Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Kindergarten starts in a week, and I still haven't decided what to do

I've written about my indecision about home school or public school. (Very short version: I don't have a burning desire to home school, but I am not thrilled about sending her to all-day kindergarten either.) Public school starts in a week, and I am still feeling terribly conflicted and undecided.

I live in a smaller town, so the possibility of finding other charter schools, getting together with other like-minded parents, or forming some kind of hybrid co-op is close to zero. And I just don't have time to start a charter school (nor would this community likely support one).

A few months ago, I learned that my state has now adopted the K12 program, which is administered as a public online charter school through a state university. I was really excited and thought that this might be the answer to some of my schooling dilemmas. If I was going to home school, I knew I'd need a pre-made curriculum. There's no way I have time to research and plan--as well as teach--a whole year's schooling. Registration was only open for a 2-week window, so I signed Zari up and felt good that at least we had that option.

Fast forward to now: we received all of her supplies a few weeks ago. The K12 program has officially started, and we've done several full days of lessons. But...but...

I still feel really unsure of what to do with Zari this year. While I can get through the full day's lessons in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, I am worried that it's still adding too much to my plate. Eric is quite unenthusiastic about home schooling, even with the K12 program, and I would need his support to do it well. I am teaching again this fall, so he'd have to take over teaching 3 mornings a week until I get home.

To give you an idea of what I have going on in my life:
  • I am raising children ages 1, 3, and 5
  • I am teaching one class per semester at the local liberal arts college
  • I usually travel to one academic conference per semester
  • We are renovating our house
  • We own and manage 3 other properties: our old house, a triplex, and a 5-plex
  • I make and sell slings
  • I do the majority of housework, errand-running & cooking, since Eric teaches full-time
  • I blog here!

Because of my concerns about overburdening myself, I've still been open to public schooling. We brought Zari to school registration this Monday. Public school starts in a week, so I have time to get a feel for the K12 program and lifestyle before I *really* have to make a decision. I talked to the elementary school principal, and there is absolutely no flexibility on doing half-day kindergarten. None. Lots of talk about "how much work there is to be done" and "academic achievement" and "rigorous standards." I have to admit--I'm old-school. I grew up doing half-day kindergarten, and I have a really hard time accepting the need for full-day schooling for 5-year-olds.

It looks like Zari will be placed in the accelerated classroom, which has slightly smaller class sizes and works at a faster pace. I think that would be good for Zari, since she does better when something is challenging than when it's too easy and boring.

But I still have strong reservations. I have an anti-institituional streak in me about a mile wide, in case you haven't noticed. It's not that I'm anti-education. I have 2 master's degrees and one PhD! But I still resist the idea of giving my child over to an institution, with its rules and policies and culture.

On the other hand, Zari is a very talkative, active, outgoing child, and I think she would love being in public school. I am not sure that doing the K12 program this year would provide her with enough interaction and fun experiences. (And no, I can't add more to my plate and do extracurriculars on top of my schedule and on top of homeschooling. Simply too much.) That brings me back to public school.

So there you go. I can only delay this decision for another week, and then I really, truly have to commit to something. At least for a year, since I don't think you can go back into the K12 program until the following school year.

If I do choose public school, we've talked about implementing a few routines into our day:
  • Eric or I will walk/bike to and from school with her. It's exactly 1 km away, so it would give us some one-on-one time with her every day. And more exercise and outdoor time for all of us!
  • As soon as Zari gets home, it will be outside play time for the whole family to make sure she gets plenty of exercise and unstructured play. There are 2 short recess breaks at school (~15 min) plus 30 minutes total for lunch & recess. It's some, but not enough for an active child.


  1. Sometimes, as parents, we have to let go of what *we* want and just do what's best for our kids. I have to respect who my kids are, and support them in things I know I would hate. So if she would do well and the hang up is yours, then...let her go.

  2. You sound rather ambivalent about homeschooling, and you need to be committed to successfully do homeschooling. You could send her to kindergarten, and if you are very unhappy with it after a month or two, pull her out. Maybe experiencing the school would either set your mind at ease, or find that you are unhappy enough with it to give you the impetus you need for homeschooling.

