Sometimes things change

We put the kids in public school last fall with the intention of giving three of them the option to do the virtual school next year. We figured that’s what Cameron and Fritz would choose and Ani would stay in public school. Of course we only made it half a year for the little guys in public school (and, technically, Fritz could still do the virtual school next year, but I don’t think it would be a good fit for him). Ani and Cameron both loved public school. It was an agonizing decision for Cameron, but, ultimately, he decided to switch to the virtual school next year.

We’ve been going round and round about where Ani will go to school next year. The creative writing part of school is fine (though seriously annoying to us as parents because the instructor is a bit of a flake and it involves a lot of after school activities). The rest of the school, well, it’s better than the district in Maryland where we used to live. But compared to most of the rest of the high schools in our district here, and particularly when compared to the high school we’re zoned for, it’s a pretty bad school. We wanted her to go to the zoned high school. She was pretty strongly against going there.

While Ani loved going to public school, there were things she wasn’t thrilled about. She feels like she has learned absolutely nothing (aside from the creative writing classes) this year. Of course she has learned things, but I think it’s more about the waste of time. She could’ve learned the same amount on her own in much less time (this is actually one of the reasons Cameron decided on the virtual school). She is also an extreme introvert. She can handle crowds of people only to a certain point (honestly, I am shocked she didn’t punch anyone all year). By Thursday every week, she was in rough shape, completely physically and emotionally spent. The school day here is very long. High schoolers go for 7 hours and 20 minutes of school and then she had to be bussed to and from school. That made it about 9 1/2 hours from the time we left our house in the morning to drop her off to the time we got home in the evening after picking her up. Plus add to that an hour in the mornings for seminary, time to eat dinner, taekwondo two nights a week, young women activities once a week, and time to do homework and she literally was left with no time to relax. She’s been so much happier and, really, her truly amazing self, since school let out. Last week she went to a writing camp for 7 hours a day. She loved it. But when we got home Friday she completely crashed, exhausted, and slept from about 4:30 (getting up for dinner) until 3pm Saturday. It just reminded us too much of how she was all through the school year.

So what to do for school. Like I said, we wanted her to go to the local high school. She’d still have almost 7 1/2 hours of school per day, but no bus ride. She’d still have a lot of wasted time and not learning a whole lot, but that’s just how public school is. We offered her the option of doing the virtual school like Cameron.

Then I felt like I should offer her the option of a method of traditional homeschooling: Unschooling. This is crazy. I like to check boxes. I like the feel of traditional school at home. We don’t always use textbooks, but we have specific subjects and specific things to do in those subjects on specific days. Unschooling is just not my style. But, nevertheless, no matter how much I fought it, that was the answer. Offer her the chance to unschool. And, you know, when you are praying and that’s the answer you get, sometimes you have to do as you are directed.

I told her unschooling was an option. Her eyes lit up a little bit. We talked about what it would look like for her. Unschooling takes a lot of forms for different people. For some it is the complete and total eschewing of anything that even remotely looks like school. For some it is providing a super learning-rich environment and letting the kids learn as they live. For some, and this is really common among high schooler unschoolers, it is providing everything they need to learn what they want/need to learn (and this includes textbooks) and letting the kid take control of their education. This is the form Ani’s unschooling would take. We talked about the things she wants to learn and how she would do it. We talked about other things she wants to do – non-academic things – and how she could accomplish these things when not constrained by her insane school schedule.

And then we let her mull it all over for a really long time. Occasionally we’d discuss things a little bit. Eventually it became clear she was leaning toward the unschooling idea. Yesterday she told us she had made her final decision. She’s coming home again. Unschooling it is.

Frankly, this scares me. I really, really, really like to check boxes! Honestly, though, if I think about it, when I was a homeschooling high schooler my parents educated me pretty much the way we envision Ani’s education going. We just didn’t know unschooling was a thing. I would complete an entire year of a subject in a month or two. And then I’d move on to the next subject. My parents provided me with everything I needed and then let me decide when and what to do. Some things I never really did at high school age, but I covered them in college or since I became an adult.

So now on to the next adventure. Four kids home again. Two traditionally homeschooling. One doing the virtual school (we’ll see how long jumping through those hoops lasts). And one unschooling. She has some amazing plans. Those will have to wait for another blog post, though. This one is already entirely too long!

One registered for public school

We moved most of the way across the country recently. Before we moved, Ani learned about a magnet school that has a major in creative writing. Of course she wanted to go.

We debated it a lot and ultimately decided to let her apply. She had to have her application package in before we even left on our trek west. She had to include a portfolio of at least 10 examples of her writing (she submitted a bunch of poetry examples, so she had 15 or 16 total pieces in her portfolio). She had to include three copies of her portfolio put together in a way that would encourage someone to want to open it. Then she needed a resume, report card, transcript, application form, counselor recommendation form (I could do that one), and teacher recommendation form (she asked the director and got permission to have our bishop fill out that form). We also sent a copy of her 8th grade CAT results.

A couple weeks after we got here she auditioned. At the audition she had to do a free writing assignment and have an interview. She brought up the fact that she should, by age, be entering 8th grade (the magnet school is in a high school). They didn’t seem to think that was an issue, particularly given her excellent test scores.

Two days later we received a phone call. She got in! A few days after that we went to the high school to get her registered. The counselor didn’t mention her age at all. Between her test scores (which kind of prove she actually did school at home) and the fact that her writing samples and interview got her into the magnet school, officially skipping a grade just isn’t an issue. The counselor looked at her test scores and said she should sign up for pre-AP courses for three classes (English, world geography, biology). She’s doing Algebra I again because she is really not confident in math. She will be taking two creative writing classes (poetry for the first year). That left one class to choose from. She needs to take a year of PE, a half year of health, and two (or three) years of the same foreign language. She chose to fill her last space with French.

Add in seminary and travel time from the zoned high school to the high school where the magnet is located (they provide a shuttle bus), and she’ll be going from 6am to 5pm. It should be quite an interesting experience for all of us. She did feel more comfortable about the whole thing when the counselor mentioned that they have had several previously homeschooled kids start 9th grade at the school and they’ve all been very nervous at first, but have done just great and have had no problems and she is sure Ani will be the same (I must say, that was nice to hear from someone in education since so often you just hear horror stories).