Saturday, October 12, 2013

Home School Changes

We made the jump to "traditional" home school for both TT and Bart this past Monday. Up until this week, TT was officially enrolled in a public online school. (Bart was piggy-backing on TT's curriculum in everything but math.) For TT though, that meant the curriculum was provided. The lesson plans were provided. And he had a supervising teacher over it all. Most importantly, the online school would have TT take the end of the year STAAR standardized tests.

As this school year progressed it became apparent that TT's struggles with learning differences hadn't lessened. We started the RTI process (Response To Intervention). I knew he had some problems last year. We were doing most everything orally. But the amount of learning lost over the summer, especially in math, was complicating things for TT. The very assessment driven curriculum of the public school continued to make things worse.

Mr. Amazing is currently at home right now due to the government shutdown. As a non-essential federal employee he's on furlough. He's had the *pleasure* of observing home school since October 1st. Granted, our family is under a tremendous amount of stress right now - hitting us from all angles - but he was able to observe school in its finest. He saw TT lose it simply because I said it was time to do math.

So we talked about it. We prayed about it. I consulted some people that I really trust. I even had a 45 minute phone conversation with TT's teacher. She had been in agreement with me that TT has dyslexia. This time I asked her to look into the future. We discussed how the school would be able to modify things for TT with an official diagnosis. Without hesitation she agreed that a "traditional" home school would be a good fit for TT. She sees the incredible downfall of having to complete that 3% of the curriculum each week in the online school. She also let me know that TT would probably just be diagnosed as a "slow learner" and any curriculum modifications would be minor if we got them at all. We would continue to spin our wheels with TT in the very test driven public school system.

Sure, that format works well for some kids. Bart would THRIVE if the state of Texas would allow it. But Texas requires that a student be enrolled in a public brick & mortar the year prior to enrolling in an online school. Bart didn't qualify because I home schooled him for 2nd grade so he couldn't enroll in the online school that begins in 3rd grade.

TT needs hands on work. TT needs things given to him orally. And TT needs things presented to him differently. I discussed how TT figures out the "pattern" of whatever lesson the curriculum was trying to present. Math, grammar and even spelling was always presented focusing on only one thing. He was supposed to master that and then move on. It was easy for me to see that TT wasn't truly "learning" what was being presented. The lessons don't really build on each other and the multiple choice tests/quizzes every day don't really measure if he's learned the subject. They only measure whether or not he can regurgitate the information right away. Mix it all up and TT can't do it. ALL multiplication...he can do it. Mix up multiplication, division, addition and subtraction and he'll get turned around. ALL (grammar) subject/predicate work...he can do it. Mix up subject, predicate, direct object, adjective, etc. and he'll get turned around.

So we withdrew him.

We're doing a modified version of un-schooling right now. It's definitely not radical unschooling. But we're stepping back from "school" as it looks to most kids. Daily I want my two youngest to read, write and learn. I've got them both going through a typing tutorial so that they can learn to type the correct way. They got email addresses and both kids started their own blogs. Already they've written work for their blogs that they would have fought me tooth and nail over if it had been "assigned". We're reading a wonderful book out loud that is a piece of historical fiction. It has inspired fantastic conversations. They're learning about Jewish life through the eyes of a zealot alive during the time of Christ. We've gone out on our own to research Jewish tradition and the Law. Next Friday we're going to have our own Shabbot at home with the family. (We're going to drive to church though on Saturday and we're going to turn our lights on and off as necessary. LOL) They've also watched several documentaries on Netflix.

I ordered an official math curriculum. Math-U-See will be arriving on our doorstep next week. That will get added in immediately. I also don't have to send back any of the consumables from the online school. We can do things from that curriculum if I think it will help. Eventually I'll have to come up with something for grammar. I may just continue to do my own thing for literature, science and social studies. For now though, I'm not making any major decisions. We're just trying to lessen the stress in the home to create an environment where TT feels comfortable learning! I don't care about test scores or a transcript. I guess that's one good thing about Texas. None of that is required.

Already we've seen the tantrums decrease. Through the writing on their blogs the kids have had spelling lessons and grammar instruction. It's working well. It's definitely going to take a lot of work on my end as I want them engaged in learning. I'm not so radical that it's going to be OK for them to play all day long. While there is value in play, I do want more structure than that.

Life has been a mess of emotion lately. We're still all struggling with the loss of our two family members. The phone calls have been nice and horrible all at the same time. We're still "in" the case but it's a mess. I had to lessen the school problems. Herman is still attending the online school but I'm changing it up for TT and Bart. It's our decision for right now. I don't know what we're going to do next year. Thankfully, foster care has taught me how to better live in the moment. I know I don't have to have next year planned out. For now, we're just off on a new adventure. We'll see where it takes us.


kate said...

I'm a little jealous. That's the freedom we had for the last two years, and it was such a gift! Enjoy this time learning with your boys. :>

Still hoping that those two little ones are either back with you or that things in Texas do a complete turn around so that you're content that they are safe and thriving there.

Anna said...

We use Heart of Dakota and love it. They use some Charlotte Mason techniques. For the most part, the lessons are short and simple. The curriculum guide is broken up into boxes that can be completed all at once or throughout your day. They have extensions as well, so you could likely combine your two youngest.

Rich & Sig said...

Have you looked at Time4Learning? I love it. The kids can learn via watching video, very easy and they make it fun. It can be used as a supplement or for schooling. If they need any info or anyone to ask Jewish questions to, I am your girl :)

sheldonanddenise said...

Prayin' for peace and comfort for everyone involved. We homeschool our "unique" learners and I have to tell you that we just switched most of our curriculum last week. Gotta love homeschooling! What worked last year was not working this year... we're actually maturing and focusing this time around! Yahoo! Finally progress! Math U See is great...after completing the first two books we switched to Saxon Math. It covers a lot more like temperature, money, graphs, etc. it builds and repeats. Math u See gave us a great foundation! Also, All About Reading & All About Spelling are great too. I especially like its not grade based...once you've learned the concept then you can move on. Holler if you need anything...seems like we've tried just about everything! Blessings, Denise

sheldonanddenise said...
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grkanga said...

Read your fbook re Miss M and the absent phone call and teaching the 3 at home Respect of Authority. I suggest teaching use of manners/politeness to all...even if they are not polite back. That frees you to teach that those with power/authority may not use this status correctly but being polite is still correct. Then you can teach about responsibilities that OUGHT to come with authority and lead them to discuss broadly solutions to the abuse of power.
Because you want your children to grow up to evaluate people in authority positions and to have several coping methods to deal with those who are abusive... deliberately or ignorantly abusive.