It's suddenly dawned on me that Felix will be three years old in February, and therefore old enough to attend 'Pre-Kindy' or a 3 year old program, which is usually one or two mornings a week. This realization also made me think about school even more than I already do, as his future education has been on my mind almost constantly since before he was even born.
I didn't have the best experience at school, particularly primary school. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I had trouble making friends, and it's something that I'm still not good at. While it used to upset me, now I have just realised that I will always be a bit socially awkward and I'm ok with that.
I find the inherent structure of school to not be all that great for actually making friends. You are lumped in with a group of children who happen to be the same age as you and live nearby; that could very well be the only thing you share in common. It's not that you aren't given opportunity to interact with the other kids, it's more the issue of whether they are actually the people you would like to interact with. While it's good to be able to interact with all kinds of people and find something to talk about, it's a bit tough being stuck with them day in and day out for around seven years. I usually got along better with the kids I met in after-school activities.
The other main issue I had at school was the complete lack of help I had with maths. I have really struggled with maths right from the beginning. I'm not stupid; I just needed it to be explained in a different way. Everyone learns differently; the three learning styles are kinesthetic, visual and auditory. A good teacher will ensure they present the same lesson three different ways to cater to each student. Unfortunately this certainly didn't happen in the classrooms I was in as a child.
What really angers me though is that every primary school teacher I had knew very well that I needed serious help with maths. I needed a program, separate lessons, a tutor, something. Instead of getting help, I got yelled at and told that I had 'put a wall up' and 'hated maths'. Neither of these comments were constructive or helpful, and instead of making me 'work harder' or whatever the teacher's intention was, they sent me in the opposite direction so that by the time I got to high school I had given up completely.
The incompetence of the teachers I had in primary school is astounding and is definitely something I worry about with my boys. Because of my experience, I intend to stay very involved with their schooling and my goal is to know at all times exactly what is going on in the classroom. Perhaps this is smothering or naive of me, but the fact is they are my children and I know them much better than any teacher ever will. I have their best interest as my top priority, whereas the teacher has at least twenty other children to worry about as well. Even if she is the most caring, dedicated teacher on the planet, she just won't be as concerned about my boys as I am. And that's fine, it's not her job to be their parent, but the teacher will be in charge of their care for about seven hours a day and directing their education for at least a year.
I often read homeschool blogs or look at homeschool curriculums. It's something that has sparked my curiosity and continues to present many advantages the more I learn about it. And more recently, it has become something I find myself seriously considering. I previously believed that homeschooling was akin to brainwashing and that the children would never learn to interact in society; having several homeschooling friends has shown me that this is not at all the case. Homeschooling would give me the advantage of tailoring lessons to suit the boys' interests, ensure each subject is covered adequately, completely cut out the problem of them having to complete 'busy work' or homework (meaning work completed outside regular lesson times, cutting into family or leisure time). It would mean their day would be more interesting as we would be able to go out every day and continue the lessons in 'the real world' (this is something that really appeals to me).
One of the biggest advantages for me is the benefit posed to Victor. Obviously he is quite far away from going to school, but I am really stuck on this issue. Homeschooling would mean we would have plenty of time to fit in his daily physiotherapy. It would reduce his contact with sick classmates: while obviously we can't protect him from every person out in public with a cold (or worse), my experience working in child care has taught me that it is impossible to have a class full of perfectly healthy children. Someone always has a runny nose, a cough, a cold. In other locations it's easy to remove ourselves if there is someone nearby with a contagious illness, but it's more difficult in the confined space of a classroom where he can't just walk out. While we can certainly request to be notified if there is a sick child at school so we can go pick him up, I can't see this being practical at all. I see him missing a lot of school.
The other problem I think of is what if Victor's teacher does not understand the importance of keeping him away from anyone who is sick? I've found it difficult enough to explain to people as it is. If Victor catches a respiratory illness from someone he could potentially be hospitalized. Is it worth the risk?
Victor would also need to take enzymes at school. My preference would be for the teacher to have these at her desk so he could take them in class before lunch rather than go to the nurse's office, and then for him to take them himself when he is older. But I'm not sure if the school would allow that; they might require him to go to the nurse's office every time he eats anything. Then there is the fact that they might forget to give him enzymes. One time won't harm him, but if they are routinely 'forgetting' then it will cause problems for him.
Of course, this is assuming that his treatment does not change in the next five years, but of course it will. There will be additional medications to take, additional therapies. Cystic fibrosis is always going to be there and will always be part of his life, but I don't want him to be ostracised for it.
On the other hand, I also feel that regular school will be good for the boys. It is normal for me for children to go to a traditional school. I don't want to keep them in a bubble, and while I would ensure they did outside activities with other children and provide plenty of opportunity for interaction, I am worried that it would become too easy for me to shelter them too much. I also worry that I lack the organization to effectively homeschool. I want the boys to be able to teach me things when they come home from school and to learn about other points of view, even the ones I don't agree with. Having them in regular school would enable me to go back to work (ideally teaching, mainly for the good work hours and the fact I will get holidays off with them).
I have not really made a decision and it's probably something I will think about for a long time. At the moment we have defaulted to the local public school. It's small, which I like; the test scores are good, the website seems promising (no spelling mistakes!). I'm sure that once I give them a chance and get over my inherent mistrust of leaving my children with non-family members we will love the school. The other thing is that it doesn't have to be one or the other; we can see how things go and review the situation later if we need to.
Does anyone have advice for me on this topic?