Well, what do you know. We're through a year. This time last year, we were figuring out how to make it official and exploring ways Andy would learn. We were nervous, manically planning and re-planning and skimming through materials and trying to figure out schedules and I was generally panicking, because I knew this had to happen. Public school was a wash for the Squirrel. Would I be up to the challenge of educating him myself?
Deschooling took the whole five months everyone promised me it would take, maybe a bit longer. Then he slowly came out of the dark and fear and resentment, and started to be interested in things. At this rate, we will be rocking and rolling by fall.
I had a lot of things absolutely confirmed for me, and I hope for Andy, this year.
->Andy is smart. Holy cow, that child can learn and make connections and is totally amazing.
->When given the time he needs, he can also demonstrate his intelligence.
->When not given the time he needs, he reverts to a fetal ball of screaming sobs, because he becomes frustrated and feels like an idiot, because he's been told he shouldn't need that extra time.
->You can be smart as hell and need extra time to process and communicate that intelligence.
->Andy works his patookas off. Sometimes even when he doesn't realize it.
->He is very, very dysgraphic.
->He has an imagination to die for. Fortunately, he is happy to tell you all about it. He just can't seem to write it down.
I also learned a lot of things this year; it was full of surprises.
->Unschooling. No, really. By letting him communicate to us what is interesting him, we can use that to catch him up and invest in his own learning. We can also fit skills he needs into topics that are engaging for him. It's much easier to learn to multiply if you learn it by seeing how it can be used for something you like. For example... Pokemon. It takes a lot of math.
->Expectations for fifth graders was far lower than I expected. When looking over the materials, they looked, well, too young and simplified. Teaching to my own expectations and memories of fifth grade, he easily passed the required testing with top marks. Even in his most challenging skills, such as spelling, he was above average.
->Andy likes history, especially if he can be hands-on in experiencing it. The only program he asked for this summer? History Camp. The waking-up moment when he emerged from the public school nightmare? We were at Jamestown. His favorite activity this year? Homeschool day at Kenmore, where they let him grind corn. Never underestimate the power of living history programs and hands-on activities.
->Reading to Andy is a great way to have him retain and think about material. You know he really likes it when he asks for it to be read again.
Now that we seem recovered from the trauma of school, I'm looking into getting him back into more organized and structured opportunities, such as local classes and library groups. It will soon be time to start thinking about what adventures we want to explore next. This time, I won't be so worried about that whole "grade level" thing. Sometimes, keeping it simple is OK. Having a variety of levels within a topic is great, so that he can familiarize himself with topics and skills. We may try a more unit-based approach this year. Not sure yet.
We will figure it out together.