Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Decision Made. Really. Yes, Really.

My ninth grader has waffled back and forth on his decision about whether to apply to a science magnet school in town so many times I'm getting whiplash. He's also created more stress for me which I'm sick of. I have mentioned that on the blog but have not mentioned it every time it has gone from yes to no to maybe. I don't even remember what I blogged last on the topic.

March is the month that he'd need to apply for the move in students’ phase of admissions and we don't even know if there is one single spot for a move in, anyway. Maybe we are trying to make a decision on applying only to find out there are no openings.

The way I approach serious goals is to prepare. If a standardized test is to be taken in March and it actually matters how he scores on it, such as in this case, he needs to do some simple review of the topics. He has refused to do review and is not taking this process seriously. What he seems to not comprehend is that this is his ONE chance to go here, the window of opportunity closes as they are trying to discourage new students starting in grades 10 or 11 and starting in grade 12 is not allowed.

I am not the type to have a serious goal and to not take serious steps to make it achievable. "If you're going to do something, do it right." Applying to a magnet school is something I think that students should take seriously.

To help my son make a decision, I needed to try to deal with my son's apathy. I first thought about the pros and cons of going to a magnet school compared to homeschooling and made a list, in order to be prepared for the discussion I was going to initiate.

I then sat down with my son and asked why he wanted to go to the magnet school. I was disappointed to hear he did not list the same pros as I'd listed; he barely came up with any reasons. I had more pros. In fact what he said would have made a very weak answer on the application, which may have led to the school not thinking he was very interested! We then discussed what my list said for pros. His reaction was, "Well now that you say those things I agree and I want those things too." We were in agreement on the cons.

Now the question was do the pros outweigh the cons?

Another question was if he wants to apply, after this discussion, is he ready to do the necessary preparation to apply?

I thought that if my son did decide to apply, knowing these pros and these cons, that he would have a better perspective that he owned the decision -- that it was not me forcing him to apply. I thought that if he saw things laid out in a logical fashion might give him internal motivation to snap out of the apathy and to choose to take action to prepare properly for the admissions process.

At this point (this was about five days ago) we felt we had three real options for studies for the fall of 2012: homeschool with finding new online classes or finding new homeschool co-ops to help with what I do not want or cannot teach at home or go to the magnet school or go to the public high school. (Our tight finances due to carrying the expense of two homes from the unemployment /new job /bad real estate market /bad economy does not leave us disposable income to pay for private school.)

Two days ago I had a long talk with a local homeschool mother and found out that she and her oldest child were in the same situation four years ago that my son and I are in right now. At that time he thought he wanted to be an engineer also. She entertained continuing homeschooling or using private school (which they were offered free tuition to attend) or the magnet school and finally decided to begin using the local community college in fall of his grade nine year. There are many reasons why this option has worked well for that student over these last four years, which I won't list here.

The homeschool mother spent a long time explaining to me about the options at the school and the admission process. She cleared up some misinformation that I had been told by other homeschool mothers. I think some of the problem actually was the other mothers were being too vague or did not want to really explain the process to me. Maybe they thought they were wasting their time or they couldn't be bothered but the point is that things were said by those other moms to both make the application process seem harder and out of my son's reach and/or that the college was not as good as it really was, so I hadn't thought it was a great option for grade 10.

Now we had a fourth option for education, to keep homeschooling but to use community college instead of homeschool co-ops or online classes starting in grade 10. Yesterday I discussed these options with my husband then together we spoke to our son.

My son, husband and I all feel that the path that has the most pros and has the least cons will be to continue to homeschool with an aim to start taking one or maybe two classes at the community college in the fall.

The community college option gives the most personal freedom and is the most flexible, allows the good parts of the homeschool lifestyle to continue while correcting the homeschool challenges such as me not having to run a pseudo chem lab in my kitchen and my inability to be a foreign language instructor to directly teach my son, to name a few. The large course offering also offers more scheduling flexibility compared to trying to use the limited online classes for homeschoolers. Trying to juggle participation with the sport team, Boy Scouts, and Robotics Team along with academic studies requires flexibility in the schedule that this will allow.

Another good thing about having some outside teachers for some classes is I think teen boys in particular need to answer to an authority other than their mother 24/7. Parenting with homeschooling with all home lessons I think is too much of mom being the boss and "bad cop". I personally am feeling too much pressure and stress having this much reign over my son and I don't want to get to the burnout stage again.

You may ask why not just apply to the magnet school and see what happens, even if you have decided to use the community college? The answer is what I said earlier. If he is to apply I want him prepared and ready for all stages of the process. I want this to be taken seriously and to not waste the school staff's time either. By choosing to not apply we are off the hook with spending a month doing test prep review and can concentrate on the regular core academics of our homeschool. We'll not waste our time doing that kind of test prep.

So, it's decided. My son has decided not to apply to the magnet school.

So now what do we need to do this semester to prepare for enrollment at community college?

In order to apply to the community college as a nontraditional young homeschooler my son will have to take the ACT COMPASS test. Since he has not yet completed Algebra II we will skip the math for now and he'll take just the reading, writing skills and writing essay tests. He will now prepare for those tests and will sign up to take them this spring. He is able to retake the test monthly until he gets a passing score, should he need to. I was told there is free tutoring on the test prep offered at a nearby library, so that's an option available to us also.

Registration for the fall of 2012 opens on April 10 so we are going fast forward with taking steps to make this happen.

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I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders now that this decision was made. I am happy to have my son continue to homeschool and to gently ease into taking courses at the community college. This feels like the best of both worlds and that we are still avoiding some of the cons that attending high school would present. The most obvious con of traditional high school or magnet schools being excessive homework most of which I suspect is of the waste of time stupid type of work. Another con dodged is avoiding early start times of school, both of which would mean not enough sleep for my son. With my son doing a competitive high school sport he is more tired and needs more rest for body rejuvenation than a non-athlete would need. Sleep is a foundation for good health so not having sleep deprived kids should be a top priority for any parent who wants their child to live in a state of wellness.

It feels so good to have a decision made. Now we'll see if my son's apathy is gone...

1 comment:

Karen said...

My daughter and I are approaching this decision. At this point we are anticipating her starting the local community college next year. But she has some long term goals...and that amazes me!
It's looking good.