Educating the Wheelers


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Chronicling the Experience of Educating our Children and Managing our Family

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

One decision down, X to go ...

Well, I guess we know now that we won't be attending the Waldorf school down the road. It's a bit of a shame, though, since it's within walking distance, and the campus itself is quite beautiful.

We had been a bit worried that the curriculum wasn't math/sci enough, but we've always assumed that it's our job to supplement gaps in curriculum if need be. Andrew was particularly concerned by how weak they were on computers/programming. Now, looking further and harder into their philosophy and curriculum on the net, we can see that it really doesn't match at all what we want.

One of Andrew's big concerns [and I agree] is that whatever course we take with her, if we ever have to put her back into public school, we want to ensure that she is ahead of public school standards, not behind. I didn't get the feel that would be the case with Waldorf.

Not to mention some of the stranger touchy-feely/spiritual stuff in their philosophy. I won't get into that here, but suffice to say, that's not really our ball of wax, either.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Homeschooling in Texas

It appears that Texas is one of the best states for homeschooling. Their stance is that if your school doesn't take state money, the state can't tell you what to do -- and here, a home school is considered a private school for those purposes. In the late 80s, the court ruled on a Texas standard for homeschools -- they need to meet 3 criteria:

There needs to be 1. Bona Fide learning going on with a 2. Curriculum in 3. the Required Subjects.

What are the required subjects? Reading, spelling, grammar, math and good citizenship.

Good citizenship! I'm sort of charmed by that. When I was in the 4th grade, we took a tour of the Capitol building, and I got to sit in Gov. Sununu's chair. [It was a nice chair.]

Math Curriculum / Calculators

I stumbled across this post today [via Joanne Jacobs] on how widespread early calculator use affects later academic performance. [Hint: it's not good.] My post-partum memory is fuzzy, but I seem to recall not using calculators regularly until my college statistics class. In fact, I still have my trusty TI-36X from that class and still use it. [I've since sold the TI-81 that I used in calculus.] I always enjoyed calculating in my head -- I remember working at San Francisco Street Bakery in college, and I'd keep running tabs for folks as they picked out their items and would announce their total to them before I even got to the cash register. Cheap fun. Heh.

I've been reviewing different math curricula lately -- there's a fairly wide variety of approaches out there, but my gut tells me that tried-and-true like Saxon or Singapore Math is what most effectively teaches math competence. [The girls who babysit for us -- and who are homeschooled -- use Saxon.] One thing I like about them is that they discourage calculator use.

Waldorf

We are within walking/biking distance of a Waldorf school. We have mixed feelings about sending Audrey there. On the plus side, they seem to have a fairly interesting curriculum, and you can be assured that most of the parents are very involved. On the negative side, it might be a little touchy-feely for our tastes. It's too early to tell yet what Audrey's academic interests are going to be, but both Andrew and I are fairly technical math/science/computer types -- Waldorf doesn't seem to emphasize those enough for our taste, but I'm not sure that's a showstopper.

Choices, Choices ...

Our first daughter, Audrey, is nearly 7 months old, and already my husband Andrew and I are struggling over where/how to educate her.

The current options we're kicking around include public school, Catholic school, the very nearby Waldorf school and homeschooling.

Admittedly, I'm not thrilled about public school. I went to a handful of public schools and a handful of Catholic schools. I had a good experience at a small, neighborhood Catholic school, a great experience at a small, rural public school, a poor experience at a wealthy Catholic school and and particularly crappy experience at a suburban "good" public school. I left there after the 10th grade and started at my local community college. But Andrew had a good experience in the Austin, TX public school system [years ago], and isn't nearly as jaded as I am. At the risk of stereotypical old cooter "everything is going to hell"-speak, I do feel like the public schools have only gotten worse since we were there.

Thankfully, we have a few years to decide.