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Advice on starting homeschooling at middle school

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:04 pm
by Tigger's mom
Hi all,

I am a mom of four kids. The older two (aged 20 and 16) are off at college, leaving me with two at home. The older two went to Montessori school from preschool through elementary, and a high-ranking charter school for middle and high school. Both are highly gifted, and were bored with school. The 16 year old, in particular, dreaded school pretty much every day for the last 5 years he was there (which is why he's in college early). The younger two are also extremely bright, and are attending local charter schools, which each have great reputations, and both are miserable. I'm ready to pull them both out, and homeschool them, but my husband is reluctant. Our major concerns with homeschool are that I work part time (though mostly from home) and that by pulling the kids out when the going gets tough that we'll be encouraging them to quit when things don't go their way.

Child #3 is in 7th grade, second year of middle school. She tested into their Gifted and Talented program last year, but is currently failing every one of her classes. She's completely disengaged at school, isn't turning in either in-class or homework assignments, and is doing terribly on tests. I think the major problem for her is social. Middle school is a terribly stressful time, and she is having trouble with being teased and bullied. Girls that she considered friends are calling her "stupid" and an "idiot" for doing poorly. In response, I think she's afraid to turn work in, in case she does badly on it, which would prove her friends right. We've asked for help from teachers, have met with counselors, and are now trying to involve the principal. I'm beyond frustrated by the fact that the school seems to have no consequences for missing work, other than the poor grades. No teachers are having her stay after school, or have contacted us. Every time we contact the school, they say they're "dealing with it", but we see no evidence of that, and things are getting worse. We work with her at home, we leave her after school to attend office hours, we are doing everything we can think of, and aren't getting any support.

With our youngest child (4th grade), he's also very bright, bored in class, gets teased for being a nerd, and generally hates school. I absolutely love his teacher this year, but he still fights me about going to school most days. I volunteer in his classroom, and his teacher has been very accommodating about giving him alternate assignments when he's already mastered the work. He is definitely stressed and anxious, and has a lot of trouble sleeping. I'm worried that he's getting depressed.

My husband wants to make sure that we're not teaching our kids to run away from their problems, but I can't see that continuing to make them go somewhere they hate for several more years is going to do them any favors. He's also worried about the stress of homeschool on us parents, but I figure it can't be worse than dealing with kids who cry almost daily, fighting with them over busywork homework, etc. Has anyone else pulled out a child at middle school? Did it work? Both of mine have asked to be home schooled, so I know THEY would be willing. I'd like to try it out for the second half of this school year (January through May) and evaluate it then. Is a single semester a reasonable test period? I would REALLY appreciate any advice any of you veterans might have.

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:19 am
by SuperGiaJ
Your husband may have a point about quitting when things get tough. The fact is school can't always be fun - there's work involved. Even as adults we aren't always doing job-related tasks that are enjoyable. But you learn to push through it, and deal w/ social issues :roll:

Kids are often interested in trying home-school, likely since they can stay home and not deal with social issues. But if you're already wrestling w/ them over homework, how will they do when you're acting as their teacher? Especially when other distractions (TV, video games, etc.) are in close proximity :D

With all that, if school is truly unbearable then it may be worth trying to home-school for 1 year. With many schools, classrooms are mixed up year-to-year and the children can always try going back then.

It's hard as an outsider to know what you should do, as you really know what's best for your family. But hopefully I've provided some usable feedback. Good luck!

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 2:11 am
by Louise
Hi Tiggers mom,

Was wondering what you did since last year December. Did you decide on homeschooling. If so how are you doing?

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 5:02 pm
by Tigger's mom
Hi Louise,

We ended up pulling both kids out of school in January and homeschooling them. It was a great decision. Both have moved quickly ahead in several subjects, and are getting the chance to delve deeply into topics that interest them, that would likely not be covered in school. My 13 year old daughter has discovered an interest in botany, and we've taken a field trip to a botanical garden, found books, videos, websites, trips to a nursery, information on medicinal and edible herbs, etc. My 10 year old son has indulged interests including hands-on science, movie making, and computer programming. Both are much happier, and neither fights me on school. So far in this school year (starting at the beginning of September), my son has completed a full year of math curriculum (which puts him roughly two years ahead in math), and my daughter has completed more than a semester of math. We're working on World History this year, after doing a thorough and fun unit on the American Revolution and early American History last year. And my husband has gone from being reluctant to homeschool to wanting to keep them home for as long as possible.

I don't get as much sleep as I would like, and life isn't perfect, but it was definitely the right choice :)

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 1:10 am
by Louise
Thank you very much. I am so happy that everything has worked out and going so well. It gives me a little bit piece of mind that it can work even if your husband is not 100% behind you.
All the best for the rest of the year (and school year :) )
One quick question - Are you following a specific curriculum? How did you decide?

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:53 am
by Tigger's mom
Hi again Louise,

I would like to point out that we did end up agreeing on trying out homeschooling - I was the one advocating for it, and he was more reluctant, but we worked out a compromise we could both be comfortable with.

And I use a variety of curricula. For math, we've mostly been using the "Life of Fred" books. They teach math by using a story. For pre-algebra (the level my children are at), they mix math with other subjects (biology in one book, economics in the other). For my daughter, who hated math and was scared of it, it made math much more interesting and less frightening. For History this year, we're using "Story of the World". It's a set of four books that give a good outline of world history from the first farmers 9,000 years ago up to the fall of the Soviet Union. It is much less dry than the history textbooks that I remember from my childhood! For other subjects, we cobble things together. For science, I've got a 5th grade science book for my son, we're making balsa wood towers as an engineering project (the challenge is to make a light-weight tower that holds as much weight as possible before collapsing), a "Life of Fred" book on Elementary Physics, and my daughter is using a botany textbook. For reading/language arts, I look up what our local schools are reading at their grade levels, have them read the books, and find question lists online to have them complete to practice their writing. My son is taking an online programming course through Youth Digital that teaches beginning Java programing through making a "Mod" for the game "MineCraft". The kids are both teaching themselves instruments (my daughter plays piano and my son just took up drums), and we use several iPad apps to practice geography, foreign language, math, and other subjects. My son does a couple of extra curricular activities with his former school, and my daughter is a Girl Scout, so they get time with other children. It helps that where we live, there are a lot of home schooled children, so there are good supports available.

I am a member of the "Gifted Homeschoolers Forum" on Facebook, and it's probably the most useful resource I have. Whether or not you consider your child to be "gifted" the other parents there have lots of suggestions for curricula and other concerns. The library is a great place to find resources, and Amazon makes a lot of deliveries to our house :) I also have depended on the advice of fellow parents to get started and succeed in homeschooling, so I feel that I should be as helpful as possible to others just getting started. Good luck, and let me know it goes, and if there is anything else I can answer for you.

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:10 am
by Louise
You have been a wonderful help. I will keep you updated.

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:24 am
by LLMom
I have never taken one out at that age, but I have put some in school at that age as well as homeschooled that age. It is good they want to be homeschooled because I have found middle school age very tough even without homeschooling them. If you have a good relationship (meaning they will do what you tell them without constantly arguing) then it should be fine.