It’s been a bit of a self induced stressful spring. We are busy at home working on the house and the backyard and figuring out Bryan’s job. But on top of that is the challenge of decisions regarding schooling the kids.
Our plan when we moved back to the states was to homeschool for spring while we shopped the enormous swath of ‘options’ and ‘school choice’ in southern Arizona. It’s the first time we have been in the U.S. to figure out how it all works from a student perspective (when I was a teacher in small town Oklahoma there weren’t choices). In the end there really isn’t much of a choice – our local school is not good, failing, and gets bad reviews on bullying. We are on wait lists for a bunch of other options; some public schools, a couple Montessori’s, and other charters. We even looked at private schools, but the cost or religious base is not what we can handle. I have found that school choice is really only for preschool parents who get their kindergartner enrolled and then never leave! It had been pretty disheartening for a couple months with both kids craving a solid friend base and the friends we know already involved and busy in differing schools, but recently it has been rewarding as we have found amazing homeschool resources (including scholarship money), groups, and clubs that outweigh – by far – putting the kids in the local school.
So, after much deliberation and untold hours on school websites, school phone calls, and school tours both kids have concluded that they want to just stay in homeschool. We have finally found two groups with so much to offer that the kids are feeling more settled into a great peer group and can still do a lot of extra-curricular activities that get them involved locally.
Of course, all this was after I took a teacher test to add secondary English qualifications to my teaching credential – and am in the process of transferring certification to Arizona. Like I said, we planned to return to school: all of us. Even me as a teacher. Oh well. There are promising online and part time teacher spots I’ve dug up and, in the end, I love homeschooling these two.
Avi has gotten so involved at BMX that we were at the track 3 times last week. It’s his new passion – lessons, practice, and racing on Friday is a family event! Zoe has a theatre class during his practices, which she loves, but on Friday we are all at the track to hang out, eat cheese pretzels, and cheer Avi. As one of the other dads put it; these are our Friday night lights.
Last session, Zoe’s theatre class performed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, while this session they are working toward a new version of Jem – yes that show from when I was a kid. Apparently its a new movie, too. She enjoys performing a lot, and is quite good at putting her whole self into a role!
In addition to that, we spent the month February working on some amazing science projects that won awards at a local homeschool fair last month, and then at the regional fair this past week. Both kids got 3rd place at SARSEF! Our interests vary; Avi did an experiment with ants to figure out if they could eat a hamburger in a week. Zoe tested the CO2 consumption of 6 types of plants as she is passionate about reversing environmental degradation.
In academics, Zoe is nearly self sufficient. She and I sit down for grammar and spelling, we over a new topic or review her math, and then she is on her own handling writing projects, math work, science analysis, or history research. She comes up with her own projects (I guide) and really loves to learn. Her goal of reproducing Kufu’s pyramid with sugar cubes is still in the works.
Avi is most excited about field trips, art projects, science experiments, and outings. He has been working hard to improve his reading and math, and is more motivated when it’s all part of a larger theme; so I make sure to keep things focused. It’s been Egypt recently (history focus), so we read Egyptian stories, made up math problems with sphinxes, and mummified a chicken… all while moving forward in a set curriculum. Now we are moving on to animals (science focus). He absolutely loves stories; and gleans information best from reading aloud. Challenging? Yes! Fun? Of course!
Physical fitness is also essential – especially with these two active kids! They have gymnastics classes once a week and are excited to be proficient at cartwheels and round offs after only a couple months. A large homeschool group has a gigantic PE session weekly as well, which is awesome and super organized. It gets the kids learning group sports I can’t teach with only two, and gives us all another social outlet. In addition to those plans we are on the bikes to the park, at the desert museum, or out on trails at least once a week. I can’t miss out on so much sun to take in.
I finally feel like we have begun to find our place in this sprawling city, and am excited to get more involved as the kids move on to new grades next school year. It’s taken a while, as it always does.