    It sounds like you disagree with the educational principles, not that sending her there would be unsafe or dangerous, so trying it for a while might give you more information to decide how you want to proceed.

  3. I empathize with your dilemma, but it struck me that your conflict seems more with whether you should homeschool than with whether Zari should homeschool. It sounds like she will enjoy public school. Anyway, why not let her try it out?

  4. I had a hard time with this and I am having a hard time with it again. We found a great charter school and K here is half day for everyone.
    My oldest daughter is going into second grade this year and she has thrived at this school. I loved the curriculum and teachers and their educational principles and I knew she would thrive in the social environment that public school has. I have been thrilled with her progress.
    The problem comes now with the director of her school pushing a new format and some new curriculum that I am not sure I agree with. A lot of the teachers have left the school (half of them) since the changes were announced.
    Anyway, my younger daughter starts K this year. I am glad it is half day. I am not sure how she will do with the new curriculum/teaching style though. I have been assured (although I still wonder how it will go) that my older daughter will do even better with the new changes, even by the teachers that left.
    I guess I am saying that I understand your doubts. I am having them too. I have considered home schooling or switching schools (the switching is an option I have). The director at their school is far too concerned with standardized test scores and not the actual needs of the teachers and students. I am hoping the kinks will work themselves out this year. We have decided to give it a year. I do think that if it was going to be full day K though, I probably would have home schooled, at least for K.

  5. Kinder now is NOTHING like kinder when I was a kid. My daughter learned to read, write, add and subtract. Plus she had homework. Really? We balanced out school with lots of outside unstructured play and focusing on having fun instead of academic goals.

    Homeschooling is not for us at this point in our lives. We are lucky to have several school choices. DD is currently at a charter school in a self contained gifted class. The school focuses too much on standardized testing but it's still a million times better than public school.

    don't beat yourself up because you can't do it all. Being able to recognize your priorities/responsibilities is an important skill to model for Zari.

  6. Holy moly, full day for a 5 year old, with a TOTAL of an hour of outdoor play? That's crazy! My son isn't 2 yet, so I have no idea what the school structure is around here, but I think that's WAY too much indoor time (not to mention how focused on academics they sound!) for kindegarten. Good heavens, how times have changed! (With that said, kindegarten really should be about socialization and play and becoming familiar with the school setting, and it sounds like she'd benefit from being in public school for that. If you end up not liking the administration, you can always pull her out and homeschool later, but I would think it would be harder to do it the other way around). Good luck with whatever you decide! :)

  7. I agree with a lot of the commenters here. Homeschooling is about what works for the family, yes, but most importantly it's about what's good for the child. I am a avid supporter of homeschooling, and have taught my kids at home for the past 5 years. This year, however, I am enrolling all of my children in public school. I have plenty of reservations, coupled with a sadness that I won't be there to watch their discoveries, but I know that it's the best thing for our family, and most importantly for them. This is a bit ironic since so many of our friends have decided to homeschool this year just when I'm putting my kids in. :) I reserve the right to pull them at the semester mark if it's not working, and definitely to re-think the decision at the end of the year if I haven't sooner.

    Homeschooling is a commitment, and the K12 program is a big one, too. I considered it for last year, but decided that it was way too structured for us. I know some people thrive on that, but we don't.

    Good luck. I would not presume to tell you what to do, but watching your daughter and seeing how she's doing will be your best indicator of what to do. I have put two children in school during the middle of the year when homeschooling was no longer a viable option at that time. There were various reasons for that, and I wouldn't recommend it, but what I'm trying to say is that you have options even once school has started.

