Friday, September 14, 2007

nom de plume

We changed our blog name today.

"Clio's Classroom" was inspired by my daughter. Yes, the one I'm homeschooling. This week she said she thought her muse must be Clio, the muse of history, because history fascinates her so. This is a child whose idea of bedtime reading has been an encyclopedia, preferably a history encyclopedia, since about the age of five. Last time I checked, she was still nine years old.

I think this homeschooling thing must be agreeing with her. She's even more precocious than I realized. Maybe it's because I didn't get to spend the day watching her mind at work like I do now. Her teachers had the benefit of that experience and I'm not certain they shared all the details.

Whatever the case, embarking on a classically inspired education is certainly bringing out the best in her. I love it when I actually make a good decision. It makes up for all those times I've second guessed myself or wished I'd done it differently.

Anyway, in honor of the nymph Clio, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne ("Memory"), born at Pieria, in Thrace, and nursed by Eupheme, as of today, we now learn together in Clio's Classroom.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Reluctant Homeschooler

Some of the families we've worked with are avid homeschoolers who have always wanted to teach their own children. One parent even suggests that we should see homeschooling as the norm, with traditional schools as the default option available if home learning doesn't work out. Many families, however, are more reluctant homeschoolers. They homeschool because they can't find appropriate schools. Some school officials even agree with the choice. "I have been struck by the responses I have gotten to our decision to homeschool from state-level educators here in Massachusetts," Sharon, a mom we have worked with, says. "All have the attitude of 'Great! You won't regret it! It's the best plan for your kids!' All the while they miss my point: I do not want to homeschool my kids. I do it because their system so fails my kids as to be harmful to them. And I want them to fix it, to see their responsibility to all students, even smart ones."

-- quoted from

Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds
by Jan & Bob Davidson

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Choosing the Road Less Traveled

I am what some may refer to as a “reluctant homeschooler.” Don’t get me wrong. I am excited about the prospect of educating my fifth grade child at home this year, but I really tried to make the public school system work out for her. I genuinely believed it could. You see, my fifth grader who is at least a year younger than most classmates, tests in the gifted range and thinks outside the box.

Up until third grade she was happy, well adjusted, and sparkly. Public school seemed to be working out well for her. However, that was when there was a well thought out gifted program in place with a caring, intuitive, inspiring teacher at the helm. That was then. Flash forward to fourth grade and the story changes.

We moved to Connecticut from the west to a district prized for academic achievement. I met with the principal, discussed my daughter’s cognitive abilities and her need to be challenged. I made sure the principal noticed that she had already completed an accelerated math curriculum while in third grade. I was assured with a nod and a smile that the needs of all children would be met within this “coveted” school district. All teachers were prepared to enrich students, and so forth and so on. I pushed aside my reservations, quieted the voices that kept signaling that something was amiss, and I turned in the enrollment paperwork.

My sparkly child began to fade before my eyes. There were tears that I initially attributed to being the new kid in town. It just never went away. She complained about reading abridged texts instead of complete stories, end of chapter questions that always asked the same thing, and a trendy mathematics curriculum that frustrated her beyond belief because it never sought to master any concept. Superficial knowledge, it seemed, was sufficient to meet the very wide range of proficiency. Everything revolved around the CMT’s so that homework actually looked like a standardized test with bubbles to fill in and blank lines for a short response. Since the test is administered in April, that meant that at least seven months revolved around “the test.” It didn’t leave much time for meaningful learning—the only kind of learning that mattered to my daughter.

I lost a lot of sleep. I brought up my concerns with the teacher whose hands were tied and an administration blinded by hubris—false pride. They had no idea what she was capable of because proficient was good enough. Excellence wasn’t necessary (unless of course, it was athletics or a musical instrument).

This summer was the turning point. In the fall she was to attend an upper elementary school on a beautiful campus with all the bells and whistles. Once you got past the flash though, there was little substance, more of the same. I’d been afterschooling her for the past year and enriching her education all along. I just was never brave enough to take that final step. I also wanted to believe that public education would work. I wanted to believe that there were many exceptional educators like Rafe Esquith (or her own beloved Mrs. A) out there ready to challenge my daughter. In my heart I knew the sad reality. Her school would be so busy teaching to the middle, and trying to raise the floor, that the ceiling was crashing down around them. My daughter would be another casualty if I sent her there.

Great minds think alike.

One of my dearest friends had "big news". It sounded exciting but I couldn't imagine what it would be. She revealed to me that she would be taking on homeschooling her four children in the fall. I was instantly excited for her but not at all shocked. Somehow, it seemed so natural for her to do that and it felt right. I revealed to her something I am not even certain that I had admitted to myself. It was time for me to re-examine homeschooling too. It was time to begin listening to what my instincts had been telling me all along.

And so it was, that my family had the discussion about homeschooling. I wasn't certain that my daughter would embrace the idea because she is a very social creature. I was so wrong. I caught a glimpse of the sparkle as she considered my proposal. The more we planned and discussed, the brighter it grew. We chose a home education plan that is unique as she is but certainly inspired by a classical education. I researched, read, and stayed up late all summer until I was satisfied that we had chosen wisely. Material was ordered, evaluated and some of it sent back in lieu of something better. Finally, we’re at a place where I am at peace with what she will be learning and we’re ready to fly together.

We begin school on Tuesday just as her former classmates will. I tease her that she’s going to private school—as private as it gets, since she’s the only student. This is new to both of us, and yet it feels so right. I spent so much time fighting and now, instead of fighting I’ll be learning along with her, watching her grow and experiencing the wonderful gift of mentoring my own child.

We have chosen the road less traveled and this will make all the difference.