I remember when my sister decided to take her son out of public school and start homeschooling. I blamed the school district they were in as the reason for making such a big change. This wasn't going to happen with me because we lived in a school district with terrific schools. I remember feeling excited about my daughter going to school every day in 1st and 2nd grade. Everything was fine then. I remember my sister saying; just wait until the tests start. And I thought to myself, yea, she takes tests now and is going wonderfully!
This month is a testing time for all third graders in Florida. They are required to take something called a FSA (Florida Standardized Assessment). She already took the first one, 80-90 min, long exam in reading and comprehension. For those who know Bella know two things, she loves art, and she always has a book with her. She's, the kid on the playground swinging on the swings while reading, the one who makes sure that on every car trip that she has her book, and she reads more than any kid I know. She reads because she loves to, not because she has to.
Sadly the public school system doesn't consider that as enough. To be considered a good enough reader, in the public school system you have to prove it by taking a 90 min reading comprehension exam when you're 8.
And in a few weeks, she will be required to take an 80-90 min math exam to show that she is ready for 4th grade.
80-90 minutes, and she's only 8. And that kind of breaks my heart for her.
Sadly my experience in the past year hasn't been any different.
Kids spend 7 hours a day, for 180 days a year for 12 years of their life at school. And it feels as if they are focusing 100% of their efforts on test prep and testing the kids instead of focusing on getting kids to continue to fall in love with learning. At such a young age what does that do long term? How does taking tests and cramming so much information into them at once help them create a life where they continue falling in love with learning?
Now I will also add that public school has been an incredible learning curve for me. I was never a good test taker and was lucky to go to a Waldorf School my whole life. Where their focus was to build independent problem solving and thinking. Sure, I had to take tests, many of which I didn't pass, but their focus wasn't on creating good test takers. They wanted us to think for ourselves.
At my school, they gave me one tool that has built the foundation of my future. Being able to think for myself and teach myself anything I am interested in. They didn't value test taking or coloring in the lines. They pushed us to think for ourselves, to come up with new solutions, to think outside the box. They made us independent. They created thinkers and doers.
Adjusting to the public school system has been a constant struggle for me because I know there's better options to education that what is being given to our children. Most weeks she comes home and I ask myself how is this helping her, how will this form her future, what will she be like when she's 18 and the time comes where she has to spread her wings and fly alone? Is this type education preparing her for the life I want her to have?
All I could think of was that this isn't helping her, that taking tests on common core standards where she has to know 15 ways to do a multiplication doesn't help her. This wasn't what education was supposed to be. The frustration that gets built up in her because she doesn't have enough time to take a moment to think about the problem because it's time to move onto the next problem is damaging. Because everything had to be timed and rushed at school.
I've decided that although it might seem crazy, the best way to move forward is to homeschool her. Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I was at the top of my class when I was in school, or that I have all the answers. But what I have is the dedication to educating my daughter so she too can have a life she loves. A life where she loves to learn.
I am the sole provider for my family. Both my husband and I work from home, and I know I'll find a way to balance this too. It won't be easy, but I know it's what I need to do. Sadly, I don't feel like I can count on the public school education system to educate my child the way I would like, so I will do it myself.
And when those hard days come rolling in, and I question WHY I did this I'll remind myself of;
The time she came home upset that she didn't get an A in Art, and that she felt that grade meant more than her own artistic passion. You're right public school system; she's not good at always coloring in the lines, and cutting and pasting on stationary paper. But here's one of her art pieces that she created with her heart;
She will understand to appreciate art, because that's what makes this world so beautiful. It's people like her, that can paint with their imagination and show that to the world.
I'll remember the time she brought home an F because she didn't meet her reading goals for the month because she didn't take enough tests to prove she read the books. She always has her nose in a book, shouldn't that be more important?
I'll praise her for reading about the things that interest her, and that it doesn't matter what page you're on as long as you enjoy the process. Because I know that reading opens doors to everything and anything. That by being a reader you can learn just about anything you want.
The time she didn't understand photosynthesis because they went over the material too fast. We sat there together one day and drew it out, we talked about it, we looked at nature and observed what we saw and just like that, the process made sense to her.
All those nights we sat together having to go over everything from school preparing her for the next day. Seeing how tired she was after already spending 7 hours of her day at school and having to do even more work.
Most importantly I need her to learn that failing at something does not make you a failure. And that when you put your mind to something that you can accomplish anything you dream of. I'll teach her how to think, not what to think. She will learn that there aren't any rules to this life like we are told day in, and day out and that her mama is living proof of that.
She will be a dreamer, a doer, a thinker. She will know that this world is her's and that no dreams are too big.
I also want to add that this has NOTHING to do with the teachers at her school. I went to countless meetings over the past year to speak with them and realized just how much their hands are tied with how the system is laid out. I truly believe that teachers are in their chosen career field because they are passionate about educating children. I know their heart is in the right place. It's sad to know that they have to follow curriculums, schedules and hand out exams that they probably wouldn't choose if it was up to them. If they had more freedom to do what they're passionate about, it would probably look very different.
It has been so encouraging asking on my fan page who's made the switch and hearing nothing but happy stories about transitioning to homeschooling. I won't lie, it makes me nervous to think that it will be up to me, but knowing there are others out there who are giving their kids an incredible education by homeschooling makes me so excited for out upcoming adventure.
Ending it on a happy note, here's a quick video of Bella doing what she loves.