  8. The transition to kindergarten for my oldest was a hard one (for me and somewhat for him-- we chose a public Montessori school, but it was farther from our house and he took the bus, so it was an extra long day for him). The bike/walk to school that Zari would have sounds great. We did not have a half-day option either, so I took it upon myself to take him out early occasionally for an outing or keep him home for the day. I know that may have been slightly annoying for the teacher, but I felt like school was there to benefit my child and if he needed a break, he'd get it. This past year my 3rd started kindergarten and was my first to start as a just barely 5 year old (the 2 older have fall birthdays and were almost 6 when kindergarten began). I was really worried about it. Where we live now does have a half-day option and we signed up for that. He loved school and quickly transitioned to full days. I would recommend sending her. You can always change your mind later if she's unhappy with it, but despite the annoyances of school requirements etc, each of my kids has thrived and seems to really enjoy having that time with other adults and kids. My .03. :)

  9. From your post it sounds to me that you are really not committed to homeschooling--I doubt that is going to change in the next week. My inclination given the options available would be to go ahead and send Zari to kindergarten--and see how it goes. I don't think you really need to worry about losing the K12 opportunity--I'm not sure what your expectations for homeschool kindergarten are, but basic reading, handwriting and math skills are all the really matters academically. I'm pretty sure if you decide to pull her out part way through the year you can come up with workable options. (I personally couldn't stand to have things as structured and prescribed as K12 makes them, but that's just me; I take a very relaxed approach to homeschooling until my kids are old enough to be responsible for more of the work themselves--closer to 3rd grade).

    Have you read many homeschooling books? I recommend Well Trained Mind if you like structure. I also like Debra Bell's books--she seems very practical.


  10. I'm sort of in the same situation, except my daughter is 4 and I'm trying to determine whether or not to send her to the public school's half-day preschool (in hopes of making the transition to full-day kindergarten next year easier for her) or not. I am leaning towards not. I will probably be where you are this time next year...

  11. I'm waffling myself (wrote another blog post, but never published) but I still have another year to figure it out... well, at least 3-4 months because that's when you have to start applying for kindergarten here, for the PUBLIC schools. That are (at closest) a mile away. And no bus service. BAH!

    If you think she'll do well, then try it. And you don't have to commit to a full year of either homeschooling or traditional school- you could change paths at any time, or wait for the "semester" to end in December.

  12. My siblings and I attended public school, and we were still raised to question authority (and we all still do as adults). I think school is much more about the social aspects at her age, and not so much academics. As long as you and Eric encourage her to think critically about things, she'll be fine in school. I agree that you don't sound very enthused about homeschooling. Maybe a different option altogether will open up in a year or two - you can always pull her out of school, if so.

  13. I feel your uncertainty, Rixa! It's a hard decision. Both schooling methods have some appeal and some definite challenges. When Ethan was starting kindergarten, we decided to use K12 at home, but 3 weeks into it, we put him into a very good brick-and-mortar school that was within walking distance of home. (We were just outside that school's boundaries, but they opened a new kindergarten class and had room for him.) He loved it! The only problem we had was that he was so talkative at lunch time that he didn't eat enough and was always ravenous (and grouchy) after school. Once we took care of that, things were good.

    No one will cut corners off your "good mom" card if you aren't homeschooling:) It seems like your school presents some good options with an accelerated classroom for Zari. Give it a try and see how it goes. You and I came out of public schools alright:)

    1. LOL,I have gone to lunch at my daughters school a LOT and ALL THE KIDS TALK TALK TALK and all the food goes into the trash!

  14. I feel for ya,I have had this delema since my oldest (8yo) was born! I Wanted to home school,and thought I would. But when we starteddoing some preschool type learning my daughter just hated it! We both ended up frustrated. So I let her go to pre-school. I throughly interviewed all the schools inmy area and picked the best one. And ya know what?SHE LOVED IT! She did very well and was learning so I relaxedat bit in my fears.
    Now she is going into 3rd grade and my son is going into Kindergarten this year. We have very nice schools and I really talk to the teachers alot about what I observe. Sarah has done so well!
    I think schools over-all are only as good as the teachers and principals. But I think my kids have done well and are now worked up enough to go to all day K, 1 yr of 2 day a week per-K, then 1 yr of 3 day a week pre-K.
    Our school offers 1/2day K for the last 10yrs(HINT HINT-MOVE BACK HERE!!!!) the principal said NO ONE has ever wanted to do it! They all do full day.
    Zari is very bright and I think All day would be just the bost up in activity her growing brain needs!
    You know your family very well and I know you will do what is right. Public schoold are very good, so don't feel like you are missing something bynot home schooling. The amount of work I still have to do every day ( ie-reading,flash cards,looking over papers, checking homework, practising spelling wurds:),ect)with my kids really keeps me in the loop and they know I care and that I'm involved.
    Plus I volunteer in the class room when ever I can.
    Don't beat your-self up over it! Just PRAY about it and have Eric give you a Blessing!

