What happened? The school evaluation found Flurpee had strong reading mechanics and weak reading comprehension, analysis, and/or communication skills and, if they had gotten that far, bad or non-existent writing ability.
How did this happen? I can trace it back to a number of combined factors. I will document them here in case anyone else is blind to some of the pitfalls I embraced. Some of it was laziness, some was a lack of age-appropriate expectations.
- I did not consider my daughter ready for extensive handwriting at 8 years old. It turns out that the public school expects a lot of writing (including writing with real exposition--not just creative writing) at this age.
- I was being laid back about homeschooling. Part of this was due to wanting to avoid confrontations with Flurpee about getting her work done. Another part was because I was being pulled from our work by Omega (the newly 2 year-old). Another part was my anxiousness to be done with the homeschool journey and looking forward to getting my life back--new career, more baby time, more house time, more me time. Not to mention the distractions of real-life like car repairs, home repairs, Christmas shopping, etc. And not to mention the distraction of non-academic homeschooling pursuits that were fun but that took a lot of time away from the schooling. And not to mention the draw of a little more of an unschooling approach--kids will get things in their own time, no need to pressure them, no need to add stress to the parent-child relationship.
- I was not paying enough attention to Flurpee without Hanover. Whenever I did a literature lesson (the time when we would be learning the meaning of our stories), Hanover was so excited to answer the questions, I realize now that Flurpee didn't get a chance to show what she wasn't getting.
- I changed curriculum and chose a lower level to avoid missing out on essentials. You only need to do that once to fall behind a whole year.
- I was picking and choosing curricula to fill in all of the subjects myself instead of going with a full curriculum package. Some things fell through the cracks and this also helped mask my poor age-appropriate expectations.
- I was playing to my strengths and was putting off dealing with the subject I felt weakest teaching. For me, the subject I was procrastinating with was writing. For others it might be math or science. The fact is that it is a lot harder to play catch up (especially for average learners--bright kids, by definition, catch on quicker and need less time to get up to speed) than to work on the concepts early and often.
- I would mistake Flurpee for her sister sometimes. Flurpee just doesn't have the same kind of strengths or weaknesses as her sister and because something went a particular way with Hanover, I would sometimes assume Flurpee with deal with it or get it the same way. This kind of thing didn't happen a lot, but it did happen.
- Just because I already did something didn't mean I was done doing it. One of the things you realize with kids is just how often something may need to be repeated (occasionally with different levels of development and sometimes just with the same level) for them to really get it. When I had done something with Hanover I would check mark the little space inside my brain that said 'done' and sometimes I thought I really was 'all done', not just 'done for Hanover'.
- I wanted to put her into public school only two months before the state tests. I know the evaluator was right about all of Flurpee's skills and do not feel that she misstated them in any way because of the tests. Though I do believe the tests and Flurpee's very late birthday had a lot to do with being offered to go into a lower grade rather than staying in the upper grade with additional help.
So I could have put Flurpee in school in a lower grade with additional help. It's public school, it's not like they could turn her away. The lower grade had always been a possibility and wouldn't be out of the running since her birthday is so late in the year. So why not do it? Because Flurpee had always considered herself to be in the older grade and I couldn't bring myself to put her in at the younger grade and have her always think "well, I would be in this grade except for my mother homeschooled me for two years so I'm a year behind."
Which leaves her still home with me. I've retooled my mentality, retooled our schedule, and retooled our rules. I have dusted off the workbooks I bought many years ago. Now I'm playing catch up. We will see where Flurpee is at the end of the summer and if she's not ready for the higher grade then she and I will decide whether we want to go to the lower grade in public school or continue with homeschooling for one last hurrah to catch up for the following year.
The good news out of all of this--yes, there is good news!--is knowing more of what is expected for Flurpee's age. I was also pleasantly surprised at the higher expectations from public school. Flurpee is quite a bit more motivated to do school work. Any time she starts to give me a hard time or says she does not want to listen, I only need to remind her that she needs to work hard to be able to go to school and that will usually lead to more cooperation.