So, we’ve made some progress but still have quite a bit to research. LittleB now knows the plan, and gets the biggest, cutest, happiest grin when we talk about how much fun we have in store for him. When we snuggled on the sofa last night and started reading next week’s class-assigned reading story, he complained how boring the story was and said, “Mama, I do not want to read this story when you teach me.” I squeezed him and whispered one of our best-kept secrets so far: “Dude, your first assigned reading for fourth grade is an Iron Man story Daddy found.” His eyes popped wide and a goofy smile bloomed, followed by a hug that nearly squeezed the breath out of me. He did what I can only describe as an interpretative dance of Happy into the family room where he assaulted his dad with hugs that became a round of wrestling. We cannot wait to get started so we can see more of that enthusiasm seven days a week, not just on weekends.
We joined HSLDA on the recommendation of virtually every homeschool website and forum we came across, and that is the best $115 we have spent. What a fantastic resource! Who would have guessed Alabama’s homeschool laws would be a bit backwards? (That is a joke, by the way.) You must affiliate with a church school or hold a teaching certificate to homeschool. I may look into the teaching certificate in a year or two, but for now, we found a church school that appears to meet our needs and does not dictate anything but what the State requires. HSLDA has a group that specializes in curriculum development and support for special needs children, and we are just now getting in touch with them; initial contact says they will be extremely helpful as we move through the curriculum planning process. On the legal front, we are crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s before May when we are ready to withdraw him from public school.
We intend to get standardized testing conducted so we have a clear picture of where LittleB is academically so we can tailor his curriculum to his needs, and HSLDA pointed us to a few options. I have the credential requirements to administer the IOWA myself, so we think we will do that to let him test in a comfortable environment (home) so his scores are not impacted by external distractions. We are purchasing fourth grade curriculum now, but based on the results of testing, we will add 2nd or 3rd grade resources into the front end of his lesson plans to get him back to grade level. Which leads us to our next hurdle.
Mr.B and I both have suspicions we will need to back his curriculum up to somewhere in second grade. The more we dug into his current academic “place,” the more suspicious we became that his grades have been inflated. As an example, LittleB has straight A’s with a few B’s, yet his STAR reading score shows he reads on a 2nd grade level and requires additional intervention; how is it possible to get high grades if reading comprehension – necessary for comprehension of every subject – is so far behind? He’s getting ready to enter 4th grade and is over a year behind on reading comprehension. Looking at work samples and his ability to demonstrate the knowledge at home, our suspicions are reasonably confirmed. Of course we want our son to have the pride of earning good grades, but the key word there is “earn.” We were initially upset to see this discrepancy, both with the school and with ourselves for not recognizing it sooner, but with a few dozen deep breaths, we are putting it behind us and moving forward. In the end, it just means LittleB needs extra focus time on reading comprehension to get caught up, so that is what we will do. Once we put our grumpy aside, we are coming up with dozens of ideas to get him excited about reading, and getting excited ourselves to start down this new road!
As far as curriculum, change must be intentional with LittleB, so we spent the last couple weeks researching the different curriculum options to put together a game plan that will transition him with the least amount of stress. While we think he will eventually do well with a virtual curriculum – he loves computer time! – he is currently accustomed to book learning. We are starting with Abeka math, language arts, and history; we’ve heard glowing reviews from everyone we’ve talked to about the system, and we liked that it came with curriculum design so we can transition ourselves a bit easier. Math was a big question for us, but with his learning style, we think the spiral method will work better for him with the frequent review and refresher of material. For science, we are using R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey. We are putting together a self-designed course we will call “Manners” to focus on life and personal interaction skills, and are deciding if we want to use a designed Art curriculum or let that go freeform; he loves to draw, color, paint, and listen to music, and I’m a fan of acrylics and have a ton of paints, brushes, and spare canvases, so we are debating if we cannot just let him “do his thing” in that department. We also have a few virtual supplement options picked out – Time4Learning and ClickNKids – to give him some computer time, and see how he takes to a virtual system. Basically, we are picking up textbook curriculum because we think his transition will need to be more gradual, but he sometimes surprises us and jumps into change, so we will use whatever curriculum format he enjoys the most and eBay whatever does not work.
As far as timeframe, he is done with 3rd grade at the end of May, and starting in June, we are going to begin a 2nd and 3rd grade review based on weak areas identified in the standardized testing. Our theory is that he knows quite a bit of the materials from these grades, but there are a few key puzzle pieces that did not click for him. If we can identify those puzzle pieces and hammer them home, everything will click in place and he’ll be caught up. Of course, few things go according to plan, so we will play it by ear and see how it goes. We may be able to get him caught up with just a Summer review, but if it takes until the end of the year or into the next, that is fine. In the end, we need to get him caught up before he is pressed into new material, because the further he’s pushed without those critical pieces of understanding, the further behind he becomes.
The more we research, the more excited we all become. Homeschool laws in Alabama throw a few extra kinks in the plan, but that is okay. We have a few months to get our plans in place – we change nothing on LittleB without having it planned out and prepared in advance because change must be structured he struggle with chaos – and we feel more prepared each day.