  15. It sounds like your leaning more towards the K12 than homeschooling. Give K a try till say Christmas and then evaluate how things are progressing. If your not satisfied, then pull her out. The accelerated class sounds like it'll be perfect for Zara. Just give it a try!

  16. Every child and family is different; homeschooling is the right choice for my family, but each family needs to find what works best for them. Also, do remember you can take everything one year at a time; what is right this year may be different later on. By choosing to homeschool or attend public school, you are not committing yourself to either in the long run.

    Before I began first grade, I was completely daunted with everything that I believed I needed to do. I am the sort of person that prefers to be over-prepared, and I was doing everything I could to turn myself into a first grade teacher!

    Well. If I could tell people who are considering homeschooling one thing it would be that homeschooling does *not* mean doing "school at home."

    Homeschooling styles and approaches vary widely, but for us it looks like very little desk work, and a lot of out in the world learning.

    You mentioned that you were "old school," that you felt that children belonged in half day kindergarten but you were receiving push back on the grounds that there is much to do, as well as rigorous academic standards to meet.

    Respectfully, your principal is the one who is behind the times - both in his/her approach, and their knowledge of of child development. There is an abundance of research that demonstrates that introducing academics at earlier ages does not lead to greater success later on; that children can be trained to do simple academic tasks, but "advancements" are largely lost when children are compared in later years. Furthermore, early academics are more closely associated with burnout, and negative attitudes towards schooling in later years as well.

    My long term goals with homeschooling are to develop strong critical, divergent, and creative thinking skills. By the time our children are grown, "facts" will be available at the tips of their fingers; what will be important and valuable will be the ability to sift and process the noise. The ability to discern both what is true, and why. The ability to look at a challenge and generate 10 ways of potentially altering the outcome.

    And the ultimate way to develop those particular skills is through free play. Open-ended toys. And this is most critical in children under the age of seven.

    If you decide to homeschool for kindergarten - know that the most valuable "education" you may give her may be in simply living - engaging her in your world. Step away from the academics - you know that she is very bright; don't worry that she will be "behind."

    1. (continued....)
      You mentioned earlier that she was bored and antsy, and that was leading towards behavioral challenges. This can be so tough! Know as well that there is terrific research pointing to the benefits of boredom - both from a cognitive perspective and in developing their abilities to self regulate as well as create. (Here is a conversational article on that topic:

      Sometimes getting the children involved in meaningful tasks together with you is helpful: setting the table; using a sponge and bowl to wipe up the table after meals; unloading the dishwasher together; sweeping together; sorting laundry together; pushing the wheelbarrow; etc.

      At five years of age, things will need to be done with you; but the benefit is that it gives her the attention she needs, and a sense of accomplishment and contribution. Plus you can keep going with what you need to do day to day. Yes, it takes a little longer this way - but it can ultimately be a win-win situation for you both as you receive less of the "acting-out" behavior as a result.

      As to socialization - I find that concern to be more accurately about the particular family or child, and not about homeschooling; I find it wonderful to be able to model how we chat, befriend, and treat people in all areas of our lives.

      What is important to me is that children be "socialized" to be comfortable with more than their same-age peers. The ability to converse with adults (easily, without pretense), and with older and younger children is important to me.

      Phew! I've written more than I intended. Best wishes with your decision - you'll find the right path for your family :) Kelly

  17. What about UNschooling?

    1. And... if you are at all interested in that concept I'd check out books by John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, and Alfie Kohn. And the documentary "The War on Kids" which is available for instant watch on Netflix.

