Friday, January 18, 2008

Where do I begin?

How do I go about pulling my son out of public school and starting to homeschool him? My husband and I decided when - after the first semester ends in late January - but how? What are the legal requirements? And how on earth do I actually teach him? I can’t prepare lectures on six subjects every day!

I’m starting out with just Jacob this first half year. The plan is to pull the girls out of school in the fall. But for now, homeschooling one child is all I can do. I’m trying to get part-time status at work, but even that is still up in the air. I can’t quit altogether, so I’ll have to juggle.

Since I don’t know the first thing about homeschooling, I turned to my friend Nita who has been homeshcooling her three children their entire lives. The oldest, Peter, is in ninth grade and a friend of Jacob’s. In fact, because Peter is homeschooled, Jacob has long wanted to be homeschooled as well. At least I’m not pulling him out of school against his will.

Nita invited me over, made me a cup of tea, and pulled out her books.

“The kids basically teach themselves,” she explained. “They read the lesson, do their work, check it off their list, and go on to the next subject. Sometimes Libby is done by noon.” That’s her seventh grader.

That sounded easy. Too easy. Jacob doesn’t like to read, so this will be agony for him! Then again, he needs to learn to read better and faster, so this will be good for him, painful as it may be.

“You need to inform the school district of your intent to homeschool within two weeks of taking him out of school. The district will send you certain forms that you need to fill out. And you’ll need to give them an IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan), which includes the books you plan to use. You’ll have to send the district quarterly reports of what you covered as well.”

My head was already swimming.

“What do you use for textbooks?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t always use textbooks. Sometimes I just have the kids read a book and write a report about it, and that’s English. Or we read a book about a historical event, and that’s Social Studies. Peter does have a textbook for Chemistry that he’s going through on his own. And another for Geometry. He’s going to a class in Geometry at a small homeschooling center. That class has been a godsend! I don’t know what I’d do without it. I had trouble enough with Algebra.”

I wasn’t keen on the pick-and-choose books as “curriculum,” but my ears perked up when I heard about the Geometry class.

“Do you think that this teacher would be willing to take on one more student?” I asked hopefully. Jacob was halfway through Geometry, and I hadn’t known what I’d do about finishing it up. Teaching English didn’t faze me - I’m a writer, after all, and an avid reader. Social Studies would actually be fun since love to travel, have been to four continents, and enjoy history. Health, a requirement, would be a piece of cake, especially since Jacob has just covered human anatomy and physiology in his Biology class. And Biology, which he was halfway through, won’t be a problem either since I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Four years of the stuff. Yes, I know, I’m a writer not a scientist, but my left brain and right brain were duking it out for years. I got a second Bachelor’s in Photography to satisfy my creative side.

But math. Oh, how I dread math! The bizarre thing is that I loved math in high school and graduated with the top grades in math and science. But mention higher mathematics today, and I cringe like a “typical” girl. How sad.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)