We are back to school, or back to school at home, and it has been ROUGH. Let me explain. Jacob has the same teacher that he did last year. I requested her, because she was amazing for him. He was in a 2/3 combo class, which I initially didn’t like the idea of at all, but once I went to Back to School Night, I was intrigued, and by October, I was completely on board. Rather than splitting her time in half, Jacob’s wonderful teacher has all of the students at their own individual levels in each subject. She splits them into small groups and does a lot of individual teaching. This lets the students stay on topics that they need more assistance with for as long as they need, and also to accelerate forward as far as they can and want to go. Jacob did so amazingly well last year. He gained confidence and ability by leaps and bounds. He loves his teacher. I would say her style of teaching really works well for Jacob! He is online now with her from 8:10-1:30 with two ten-minute breaks and one 40-minute lunch break. I like the one-on-one time with his teacher (who is alone in their classroom), but the very short breaks and lunch don’t leave much time for exercise (also hard to do during this heat), and we have a lot of pent-up energy over here. He is very independent and can handle the day mostly on his own, barring any computer or internet issues.
Now for Jackson. During parent-teacher conferences last year, Jackson’s Pre-K teacher told me that he was definitely not ready to start Kindergarten next year. She suggested TK or Transitional Kindergarten. The problem was that the school district has a birth date cutoff for TK, and it’s June 29. Jackson’s birthday is on June 30. He is a perfectly smart and well-behaved boy, but he is emotionally not ready to learn certain concepts. Letters and numbers fly into one ear and out the other. He seemed to stall out last year. In preschool, he could count to 13. In Pre-K, he started to struggle to make it to ten. He can recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory, but he just doesn’t seem to care about those little squiggles that mean numbers. Or letters. He can maybe recognize four uppercase letters. By the end of the school year, as I was seeing firsthand during distance learning, the rest of the class was onto lowercase, and we were still struggling to know any of the uppercase letters. I had him screened for learning difficulties in February, and he seems to be developmentally “on track” for his age. He is just…well, he just doesn’t care to learn things he doesn’t care about. He doesn’t show signs of dyslexia or hearing/vision problems, so it comes down to maturity.
I started early on my quest to get Jackson into the appropriate class this year. After the assessment, I enrolled him on day 1 of enrollment for our district’s TK. I figured they would see his birthday on the form and contact me. Instead, they just pushed him into kindergarten. I called the district enrollment person, and the TK coordinator, and I was getting nowhere. Then the pandemic hit, and everything changed. It was hard to make plans for a future that was so uncertain. Once the district had a plan in place, I had him assessed by the kindergarten teacher. She strongly suggested that he wait one year before entering kinder. With this, I called the district again. Eventually, they offered Jackson TK at a group of schools, none of which I could reach if school goes back into the classroom, which I hope it does. Jacob’s school does not offer TK. I have to get two kids to two schools at 8am, and I have to walk Jackson into the classroom. Looking into other options, I found that the state offers a homeschool program for free, and I called to see if I could get Jackson into their TK. “Of course!” the representative told me. He can learn at his own pace, and have a teacher, so I would be in the role of “teaching coach.” I hadn’t been interested in homeschooling because of the time it would take; I have a lot to do! The role of learning coach was to be available to your student around 4 hours a day. No problem! I figured that, given we were all going to be at home anyway, a teacher who knows how to teach over the Internet is a better choice than a regular classroom teacher, struggling to engage 30 small children. Oh, but there’s a catch. The homeschool program also enrolled him in kindergarten due to his age. So after all of my hard work and effort, I’m back to where I started: a class I don’t think he is ready for, and my fears that he will get frustrated and dislike school, which is an issue when you’re only 5!
We are now on day 5 of homeschool. It’s been tough. He has around 10 modules/subjects a day. The lessons take between fifteen and fifty minutes each. Our first days started with math and ended with art and learning the continents. It was a LOT of work, and Jackson needs my assistance the entire time. He can’t read, which makes it difficult for him to operate a computer, and the activities are online and then offline, with the myriad textbooks and activity books provided by the program. If Jacob were in this, I know he would love doing science experiments, and being challenged with art, but Jackson has a much shorter attention span. He is easily frustrated by the lessons, which are often way over his head. I am frustrated with crouching over his little workspace and reading his assignments, and answering his constant questions about when he can be done, and how much longer? He is frustrated and exhausted, and so am I. So we are working on how to balance the day, and mommy is prioritizing which lessons she feels are most important to focus on before we totally lose him for the day.
Pray for us, friends. We need to find guidance and balance, and a better-working system here. Thursday and Friday we worked on school on and off from 8 am until about 4 pm. That’s one tired and grumpy five-year-old, and an even grumpier 36-year-old. Also, with the prospect of schools reopening, I am really questioning this homeschool decision.