, she says when he gets going sometimes, she will let him go ahead and explain concepts to the class. She indicated that he's a wonderful teacher and she lets him assist her regularly.

How do I school Bart next year?

TXVA (the virtual academy) doesn't take 2nd graders. I don't particularly want to send only Bart to brick and mortar next year. (We have no idea what other children will be in our home next fall.) I do want to keep Bart at home too. I think that will be easier.

During the conference with Bart's current 1st grade teacher, she indicated that Bart would be capable of skipping 2nd grade. She said that he's already mastered the skills that kids need by the end of 2nd grade.

If I'm going to keep Bart home, what curriculum do I use?

Do I piecemeal things together and just "wing" second grade? I can get some curriculum like A Beka and MathUSee. I can let Bart listen in on lessons with TT when applicable.

Or do I see if TXVA would let Bart skip a grade?

See -- I'm NOT planning on homeschooling forever. While I believe that homeschooling is great for some kids and for some this time I don't feel "called" to homeschool. In our case, we are doing it as an educational alternative. I do believe it's what we are supposed to do next year. And I will trust God if for some reason we are to continue it long-term.

But we won't be living in this part of Texas forever. In order for my husband to get a promotion in his job, we will have to move. That's just how his employer works. I envision a move as early as this summer even. It will all depend on what jobs are available and where they are at. It is currently our plan to put all the cherubs back in brick and mortar when we leave Texas.

Which makes this dilemma sticky.

Bart is capable of 3rd grade academic work. His current teacher even feels that socially he would be fine if he skipped a grade. Me though -- I'm not so sure about the social side of things.

He would be fine if we homeschooled through high school. However, studies have proven that the youngest kids in the class struggle in brick and mortar situations. So while Bart may be ready to do the academic work of 3rd grade - would we be setting him up for failure when he's older if we bump him?

This is a long and rambling sort of post again. If you actually made it this far, I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Especially if you've got an opinion about kids skipping a grade.


nicole said...

just a thought...if B were to skip second grade and join third...we would finish HS a YEAR younger than the rest and "launch" into the world with one less year at home. for this reason we choose to challenge and keep in the origional grade. just a thought.

sheldonanddenise said...

Totally agree with Nicole! Besides, most boys mature later too. We didn't want our little guy leaving the nest at 17yrs. old and heading off to college so young. We LOVE Saxon math and Abeka language, phonics, social studies (Math U See was a bit to easy). They are above the normal school level and very challenging. Your homeschool doesn't have to mirror a traditional school. That's the great part of HS. You can use the extra time for "Life Skills" cooking, gardening, laundry, etc. (not many kids or young adults know even the basics). You can combine classes... everybody does science together (Magic School Bus has an awesome kit they send every month) Consider yourself a FREE BIRD! Take school on the road. Your life no longer revolves around the school schedule but your family's schedule! Become a part of a local HS co-op group so the kids can take elective classes. We had daddies volunteer to teach last semester ~ oil changes, changing a tire, building bird houses, fishing, working with tools, etc.... the boys LOVED it!!! Field trips are the best! Oops, sorry so long :o) We foster, we adopt and I guess I would be considered a mean Mama too :o) Blessings, Denise from MO!

Meg0422 said...

Can his current teacher send him up a grade for certain classes? The school may be able to "promote" him up to 3rd by the end of the school year.

Mine's one of the youngest and does have a few issues with social interaction, but they can handle better the older they get. I don't see him in too many of your posts, so if he's got a good head on his shoulders, send him up a grade.

schnitzelbank said...

Brick n Mortar teacher here. I'd suggest looking at for Bart. I wouldn't have him skip a grade. You can absolutely wing it at home, but something like k12 will give you some structure, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

CherubMamma said...

@Schnitzelbank - TXVA (the online school Herman attends) is a K12 school. I was looking into their International Academy that takes all grades, but we couldn't afford that tuition. I hadn't thought of using their homeschool curriculum. Kind of a "duh" moment for me. Thanks for the reminder. I'm going to have to check out what they have for 2nd grade curriculum.

@Sheldonanddenise - I've heard good things about Saxon. I'm so scared to pick and choose curriculum. Especially since I don't see us homeschooling forever, I really just want to do a "package" of sorts. It's good to know that you found MathUSee too simple.

