On sending Scout to school

I’ve had a number of questions about how school is going for Scout, how we made the decision to enroll her in school, and so on. Now that we’re halfway through the school year, it’s a good time to address all that.

We’ve been homeschooling for 11 years and I’m still as pro-homeschooling as ever. Oddly enough, although we’re quite unschoolish homeschoolers, having one child in school is working well for us all.

school year 2016

This isn’t the first time we’ve sent a child to school. Brandon attended public school all the way through, but he lived primarily with his mom. He did briefly consider homeschooling for high school because of the appeal of such flexibility, but by then he had discovered his love of music/drumming/band and nothing in the homeschool community could compare to the opportunities he had for that in the school he attended. Now, he’s a middle school band director and assistant director for the high school marching band; he is doing what he’s wanted to do since he was 13 years old.

Lindsey had been in public school through 7th grade before she moved in with us and enjoyed the social aspect but had fallen behind academically. We tried a variety of options for her education — homeschool, public school, hybrid academy — but she’d come to hate everything school-related by her mid-elementary years. Sadly, she never regained her love of learning once it had been extinguished.

Enrolling Scout in school has been an entirely different experience, done for entirely different reasons.

She was already in public kindergarten when she moved in with us mid-year, and the law require her to continue until we finalized her adoption. I wasn’t sure I’d survive those months. She came home every day tired, wired, wild, and with soiled pants. She was already emotionally “young” due to early trauma, but life in a new family added additional emotional trauma that caused her to regress. The kindergarten teachers were sending notes home about how she needed to spend more time practicing sight words, while I was just trying keep us all alive and get everyone re-potty trained.

It wasn’t pretty.

So the next year, we homeschooled and I was amazed how much de-schooling she needed after just one year in school. So we worked on that, but mostly kept working on keeping everyone alive and figuring out how to make this new family of ours function. The kids needed the majority of their time to be spent at home with us, more than with any other adults (like teachers), so that they could begin the hard work of bonding with us as their parents.

{flashback to 2013, the early days of life with the kids}
calendar time homeschooling 2013

As we kept on homeschooling, eventually more of the kids’ actual personalities began to show; it’s hard seeing through trauma-based behaviors to the real child inside. I learned that Scout requires a whole lot of structure and a whole lot of attention. I figured out some strategies to help (like her workbox), but she continued to need more than I could give. Her high energy can easily drain the rest of us.

Ken and I discussed the possibility of enrolling her in school somewhere but we were already familiar with all the school options in our area, and none of them would be right. I felt like Goldilocks; the schools were all too big, too far, too rigidly academic, too lax, too something.

But then we decided to move to the beach.

The way we chose this town is a post all in itself but in short, I did intensive research beforehand. One of the winning features: a school that finally sounded “just right.” Within a month of moving, as soon as I’d gotten our house unpacked and sufficiently settled, I toured the school and felt quite sure it was the right place for her. We chose to wait to until the new school year for her to start so that we all had time to adjust to the move before throwing another change into the mix.

Part of why this school works for us:

  • small class sizes (12 kids), small school
  • relaxed atmosphere, reasonable dress code
  • abundance of literature, curricula I’m familiar with
  • Christian but not denomination-specific
  • hands-on learning: art, science, more
  • field trips, outside recess, reasonable homework
  • teachers respect parents; good communication
  • no forced “volunteerism” for the parents (public school felt like a part time job)
  • no anti-homeschool vibes like I got at some other schools
  • location allows for Ken to take her on his way to work and is not too far for me in the afternoons

After three years of homeschooling, she was at grade level for reading and math and she’s been on the honor roll both grading periods so far. Although she’s working to “stay on task” at school, her behavior has earned outstanding marks as well. School is feeding the needs of Scout’s extroverted personality, providing just enough structure, and she’s clearly learning a lot.

We haven’t seen a drastic metamorphosis in her behavior at home but overall I do see improvement. Her relationships with Kathryn and Jem seem to be improving, too. With her and Jem, who are so close in age, it seems absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder; there was one day recently when she was out of school and they played the entire day without fighting — something that has NEVER happened previously. She even seems to be sleeping better, which has always been a struggle.

Meanwhile, back at home, Jem is doing great learning this year and is thriving with one on one time with me. Kathryn is having an easier getting her work done. They have both benefited from fewer distractions, and it seems their relationship is also growing.

Again: I love homeschooling. But every kid, every family, every situation is different. There is no one “right” way to parent, and that extends to schooling as well.