      But the bottom line is, you'll figure it out. You are an exceptionally good parent to your kids and the fact is you are taking the time to consider all the options (and do consider the one I've mentioned above!) and you will come to the best decision for your kids. :)

  18. I think you've hit on a key.

    You don't really want to homeschool at this point. Eric is 'unenthusiastic' about it. And to make it work you'll both need to have a lot more commitment than that.

    Why are you considering homeschooling? Is it only because of the 'wasted' time of full-day kindergarten? ( I'm with you there. When I was in school you didn't even learn to read in kindergarten. What are they doing??) But you do admit there are things she would enjoy and benefit from that you can't give her at home. If you feel like public school won't be harmful, eg. you're comfortable with the quality of education, there aren't huge crime/drug/bullying concerns, you feel she's emotionally ready - than holding back only for only that reason does no one a service.

    Ultimately, it's about what's best for Zari, for you, and for your family. I know you'll be able to make a decision that works for all of you!

  19. What does Zari want to do? I realize I may be opening up a can of worms suggesting you allow her to pick the option, or at least have a say in what she does, but it could really change how you view the current situation. I know she is only five, but this discussion could be a learning experience for her as much as for you all.

  20. Thank you for sharing! I have a 2 year old now and I don't know ANYTHING about school options, but I have a feeling I will be in roughly the same boat as you are. My best in the decision!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. My comment was for Rixa's eyes only. Not for Monika to judge me. I am not used to blogger, but now I know how to delete a comment. I would have done it sooner if I had known how.

  22. Response Pt. 1

    Hi Rixa,

    you really helped me a lot when I was pregnant with my second (deciding on a UC or midwife birth, first was UC)so I thought I'd give you my two cents on homeschooling since I have done a lot of research on it over the last 3 years.

    First off, don't let anyone guilt you or say you are selfish. You have to judge for you and your kids what would work out the best for all of you as a family unit. Hopefully you and Eric can see eye to eye.

    My own hubby was against homeschooling for a long time but since then has also done a lot of research and now he's more pro it than I am.

    I am in the same boat as you. For so long I have been going back and forth between wanting to homeschool and just feeling too overwhelmed to do it.

    The main issue is finances for us. I would love to go back to work as a professional writer but most of those jobs are full-time. Doing freelancing from home is doable but it takes more effort and time to do business development to find clients than the actual work it self so it hasn't been smooth sailing. If I had older kids I'm sure it would be easier but working from home is challenging with 2 small kids. My spouse also works from home as a programmer, but despite that I could not just leave him at home with the kids all day 'cause he'd get no work done.

    But at the same time living off of one income is challenging. It's nice that you guys have other sources of income.

    We'll get there eventually.

    But anyhow, my main point is, that despite all of our personal challenges, we decided to give HS a try for at least a year, especially considering I also have a 3 year old so right now it makes no sense to put my 5 year old in school since someone would have to watch my 3 year old anyhow.

    That is something to think about too, since you have younger kids, you'd still have to be present for them.

    As far as actual schooling, I agree with some of the posts above that it would be a good idea to do a lot more research before you decide on homeschooling because the main point of homeschooling is that it is not school at home.

    It is an entirely different philosophy of learning.

    Another good resource is Life Learning Magazine

    and some of the resources above like John Holt, John Ghatto. There is also this unschooling journal you may find very helpful (I did)

    First thing first is you and Eric have to really decide what your philosophy of learning is (much like deciding what your philosophy of birth is - do you inherently believe birth is safe and that interventions should be used only in an emergency? School is the same thing, how do you really feel people learn? From books? From lectures? Or do you feel that people learn best when they are self-directed and passionate about what they learn? A lot of life learning advocates do believe that kids learn best when they are self-directed. So you can help them along and introduce regular subjects like math and reading but tie it into their interests.

    You also mention school culture. That is a big thing, don't just dismiss it. If you fundamentally don't agree with public school culture, it will bother you. I have talked to parents who are even proponents of public school but who admitted that somewhere down the road they came across some issue related to peer related - influences they did not like, bullying, etc).

