Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Please Advise

Now, I know there are plenty of you reading and not commenting, so I'm asking you all to put on your thinking caps and help me out here. I also know that plenty of you are homeschoolers, or adoptive parents...but I'm not limiting this to anyone in particular. If you have a thought...share it. Here is my dilemma.

I have five children of school age living in this house, and when the girls came home we did homeschool for nine months. I should amend that and say, I did school at home with the four girls, and the boys sat on the back burner. Nothing that looked like homeschooling was going on. At the end of nine months, Soapy went into residential treatment, LaLa and Tater went to the local Christian school, and I began the new school year with high hopes of actually homeschooling my older three...Boo and the boys. Alas, Boo made it evident that although she LOVED the perks of being homeschooled and although she had no desire to be anywhere else, she WOULD NOT receive my instruction. She would in fact, make it her daily mission to distract and disrupt, so that I could not teach her brothers. So she got to be "work schooled". Lucky, lucky girl. This means she gets up early and goes to work with Dad. The fact that she has no one to distract or disturb, the fact that Dad tolerates no shenanigans, means that Boo has learned to work hard, independently, and get the job done. It also means I get a few hours each day to make sure the boys are actually making some progress, plus frees up some of my energy for helping the two who are in private school.

Now the school year is running toward a close, and I have to say it has not been bad. I do believe the girls were making better progress, both emotionally and academically, when they were at home. But the boys were getting very little of what they needed. And I was terribly burnt out trying to manage their behaviors. It is all but impossible to homeschool a child who digs in and refuses to take instruction. To recap how the year has gone:
  • The boys made good progress in their studies, but are requesting a change of curriculum. They want to move away from self guided schedules and studies, and return to a hands on curriculum that we do together. This involves much more time and involvement from Mom, but is much more in line with "how we roll"...or I should say, "how we used to roll before the girls came".
  • Boo spent most of the year under Dad's tutelage. She hates it, rebels against it, pleads to come home, and blows it every time we let her. On the academic end of things, she has never been more solid. On the emotional end of things, she in incapable of being part of a group effort.
  • LaLa has done OK in private school. Her grades and behavior are not stellar, but in comparison to how they were in the past, she has shown huge improvement. As the school year winds down, so has she. She has ceased to care. Her grades are in the toilet, and her behavior both in school and at home are deteriorating. The frustrating part is that I KNOW she is capable. When she was at home, we made her school work HER PROBLEM. At school, it is everyone else's problem, but never hers. Like Boo, she is incapable of being part of a group effort, simply because she does not care about any of it.
  • Sweet Tater has excelled in private school. She does well, both on her school work, and socially. She is loved by her teacher and friends. You would think this is a no brainer, but in fact, her efforts are largely spurred on by her desire to prove she can come home and not be a pill. I believe she will struggle with laziness, but her over arching desire is to be on board with the program here.
So what I find myself with is two separate schools, needing totally different styles of management. My desire is to homeschool the boys and Tater. My desire is to keep the other two home because I KNOW they are/will:
  • Use any involvement in a school setting to practice their emotionally unhealthy behaviors, and maintain a disconnect from the family.
  • Fail intentionally in a school setting, as a way to maintain control and thumb their noses at Mom and Dad.
  • Wear us to the bone trying to manage their behaviors in school, educate their teachers about their needs, advocate to get their needs met, etc.
So my question is this. Is there a way to do this? Can I set two children up to do school at home, making their school work largely their problem? At the same time, can I pour out my creativity and energy on the other three, knowing they will soak this up and flourish? I would love to think the other two would see this and say to themselves, "Self, I really want a piece of this action. What can I do to get from here to there?" But they don't. Their internal dialogue goes like this. "I never get to do anything fun. I hate this. What can I do today, to make sure their plans get derailed?" Then they will sit in smug satisfaction when Mom is so tired and frazzled she has nothing to give anyone.

I really do want them all at home. I believe with all my heart that it is what is best for them. What I want is for all of them to be on board together, able to enjoy the awesome parts of homeschool. But I know that just isn't possible at this stage of the game for two out of five. I am looking for ideas for how to make it work. Curriculum? Logistics? Disciplinary methods? Rewards? Sanity preservation? Because this is what I know:
  • I WILL HAVE two separate schools next fall. Either I will send two out to school, and reap the benefits and consequences of that choice, or I will structure two totally different homeschools. I WILL NOT subject my three willing scholars to the grind for yet another year.
  • I want what is best for all of the children, no matter what they may want or be working toward.
  • I will have to think outside the box in a major way to make this work, or to even come through and still be standing this time next year.


quilted family said...

I am an adoptive parent and I did homeschool, however, I am not sure either of those categories makes my comments any more useful.
I applaud your desire to keep all the kids home and work so hard on the attachment issues. Homeschooling can be wonderful for that, I know it from experience with my children. But I also understand how the sending some to school thing can so relieve family dynamics at least during school hours, I know it from experience with some of my children.

That said, I do think that you could run two (or more) school situations for the children who have different responses to learning. You would have to have a very flexible understanding of the school day. We basically did this by unschooling our kids, we made them responsible for their learning and then provided opportunities to learn. Some of them were very into unit studies and others wanted a more curriculum driven expreience. But all of them were held responsible for their own learning decisions. Sometimes it got messy, a lot of times I felt pulled in a lot of different directions and no one ever got to do everything they wanted exactly when they wanted to, but that was a learning experience also.
It was very hard for me to let go and watch some of my kids do things I felt were not educational, but they all came around eventually and they all learned and they all have progressed to college or vocational training, except for the youngest who is still in high school. All the times I cringed and felt they weren't learning were actually the times they now tell me they learned the most.

Nobody said...

Thanks Quilted Family, plus Anntastic and Brenda for your encouraging and entertaining emails. This is definitely helping us sort this out, and making me think we might actually survive.

Nobody said...

Thanks to QueenB too. For school advice, and sewing machine advice too.