@Nicole - exactly my fear. I think Bart would be fine in elementary being the youngest. But I'm afraid of what that would look like in the middle and high school years.

@Meg - I sure wish they did things like that in the brick and mortar Bart currently attends. But...they don't. And overall, there are a lot of things wrong with how this school (and all the schools in this part of Texas) functions. We've already tried a small charter school in the area too. It had problems keeping teachers employed and at times there was only one teacher overseeing three grades. We are going to homeschool next year for sure.

G said...

How close is Bart's birthday to the age cut-off for the grade?

I ask because my youngest skipped 1st.

We knew the year before he went to kindergarten that he was ready to go then. His preschool teacher knew he was ready to go. But our state said his birthday was about 3 weeks too late to go to kindergarten that year and he had to wait.

The first week of Kindergarten, his teacher was calling me for permission to do 1st grade work with him.

Because his age is so close to the cut-off (and because a lot of parents of summer birthday boys in my area "red-shirt" their kids), he's the youngest, but not by a lot. We haven't hit high school yet, but we aren't really concerned about it.

Ultimately, I think you know your child better than anybody else. Don't rush a decision, think about it, pray about it -- whatever you choose to do isn't set in stone forever, and it'll be fine!

Mie said...

Is there a private school you can do for 2nd grade? You didn't mention it so I imagine you don't want to go that route.

Logan will be skipping a grade. In fact, he already has by starting kindergarten a year early (we had to go to private school to get that done). This makes him the youngest in the class. That being said, he's also the top student in his class and has been since the beginning of the year. He is not behind socially at all.

That being said, it really depends on the kids. Logan is gifted as well and in my opinion as a gifted kid myself, a parent with a gifted kid, and as someone with (almost) 2 advanced degrees in education it is CRITICAL to have a gifted child move at his/her pace. This typically means they need to move up if they are near the age cutoff. Unlike most students, most gifted kids actually thrive when they are younger than their peers. They typically look up to people and try to chase the accomplishments of others and if he is the oldest and most advanced in his class he will become bored with the pace of class and will likely tune out. In regular classroom enviornments this causes obvious problems - they either begin to act up when they do their work ahead of time OR they become the "teacher's pet" when the teacher tries to use them as their helper or give extra assignments OR they stop doing their assignments at all so they seem to "fit in" with the other kids (rather than being singled out for always learning so quickly). Unlike most advanced (but not gifted) students, gifted students also tend to be hypersensitive to peer relationships and opinions and so things people say tend to stick deeper and last longer.

It is almost always best for gifted students to be in an environment where they are learningalmost entirely with other gifted students. Then, because they are all gifted in some ways, they are less aware of the giftedness, it doesn't have stigma, good or bad, and the children are free to learn at their pace typically with programs that are designed specifically for gifted learners.

Unfortunately, the school system typically has to play toward the "lowest common denomenator" so to speak so that in fact no child is left behind educationally.

Logan will likely go to a school next year that is only for gifted students. If you don't have a program like that in your area, the alternative best option is to homeschool or do an online public school with lots of interactive extracurricular activities so they can grow socially as well.

I know it's a really tough decision! Like the others have said, you know your child best and I believe it will become clearer to you over the next few months.

Sunday Taylor said...

My oldest went to a week of first grad and then was moved to 2nd. (She would have been on the younger side in her expected grade, she is now a 1 1/2 to 2 years younger than her classmates) She has always been put an additional year ahead in math. For the most part it has worked out very well for her. Now that she is in high school I am a little nervous about the thought of her graduating in three short years at 16. I can't imagine her being ready to go away to school by then.

The beauty about home schooling a gifted kid is that he can work at his own pace.

sheldonanddenise said...

Since you have a little bit of time put a plan together, you may want to check out a HS Conference near you. They all have an expo where you check out most every curriculum ~ video, online, books, etc. Don't be afraid to pick and choose.... thats the fun part (even if you don't HS the following year). You might want to see when they have a used HS book sale/swap. We got a lot of our workbooks for free or very cheap. Some people used a few pages and changed their minds or won items thru giveaways. There's also a bunch of HS websites that have giveaways and great product reviews. Wished we lived closer so we could share our stuff! I have to be sure to say that most importantly, HS has really helped our little guy become more bonded and secure in the family. Blessings, Denise