Friday, August 12, 2011

On the edge...

Wow. I am in a weird place. Our educational plans for 2011-2012 have fallen out from under us TWO times in the last month. Is the Lord trying to tell me something? Eric and I spent the entire night last night praying and brainstorming and trying on different homeschooling shoes to see which ones felt the best. The one that feels the best is also the most "expensive" (not monetarily, but of our time). I am so scared to make the wrong choice. I don't want to make a choice that isn't realistic.

Basically, if we want to stay with Epic Charter School (which we do) we have two curriculum choices. One is to do Calvert School. The other is to do Compass Learning Odyssey (aka Time4Learning) with supplemental helps such as Teaching Textbooks and Study Island. Here are some factors we have to consider with each option.



*expensive (would take up pretty much all of our $1000 "learning fund" for the big kids, with about half left for the little ones)

*books/workbooks format with online enrichment and quizzes/testing

*requires a teacher to teach each concept and evaluate mastery

*time-tested, solid program

*confidence that our kids would be learning all they needed to learn, with plenty of practic

*feels complete, and easy in that way



*new, and the kids love it

*unproven long-term results (with less than desirable results last year for our kids)

*majority of learning occurs online, with extra projects and writings assigned offline (70/30)

*the program is the teacher; mom is the support/extra help/overseer of progress

*not enough confidence that this is a stand-alone program (after using it for a year)

*would use Teaching Textbooks for Math (a plus--love it)

*fine with Compass for History and Science

*DISLIKE Compass Language Arts, but no other L.A program we can find to replace it (must have online component and be secular).

*Would purchase Rodd and Staff English to supplement LA on our own

*Extra money in the learning fund to purchase computer, pay for extra-curricular like choir and sports.

*If we did Compass, we would like not enroll Kendi this year. Would just do pre-K on our own at home.

Here's the thing. No matter what the above lists say, our hearts are also involved. I am someone who naturally is ready to jump off the proverbial cliff into uncharted waters pretty quickly. I love the excitement of a new challenge. This is why we get dogs on a whim (or cats, or guinea pigs). This is why we have done 3 homeschooling programs in as many years. This is probably why we have 4 children. I don't know if Eric would have ever made that jump alone!

However, we even each other out. Without Eric's calm leadership and discernment, I may be way in over my head (or...some would say...more over my head than I already am). I love the feeling of knowing that without the Lord keeping me afloat I'd definitely be drowning. Eric, does not. His strongest spiritual gift is discernment. This has been affirmed several times in our marriage, when he has felt a certain way that was against what common sense might tell us. On lots of things, Eric does not have opinions and leaves me to make decisions. This means, when he does have an opinion, I take it seriously.

We both look at each of these options and know that Compass would be "easier." We could do more with the money (learning fund, $1000 per child). There is less time commitment for me. We did Compass last year so at least we know what the strengths and weaknesses is are and how we need to supplement. It's the easy decision. But is easy, right?

We both look at Calvert and know in a perfect world, this would be our choice. We have confidence in the program. It's a traditional teaching role for me, which is my biggest earthly and spiritual gift. We know we wouldn't have to wonder if our kids were missing this or that concept. We also know Calvert would eat up our learning fund. We know that the time required to teach 4 kids in 4 different grades would be challenging, at best, and impossible, at worst. In this way, Calvert is the difficult option.

I don't know whether I can do this program justice, while also staying up with housework and medical stuff and my work. To make this program work, we (Eric and I) would need to sacrifice. We would also need to be innovative because I KNOW that me straight up teaching 4 kids in 4 grades and still doing my adoption work cannot all happen in a single day. I called Calvert today and spoke to an educational advisor. Without me even mentioning my job she told me honestly that not many people were able to successfully do that program with 4 different grades at once. Hmm.... So here are some ideas that are floating around...

  • What if dad does science with the big kids at night?

  • What if Taevy acts as Junior Teacher to the littles for parts of their day like "music time" and "game time." [It's very play-based learning in pre-k and k.]

  • What if Taevy (and possibly Samren) could self direct in some subjects instead of mom telling them what to do? Starting in 6th grade the manuals are actually written TO the students, so this would be asking Taevy to take that step a year earlier. [We looked at a lesson example and she feels up for that.]

