Monday, October 8, 2012

Preschool at Home Plans

As I've mentioned before, my husband is Active Duty United States Air Force. While we don't move nearly as often as people think military families do, we do move more often than your average family. We've lived in Alabama for a little over three and a half years, and while we have no idea when or where we do know that we're almost definitely moving somewhere within the next year. While I (still) haven't finished my degree in large part do to getting married, moving cross-country, and becoming a parent; I majored in elementary education. Since I've been to schools in three different states, as part of my course work I have to deal with the state standards from three different states. Generally speaking, the standards for any particular grade are the same across state lines. There are differences. For example, most states have students study state history in fourth grade. Which is wonderful unless you move your child cross-country midway through fourth grade. In Alabama, students study United States history in both fifth and sixth grade. In North Carolina, they study American history in fifth grade only so that they can have another year of state history in eighth grade. Even within states there can be continuity issues. My parents divorced when I was in the seventh grade, and we moved back to my parents hometown. The school I had been attending had an eight period day with all academic classes lasting one period for a full year. The school I transferred to within the same state also had an eight period day, but academic classes lasted for two periods and electives lasted for one. Math and Language Arts were taught the entire year, but Science and Social Studies were only taught for a semester. I was able to pick whether I wanted to take Science or Social Studies, but it meant that I never finished seventh grade science. And despite using the exact same textbooks for Social Studies, my old class had been further along in the book so I spent a couple of week repeating old material.

I share all of that because I have a lot of worries about educational continuity for our daughter knowing that before my husband retires, we will probably move at least 3 more times. I also know that we aren't guaranteed to have a place to live immediately upon arriving at a new duty station. When we moved from Arizona, pre-baby, to our current duty station, we broke the lease on our apartment and headed east with no new address. We were authorized to stay in the Base Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) for a month, so we knew we wouldn't be homeless until we were able to find a place to live. We got lucky and arrived on a Saturday, looked at apartments on Monday, signed a lease on Tuesday, and got the keys on Wednesday. If we had had school age children at the time, we  probably could have gotten them enrolled on Tuesday amid setting up electricity and cable. Between driving cross-country and finding a new home, they probably would have only missed a week of school. But not everyone is that lucky. Good friends of ours PCS'ed (moved in military speak) to Hawaii under similar circumstances. They had planned to live on the economy, but were unable to find a place that met their standards in their budget. They ended up applying to live in Base Housing, and they ended up staying in the TLF for about two months. They don't have children yet, but two months without a definite address could mean two months without a school. If you knew you were going to be living on Base for sure, the school assigned to the Base  might be able to work with you, but not necessarily. I don't want our daughter, or any theoretical future children, to be in that position.

As of right now, my husband is not pro-homeschooling. He and I both attended public schools K-12, and he worries about our daughter ending up as weird and unsocialized. While one of my aunts homeschooled her two children who have grown up into generally normal well-rounded adults. Both of her kids are married, and her daughter has two children that she's planning to homeschool as well. They live in Pennsylvania, so my husband doesn't really know them at all, and the only homeschoolers he knows are a family at the church he attended as a teenager whose parents apparently locked them in the house except for church. Not knowing the family in question I can't speak as to how accurate his description of them is, but I know that even if it was true I wouldn't let that happen to our children. He has also said that he pays taxes for the public schools and he doesn't want his money to go to waste, and that public school was good enough for us. He has however agreed to homeschooling for two situations. One, he's willing to support it if he gets orders to Alaska because of their public school programs that provide money to homeschooling families. (I'm not trying to start a debate about whether students participating in programs like the ones in Alaska are real homeschoolers.) And two, after learning about how much preschools can cost he's open to me homeschooling for preschool. He agrees that I'm capable of doing the same types of things academically at home that our daughter would get at a formal school, and save our money for things like dance lessons that we think she would really enjoy that we both agree that with my two left feet just isn't something I'm capable of. (I did make an A in Modern Dance 1 which I took for my PE credit in college, but it was graded mostly on effort and participation. I'd of probably failed if it had been graded on actual skill. I have also tried Zumba at home with a DVD since I've heard several people say it's a lot of fun. After tripping and falling over three times, I finally just gave up.) Since he's open to preschool at home, I'm running with it. I've been praying for God to soften his heart on the issue, and I'm hoping that if things go well he'll be open to us continuing once our daughter is school aged.

Right now, our daughter is nineteen months old, so we have a little ways to go before she's ready for kindergarten. But I also think that she's getting to a point where she's ready to add in a little more structured learning to her day. While I've looked at quite a lot of curriculum from the just let them play until age five to the very structured and expensive programs, I haven't really started before now to actually put anything into practice. Until now that is. To start with, I'm going to be using the Letter of the Week Preparatory Curriculum. The curriculum is available online for free, and it's rounded out with some art supplies and library books. I wouldn't mind if the preparatory curriculum included Bible lessons, but since we read a story from her Bible as part of her bedtime routine, for now I don't think it's a huge drawback that it's not included. I probably won't use Letter of the Week all the way through, but for now I think it's a good start. I'm thinking that fifteen to thirty minutes a day should be enough to get started with, and because of her age I'll probably go through the Preparatory Curriculum twice before moving on. I want to work on getting stuff together for the learning poster  and getting the first few weeks of materials together before we jump in, so since I'm heading to North Carolina the first week of November for a baby shower and to see family, we'll probably start around the middle of next month. And since socialization is supposedly homeschool kryptonite, we'll be continuing with our once a week playgroup through our church that meets at parks, homes, local museums, and the zoo.

I have some work to do to get ready, but to be honest I'm very excited. In a month or so even if it is only preschool, I'll be able to say that I'm officially (if not legally) say I'm a homeschool mom. And who knows, maybe for the '18/'19 school year I'll be able to tell people, "no, she's not at Whoville Elementary, we're homeschooling."

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