Worried about my little sister-in-law's homeschooling...
Background: my little SIL was in a private Christian school PreK-1st grade. By the end of first grade, she was having a lot of behavioral difficulty (she is the youngest child by 14 years and was quite used to getting her own way), so they pulled her out and homeschooled her for second grade. She went back (this time to a public school) for 3rd grade, but they pulled her out mid-year due to a conflict with her teacher. She is now in 6th grade.
First concern: Academic progress. There does not seem to be a structured curriculum. From what I can tell, my FIL works from books he gets from a local Christian bookstore that carries homeschooling supplies. A typical school day is from 9AM-12PM. A great majority of her school work is completed on the computer, with very little actual instruction from her father. For History, he might have her read an article on the computer and write a paper about it on a blog that she keeps for her school work. For Math, today he had her working problems out of an old college textbook of his that had to do with the ones, tens, hundreds, and thousandths places. She does 4th grade multiplication, some decimal adding (she's not doing anything near the pre-Algebra I was doing in 6th grade). For science, they recently walked to the library together, got her a video on body systems, and she sat and watched it with glazed eyes while her Dad got on the internet. Then she had to answer 21 questions that her Dad got from... ?. She is particularly strong in English and an avid reader and great writer. She keeps a journal and her father often has her read historical fiction or other educational books. She goes to an enrichment class twice a month in which they are currently learning to tie-dye shirts. Sometimes instead of tie-dying takes an art class because she chose because she loves to draw.
Admittedly, writing her school work out like this, it actually sounds pretty good. My FIL is trying hard. My main concern though, just looking at her school work, is that she is not at grade level. There is no record keeping and no progress markers to make sure she is not falling behind. And she does not seem at all engaged in or excited about learning. It's like she trudges through every day without really caring what or whether she is learning. My husband has casually asked his dad what he thinks about where she is in her homeschooling, and he has said he feels overwhelmed and like he doesn't know how to get through to her. He already feels like the material has surpassed his ability to teach, so he isn't sure what is going to be done for her as the material gets more difficult. A lot of times when he does try to instruct her, she has trouble understanding what he means, and he has trouble clarifying. But he continues to present a rosy picture to my MIL because he doesn't know how to tell her otherwise. I am afraid of that they will eventually decide that she needs formal instruction for the later grades, and then she'll place under grade-level when they try to get her back into school.
My greater concern: Socialization. My MIL is an extreme, extreme introvert and homebody. My FIL is to a point, but I think he is mainly trying to be respectful of my MIL and cater to her lifestyle preference since she is the one working full-time. They had my SIL a little later in life and are pretty set in their ways. They rarely want to go out and do things outside of the house. They do not really have family friends, they scarcely have anyone over, and they are vehemently protective of their own routine. Which would all be fine, except that my SIL is home virtually 24/7 as a result. She has no friends, and no cousins or other family members close to her age that live in the area. She has never in her life had a close friend or best friend (I've known her since she was 3). Her family goes to a small house church with a very small kid's group. She goes to an 4-hour-long enrichment class twice a month. And that is the extent of her socialization. She spends all her time reading or watching TV with her parents. She's missed out on a lot of the big milestones like learning to ride a bike, learning to swim, and developing real friendships with kids her own age. She's never been involved in a sport or extra-curricular activity because my in-laws don't want the complication of taking her or paying for it. She is *painfully* lonely. She once asked me what I used to do for fun when I was her age. I told her I would hang out with my friends and have sleepovers, etc. She looked at me wistfully and said "Well, I don't have any friends." It broke my heart. She has a dog, Micah, who she loves. She has a collection of stuffed animals that have been carefully named, groomed, and cared for. But she doesn't have any real friends.
Since we've moved in, she has stuck to us like glue. We don't mind! She is a great kid. We have plans to take her to museums and the Planetarium and a bunch of other fun places this summer. I have even offered to ferry her around to whatever extra-curricular she would like: swimming, a sport, etc. I'll pack up my foam finger and my one-year-old and be right there. But once September rolls around, we'll be leaving. And then she'll be right back where she started.
I have known my SIL since she was a toddler and I love her very much. I love her parents, too, and I know that they want to do right by her and are doing the best they can. It would never be my intention to condemn them or their decisions, but I am worried about my SIL's well-being. Is there any program at all that any of you could suggest that may work for her? Any ideas for greater social interaction? Anything at all that we could tastefully and respectfully suggest to my MIL & FIL as a way to enhance my SIL's education? I don't want her to miss out.