  • What if more of the housework was done at night?

  • What if more of my adoption work was done at night?

  • What if, instead of the pretty fly-by-the-seats-of-our-pants schedule we have right now, we scheduled blocks of time where I am working, or teaching, or just being mom? [I know, novel idea, right?!]

Anybody else have innovative ideas that may help us succeed at teaching 4 kids in 4 different grades one of the more time-involved homeschool curriculums around? One nice thing is that there is basically NO planning. They have an excellent format that has everything laid out for you each day.

If I didn't feel that so much was at stake, I would be ready to jump off this cliff and go with Calvert. But this is my kids' education. This is my work. This is my marriage and family. I don't feel that any of those things can be sacrificed just so we can try to do the "best" curriculum of the options available to us. Also, there's no option to back out of Calvert and do another curriculum if it's not going well (if we wish to stay with Epic this year). Really...if we stuck with Compass/T4L it would be okay. It would be better than our public school option. There's nothing WRONG with it (well, there is, but not horribly wrong). It just doesn't give Eric and I the same feeling as when we think of the "ideal"--doing Calvert. [I really shouldn't say "ideal" since this is Plan C within the last MONTH!]

Long Post Script:

We did discuss non-Epic options as well. We do not have any money set aside to buy curriculum for 3-4 kids that is even remotely expensive. And I do not have the time available to piece together an educational program for each of the kids from all of the free/low cost resources on the internet (those that can are my heroes)! This leaves us with T4L (which is an option through Epic!) or Rodd and Staff. I really like a lot of things about R&S, but it is not at all a good fit for Samren. We tried, and failed miserably.

Long Post, Post Script:

We have also discussed, briefly, whether we would have the kids doing different programs. It is POSSIBLE that we could do one thing with the littles and another thing with the bigs (since really, prek and k is so easy to do without any curriculum at all!). However, the thought of having (for instance) Taevy in Calvert and Samren in Compass makes my skin crawl! I couldn't do that, I know. My head would explode. That would be way worse than just doing Calvert for all of them.




mary grace 3:58 PM  

Anita, I did Calvert with my oldest years ago, when I first started hsing. It was a terrible fit for us, mostly because it was so workbook based and had the effect of sapping my dd's love of learning and imagination. Did she test well? Oh, yeah. But the program was just not right for us. (YMMV, of course!)

I am currently teaching 9th, 6th, 4th, special needs PreK, and a 3 yo with a baby at home. It's a big job, no doubt about it. But it's doable. Very doable. My number one tip is to reduce as many outside things as you can. Piano lessons, gymnastics ... whatever your THING (or your kids' things) are, let it go for a season unless it COMES TO YOU.

I know that many people balk at this and feel like you're doing a child a disservice, but honestly ... it's all about sanity, right? It's all about CHOOSING THE BEST THING. *Not* being so occupied with GOOD things that you run out of room for BEST.

My other thought is to really, honestly, concentrate on your older kids. You have limited time as a work-at-home mom, and taking on the idea of providing a full homeschool education for all four kids just sounds like tons of pressure to me. Do you feel comfortable at all being more relaxed with the littles, and letting them "listen in" on their older siblings' read-alouds or whathaveyou? Just an idea.

Take heart, friend! Everyone's journey is different, and clearly, God is in control of taking you to places through homeschooling that you may not choose, but will stretch you nonetheless. Praying for answers, direction, and JOY in your new school year!

Mama D.'s Dozen 4:06 PM  

I would strongly encourage Calvert for the older two and something way less structured (or no structure) for the younger 2.

Seriously ... no need for a pre-k curriculum, and even a k curriculum is not really necessary. A few Costco workbooks and dvds could really be all that the young ones need (plus some educational games and lots of hands-on or craft projects).

Making Taevy the "teacher" for the young ones (at least for a couple of subjects) is a GREAT idea. I have done a lot of that over the years.

Having Taevy more self-directed could work very well, it just depends on her motivation. I have some that do well at self-directed, and others that don't do so well.

