For the past 5 weeks, we put homeschooling on hold while my husband and I took our mission’s field orientation course. During this time, Michelle went to school with the other MKs. This was with a bit of fear and trepidation – we’ve homeschooled from day 1 so she’s never been in school before. And the Charlotte Mason methods that we normally use are quite different from traditional school methods, so I wasn’t sure how that would go over for her either. Before we get back to homeschooling next week (I am so excited to be starting Ambleside Online Year 1!), I thought I would write a little bit about our school experience.
Thankfully, this is a very small school – she was one of five students in a first-second grade combination class, and her teacher was a very sweet lady. All of the other children are also missionary children – therefore coming from committed Christian families. The school day finished at 2pm, so not too terribly long. (One reason we opted not to send her to school in France was that their school day lasted until 4:30!) So, in my mind, this was really the ideal environment to have her first school experience.
One thing I realized during the past 5 weeks was that our family really functions better when we have the flexibility to set our own schedule. Getting everyone out the door by 8am was really hard for us. Thankfully, Michelle was able to walk home with the other kids, but for the first week we picked her up in the afternoon which was a huge interruption to the flow of our day as well. I am far more stressed out by having to organize my life around someone else’s timetable than I am by having my kids home with me all day. I also realized that homeschooling helps me to be a much more intentional parent. This isn’t to say that homeschooling is the only way as I know many wonderful, committed, intentional parents who have chosen the traditional school route for their families. But for myself personally, I found that we really slipped in some of the ‘grounding practices’ that have naturally become part of our family life as a result of homeschooling – such as Scripture memory, family read-alouds, and the like. Mornings were rushed, and evenings found everyone too tired. And of course as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler with very particular tastes when it comes to curriculum choice, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the textbooks and fill-in-the-blank worksheets that Michelle brought home with her.
On the positive side, however, having her in someone else’s classroom for the past 5 weeks has been very enlightening as far as how Michelle is progressing and how the Charlotte Mason method is working for us. I was really pleased with what I saw. Michelle was the only first grader in her first-second combination class, but because she is a strong reader the teacher just combined her with the other second graders for every subject but math – and she held her own just fine. The teacher commented to me about her high comprehension level as well, which I chalk up to the quality literature we’ve been reading for the past 2 or 3 years since discovering CM. And while I don’t usually do a lot of workbook-y kinds of things in our homeschool, I was happy to see that she could do these kind of exercises without difficulty. This gives me confidence that she’ll do just fine when she encounters this kind of thing on standardized tests (which we get to do for the first time this year, lucky us!). The fact that she did as well as she did in this more “traditional” school environment helped me to feel more confident that the “non-traditional” methods we use in our homeschool are still preparing her well for life after homeschooling. She is learning and doing well – excelling – despite the fact that we don’t do things the same way as many people.
And on her part? She loved going to school. She loved being with the other kids all of the time. She loved her teacher. That said, this evening when we were talking together about it she said to me that she’s “tired of being tired after such long days at school.” I think she’ll be glad to go back to our normal rhythm of getting our schoolwork done in the morning (and no homework!), having rest time in the early afternoon, and the freedom to play with all her new friends when they get home later. She’ll also get to keep participating in the after school sports and music clubs as well as the special ‘joint learning sessions’ when all of the homeschooling missionary families from all over Cameroon come together twice a year to do group learning activities and special projects. So really, she’s getting the best of both worlds.
Now that our orientation time is done, I'm looking forward to popping in here for a chat a little more often. Stay tuned!