It is hard for me to believe that one month has passed since we enrolled Caleb in Catholic Schools for this year. The changes have been an adjustment for everyone, but we are starting to settle in. It has not been without it's challenges and only time will tell how the journey goes from here, but for now it is what it is, I guess!
The best part of having Caleb in school full time is Caleb. His behaviors are improving and his coping skills have gotten a lot better. I think that daily consistency I just couldn't provide have helped him be able to deal with life's little disappointments more fluidly. Part of me was concerned that getting the extra structure during the day would make him more sensitive to changes in schedule, but that has not been the case. So far he is handling unexpected shifts in schedule much better than he was before. He has parts of school he doesn't care for that we have had to handle best we can, but his feeling about it seems more positive than negative.
The unexpected good that has come from having Caleb in school is a bit of a reclaiming of my own identity a little bit. I was looking back through some old photos trying to organize them and I realized just how much our homeschool has shifted over the past 2 years. I have gotten away from my role as a teacher who is teaching her children. I had become more a mediator of worksheets and lesson plans. That wasn't my style as a classroom teacher and it certainly isn't the way my kids were accustomed to learning. My toddler was 15 months old and had never had a sensory bin experience. Our learning style had shifted from very active to very passive. I clearly undervalued the role all of my homemade materials and activities had in our home classroom when I failed to give them a dollar amount or replace them after the fire. In some ways this realization has made me quite grateful that only one of my children was struggling with my new methods to the extent Caleb was! It is a display of his resiliency that he and Aidan learned as much as they did last year, in spite of my floundering. Homeschooling is definitely a growth experience for mom, and in this case mom needed to return to her roots a bit, so to speak.
Ah, how I am reminded of my struggles with the traditional education system by having one of my kids back in school! Grades for a first grader? Caleb has no more "mastered" grammar than he is "in need of remediation" in handwriting. (Ok, well maybe his handwriting is kind of bad....) 30 minutes of homework 4-5 days per week? Direct instruction as the norm instead of the exception? Not only do I *think* these things are completely unnecessary, I know they are. My boys have gotten along quite well without them thus far and in all three cases there is research out there to back me up. Too bad our "modern" system can't get with the game on that one! Our small Catholic School does an excellent job of treating the kids as individuals but there are some things that we simply cannot get away from.
I am tired. This is actually getting better, but we are using an absurd amount of time and money on things like packing lunches and driving back and forth. I know lots of family's have these expenses but with Caleb's Celiac Disease and picky tendencies on top of that, the food is really adding up. Let's not even discuss the gas costs in our fuel hog of a Suburban. We have been a one car family for a really long time, but I think the end is in sight there because we just can't afford to drive the Suburban on so many short trips! Finding the extra money for a second fuel efficient vehicle isn't much in the cards right now, but every day we are sinking more and more money into that perpetually empty tank! This is all on top of school pictures, fundraisers, uniforms, mandatory volunteer hours, class parties, and..oh yeah...tuition. I'm not actually complaining, and we have been blessed to receive some financial support both from the school and from family, but seriously- people say homeschooling is expensive!
The verdict for now is basically that we shall see. Caleb has twice said he wants to come home and be home schooled again but we are quite frankly a) not ready for that and b) not about to give him the idea that he gets to decide when and where he goes to school. That being said, there is a pretty big part of me that thinks this is going to be a one-year experience. Aidan is talking about school next year and while I am not opposed, I think the approach will be different. Can I live with the extreme LDS influence in the public schools in exchange for not paying Catholic School tuition? Can I exchange less recognition of the individual and the family for less emphasis on grades and performance? If not, can I afford 2 Catholic School tuitions? The answer to all of the above is probably not, so where does that leave us?
My heart is hoping that I can continue to figure out how to get back to basics at home and go from there. I would love nothing more than to have Caleb at home with us, but before that can happen we need to have a good plan to set him up for success. What we had going on before was clearly not working. I don't want to forget that and bring him home next year without a plan to help him be successful!