Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No school like homeschool

That's our feeling anyway. Aisling has never been to a traditional school, although she was briefly enrolled in our neighborhood's public school kindergarten, way back when in another city, another neighborhood, another house. Meelyn went to public school up until second grade, when we pulled her out after realizing that she was having much more trouble in math than we had ever dreamed.

I had been helping her with her math homework every day after school and I was feeling uneasy. By January of that year, I had assembled a little tutoring program to help her feel a little more confident - and if you think that wasn't a lot of fun, sitting there at the kitchen table doing extra math after already doing a math page, a phonics page, a reading story and spelling words, well, you just don't know what fun is and you should immediately go impale your foot with a screwdriver so that you can just laugh and laugh and laugh and yes, that's what it was like -- and almost immediately discovered that my seven-year-old, who was getting the equivalent of a B in math, couldn't even count to one hundred.

"By the way," I remarked conversationally to her teacher one day, "did you know that Meelyn can't count to one hundred?"

Her teacher was horrified and I felt sorry for her. I think public school teachers get a bad rap. With all the hoops that public schools make their teachers jump through, it's a wonder that anyone even wants to be a teacher anymore, without so many parents out there making their lives a misery because they seem to think that the word "public" somehow conversely means "private," as in "My daughter can't count to one hundred, you idiot, so find some way to spend some one-on-one time and teach her how to do it."

Public school teachers don't have the time to privately tutor their students. If they're very lucky, they might have a student teacher or a mom who is willing to volunteer her time and listen to the children read, but for the most part they are on their own.

But you know who did have the time to privately tutor my children? Me. And I had plenty of motivation, too. I have gone through my entire life as a complete dunce in math. My SAT scores revealed that, while my score was nearly perfect in the verbal part of the exam, my math score was so low, it was as if a sack of potatoes had been propped up in my chair and told to do algebra. It was just sad. I am so aggressively right-brained, I should tilt when I walk.

Meelyn and Aisling may never like math, but they'll be able to do it.

Originally, I had planned to go back to teaching when Aisling went off to first grade. My husband and I had planned that I would work as a substitute; there's actually some fairly decent money in substitute teaching. Enough for our small needs, anyway. We thought that working as a sub would be a smart idea because I'd be able to set my own schedule for the inevitable dentist appointment days and sick days and field trip chaperone days. Then when the girls got older, I could look around in the area for a job as a high school English teacher.

Homeschooling stopped all that. And honestly, I'm thankful. I never thought I would enjoy homeschooling as much as I do, but I'm even more surprised about the girls. They're already dreamily talking about when school starts and going to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and going to the Indiana Repertory Theater to see Hamlet and getting back to the good ol' Wordly Wise vocabulary books. Meelyn is scheduled to read The Yearling this year and she started on it today because, as she says, she "just can't wait. September third is too far away."

With that in mind, I put in the big order for textbooks last week and they should be arriving any day now. Opening that box is one of the girls' favorite things to do, digging down to see what Mom bought, for clues on what we'll be doing this year and how it differs from last year.

We love that back-to-school feeling in the air, although I prefer to look at it as "forward."

Forward-to-school. Our favorite time of year.

(Well. Other than the last day of May, that is.)

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