Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Big Decisions

Last spring we decided homeschooling as we’d been doing wasn’t really working. It had begun to feel quite haphazard and inconsistent and I began to worry that my children would be completely unprepared for The Real World. When we investigated Connections Academy, a virtual charter school based in Scio, Oregon it looked too good to be true. We were skeptical going in, of course. It’s nothing but a big for-profit corporation that couldn’t possibly have our kids’ best interests at heart. But the promise of the box of materials on the doorstep and the pre-planned lessons was just too marvelous to ignore. Surely, we thought, this would be a good bridge between our cozy life at home and The Real World and we’d have real, live teachers standing by to help us.

While the relatives and schooling parents all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that we were finally doing something sensible with the boys, all our homeschooling friends had reactions ranging from doubt to horror. Why ever would we give up the autonomy and freedom of homeschooling for the experience of others deciding what, how, and when our children need to learn? Honestly, I was happy with the curriculum and felt that my kids would have a great academic foundation in the program. And I felt that having outside authorities night reduce the power struggles I was having with the boys about schoolwork.

We expected a transitional period but it’s now halfway through the school year and both boys are too busy to go anywhere or see friends. We feel trapped in the house, we hardly see anyone, and it’s always all about getting the work done. This is childhood? One child is perpetually “behind” and under pressure (and not surprisingly, acting out) while the other has found that computer based learning provides a world of distraction and that one can skate along doing shoddy work with few consequences. The Princess is stuck at home while I crack the whip over her brothers and I am bordering on depression from the stress of it all.

Oddly enough, the boys tell me that they want to continue with this program. When we talk about it, it’s the structure that appeals to them but not the pace. But we don’t get to make substantive adjustments with Connections. We haven’t found a way to make it work for our family.

While I dread hunting down resources, planning lessons, and developing curriculum again, I feel like this just isn’t a good fit. I know I can take what worked from this experience and adapt as necessary to come up with something that works for our family and helps my boys grow into themselves. I’ve sent in the letter stating our wish to pull the boys out. And I finally feel like I can breathe again.


Lynn S. said...

Ya done right, kid. If I can help in any way, let me know--and I'm completely serious about that. I'm willing to help with curriculum or whatever. I know I'm not MUCH help, but I am SOME help. :)

Melisa said...

Thanks, Lynn. You're the best!

Gala said...

I'm late to this conversation but want to applaud this decision, Melisa. We've become even more relaxed since our move "home" and the kids are still light-years "ahead" of the kids I work with at the institutional schools.

I had a kid at work this Fall come to me after a chat with my dd, and say I shouldn't be allowing her to do chemistry. I asked why not. He said, "Because she'll get ahead!"

Nevermind the fact she selected a chemistry workbook all by herself. Nevermind the fact that she's gotten really interested in biology, too.

There is no "behind." There's only a different path and our encouragement of the children to learn to *think* rather than lap up the pablum.

Your family is loving, resourceful and brilliant. You have nothing to worry about.

Love y'all.
Gala and the crew in TX