Thursday, June 26, 2008

When should the school year start?

If you didn't have any outside influences making up your mind for you, when would you start the school year? Now we all have some outside influences that help us make this decision, but since we homeschool, we don't necessarily have to follow the public school schedule. For instance, we finished up most of our school-work back in May. Right now we are very casually finishing up a few things that were left undone, but could be considered busy work, since they are not vital to her schooling. So how do we answer this question?

Well, one way to find an answer is to ask if our child is ready to start her new year of school. The answer to that one would be "yes." She has seen the new books. She has seen Mommy making plans and shopping for supplies. Oh yes! she is ready! She has on occasion asked to look at her new text books for the fun of it.

Another way to find an answer is to ask if the teacher (that would be me) is ready to start teaching. The answer to that one is "not yet but soon." I have always loved the start of school, but I also see the need for a little bit of a break before diving in to a new year (especially since we have a lot more planned for this year than last year). I also have to consider how to plan around other summertime activities. Last week was day camp week. This week and next are swim lessons. Both of these things had us completely shift our family schedule to accommodate them. After swim lessons are over, we are free to start a new year whenever we please.

Are there any other influences that might determine when we start? Well, yes. The society around us does influence us some, even though we are relatively out of sync from it. As far as I'm concerned the labels "Kindergarten," "First grade" and so on are artificial constructs and we are teaching our kids where they are. But, our children do interact with other kids (yes, homeschoolers do know other people) who are in public school and to whom such labels matter. Therefore these things matter to our kids. Our oldest has already started telling people that she is a first grader even though we haven't actually started her studies yet. The summer always was an awkward time where you always have to clarify whether you are finishing a grade, in it currently, or about to start it. I generally have liked the idea of year round school, but you still need to have some kind of starting and stopping point to be able to easily talk to others (especially non-homeschoolers). In our life, those other people we spend the most time with are at our church. Our kids are in classes divided by age or grade level as appropriate. This is where they get their "classroom" experience. So when does our church start the new year? July 6th of all things. I think this is actually because it allows the year to be divided up into relatively neat quarters for planning of classes. As a result most of the kids start their new grade long before they start school for fall. So we could start about the same time and be in sync with the church classes or we could do our own thing (whatever that is).

Another consideration is convenience. I had hoped to be pregnant by now so that the early months of pregnancy (when I generally am in a sleep-deprived fog) would be out of the way before starting the school year. Sometimes, that which is convenient doesn't happen and you have to make do with a more inconvenient alternative. Having no idea when said pregnancy might happen, it wouldn't do to delay our kid's education for it.

There is also the fact that this is the first year that we have to satisfy bureaucratic rules. Since we live in California, we will have to file our affidavit as a private school to exempt our daughter from compulsory attendance in public school. But that doesn't need to be done until October. Still, we have to figure out if we are going to join a homeschool support group (probably), decide on legal representation (since you never know), and watch what is going on in the court case that might change everything (probably no news until September).

So, have we come up with an idea of when we will start our new year?

We probably will start in early July. I don't want our break to be too long or our daughter will start forgetting last year's stuff and may decide that she doesn't want to go back to her school work. We will be in sync with her church friends. And we can do all the bureaucratic stuff as needed along the way. Though I may wait until after my birthday. :-)

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