Today is the first day of school for my 7-year old daughter.
We have two children, ages seven and ten, who have been homeschooled their entire lives. Since our older child was very young, our intention was to homeschool them for as long as it seemed feasible and right. During the last ten years, the homeschool approach to learning connected with our values, and has become a part of who we are as a family. We have built a community around this life-learning. Homeschooling provides flexibility that you can’t find in a traditional school environment. Homeschooling provides for our family to remain a tight community. Homeschooling allows the children to learn what they find interesting, at the time they are interested in the topic. Homeschooling provides a method to learning that doesn’t force learning to the most common dominator. Homeschooling doesn’t teach children how to stand in line, doesn’t rely on exhausted teachers who must follow the state “standards” for learning (not saying that my wife Leslie doesn’t get exhausted).
Though there is great joy and enrichment from homeschooling, it hasn’t been without struggle, frustration, and difficulty – both for the children and for the parents. The two learners have different needs and different styles. Perhaps it hasn’t servered both the children in the same manner due to their different personalities. Further, our son has moderate special needs and demands a great deal of focus and attention. From time to time, we sit down and assess if we are moving in the right direction; to see what is working and what isn’t working. A lot of the issues surround our son and his needs.
Ironically, our little village of Ojai has about 14 schools in the area. Most of them are private boarding schools. Last month Leslie decided to make an appointment to visit the Montessori School of Ojai. I took the day off work and went to observe the classrooms and meet the teachers. Of all the types of schools we have available, this school appears to be the most flexible with integrating different children together by grouping ages (a homeschool value), providing flexibility in how often our children attend, and having open enrollment. They also have a scholarship program to assist with the tuition. The class sizes are very small and the teachers have a long history with the school. Children can be learning at different levels in the same classroom. For example, a children could be reading “above” grade-level and writing “below” grade level and that isn’t a problem.
So our grand experiment begins today. There is about six weeks remaining in their school year and we hope this will give us a chance to experience having children in school. If it works well, then we may continue it next year. This is a significant change for us and involves a lot of letting go of ideas. It’s a great opportunity for me to practice the vows I’ve taken to be open and not attached to views. Who knows what the future may hold. Please send us your support and loving energy, both for Leslie and the children.
Next week: my son’s first day of school.