I think you will be much happier with using the same curriculum for the older 2, and that it will be immensely positive to KNOW that they are learning all that you want them to be learning.

Take a deep breath.

Keep praying for wisdom.

Keep listening to your husband.

Don't stress over the 2 littles. They WILL learn.

Hope your weekend is BLESSED, and not stressed.

Laurel :)

A. Gillispie 9:52 PM  

Thanks MG. As much as I love the idea of free learning and a less structured program, the reality is that's just not us. So far, my kids have done much better with more structure, rather than less. We actually love workbooks around here (as weird as that sounds)! ;-)

I am so with you on the outside activities thing. We do church and homeschool choir (where all four kids are in choir the same 1 hour a week). My son would love to add a sport, but I just can't stomach the time it would take (so far). We throw in a football season here and there. Someone taught me at the beginning of my mothering years not to over-extend in that way, and somehow I've managed to do that!

I am also totally with you on the little ones. Kendi is an absolute sponge and I don't believe any pre-k NEEDS a fancy curriculum. Bright has some special needs that I would like help with sooner rather than latter. The Calvert Pre-K and K program is very play-centered and I figure if we can get it for free, why not? The reality is that it helps ME to stay organized and to take time to teach the littles if I have a lesson plan. It's not like when my bigs were little and I got to be a real "SAHM." This working thing makes everything different.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. We will be in serious prayer this weekend about the best plan. I honestly don't know what that is.

A. Gillispie 9:55 PM  

Thanks Laurel. Definitely still praying! Not at all stressed about the two little ones, academically. I'm so thankful that I was able to homeschool Taevy for K, and have a very positive experience. I know I can teach my kiddo without any program until at least 1st grade. But like I said to MG above, at this point (with the job) it helps me to have someone tell me "do xyz" today. I'm not finding the same time with my littles as I had with my bigs. It makes me so sad, but it is what it is. I will really take to heart your advice to focus more on the bigs. That's the truth for sure, but I don't think I can hear it enough right now!

Mama D.'s Dozen 1:12 AM  

Oh how I hear you on the ...

"I'm not finding the same time with my littles as I had with my bigs."

TOTALLY there with you.

I started homeschooling when my kids were 1, 2, 2, 4, 5, 7 ... and life was EASY then. Seriously, I DREAM of how carefree those days were.

Life has its seasons. None of our kids will have the same growing up experiences as the others. We will always wish we had more of this ... or less of this ... or if they were only ____.

But, what the Lord has shown me over the past 20+ years of homeschooling is that He will always show me what I need to do TODAY. We've had good days and bad days ... good months and bad months ... good years and bad years. But, you know what? My kids have never stopped learning.

I have worked MANY of those 20 years of homeschooling. I have worked part time at home ... I have worked part time out of the home ... I have worked full time out of the home. And, I have continued to homeschool, and my kids have continued to learn.

It's never been exactly what I would have wished it looked like. But, in no way do I regret the education that my children got. One son has graduated with a Political Science degree, and is at Officer Candidacy School for the navy right now. One son has a year left to get his Secondary Ed. degree (to teach high school English). One son served 4.5 years in the army and is now a retail manager. And, 3 daughters all completed 2 years at the community college before heading into international missions.

You are BLESSED to be able to work from home. You are BLESSED to be able to teach your children at home. God will show you how to keep juggling things so that you can do a good job at both. I have FULL confidence in you ... and whatever plan the Lord shows you and Eric.

Hang in there.

Laurel :)

Christina 8:52 AM  

Hi Anita,

It sounds like you're giving this a lot of thought and consideration - as you should! No matter what your curriculum decision, I'm sure you'll pick the right fit for your family.

I would like to invite you our Facebook page. We have a phenomenal community of Calvert parents there, always willing to share advice and their honest experiences.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. :-)

-Christina S.
Calvert School Community Manager

Christina 8:54 AM  

It sounds like you're giving this a lot of thought and consideration-as you should! I'm positive you'll pick the right fit for your family!

I'd like to invite you to our Calvert Facebook page. We have a phenomenal community of Calvert parents, always so willing to share advice and their honest experiences.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. :-)