Some of my online buddies and real life buddies already now about this, but the Husband and I decided a couple of weeks ago to send the Kid to regular school next school year. For the last two years I've been homeschooling the Kid (through Kindergarten and now in 1st grade), and academically it seems to be successful. Socially, not so much. And since the Kid is currently an only child, that and the hard time we've had getting to know other homeschooling families in this city led to us thinking that going to school full time will give the Kid a chance to meet a bunch of different kids and make friends on his own.
Why has it been hard for us to make homeschooling friends? It's simple and actually quite ridiculous: We are not believers. We do not follow any religion or even any real spirituality. To be more specific we're not Christians, and even then we're not a part of conservative Evangelical majority in the city. The majority of homeschoolers here are Christian, and as such there are a lot of Christian homeschooling groups that are really active, and only two secular homeschooling groups, one of which is pretty inactive and the other is a small group of the same people (plus they only gather on Tuesdays, the one day every week when the Kid attends the Homeschool Academy, a place for homeschoolers to go and do activities like music, PE, etc.). The local library system has worked hard to offer homeschoolers activities to attend where there are other families, yet the kids are there doing a set activity with instructions, so the chance to get to know someone isn't there. The parents are either working with their kids or amongst friends, and for a shy introvert trying to talk to groups like that are tough. Yet when I do talk to them, what church I go to or the church they go to always comes up.
There was a family whose kids really liked the Kid that we met simply hanging out at the library, and the mom and I traded information. We met up at the library one time so the kids could hang out, and we moms could get to know one another. It quickly came up what church they go to, how active they are there, the Christian groups they're a part of, etc. I didn't even broach the subject of us not going to a church, let alone being non-believers, but it seems like since I didn't talk about going to church or anything we didn't click. I haven't heard from her since. (Of course something could've happened and that's why I haven't heard from her, which I hope is not the case. But at the same time it's hard not to make the connection.)
At the Homeschool Academy it's been the same situation as the library activities. The other parents have friends already, or have bonded through their church or belief.. The Kid has made some friends in his class (they're grouped by two grades, so K/1st, 2nd/3rd, etc.), which is great! But without getting to know the parents he doesn't see those friends more than once a week. And his friends since babyhood are all in school themselves, so seeing them is tough during the school year (and they live all over the city).
And did I mention the Judo classes? Almost all the kids are homeschooled, but again most of the parents know each other through church or at least have bonded over their shared beliefs. Sometimes it's been so hard to listen to them talk and hold my tongue. I mean, I try to socialize with them and am nice to them, but there isn't a chance of our kids socializing outside of Judo.
The Kid is the opposite of me - outgoing and extroverted. We've never had any trouble leaving him with babysitters, or him acting shy when he first meets people. He'll talk to anyone to the point he's told cashiers at the store what my PIN number was! And he'll play with any kid who will play with him, even younger kids who can't really talk yet. Which is what led to the turning point for me, when I realized that homeschooling in this city will not work for us.
We had gone to the library, one of the biggest in the city, and it had a new play area in the Children's Section. When we got there a bunch of kids were there with their parents. I thought, "This is great! He'll get to play!" Yet every single kid he asked to play with him said no. The look on the Kid's face broke my heart. He wanted so much to have some fun with other kids instead of being stuck with me, but despite so many kids being around and the toys being there he had no one who could or who was interested. It really hit me that he needs to be with other kids a lot more than the few interactions I can find him. He needs the chance to meet new kids, develop relationships with them in his own way, and hopefully develop one or two best friendships. He needs to be able to have fun with them at least during the work week, even if we don't get to see them much on weekends, and a chance to mature through his anger explosions (an issue where he has a hard time controlling his actions when mad, though he's matured a lot in that regard in the last two years).
The Kid did end up getting to play that day when a new group of kids came in, but it stuck with me what had happened earlier. I needed to speak to the Husband about it.
That was a turbulent discussion.
