I'm done asking opinions... but before I launch into that, I should probably start at the beginning.
Until this year both The Small Boy and I had been pretty satisfied with public education. He loved going to school, was happy and eager every morning. I felt perfectly confident in the school's ability to educate my child in an appropriate and safe manner. Sadly, both of our opinions have changed since the beginning of this school year.
The academic program leaves a bit to be desired. I've noticed that he's really only putting effort into one class... the others he's just breezing through. He's not being challenged. I asked him about it and he agreed, they're way too easy. I'm not saying I want him pulling his hair out because the material is so hard, but he's told me how he just kind of stares off into space during class and catches up on the material when he does his homework. I want him to be challenged, but not burdened... if that makes any sense.
I'm also not terribly thrilled with their scheduling... it just doesn't make any sense! First, they don't have each of the core subjects every day... the best way to describe it is to just show you...
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Math Soc.St. Reading LA Sci.
Allied Arts ------------------------------------------------->
Science Math Soc. St. Reading LA
LA Sci. Math Soc.St. Reading
Reading LA Sci. Math Soc. St.
This isn't his actual schedule, but a fairly good representation of it. They have each class four days a week on a rotating schedule. Why? What happened to routine and schedule? Things get really interesting on half days (they happen often) and shortened weeks (think Holidays and the monthly teacher in service days, not to mention snow days). For example, because of two consecutive four day weeks my son has not had a spelling list and his regular reading homework (daily reading log) has been cut in half (the teacher actually issued one five day reading log to be filled in for the two weeks). For two full weeks there has been half of the regular curriculum, most likely due to the fact that while he's in school for four full days each week, he's only getting certain academic classes three times that week. On more than one occasion, my son has told me "It's a short week so we're not doing anything important anyway." Great!
Allied Arts is all the extra (but still important in my book) classes like Music, Art, PE, FACS(the class formerly known as Home Ec), and Tech (formerly Computers). Why doesn't it list this classes each day, you ask. Because they cram an entire year's worth of curriculum in to a few weeks by having the class every day. So far my son has had FACS and Art, and is now in Music. To me, this is a lot like blowing off a class all year long and then cramming before the final. In my opinion, anyone would have a hard time retaining anything in a class scheduled like this.
This year they've really started using computers in the classroom. Wonderful! However, I have yet to see or hear of my son taking a class to teach him how to use the computer and/or type. Ummm... does this strike anyone else as particularly odd?
Communication is very important... my son has five academic teachers. For the most part they're all really good about keeping in touch. But I have had several instances where emails (their preferred method, so they said) were never replied to. I've also had to deal with lost doctors notes and teachers forgetting to give assignments(Small Boy had surgery and missed school for a week straight as well as a few out of town specialists appointments.). My son ended up a week behind and we were getting letters from a truancy officer. Yes, it's not a big deal... but how effing frustrating is that while dealing with the medical issues at hand! I did what I was supposed to do... spoke to all the correct people... sent in all the right notes from all the right doctors... requested all the work he'd miss well in advance. His teacher simply forgot to give him the work on his last day before the surgery... when I emailed her asking about it she litterally typed "oops" in her reply (and it took her four days to reply)! If my son were to misplace or forget something he'd be held accountable and it would reflect in his grades. Ooo I'm getting all irritated about it again...
And this is just the academic side of it. You've seen that I've nick named my kids... Small Boy and Little Bird. My son did not get his name by accident. He is in fact very small for his age. And he's different. He's not your typical rambunctious punk adolescent (and I don't mean that in a negative way, really I don't). He doesn't care what others think, he marches right along to his own tune and I couldn't be prouder. He's sweet, caring, loves to learn, very talkative, a bit on the nerd side (proud Mumma Nerd here!) ... and an easy mark.
He's told me how he's being targeted by one or two kids in particular on a regular basis. Minor stuff... picked on, nasty comments. I reminded him that he should discuss this with his teachers and or principal. I didn't want to intervene and make it worse for him (and for the record, I did ask him if he wanted me to call the school and speak to someone... he said no and I respected that). I did reach my limit a few weeks ago when I received a phone call from the principal. The Small Boy had been waiting in line for lunch when another boy cut in front of him. My son stood up for himself, reminded the other boy that he couldn't do that and stepped around him. The other boy ignored him and moved in front of him again. This went on for a few rounds until the other boy had enough, picked up my child and threw him. Yes... threw him! I kept my cool on the phone... the principal assured me that the other boy didn't realize that my son had just had surgery the week earlier (yea, he had just returned to school) and genuinely felt really bad... Wait... who gives a flying fuck if my son had just had surgery or not... I don't care if he was fit as a fiddle... what gives him the right to touch my son! I still kept the conversation light... I asked what repercussions, if any, there would be for his actions. The principal told me that he wasn't allowed to tell me who the other boy was, much less answer that. I thanked him for his time and quickly ended the conversation before I did or said something that wouldn't have been appropriate.
So here we are... half way through fifth grade. The Small Boy still goes to school... he likes going to learn, he tells me, but he'd rather not deal with the kids. I pick him up everyday (we live too close for a bus and the sidewalks aren't cleared... he'd have to walk in the street... that's a safe option in the middle of winter) and on our way home he'll watch his schoolmates walk home... yelling, swearing, pushing each other into the street in front of oncoming cars (that's happened more than once... good thing my breaks work really well), and he just shakes his head. "Why do they do that, Mum? It's not safe." I don't get it either... He asked me, about two or three weeks ago, if he could homeschool. Considering less than a year ago this kid lived to go to school... he'd be disappointed on snow days and during school vacations... I think my heart broke just a little. We talked about it, I discussed it with the Hubbs, chatted with our family doctor, and brought it up at the last "committee meeting"... He'll finish out the 5th grade (barring any other issues) and then next year we'll begin learning here at home.
Now begins the hard part (yea 'cause everything up until now has been so super easy). I've looked at countless websites, talked to several people that have or still are homeschooling in some form or another. I've looked into buying a pre-made curriculum, designing my own, and everything in between... online charter schools, homeschooling groups, state education sites... you know what I've found out? Everyone has something different to say! I am no closer to a workable program than I was when I started. I'm not looking to produce the next Einstein, Astronaut, Poet Laureate, or President... I don't want to force my (or anyone else's) goals for him onto him. He want's to learn... about it all. The desire is still very much there in him. I just want to give him a good sturdy platform for him to jump off of. I want him to have a well rounded education so that when he does decide what to do with his adult life (Stay at home Dad or Astrophysicist, Goat Herder or Doctor) he'll have the tools he'll need to happily pursue it. So for now, I think I'm done asking everyone's opinion. No two are the same and it's only confusing me more. The Small Boy and I have a long and interesting journey ahead of us...