Starting Homeschool in Texas

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

We are starting homeschool in Texas after having an unsatisfied stint at government school. Homeschooling should help us better customize learning and  education to my son’s strengths.


This month we are starting homeschool for my son. We have seen some negative changes with him since he started going to the local government public provided school. I have always discussed with my wife about homeschooling as an option. She comes from a family of teachers, so it has been difficult to explain to her. In the end, the problems from the government school made the decision easy for us.

Some issues or problems we have with government school:

  • We’ve been stressed out almost daily with his school schedule
    • the schedule works well so that parents can be at their 9-to-5 shift, but it sure hurts family time and makes it difficult to wake up for a 5 year old.
  • Always tired when he comes home
  • Something about this school made him not want to be there
    • He loved going to private school at our church the year before. However, since he started going to government/public school he has often told us how he does not like this school compared to the previous one
  • Has issues with teacher
    • I made some mention of this on here. It has not improved and actually escalated. Part of our decision to pull him from school was due to the teacher
  • His tantrums increased in frequency and intensity
    • He can be very emotional, but did not have intense tantrums like he’s been having. My wife (aka resilientMom) told me of how intense it got one day when he had picked him up from school. They were maybe 2 minutes out from the school driveway at the time. It was as if he had all this pent up frustration while he was in school.

Benefits from government school

My son did learn some basic things in his few months in school. These will make it much easier for me to teach him and let him learn on a self directed method.

  • Learned to read and write
  • Learned addition and subtraction

I have to give them credit for teaching my son reading and math. We plan on leveraging these skills and teaching him as much as he wants to absorb.


First step was for mom and dad to decide

One particular night full of insight, me and resilientM were talking about my son’s school experiences. I had been taking him to school and having lunch with him for the last few days while resilientM prepared for an exam. I shared with her an observation I had during lunch. My wife then went on to explain her own observations in all the times she’s gone to school for lunch or after school. We agreed that there were just some issues we could nto work out. We realized he was having issues with his teacher. Despite having gone to his teacher to try and figure things out, we felt the issue had gotten worse.

We explored the option of moving him to a different classroom. I said my son has a gift of not being shy and he can go in and transition quite quickly. ResilientM was concerned with this, but I reminded her of the gazillion times we were at a park and my son would just ambush every kid who approached the park and asked them to play with him. He was very convincing.

The other option was to try homeschooling him. I had always talked to my wife about starting to homeschool but she had a different idea of how it worked. Like most parents afraid of homeschooling, she was concerned our son would not have enough socialization. Now, given that my son is not shy I said I can help to tackle this. I can join homeschooling groups and meet with them on weekends. No matter what the concern is, we had to decide the best course of action for our son. He was having all these negative effects from school and I’d rather try experimenting now while it was still early, before problems grew and accumulate over many years of him being in the system.

Starting Homeschool in Texas
Photo credit Melvin E (flickr)

Mom chose to start homeschooling our son with me.

I think it is very important that she has as much input into this decision than I do. I know this path will have rough spots, and if I push us into this, at some point I will be blamed for it and then it will be easy to say my approach failed and homeschooling failed-let’s put him back in the system. We have to both agree it is the best option-even if only for a short time.


Back up plan

One concern was what happens if we start homeschool and years later find it does not work for us. My wife was concerned about how my son can re-enter the government school system.

I explained to my wife how the government school is funded on a per student basis. I reminded her how the school was very accommodating when we were asking on enrollment deadlines. The school wants our kids enrolled. I told her that it would not be an issue to put him back in school and that I have met many parents who have done it. If we cannot make it work, then we still have that option. (But man I sure plan to make homeschooling work)

After this, she felt more comfortable about trying out this path.


Have a rough plan how this would work

ResilientM did not want to take charge of this. One of her main issues was that she would end up doing this every day. She did not want the added workload.

We have a lot of freedom to homeschool in Texas. We can put together the curriculum and there are no requirements to reporting or testing. At least none that I have researched as of today. I might be wrong as I am still researching and still new to all of this. But the research has been consistent that we have those freedoms.

I told resilientM I would put together a curriculum. It would not be an all day, everyday schedule. It would be more of a focused, 2 hr intensive on certain days plus on a weekend. I have heard quite a few benefits where the children benefit from having more frequent rests through the day-even in government school. Knowing my son, I was 110% sure he would benefit from this and come back with renewed focus.

