This week we had our first session of the homeschool co-op that was created last spring which we participated with then, and loved.
The new co-op in formation has five "early days" planned which serves to expose the students to various outside teachers and their course offerings. Based on the student and parent's opinions of these offerings we can choose which to participate with for the fall session or say we are not interested in. It is a great idea. This week contained day four. I have been thinking about these classes for the last two weeks and have remained with an open mind. My concern is so many are fantastic but how much will it cost and which do we have time for? Since this co-op is three days a week, do we really want to be there three days a week? We also have prior committments, other outside classes that we paid for before this new co-op was up and running.
(We are also in a third co-op which has not started its fall session yet.)
If you have been reading my blog lately you know that I have been struggling to figure out our family's goals versus the great opportunities that exist in the community. It is hard to pick and choose which to do and which not to do. Emotions are involved since I have pursuasive friends and my kids want to be with their friends five days a week. Fun or interesting course offerings are tempting. I am flattered and happy we made the list to be invited also, not everyone I know has been so lucky.
After speaking to a friend on the phone for over an hour late yesterday afternoon I felt more calmed down. I was setting my mind to focus on our priorities and telling myself it is okay to say no to some great classes my kids could take. I had a great night's sleep and woke up in a calm happy mood. I was feeling more self-confident about declining certain opportunities to work in a more relaxed manner on our goals.
Until an hour ago.
An email came in from a teacher of my son's about a class he's taking at one co-op. They have met only once so far this fall. The email said that he is concerned for the abilities of the students to summarize a scientific article in writing and their writing composition abilities are in need of improvement. Ouch. It stings for me as this is the #2 goal of my son who is in his class. (My son reports they have done no writing yet so this must be based on experiences with the class last spring.)
There had been no communication between me and teacher last semester or so far this semester. There are no parent-teacher conferences, no feeback given. The teacher has no idea of the learning disabilities my son has been diagnosed with or what we are doing to remedy them. He has no idea the thousands of dollars and the many hours of work we have spent in the last 2.5 years to help our son.
Yet there is a risk here that our family could be reported to the state for educational neglect. I honestly had never dreamed that this may happen regarding our participation with a homeschool co-op, as I don't like to live in that kind of fear. I have an overall general concern for false reports to the state for educational neglect but where co-op's were concerned I never thought about the ramifications if a teacher saw deficits in my children's work.
This sealed the deal for me that having goals is not enough. I must make time in our family's schedule to do the work to reach these goals. Already my son is struggling to get his work done, the homework for the Davis Dyslexia program. We paid $2800 for the Davis Dyslexia program, but for this to be effective my son must do the homework or the money was wasted and the benefits will not be seen.
If we're out of the house five days a week at three homeschool co-op's, none of which is addressing the top priorities for my children's home education, that's just plain stupid. In order to do right by my kids and to meet the goals we need to either have these things taught by outside paid professionals at co-op's or with private tutors or we all need to be home enough so I can teach my kids this academic content.
I hate it when fear is the basis for making a decision. My former fear of being left out, fear of being locked out of a new co-op if I didn't jump on the bandwagon at its inception, my fear of my kids missing some enriching wonderful thing led me to sign up for too many homeschool co-op's this fall.
However the fear of being reported for educational neglect is a fear that is much more serious that I won't dismiss. I am taking this as a wake up call from yet another source, I have yet another reason to decline some opportunities.
And anyway, focusing our academic goals on certain areas that need improvement is something I wanted to do and planned to do, in order for my son's general education. The fear of being reported to the state is not the reason to do it but serves as yet another reason why I must have right priorities in order when scheduling our time. If I drop or reduce some outside things we're doing now or say no to new things it would allow us to have more time at home to focus on what we should be doing.
I'm taking this fear of being reported for educational neglect, that worst case scenario for a homeschooler, as the straw that's breaking the camel's back.
Determine how academic content will be taught (at home or at a co-op or with a private tutor).
When scheduling outside committments do not allow them to prevent the goals from being met.
Make time to be at home if studies are to be taught at home by mom. Don't over-schedule.
Adapt plans if desired results are not resulting from the educational experiences.
As goals are met in content and skill areas, re-define goals or shift priorities to other academic areas.
In case you are wondering:
The co-op with this teacher is the best one we're involved in, so I'm not dropping it. My son loves the content of the classes with that teacher and loves the teacher too. This is a case when an outside teacher is serving as a motivator in a content area I cannot teach my son. The response to this situation is not to drop that co-op or quit clases with that teacher, I feel the right response is to work to get my son up to speed on his goals. I'm not blaming the teacher for expecting a certain level of skill and competency for kids of that age.