At first I intended to only speak to the Husband about ideas of what we could try to give the Kid more interactions. But he immediately started talking about putting the Kid into school. He had been having worries about the Kid's education and how we would make sure he was actually progressing, along with what we would do when he got past the Elementary grades. The Husband has also been talking to a local school psychologist who's married to a co-worker, and from what I understand she brought up the socialization aspect. I immediately went on the defensive. Homeschooling was going well in terms of academics, and though some days were tough, I was enjoying it. The Kid seemed to be okay. And homeschooling has been something we planned on since I was pregnant with him. But in the back of my mind was my worry about the Kid and his chance to meet and interact with kids, though I really didn't want to admit it to the Husband.
Well, because I felt like I had somehow failed the Kid in that aspect. That if I admitted to my doubts, if I said that we should look into a school, that I had failed completely in homeschooling while I knew plenty of families that made it work. On top of it, I read so many homeschooling books that talked about how easy it is to socialize and meet other homeschoolers. I spent so much time searching over and over again for activities and groups locally. I had so many ideas and hopes for homeschooling. So it was tough for me to admit that it wasn't going to work with the Kid, at least not now. We finally came to an understanding and an agreement that we had to do what was best for the Kid, and it looks as if sending him to school would be the best.
I know it may seem silly, but I was really upset for a few days. Something I was prepared to do for years, that I had spent so much time and effort in learning about and doing, and that I had bought supplies for, was going to end.
It took a several days for me to fully adjust.
I confided in my online friends since so many of them have kids in school, and I wanted some advice on what to look for in schools, plus it was a place I could vent about everything. I did get some great advice, plus the reminder that I can still be an active part of the Kid's education. I started looking at the local schools, especially in a certain district (this town has several school districts, not just one like most cities of this size do - it originally had to do with the richer areas not wanting to fund the other areas). We've focused on two, both of which aren't in the district we live in (don't get me started on how bad our local district is), so it's a little bit of a drive, but they are both part of the International Baccalaureate program. (http://www.ibo.org/), something that interests us.
We took a tour of the first school this morning, and were impressed. The Assistant Principle took us around, and seems like a nice guy. The school has daily French instruction for all students and a full French immersion program that students can be put into. Plus two recesses, gym, music, art, and a few clubs. It's the further of the two, but it's all main roads to get there, so it's about 20 minutes away. The program seems to be challenging, and they say that they keep a close eye to a student's progress. There's a speech pathologist there, so the Kid can get some speech therapy if they think he still needs it. (Have I mentioned his mild speech delay? It's something that we've been working on since he was 2.) And since we're watching him for any signs of ADD/ADHD (a strong family trait from the Husband's paternal side), they have ways of working with that too.
The second school we're touring on Monday.
I've been working on overcoming my deep disappointment and anger at this situation (something that was really tested last week when the homeschooling moms at Judo were saying how "easy" it is to homeschool in this city - HA!), and have come to accept it. I also came to realize that I didn't fail in this. When there's very little resources to give a homeschooled kid the chance socialize with other kids, what else can you do? Denver, being so much bigger and much more diverse, has a lot of homeschooling groups for all types of families, but driving there any time we wanted to do an activity isn't feasible or smart (when it comes to gas). It also doesn't help friendships grow when we live over an hour away. But seeing the school this morning helped me a lot. I'm starting to get excited for the Kid. He's kind of "meh" about it, but I think he'll be excited when he's actually there.
My job now is to finish up his 1st grade studies, and work with him to make sure he'll be ready for 2nd grade at school. I'm planning on working with him through the summer so he won't be behind his classmates academically. After we look at the other school on Monday, we'll put in the application to the school district for the schools, then will have to wait to find out where he'll be going until April 1st. (We have to do all of this because we don't live in the district the schools are in.)
I'm also going to enjoy this time with the Kid, and look forward to the time I'll finally have to myself once he's in school. It'll be weird to have all of that free time alone. I don't know yet what I'll do. Maybe I'll try to find a hobby or even a job. But in the end, the Kid going to school will be a new adventure, and I hope a good one.