Friday, 29 August 2008

Starting School

First of all, I'm a little sad that I'm even writing this post! My baby is off to school next week! He is starting at a local nursery school, on Mondays and Tuesdays for 2 1/2 hours in the morning. A wonderful friend has graciously offered to drive Colin, as I don't have a car. The owners/operators/teachers are good friends of ours, and I know many of the moms and kids who are already attending. I suppose if there is a best-case scenario where I have to send him off, this is it.

So the big question is then...what about homeschool? For months I have been writing about it, thinking about it, mulling it over and wondering if it is right for us. I love the freedom and latitude that homeschooling allows. I love that we can work at each child's pace, and not be afraid of him being held back by others or feeling pushed too quickly. I love that I could tailor the subjects to his interests, and also include religious, behavioural, and social learning. I love that we could go on any number of field trips, and that travel could be an integral part of our schooling.

I don't doubt myself as a teacher. Teaching has always been a passion of mine (although as a career I would probably pursue high school rather than elementary). I have the dedication and love of learning to be able to give my children an excellent education - probably one better than they would receive in school (in the purely cerebral sense).

I have no fears of my children being socialized well. One-on-one learning of homeschool means fewer hours "in the classroom". We attend church, have family nearby, and many, many, many friends with just as many playdates. We are active in the community and will be signed up in community activities and sports teams.

So why school, then? In the end, it came down to one factor, but it was a huge one. Colin is an extrovert. I don't mean "extrovert" in the sense that he is outgoing (although he is). I recently learned about being an extrovert or an introvert in the realm of how you get your energy, your boost, your recharge. Personally, I am an introvert. (No, really, I am. I know many of you who know me are thinking "but you're so outgoing!" That's true, but stay with me for a minute. I really am an introvert!) I need time to myself. If I don't get time alone, I get crabby. I get anxious. I get tired. I recharge by being on my own. Contrary to this, I have a friend who is an extrovert. She needs to be around people to get her energy kick. If she is by herself for too long, she starts to feel depressed, tired, lonely. If faced with the choice of engaging in a group activity or being by herself, she would pick the group. Me, I would rather curl up with a book, play the piano, write, go for a hike.

I have noticed this with Colin. At home he is nearly incapable of spending much time alone. After about 5 minutes he's looking for me. He'd much rather loiter around me as I do dishes than play with toys by himself. Anyone who walks in the door is an instant friend and is invited to share in his playtime. When I take him out to the Early Years Centre or to a program with other kids, he absolutely thrives. He almost never has a temper tantrum, whereas at home he melts down two or three times an hour, at least. At home he needs a new activity every 5 minutes, becoming easily bored without someone to be with. When surrounded by people he demonstrates excellent behaviour. He grasps new concepts at an exponential rate.

And so, over the past few months, I have observed all these things in Colin, which brought me to the conclusion that he will probably be best suited in a classroom, filled with other children. He is a quick learner and especially bright, but I'm hoping that his teachers will challenge him further. I'm hoping that his love for people will translate into his helping others with their work when he's finished his. And I'm hoping that he will learn to use his intensity in positive ways.

I will most certainly supplement his education at home. Reading will be a huge factor, as will a summer program (you should read what the teachers and experts say about the two-month hiatus our children have and how it takes at least 6 weeks in the fall to get them back to where they were the previous June!).

My number one philosophy on education is this: I will make sure each one of my children is getting the very best education he/she can get. This may mean homeschooling for some and not for others. It may mean starting in the public system for a few years and then pulling them out for a time to educate at home. It may mean French Immersion or the gifted program or a private or alternative learning school. My priority is that my children love to learn and value education. I think the best thing I can do, then, is to keep an open mind, constantly evaluate the situation, and be willing to change if change proves necessary.

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