Thursday, September 01, 2005

September 1 = First Day of School (sort of)

In Wisconsin, it’s THE LAW that public schools can’t start until September 1, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor after lobbying by a northwoods tourism industry that wanted workers and visitors to be available throughout all of August. So much for the vaunted “local control” that Republicans are supposed to support.

For the past couple years we have homeschooled The Girl, while The Boy has attended the local Catholic elementary school as one of the few non-Catholics there. The Girl had also gone there till we started homeschooling. Luckily the school’s teachings on religion are pretty generic at the youngest ages AND I have a good understanding of Lutheran beliefs and practices; I was pretty comfortable talking about differences in practices and beliefs when they came up, and yes I did pay close attention to the content of their religion books. For example, when it came to the issue of why I couldn’t take communion when I attended mass at the school, I just explained that different churches have different rules.

We started homeschooling The Girl because it just seemed like an efficient way for her to learn. I enforced math lessons, we had a world history text that she read fairly diligently, and other than that we largely “unschooled.” I.e., she read a lot, we talked about things, we had educational CDs she played around with (including some German language ones), and we watched the occasional science or history DVD together.

We have kicked around the idea of homeschooling The Boy, but delayed it because 1) he’s less self-directed and able to work independently; 2) he has always been more social and really has enjoyed his classmates, who are mostly boys.

This year we’re doing something different for both. They are enrolled in the Virtual School. Officially public school enrollment and directed, but done at home, with teacher contact via computer and phone. Even less well understood than homeschooling! Disliked by both “pure” homeschoolers” AND public school teachers! There’s a huge lawsuit going on by the teachers’ union to try to shut down the virtual school, now in its third year. Teachers (unions) see it as a threat to their jobs because one teacher can oversee 50-60 students. Ironically, the virtual school teachers belong to the union that‘s suing to try to eliminate their jobs . . .

I was having a hard time committing to a decision about schooling for this year. D put it in perspective when he said, “Enroll them in the virtual school. If it doesn’t work, we’ll do something different.” We're fortunate to have multiple good educational choices.

I told the reality school. I called the bus company. Yet I still had to inform the bus driver as he pulled up to the house today that I’d have no kids riding the bus this year.

We couldn’t officially start learning before September 1, but both kids were on the computer doing lessons before 6:30 this morning. Hope the enthusiasm lasts.


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