Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dusting Off & Going Rogue

It's been such a long time since I've posted that I'm just going to pick up where we are at now.  I'll fill in  some of the blanks here and there when I get a chance or feel extra wordy.   :)  I must say that I'm surprised at how much traffic this blog still gets even when it's been left dormant for two years.  ...and the number of hits from sites within China amazes me even more.  Who knew we were so popular in China?

Just as a quick note... We're still in Bydgoszcz, Poland, still have 3 kids who continue to grow & amaze us, we're still a military family, and we're still Catholic.  I think those are all the biggies.

Vic & Bailey are in the same local school; Vic in Kindergarten, and Bailey in Preschool.  We're extremely happy with their school and especially their teachers.  We couldn't have asked for a better setting.

Here are The Littles in a totally staged video.  These two had been walking home, sweetly holding hands and chatting.  I pull out my cell phone to catch their cuteness, and they go all Hollywood on me. Can you hear Vic?   "Nice day, isn't it?"

For a long time we felt that Jack needed some intense one-on-one teaching to catch him up to US Standards for 4th grade.  A couple of things happened at the beginning of this school year that helped nudge us in a different direction for our oldest son.

So... [Gulp]  At the end of September, we withdrew Jack from the International School that he  attended for the past two years.

This was a massive step for us.  Although we're used to change (Hi, Army!), deciding to home school was a very serious departure for us.  We agonized over the decision.  Yes, Jack was very behind his US peers, but he was enjoying friendships with kids from a dozen different countries.  What kid gets the chance to learn about International Relations at the tender age of 10?  This is part of what we would be taking him away from, and it was a physically painful action to make.

Once our minds were made up, the choice of curriculum was our next hurtle.  Oh my gosh, do you know how many different ways a parent can home school?  Too many to count.  My background is not in education, so I focused on total curriculum packages that could hold my hand & tell me what to say.
In the end, I narrowed the field down to Laurel Springs and Calvert Homeschool.

Laurel Springs SchoolI really wanted Laurel Springs to work for us.  Olympic gymnasts attend this private online school as well as child actors and other athletes.  Abigail Breslin is an alum!  She was nominated for an oscar for goodness sake.  Surely this would be a quality school for our son.

Laurel Springs may still have been a wonderful choice for us, but there just wasn't enough feedback available for me to feel comfortable.  From what I read, this would be a perfect choice for the High School level, but I wasn't so sure about their elementary school.  I had to let this one go.

My other option was Calvert Home School.  This seemed to be the path more traveled with families living overseas, and that initially turned me away.  I thought I wanted something more significant, extraordinary for our son.  What I realized after long days of school comparisons, is that he needed a solid, tested curriculum.

Starting at 4th grade, Calvert requires the prospective student to take a skills test in order to see where the child is at grade-wise.  The boxes of books and materials don't get shipped out until after the skills test is looked over by their staff.  This took 3 days for us, which was the same as other families I know.

Once we got the go-ahead for Jack to continue in 4th grade, the boxes were shipped out.   As we have a size and weight restriction for our post, I decided to have Calvert mail the boxes directly to our Polish address.  This was considerably more spendy than using the US Postal Service, but I was provided with a tracking number (we don't usually get that) and received the box after only 5 days.

We've just completed our first week, and I am impressed with how integrated the different subjects are. Several subjects will cover an area that another subject is working on.  For example: In art we looked at and drew cave crawings while in history we covered cave men and how they evolved.  This is the kind of hand-holding I wanted... A well planned curriculum that takes me step by step through the whole school year.

I'll end with a summer photo of my kids on our whirlwind summer in the US.  Please ignore the ridiculous amount of crumbs on my sweet children.  In their defense, breakfast that morning was crazy delicious.

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