Friday, October 22, 2010

The beginning of the ending of a long journey...

Tristan is in his final year of homeschooling. For me this has been a time of reflection. The time where I find out if the rubber meets the road or hydroplanes into a ditch. Oye!

I began homeschooling Tristan when he finished kindergarten. The year of Kindergarten was not bad, but it wasn't ideal. He went to a public school, a block from our house, for 1/2 a day. A couple of afternoons a week he would be picked up from an after school program while I worked. I was a single mother at this time. I worked in a hospital on day shift. I volunteered in his class once a week.

While sitting in his class I saw little kids who came to school without coats on really cold days. I saw 5 year olds with really bad bottle mouth and no snack at snack time. I saw kids hitting each other over and over again without adult intervention. Meanwhile, there was my quiet little guy not getting any attention from the teacher and her aide because they really had their hands full with the other kids who had much greater need. I can really see how kids can get lost in a system.

Tristan's Dad and I discussed options at the time. There was an alternative school inside the city school system that was more child focused, multi-graded, arts based. They chose students by lottery and Tristan was accepted. However, they would not bus kids who lived out of the district and we did not have a car at the time. I could not figure out how we could manage the transportation piece without starting our day really early on public transportation or ending our day really late for the same reason.

Another consideration to this possible arrangement was that I would never see my son. I would have to stay on day shift at the hospital in order to get Tristan where he needed to go. He would still spend every other weekend and a couple of afternoons with his dad during the week. What time we did have would have been spent shuttling him somewhere, a couple of tired dinners and bedtime and every other weekend. Ultimately, I realized that whether he went to the school down the street or across town I would have every other weekend with him and a couple of evenings a week. I wanted to be the one to raise my son. I wanted to teach him the values that are important to me. So we decided to homeschool. I switched to evening shift at the hospital so I would be home with Tristan during the day. I had a babysitter for those evenings he was not at his dad's. Life slowed down.

I am not going to sugarcoat the travails of those early years of homeschooling. One of the challenges that I faced early on was Tristan's dad. To say we have a history is an understatement. The relationship ended with me calling the cops on him. His issues of power and control have been a part of my life for a long time. First, he agreed to homeschool and then he didn't. We ended up in court and I was given full parental rights on matters of education. It was a long and drawn out process. I know that it affected my approach to homeschooling because I was always fearful that if Tristan and I did not have "paper" to prove he was being schooled then I would be back in court.

As for the learning it happened. I would have liked to unschool those early years but we didn't. Instead, I used a variety of subject curriculums. Tristan learned to read when he was 8. He explored sharks, insects, pyramids, dinosaurs, Greek and Roman Mythology. He took swimming and ice skating lessons, Art camps at the Art Museum and art school, summer reading programs. He had a group of neighborhood friends. Tristan and I spent many wonderful hours reading a great many books together.

We moved north in 2003. At that time we still used a variety of subject curriculums. He joined a 4-H group for homeschoolers, he took archery lessons and our new local library had many great reading programs for middle school aged kids. Eventually, as he grew older, I loosened the reigns until by the time he was in highschool he was unschooling. I am not going to pretend that he would get stellar grades on a standardized test. He is not very strong in math. I know that there are some holes in his learning if he were compared to someone going to school. But homeschooling for us was never meant to be just like school. My ultimate goal was to raise a lifelong learner; someone who enjoys learning and knows how to seek the resources for gaining the knowledge he wants.

And so here we at the the last year of school. At this point I am solely a facilitator ( or taxi driver).Tristan is excited by the blacksmithing he has done this year and is pursuing this knoweldge by being a member of the local blacksmithing association where he gets plenty of open forge time. He also gets to demonstrate his skills at local fairs and living history museums. He will be taking a classes at the New England School of Metalwork starting in January. He is taking a welding class through the local adult ed. He is working with a metalsmith at local jewelry store. He is trying to find a job. He is pursuing his GED where he is going to get some of the math he missed. He is an avid photographer and an avid reader.

And he is a pretty cool kid:)


Wendy said...

What a touching journey; and how wonderful to see where his interests have led him thus far. What a wonderful affirmation of your sacrifices and dedication for him. Thanks for sharing!

Wendy said...

homeschooling for us was never meant to be just like school.

I think this pretty much sums up for me what I want for my children as homeschoolers. As a former teacher, I still (too often) fall into the trap of worrying about whether they're on par with their peers, but in the end, what I realize is that the academics are really secondary. Sure, it might be cool for them to know a little something about the Presidents of the US, but there is so much more to know about life that they would never get if they were in school all day.

Having met Tristan, I'd agree that he's a pretty cool kid ;).

Robj98168 said...

SOunds to me like Tristan is a pretty good young man. Admirable that he is still in the Blacksmithing/MEtal Smithing thing. I think you raised him right!

Kathy said...

Ah yes, he is a pretty cool kid with a really cool mom. Great job! BOTH of you. ;)