Saturday, March 14, 2015


There is part of me that still can't believe I'm actually homeschooling Sawyer this year.  There's another part of me that can't believe I actually like it.  We're about ready to start week 6, and I thought I'd share my thoughts so far and give a little update.

The end of 2014, as the school year was wrapping up here in CR, and even though his report card showed excellent grades, I suddenly had this sense that maybe I needed to homeschool Sawyer for 3rd grade.  Those of you that have known me for awhile, and know that I was a public school teacher, know the biases I've had against homeschooling.  BUT. . .  over the last few years, my heart has softened.  I can't exactly say how this happened.  Maybe it's because I've met and talked with many homeschooled kids and families and have seen "good fruit" in the way of relevant, poised and deep-thinking kids that challenged my prejudices.  Maybe because my belief in the public education system went out the window when we realised we needed to put our kids in private school here, and a door was cracked open that I didn't notice, opening up my mind to a variety of school options.  Maybe it was because the first time I really considered homeschool was a few years ago as a way to help our monthly budget.  I don't know.

Anyway, we wrestled with what to do.  Would homeschool give Sawyer the one-on-one attention that his teachers couldn't give him?  Would we jeopardise his sociability?  Should we make him tough it out  and have a more 'typical' school experience?  Would he grow to hate school if we put him in this year b/c he wouldn't be able to copy things fast enough, read well enough, or write neatly enough?  Would he be able to enter the Costa Rican school system in the future without a 'real' school report card?  Would the potential benefits outweigh the risks?  We prayed and went back and forth.  As I investigated the legalities, looked at curriculums, analysed Sawyer's strengths (math, creativity, intelligence, energy, passion) and weaknesses (focus, impulse control, fine motor skills, etc), and prayed, I came to the conclusion that it was 'now or never' if we were going to try homeschool.  In short, I decided to go for it, was able to order curriculum and my parents brought it down in a suitcase in January when they visited.  (It was nearly 50 lbs. of books!)

So. . . I'm relieved to say it's been going well.  Sawyer asked me the other day if it was possible to homeschool through college; I told him we weren't ready to make that decision yet.

He does enjoy homeschool, though we have had our moments of conflict.  It's been really insightful for me and is helping me to understand the things that must have been a challenge for both him and his teachers in the past!!  In the moments where he would give up or tune out and take an incomplete in school, I am able to insist he finish his work.  When he needs a break to use up some energy or to refocus, I can let him run around outside, play with legos, or bounce a basket ball.  (Can I just say again how THANKFUL I am for this house and YARD we are living in!!?!?)  We are able to move around the house for different 'subjects' to keep things new and interesting.  I can give him immediate follow-up and feedback all day long.  We do science experiments, reading, and I can let him skip a few math problems if he already knows how to do them.  I can add or take away curriculum according to his needs.  One thing we did over the last 2 weeks was an animal research report that got him writing about something he was interested in (chipmunks :) ), and helped teach the writing process.  He's also learning world history (let's face it--I'm learning, too), and geography.  We are even going through the Spanish and Social Studies books that his school uses, just to stay in the loop here.  Added bonus: he gets to do PE with Thompson at our sports site and Art at the Wood Shop with Joshua.

So far the biggest challenges for me have been related to schedule and also my role in SI.  Sawyer focuses and cooperates much better in the morning, so if we can plow through everything from 7-12 we finish without too many bumps in the road.  But when we run errands, or do anything out of the 'ordinary' it's tough to regain focus later on.  The other hard thing is scaling back my involvement in all things SI-CR-related.  I'm still trying to find a good rhythm for myself in this area.  I told Jeff early on that I was willing to sacrifice that stuff if we decided that homeschool was the best choice for this year.  I meant it, but I also want to be careful to stay connected with our staff and the things going on in sites.  Homeschool can be very isolating, which is probably one of the biggest drawbacks.  In the States people have formed well-organised co-ops and schools sometimes allow kids to still do sports or other activities on their campuses.  Here, there is very little of that since homeschool isn't recognised.

I still worry that I will do things wrong, or screw him up somehow, but mostly I have deep peace about homeschooling Sawyer this year.  A friend once, very wisely, advised us to take school one year at a time.  So here we are in this year.  One kid in private school, one in a private preschool, and one in homeschool.