Our oldest child is about to enjoy the last summer of her life before summer is associated primarily as the vacation from school. This September, at the impossibly young age of 4, my big girl will be old enough to enter her first year of school. I have been dreading this moment for the past 5 years (I'm including pregnancy, folks). I'm not sure she's ready to go. I'm not sure I'm ready for her to go. To me she still seems so little, so young, and simply not ready for that level of all-day learning required at the school she would be attending. Four months seems like too short of a time for her to suddenly become a morning person, and additionally to gain an attention span of more than twenty minutes. She is distractible at best, easily frustrated at worst, when faced with any attempt to learn new things. I look at her face and know that sending her to school doesn't feel right. Doesn't feel fair. I can see in her all the necessary ingredients for the same false ADHD diagnosis we hear is being levelled upon so many young elementary school students. I fear her being bullied as she is small for her age, and in so many ways still very innocent and naive about the cruelty of others.
I don't think I should have to change her, to crush what I love best about her, so that I can prepare her for a school system that is woefully underfunded, understaffed, and overflowing with students at the youngest levels. Through the years I have watched so many of my friends become teachers, working hard to enlighten and inspire the generation entrusted to them. I love these teachers for their enthusiasm, dedication, and fortitude. I respect them for trying to do what they can with what little they are given, making gold out of straw in so many cases. That being said, I look at my daughter and wonder if I can give her more attention here at home. While her teacher could have something nearer to 30 students, I would have just her (plus the distraction of 3 other little monkeys who, fortunately, take naps). I am a university educated woman, and although I don't have a BEd I'm relatively sure I can figure out how to teach my daughter what she needs to know (and some things she doesn't need to know too). I've already taught her about letters, numbers, shapes, colours, phonics, spelling, some french vocabulary, and music. Her reading is coming along slowly, but primarily because she is only 4 and still has a very short attention span. I can see that she knows how to sound out her words, but doesn't have the patience to sit and do it with every word. So we read short simple books, but we do read.
The one thing that had kept me dedicated to the idea of sending our daughter to public school has been that we would send her to French Immersion. Both my husband and I had our schooling primarily in French, and I do feel like it served me in the long run. My paternal Grandpapa was also French, so it was important that my kids learn the language as well. We recently discovered there's a good chance that due to budget cuts the school that our daughter would be attending might be losing its French program over the next few years. There have also been lots of talks of school closures in surrounding regions which I'm sure will be coming to our part of the city too, when you consider the number of schools close to us with the declining enrolment, not to mention the declining education budget.
As we reflected on all this information, we came to the conclusion that, for us, homeschooling was the right path for at least this year. I don't know how many years we'll be able to keep this up, but as long as it's what's best for her (and later on her younger siblings), our home will also be their school. With a bit of guidance from some other homeschooling parents I'm going to dive in head first and do everything I can to give my daughter the best possible educational experience.