  23. Response Pt.2

    Not that you couldn't work through those issues but something to think about - do you want to be dealing with those issues? Socialization is a funny thing because like some of these other homeschooling parents said, it also depends on your philosophy of socialization. Do you believe that fundamentally it is healthy for kids to be segregated by age? There is a lot of conflicting opinions on that. Both the Waldorf and Montessori philosophies believe that children learn best from each other (the older ones helping to teach the younger ones) and then there are other experts such as Dr. Neufeld (author of "Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Matter More than Peers") who believe that kids simply cannot get their attachment needs met from kids their own age because kids their own age do not have the maturity level to be good role models and to provide the attachment needs kids need. That is why that homeschooling mom above said that for her it was more important that her kids could interact with kids all ages, and adults of all ages too.

    First I think it is important to answer those questions for yourself - what does healthy socialization mean to you? How do you feel children (and all human beings really) learn (lecturing and books vs self-direction which can lead to learning from books, from others, from life, etc).

    Once you've answered those questions, then you can start to figure out, ok these are our beliefs about how children learn and socialize, now we can figure out how to integrate that into our family life.

    Regardless of if you homeschool or not, as others mentioned, there will still be a lot of input and effort and work needed from you to assist with homework, dropping and picking up your kids from school, after school commitments, and yes, some extra-curricular activities will be inevitable.

    You'll probably be just as busy if your kids go to school as you would be if you homeschooled, the main difference is that you'd then have to follow the school schedule rather than have your family set their own schedule/rhythm.

    But once you answer those questions of understanding what your core philosophy of learning and socialization is, then it is much easier to figure out how to integrate your beliefs into your family life, regardless of if you homeschool or public school.

    In the end you will find a way to juggle and balance it all.

    But it helps to have a strong core of knowing what it is that you want for your children and your family. Than even when things get challenging down the road and you find yourself juggling, you can at least have the comfort of knowing why you chose a particular course of action and feel the support of that decision based on your (and your family's) core values and philosophy.

    Hope that helps,


  24. Response Pt. 3

    p.s. I don't know why but that one post about you being selfish just really rubbed me the wrong way because just the fact that you are asking these questions shows that you really want to find the right path for your entire family, not just yourself, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to find a balance for everyone.

    I don't really think we are doing our kids any favors if we completely sacrifice our own lives and revolve our entire lives and schedules around them.

    I think it's important for kids to know that they can integrate in a healthy and balanced way into the family life so that everyone's needs are taken into consideration and then everyone can problem solve creatively so that everyone's needs are met as best as possible (not always possible but at least there is a give and take -where perhaps sometimes the parents' needs are taken more into consideration at some moments, and some moments the kids' needs are given more consideration).

    With us, we're still figuring out how to balance everyone's needs and also trying to figure out how we can financially prosper while homeschooling. I don't imagine we'll have all the answers right away but I do feel we're on the right track at least.

    I'm sure in time you'll also find the right balance so you can feel you are on track.

  25. I got an email about this home-school company that sounds like it might be a good balance []. It's online, but the parent doesn't have to figure out curriculum -- just use what they say. Maybe worth checking out.

  26. Can you check and see if Kindergarten is required? It may not be. You may just be able to start her in 1st grade and skip Kindergarten. My cousin kept one of her children home until 3rd grade, because the child wasn't ready for all day school. It wasn't a problem and he's a successful Junior in college now.

    I suspect you can work with her enough between now and then to get her reading ready and basic math without formal homeschooling.

    I too hate the idea of full-day K. The kids who are ready for it are children who have been in all-day day care since infants. They don't know the difference. The ones who suffer are the children raised at home. I've substitute taught Kindergarten and have had more than one child hanging on me after 1pm telling me they want their mommy and want to go home. Its heart breaking.

  27. Here in BC, Canada. Kindergarten is not mandatory. They have to be in "formal education" home school included, by the age of 6. My Son will be in full day kindergarten next year and he will not be attending school on Fridays. I wrote a post about BC's shift to full day kindergarten here:
    whatever you choose will be the right choice! Much Love!


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