Recently, my family and I moved across the country to a new state. Every state has its own requirements for Homeschoolers, of course, so when we knew we'd be moving, I plunged in to the new laws for our new state. It was a tad intimidating, even for a formerly credentialed ex-classroom teacher. I wondered, to be honest, could I offering my kids the best? Were they being short-changed in any way by me keeping them at home for their schooling?
Colorado (where we came from), has so many options for homeschooling kids and we worked with several Charter Schools that also offered programming for Home-schoolers. We've had the wonderful opportunity to work with other Homeschooled kids in classroom settings, and for music, formal PE, and other extra curriculars. And, we have had fabulous and creative teachers with classroom management skills who still knew how to keep it fun...we've been spoiled!
In this new state, where Charter Schools are not available to us yet and "Montessori" is hardly even heard of, I wondered, "Would some supplemented time in "real school" be better for my munchkins? But the public schools weren't open to working out something with me and my homeschooled kids. For the public schools, it's either all day every day or you're just not welcome. That's kinda what I was expecting, so, I reached out to a local private school in our area, thinking maybe I could work with them to supplement some of our education. Maybe, I thought, private school would be offering "the best" to my kids.
Now, I always respect and admire traditional classroom teachers. I know what it is like to have limited resources and somehow work miracles daily to keep children engaged and excited about learning. Private school teachers are like any other classroom teacher. They have limited resources, an administration to jump through hoops for, and the added pressure of keeping everybody happy, lest (God forbid) a parent leaves the school and takes their private school income with them. There are many private schools and they are as varied as the people who run them.
But, as I looked around at the Kindergarten class I was observing in, with one rows of windows and the children in their little uniforms, stuck behind their desks with narrow rows between, I felt a little tremor of horror. A room full of kindergartners, big eyes on me, far more fascinated with me than they were in the lesson that their sweet teacher was trying to offer them by reading a book with small pictures in the front of the class.
It might be a fabulous private school! It might have teachers that are the salt of the earth. But I cannot assign my little ones to a full day of sitting still behind a desk. It's not the teacher's fault: there was no room in that classroom for anything else.
Now, understand, in our homeschool world, I like to require seat-work for my kids. We don't just use manipulatives and make up science experiments. We have our formal computer time, our math time, and our writing time and phonics and these all involve sitting at the kitchen table or on barstools at the counter. I also greatly appreciate yearly (standardized) tests so I can double-check that I am not forgetting any of the essentials. So, I'm not hating on the idea of seat-work or worksheets, or even sitting at desks for some time.
I just gained a new appreciation, I guess, for what I am offering my children in our own home. Where we can cuddle up together on the couch to practice our reading. Where we can study our fractions by creating a recipe in the kitchen. Where we can do PE at the beach or I can send them outside to run around on their bikes. Where we use Lego's to demonstrate the history models we're studying.
And that was my take-away: I'm already offering my kids the very best.
And so are you, fellow Homeschooler, with what you do. The world is your classroom, along with your home. You're already offering the best.