Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Love My New Job!!! (Homeschooling Ryan)

I honestly never thought I'd become a homeschooling advocate, let alone someone who gives advice about it.  I had always firmly intended to use the state school system of whatever country I was in.  My children would adapt and thrive and I would show everyone how it was done.  (Kinda like how I knew how to deal with that two-year old having a melt-down in the candy aisle - BEFORE I had kids!)

Ryan went to a French kindergarten.  She spoke fluent French without an accent after three months. 

And then we moved to Germany.

'Nuf said.  I am giving up the anger.  Germany's education system is not my problem to solve.  (Although if anyone there wants help in working to legalise homeschooling there, I'll do what I can from this end if you ask me to.)

The fact that I was legally barred from homeschooling my child even after the state had shown no aptitide or interest in helping her themselves was only one of many reasons we left Germany.

It was the initial impetus though and the final push as well.  I was not sending my daughter back into that school environment there and my American passport was only going to protect me for so long.  (Note to American homeschoolers in Germay:  you are not legally allowed to homeschool there either.  They do turn a blind eye to American military personnel and to most Americans there since most will only be there for a few years and it is not worth the international legal battle.  If someone wanted to bring it to international attention, they COULD try to homeschool in the open there as an American and let the battle begin.  But I wouldn't try it.  They can and they have forcibly removed children from homeschooling homes and put the kids into foster care and the parents into prison.  Since this is obviously so much better than having children homeschooled by parents who love them.)

We Germans do love our state control.

In any case, all four of my kids were enrolled in our local state school within a week of touching ground in Brisbane. 

It was like a carnival.

Andrew wrote his first essay on how much better school was in Australia than in Germany.  (And he hasn't even read the international PISA scores the Germans are always so worried about!)

The education system here had everything we found the education system to be lacking in Germany.

That we changed schools two years later is a fantastic part of the system that allows choice.  Andrew needed the academic challenges he is now getting at our new school.  He needed to be stimulated by his peers as well as by his teachers.  And he is.  The twins were quite happy where they were but I wasn't happy with the behaviour of their peers anymore either.  And I wanted more resources, more organisation and communication and more discipline.  (I loved the staff at our old school - still do - and miss them dearly - an amazing part of the Aussie character is that they too knew we needed to leave and they encouraged us to do what was best for us with no hard feelings.  Wouldn't happen in Germany.  Wouldn't happen in America.  I truly have so much to learn from Oz.)

How lucky are we to have found this only a five minute drive from our old school?  I really have nothing to be angry about.  Sorry about that.  (It's an American thing and maybe a German thing and entirely a Christine thing.  But I am working on it!)

I don't think Ryan was going to be happy in any school we chose, state or private.  She was passed over and miserable in Germany.  She was happier here - she had the help she needed with academics and the support of the teachers which was totally lacking in Germany - but she still absolutely detested the social aspects of school.  Quite frankly, she wanted nothing to do with any of the girls around her.

And I couldn't blame her.

Ryan is such a gentle spirit.  It was breaking her to send her into the battle zone of school every morning.  (I mean any school; do people REALLY think the skills we need socially as adults are learned at SCHOOL?!  It's like herding cattle into pens.  Except you also make them sit at desks and learn stuff they aren't remotely interested in all day long.  And then force them to get along with the cow that just shat on them two minutes before.)

We've been homeschooling for three weeks now and my face light ups when I describe my new job. 

I love having Ryan home.

She enjoys being here.

We have done all the testing the first two weeks - she seems to be on par academically thanks for asking - and just received our books yesterday.

We are able to do extra work, more repetition, because I can sit with her, give her an assignment and get on with it.  And she is able to concentrate without the distractions of twenty plus kids.  (Really, Ian on my knee playing with the pencil sharpener is NOTHING compared to the behaviours she was putting up with in both her German and her Australian school.)  No spitballs being thrown.  Noone else walking around the classroom.  Or asking to go to the bathroom.  Or asking to see her answers or insisting on her joining their gang during recess.

Just us.

We are able to repeat and redo maths until she has it down.  And are moving on to multiplying fractions on Monday.

Her writing at home isn't as confused and incoherent as what she used to bring home from school.  It's not great literature - she doesn't have much of an interest - but it is clear, it is following the rules, point A follows from point B, and she wraps it up tightly if a bit quickly once she reaches her word limit!

Her basic grasp of grammar is atrocious considering she has had it in two languages for six years now.  Which shows that no amount of handouts is going to help - she had it in Germany and was working at quite a high level this year actually - but she isn't going to get it if she can't take her own time to work under her own initiative. 

I see where her reading comprehension needs to advance from facts to inference to abstract reasoning.

Although she is reading.

My daughter IS READING!

My daughter, who had never in her life finished a chapter book on her own before a month ago, who used to flip through the chapters and look at the index, is reading for pleasure.
She devoured three of the Twilight novels over break and finished the fourth the first week back at school.

She is now reading three to four Pony Club and Saddle Club books a day, books we've had 5 years or more that she'd never done more than catalog and organise on her shelves.

My daughter is reading.

And happy.

I feel mission accomplished already.

We have this great Australian history book which leads us through ten units of history, geography, art, science, literature and social studies.  It directs us to supplementary books from the library and I have already discovered several more Australian authours to admire and emulate.

I am going to be learning so much. 

Then there are all the great homeschooling resources I have discovered.  We have had to limit ourselves for a bit since we've decided lunch is important too.  (We are both eating better and more regularly too!)

We are repainting the kitchen chairs.

And working on a piece based on the cover of the second book in the Twilight series.

She started flute lessons last week. 

The greatest opportunity I have through homeschooling is the ability to introduce my daughter to other artistic, creative beings like herself.   She was fast friends with her flute teacher in minutes and talking about joining a youth orchestra and going to hear concerts and borrowing flute CDS from the library (which we have already done) and playing duets together.

Her playing has jumped a level from just one private lessson.  (Although I DO have to thank the school music instructor for getting her to the level she is at already.  Without the school program we would not have been able to have Ryan play a musical instrument until this year.)

A new world is opening up for all of us through homeschooling; Ryan is happier, I am happier.  Having the girls happy naturally makes Damon happier.  And the boys are happier. 

We are also bringing learning into the home the way we used to before we became overwhelmed with the day-to-day demands of so many children.  There are books on the kitchen table.  They are read.  It is now normal to see all five children with their noses in a book instead of helping with dinner. 

The twins want to learn American history.  And insects.  Oh and rocks.  We are identifying them this weekend.  Yay me.   (Andrew still just wants to play sports but I am forcing him to enter a writing competition.  Don't feel bad for him - he needed the push - and he has improved too since he is now being held to higher academic standards both at home and at school.  Oh and he still has plenty of time to throw his precious ball around.  Whichever ball.  It doesn't really matter.)

The happiest part of my day is still when I drop those twins off at school.  And come back to a quiet home where I can work and play with my daughter.  Ian toddles around happily, we do some laundry or cleaning or playing in the sandbox or pool.  While Ryan schools. 

If and when he naps, Ryan and I can change the world with all we are able to accomplish!

I wake up at 5 AM thinking of what I have to do for the next fifteen plus hours and I love my job.  I am getting groceries in between the school run, scheduling appointments into odd moments, cleaning the house in a rush in between other errands, like any other working mother.  But I get to work from home.  And I get to do what I love.  With the people I love.

There is no better job in the world for me than that of educating my children.

So if I've been a little angry lately - or for the last five years - forgive me.

Educating my children is my life.

I have nothing better to do.

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