Kids benefit more from frequent breaks. Houston ISD has made the change.

Frequent breaks. Intense learning sessions and self directed learning on topics he is interested in. This was my goal to get us started.


Withdrawing from public school

The last part to getting us started in homeschooling, was pulling him out of school. We are fortunate to be in Texas where there’s not a lot of requirements when pulling your child out of school. After researching on it for some hours, I felt informed enough and prepared a letter for the principal, the counselor and the attendance person.

I had signed up earlier for access to the school’s parent portal website. From there I made pdfs of my son’s absences and tardy dates. His subjects and any other useful information for my records.

I found a good template from Texas Home School Coalition for a letter of notification for the school. The letter basically says we are withdrawing our child from public school. The letter also references a memo from our state’s Commissioner of Education so the school will not give me a hard time about it. The letter is addressed to the school admin saying we are not required to sign any additional forms and that the  letter of notification is all that is needed.

I made my letter based on the template and added a “received by” line at the bottom so the receptionist can sign it. I printed 2 copies of my letter so I have a record of them receiving it to take with me. I printed the letter from the Commissioner of Education and included this.

That next morning I went to my son’s former government school at the usual time we ran there many mornings before-often stressed out that he would be late and stressed by parking and all the frazzle. That morning I was relaxed and purposeful. My son was still at home, enjoying an extended and proper breakfast cooked lovingly by his mom.

I gave them the letter and politely asked them to sign so I have a confirmed receipt. The receptionist was hesitant, but since I addressed the letter to the principal she was off the hook and was simply receiving it. Fine, not a problem. I had always been nice to them even when sometimes the rules of their system made me upset.


Starting Homeschool

We actually have already started homeschool. I made some very focused worksheets for my son. The initial goal is to gauge where he is at and what flaws we need to work on.

Here are some worksheets we did.

This worksheet tests his spelling and imagination. He gets to write anything he wants about the image. His writing skill will need to come up to his level of imagination.

 

This worksheet was for me to gauge his writing skills. I asked him to write whatever he wants about the picture I drew. From here we learned we had to work on some letters and practice penmanship. (In the age of keyboards, I believe he still has to learn proper penmanship).

Here’s the penmanship exercise where we focused on some letters where he had issues with. Based on his hand’s dexterity, we changed how he wrote some letters and saw an instant improvement on them (check out improvements on “b”, “d” and “a”)

Starting Homeschool in Texas
Penmanship exercise with dad’s real time comments to direct him as he goes.

We also did this math exercise. The exercise is meant for him to recognize patterns and to be sensitive to the equation (add or subtract). My comments are written in red so I can adjust for his next lesson. I am teaching him to write a review at the end of the exercise as well. This would give him the bonus of learning to analyze benefits and issues of things in general, while giving me an extra insight into his learning.

Starting Homeschool in Texas
Math exercise to teach him patterns, sensitivity to equation and (as a bonus) how to write a review

During both exercises, he was having fun and we were having a blast. I mean laughing/giggling kind of fun. It was great. I understand it may not always be this fun, but when it is I will make it count. Making the worksheets was great because I was customizing it to his mind. Since I had tons of insight, I was very targeted in the worksheets. I was functioning as a coach or mentor.

We’ll be doing more worksheets. ResilientM has since added a bunch of things for him to do through the day. Recall when she was concerned that she will be doing all the work? Well, I think she likes it. She likes engaging my son in learning. It’s not what I planned out to make things work, but I sure am not going to be a hindrance to my wife helping my son learn. I am flexible,we’ll both work on this. The main approach I have is to let him have frequent breaks but get intense moments of learning which allow him to level up as often as he can, and drill on previous skills he has acquired. It is pretty flexible how we get there.

She’s gotten some great study materials from our favorite thrift store. We have reading and writing materials. We’ve got some puzzles and some board games too. For me, I am looking at my Facebook groups to find materials. Where are we getting the budget for this? Well it’s an expense sure, but we can spend it on the very things we know will suit our child and strengthen his strengths and shore up his weaknesses. It is very empowering to know that each step is tailored for our son’s growth.

And just like that, we are homeschooling already.


MakeResilient aims to help build a more resilient lifestyle and family. I believe that we need to be ready for big changes coming to our current way of life (more info here). I am intentionally leading my family so that we can adapt slowly over time for the changing future. I’m no expert on all things, but I am acquiring the knowledge and skills of new things that I need.

 

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