Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How We Decided to Unschool- part one

I have Bug to thank for most of my hippie crunchy parenting choices, but if it weren't for Josh I'd have never questioned traditional schooling. This post is all about Josh, and how he helped me discover unschooling.

Josh is, well, brainy. I'm not saying that in a, "MY kid is soooooooo smart" kind of way. Every kid has their strengths, and thinking analytically is one of his. Gross motor skills, not so much. And that's okay. He was recognizing sight words at age three, memorizing books and "reading" them to us shortly after. He has a long attention span for things he finds interesting, remembers details, and finishes 2,000 piece Lego sets in a few hours. If he were here he'd tell me exactly how many pieces were actually in the set I'm referring to. We often joke that he's the child version of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. He comes by it honestly, I'm pretty nerdy myself.

He went to daycare/preschool from the time he was two and had fantastic caregivers who kept him challenged- furthering his reading skills, working on worksheets, all that fun stuff. He went into kindergarten already adjusted to all the sitting still and "circle time", and well beyond what was expected of him academically.

first day of kindergarten

Papa Bear and I cried when we dropped him off. Our baby was growing up, taking on the world. Mid-way through the year we met with his teacher for conferences and got this chart-
The green area is where the teachers would like to see the students test scores fall. The red dots are Josh's test scores. We couldn't have been more proud! We were going to have him tested for the gifted and talented program! He would be at the top of his class! He would take dual credit classes in high school, enter college as a sophomore, and have full ride scholarships to anywhere he wanted to go! As it turned out though, he wasn't accepted into the gifted and talented program and his teacher was having major issues getting him to complete his work. Luckily she recognized it was because he was very bored with the material, and she put forth the extra effort to work with him on time management. She also made a special workbook for him with more challenging material. Great teacher.

The next year Josh didn't get such an awesome teacher for first grade. Conferences came around and now the chart looked like this- (I can't find the reading portion, but you get the idea)

 He's learning. A ton apparently. Awesome, right? Not according to his teacher. Despite his test scores, which obviously show he is proficient beyond his grade level, she has concerns that she will not be able to advance him to second grade. WHA??? He is regularly daydreaming, not paying attention, and not finishing his work. I suggest she give him more challenging work. Her response was that she can't give him more challenging work until he shows her he can do the easier work first. Which translates to, he can't work on multiplication problems until he colors this picture of a flower. Her hands were tied. She had to have proof that he had mastered certain skills before moving on.

My first thought was that he just had a teacher who didn't understand him. I tried to get him into another class but every class was already at full capacity. While there are great teachers out there, there are just as many not-so-great ones. Its a total crap shoot as to which one your kid gets.

That's when that little dream bubble from his kindergarten conference popped. The future I saw now took a total 180. Unless he sat around and stagnated for a year or two, he was always going to be above his grade level. He was always going to be bored with the work required. He was going to stop trying because he was never challenged. He was going to be "that kid" that always gave his teachers trouble. I couldn't sit idly by and let that happen.

I started researching other options, more about that in the next post.

If you decide to read this, Josh, I'm sorry that your brother gets to reap the benefits of the experience your childhood gave me. I'm sorry I can't give you those two years back. We all live and learn and make the best choices we can in the moment. 

Do your kids go to public school? Private school? Charter school? Home School? Unschool? What brought you to that decision? Please share in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I am reading about both of my children, who thankfully are well-adjusted grown ups. Your son seems to be have a little of both of my children.