Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the way home from church.

Me: "So. Girls. What did you learn in church today?"
Grace: "About temples."
Me: "What about temples?"
Grace: "Our bodies are temples."
Me: "Yup."
Claire: "DAD. You are a BIG temple."

Friday, August 19, 2011

How it's going.

Homeschool offers a few perks. Like minimal sick days. That is a bonus I have really been looking forward to. Last year, during Grace's debut into the glorious and grody world of kindergarten, we caught everything. The flu, swine flu, RSV. This year I was giddily anticipating the flu fairy passing us by.

Instead, we are somehow the only people in town with pink eye. And since my immune system believes in self torture, I am also sporting a prize-winning cold sore.

I didn't know it before (probably because I haven't had pink eye since I was, like, six), but wearing contacts is sort of impossible while experiencing mucous-y itchiness. So I have let them bathe in their case on my windowsill this week. Conveniently for me, my glasses (which I hated anyway) have been MIA since my Mom's incident at the beginning of this year (people lose important things in stress. Okay, fine, let's be honest. I lose important things every day of the week.) This means I am, for all intents and purposes, basically blind.

But I am a homeschooler, and getting out of the house is a number one priority. So I may or may not have driven to the library, corrective vision be darned. (Don't bother asking why a family with pink-eye may have been venturing out of the house in the first place.) And as a result of that short drive, let me just say that my car keys are now resting safely on the mantle where they endanger nobody.

So now, in addition to being inexplicably ill, we are now the homeschool family that hunkers down and avoids people. Oh. And my floors are filthy. Because I can't actually see to mop and sweep them.

So. You know, great third week so far.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This is not a manifesto.

When I tell people I'm homeschooling--good friends, acquaintances, strangers--the responses I get make me feel like what I've really just said is: "Please tell me right now everything you think I'm doing wrong as a mother and how I am failing my children."

Okay. I'm totally exaggerating. But it is true that the simple phrase, "We are actually homeschooling," turns out to be a lot more controversial than I thought. It's like I'm asking for opinions. skepticism. stares that say, "are you INSANE, woman?"

In response, inside, I am wincing. And saying, "Yes. I am. Totally nuts."

The daily tasks of motherhood are already overwhelming enough (anybody want to come help fold my laundry pile?) without adding the daunting burden of an academic education. I am not one of those mothers who has a sparkling sink, shining floors, and a cobweb free ceiling who is looking at homeschooling as a challenge to tackle because she has everything else mastered. (Anyone who is ridiculous enough to think that I approach decent housekeeping should note that I am currently sitting in a study nook which is littered with an extension cord, Claire's Sunday shoes, a 2.5 lb. dumbbell weight, a play shopping cart, and a dead basil plant.)

I am also not a social recluse who hoards family time and avoids sending my children to friends' homes because I can't stand being away from them. As it is, I spend about one hour of my day hiding from them, trying to finish my book club read. (Ooh. Book Club. That sounds so social and not-nerdy. Did I just hurt my case?)

And I am not convinced that public schools are the devil and that children who attend them will be morally corrupt and poorly educated.

But. I believe in homeschooling. For my family. Under the right circumstances.

I don't know how long we'll do it or even exactly why (!) we are. But in the two weeks that we have been, I have been learning a lot more than Grace has. I've been learning lessons that I think God has been trying to teach me for decades. Like how to say "no" to people who require my time and attention. And how to avoid being so controlling. And how to stop being afraid of failure. And how to make big decisions without needing the approval of everyone around me.

What I'm trying to say (but am afraid to for the risk of sounding prescriptive or self-righteous, so please read this with the understanding that this next part applies uniquely to me--it's all about ME) is I think homeschooling has the potential to turn me into the kind of mom I want to be. A mom who has her priorities straight. And that is worth a lot of craziness, I think.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Let's play a game.

Time for you to post your school's AYP math proficiency scores.

Find them by googling [your school/district/state + AYP score], then leave your school's reading and math proficiency averages in the comments section.

A homeschooling update. Kind of.

Last week, I received this in mail:
You are looking at the state testing results for all the schools in my city. This table shows the percentage of students that can read and do math at grade level. These scores are shown at grades 3, 4, and 5 (the grades they test). The table compares each school grade's score to the state average scores.

Take a look at it. Don't worry, I'll wait. Trust me. You want to see.

The first thing you should notice is that in 5th grade, our state proficiency scores are at 41.9% in math, and 51.9% in reading. Uh-huh. This means that less than half of my state's 5th graders are able to do math at their grade level. And that slightly over half are able to read at grade level.

And that's not the best part.

The second thing you should notice is my school. Pate. Let's start by comparing the 3rd grade math scores to the 5th grade math scores. At 3rd grade, 44.7% of 3rd graders can do math at grade level. That's less than the (still alarmingly low) state average of 51.5%. At 4th grade, 22.5% are testing at grade level in math. That score is almost half that of the (even more alarmingly low) state average of 44.4%. And finally, by 5th grade, only FIFTEEN POINT TWO PERCENT (Yes, 15.2%!!) of the 5th graders at my elementary are testing at grade level in math (compared to the still low state average of 41.9%). That means that in a three year span, the students in my elementary school that can perform At. Grade. Level. in math drops by almost TWO THIRDS.

It's possible I am overly excited about this. Do any of my school teacher friends want to correct me here? Want to tell me that testing is not a very accurate reflection of actual knowledge? Or maybe that there is a 50% margin of error?

I should mention that I received this table as a piece of a letter giving me the option to transfer to a school that met AYP standards.†  I can transfer my child to one of the three schools in our district that did meet AYP, provided that the schools are not too full. But... does there appear to be a glaring, obvious transfer choice to you?

†AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress and is the measurement tool for No Child Left Behind. It does not require that all schools meet a certain average, it simply requires that each school meets a yearly progress goal. If a school doesn't meet the goal, it doesn't pass. You can probably find your own school's AYP scores on your state's education website, provided your state participates in No Child Left Behind (and most still do).