Questioning Our Decision to Partner - Eva Varga

November 11, 2011

As you know, we have changed the way we homeschool now that we live in California.  In Oregon, we homeschooled independently from the schools and I had complete freedom to educate my children in the way in which I felt was best. We had a very eclectic approach – with strong bend towards Charlotte Mason and Classical, at least in my mind.  However, in reality, we were very much Unschoolers for we tended to allow life to lead us and I didn’t worry much if we didn’t accomplish what I had originally envisioned for the week, month or year for that matter … in fact, I didn’t worry at all. 
Now that we are in California, the rules are different.  We didn’t know anyone.  I thereby opted to partner with a charter school.  We thereby operate under an umbrella and have to jump through their hoops.  In the beginning, this seemed like the perfect solution to the frustrations I had experienced in Oregon. The munchkins seemed to like the teacher facilitator and looked forward to taking part in the enrichment day they call, “Homeschool Tuesday”. 
We started working with the facilitator in early August as the official academic year begins sooner than in Oregon.  “Homeschool Tuesday”,  however, didn’t begin until the 13th of September. One of the benefits to the umbrella school we selected was the option to take part in music lessons (guitar or violin) at no cost (an instrument was even provided on loan).  As our foreign language instruction was significantly more money here, I felt this was a blessing. 
Frustration #1
Sweetie selected violin and she very much enjoys it.  It seems the violin is well suited for her personality.  Because she can already read music, Sweetie was partnered with another little girl (5 years old) whose been taking lessons for a few years.  From what I was lead to believe, Sweetie would have 15 minutes one-on-one with the instructor and then she would share 15 minutes with the other girl.  Thus far, however, she has shared the entire 30 min block.  This week, another girl joined them so now there are three.  Sweetie expressed to me today that she feels like she isn’t learning anything new.  She is disappointed that they have been working on the same song since she started and that she rarely gets personal instruction from the teacher.  Perhaps we were spoiled having Janellybean all to ourselves for an hour (30 minutes each) for piano each week.  I don’t know what is normal.  What is sufficient time to learn new skills? 
Frustration #2
Buddy chose to stay with guitar, with which he is already familiar.  His lessons were to begin on the 13th of September – the same day as “Tuesday Homeschool”.  From what I understand, there are more students interested in guitar than they have loaners.  Fortunately, he has his own youth guitar so we didn’t expect it to be a problem.
During the rotations on Tuesday, guitar was to begin at 1:30.  Buddy was in another class at that time and he was supposed to be released early for guitar.  Unfortunately, being that it was the first day, this detail was forgotten.  Only because I had stayed on site and brought it to their attention did they realize the mistake.  He thereby had time only to take his guitar out of the case and tune it up. 
When the class was released, he came up to me in tears.  Apparently, the other kids had laughed at him. He explained, “They said I have a baby guitar.  I want a new guitar.  I don’t want this one anymore.”  The facilitator and I did our best to console him.  She even spoke with each of the guitar students, requesting they apologize and/or compliment him on his guitar.  “It is fortunate that his guitar is smaller because he will be able to learn better.  If I had the funds,” she said, “I would purchase small guitars for each of you.”  Ah … life lessons.
Certainly, my frustrations with music instruction are insignificant.  And I know it is too early to tell.  Wait it out, I must.  See it through.  I guess I am just impatient.  Wastefulness … even of time … is one of my biggest pet peeves.
Frustration #3
Through August, we met with the facilitator for weekly teacher planning meetings.  These meetings lasted two hours and with the necessary drive time … it was a solid 3 hour block.  Each week, the facilitator would walk us through the required lessons for the upcoming week (in the beginning, many of them were assessment tests) and then in turn, the kids would share with her the work we had completed at home. 
In September, our meetings evolved to every other week, or biweekly.  Immediately, I felt a sense of relaxation come over us as now we had more time to accomplish all that was expected of us.  However … this feeling of calm didn’t last long as I realized that due to the busy work that we were required to do (as little as it was) and the extracurricular activities that we were now taking part, we had little time to integrate the Charlotte Mason lessons we so enjoyed in the past (nature study, art study, composer study, etc).
BarCon fell within the the first two week cycle and we thereby spent 4 days with friends in Portland.  It takes 10 hours to drive there .. so much of this time was in the car.  We did manage to get some lessons done along the way … but it threw our routines out of whack and a las, we accomplished everything on the “required list” with the exception of science.  Shocked?  My favorite subject … the one in which I am most equipped to teach … is always the one that slips between the cracks.
At our teacher planning meeting yesterday, the facilitator stated to me, “You are doing your children a dis-service not teaching them science.”  I was dumb-founded.  I am teaching them science – we just didn’t cover it this week in a tangible manner.  Other subjects had taken precedence – logic and strategy (game playing), Mandarin & Chinese culture (we made dumplings / jiaozi from scratch), heritage & current events (we attended the Sons of Norway lodge meeting and enjoyed a presentation on the recent tragedies in Oslo), physical education (both kids started swim team), and special social time with friends (homeschool picnic, lake day, etc). 
Frustration #4
During this meeting, she asks the kids to share their work … to elaborate on their projects and to occasionally, read aloud excerpts of their writing.  When she was talking with Buddy, she opened his math book, quickly scanning a couple of pages.  She then asked him, “Can you tell me, what is a product?” He answered, “It is something that you can get at like a grocery store.  Something you buy.”  She acknowledged his answer as correct but requested he answer in the context of math.  
Now … I understand where she is coming from.  I agree, it is important that he understand what product means.  However, recalling the definition of these terms is something Sweetie stumbles on herself frequently.  He is only 6 … a first grader … it would seem to me that asking him to solve the multiplication problem would be a better representation of what he knows. Typically, first grade students do not learn multiplication.  Though I could be off my rocker, I feel that she was searching for something by which she could stump him as a way of indicating to me that I was failing.  

Frustration #6
Sweetie has always been a little reluctant to read.  She has only begun to read chapter books independently this past year.  However, she seldom seems to finish the books she begins.  She’ll get about half way through, and then another will attract her attention.  This bothers me a bit.  Working under the umbrella, the facilitator is required to expose her to all genres of literature.  I love this.  However, she has assigned us a reading text that has many short stories and excerpts from larger works.  Accompanying this textbook are a substantial number of level reader books.  Sweetie now spends much of her time reading these leveled books … while this is good … it leaves her with less time and less inclination to read longer chapter books … living books !! 
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So … this leads me to question whether I made the right decision to partner.  Perhaps I am too self-critical or too sensitive.  I do appreciate that she is helping to discover the “holes” as she says.  Perhaps I need to speak up and express my concerns and frustrations.  Perhaps I only need to manipulate our schedule a little better.  Plan out our lessons in advance – allowing time for both those that we are required to do and those we desire to do.   Urgghhh !!    I have much to contemplate and stew over.  
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