Friday, September 5, 2014

How to make strangers think that homeschooling your kid is making the kid so weird that they can't even tell someone what grade they are in.

My Mom made the boys the cutest aprons.  They are modeled after the easy-fasten aprons that you can buy at Montessori Services.  Montessori Services does not sell their elementary aprons in vinyl and I wanted something wipeable for art and science.  Isn't the fabric amazing?  Like the aprons they are modeled after, they have an easy-fasten velcro closure in the front.  She also made them cute fabric aprons without the vinyl in a mustache print for cooking.  So cool.  I have to post photos of those soon as well.

We made it through our first week back to homeschool.  In the photos above, the boys are doing some simple color mixing using food dye and watercolors.  This was not in my plans for the week, but apparently it's not the "first day of school" unless you roll out the test tubes.  Also, apparently nothing christens an almost brand-new white kitchen like kids running loose with multiple containers of food dye.  The kitchen passed with flying colors (no pun intended), but my blood pressure may never be the same.

When I uploaded pictures today I was reminded why I need to write multiple posts during the week rather than attempt a "weekly wrap up."  I'll try to write several posts this weekend rather than cram everything together and freeze up your computer or put you into a coma.  Even posting their "first day" pictures is more complicated than it ought to be.

Just in case you are having a case of déjà vu, Me Too's first day of school photo last year also said "first day of first grade."  I feel like I've written about this before, but I can't find where.  Me Too has a mid-summer birthday. If we were sending him to public school we would have enrolled him in kindergarten last year.  If he had gone to a Montessori school outside the home I don't know if he would have been placed in primary or elementary.  After seeing how the last year played out I'm pretty certain that an experienced guide would have recommended primary.  I had a bit of an epiphany this summer when Me Too suddenly started showing sign after sign of transitioning to the second plane.  It wasn't until then that I realized how few glimmers of a "second plane" child I had seen in the past year.  Although I treated the past year like his "first elementary year", he accomplished his learning in an overwhelmingly primary way.   The good news is, in hindsight last year Me Too had a really strong, successful "fourth year" of primary.  He really wrung out every bit of those primary albums, hitting all of the works that the album says "are usually for elementary" but may be needed by "some primary children."  Now I know which kids they are talking about.  

However, Me Too was doing the same work that Kal-El remembers doing when he was in "first grade" so when Kal-El announced that Me Too was in "first grade" we didn't think it mattered. The mental influence of Montessori philosophy with multi-age groupings combined with our libertarian homeschooling nature (i.e. our own special brand of crazy) leads us to think about "what grade are we in" pretty infrequently. I may have attacked nearly every thing in our house with my label gun, but not my children. We just rolled with it.  As far as I was concerned, the kids could consider themselves in whatever grade they wished.  It occurred to us as the year progressed that physically and behaviorally Me Too was just not a first grader yet.  Then we got to know the children who would have been his classmates at the local elementary school through his cub scouts tiger den and discovered he was the youngest in his den by five months.  One of the other kids in his den turned eight this summer about two weeks after Me Too turned seven.  The trend in our area is to "redshirt" for kindergarten.  It dawned on us that this disparity would be ongoing and that we should probably have him assigned to the appropriate "grade" (at least on our DPI paperwork) just in case he ever does transition to a school outside our home.  

Me Too wrinkled his nose at the news that "if he went to school outside the house" he would be in first grade.  He's not fully on board.  He has announced that his "body is in first grade" but his "mind is in second grade."  I have explained that when people ask him "What grade are you in?" it is their way of asking "how old are you?"  (Don't get me started on the ways in which that bothers me philosophically.) We've told him that we'd like him to tell people he's in "first grade" when they ask that question.  Again, we get the nose wrinkle.  For all practical purposes I suppose I could say we are experiencing some of the generally confusion a family might experience if their child is "held back" in school.  It doesn't help that it would be silly to hold him back in cub scouts so he is still with the second graders.  He is also with the second graders in his homeschool coop at church.  Our homeschool coop has multi-age groupings as well, but we want to keep him with his current classmates:  five other little boys.  The first graders are all girls.  It's weird how things happen that way.  Regardless of the reasons, the end result is a seven year old boy who can't tell you with any sort of authority what "grade he is in."

At some point my husband and I had a sit down "meeting" about this together and decided that we needed to be more consistent when we talk about Me Too's "grade."  We also decided that since the start of fall soccer lines up so closely with the beginning of the school year and our DPI paperwork that the start of soccer would be the best time to emphasize a clean "switch" (with the above exceptions) to being a "first grader"  both as a family and as members of our community.  I was surprised when Me Too came home his first soccer practice and told me that the coach said that another boy was the "only" first grader on Me Too's combined first/second grade soccer team.  I mentioned it to my husband.  I thought  it was odd that the coach would think so because I was careful to register Me Too as a first grader.  You can imagine my dismay when my husband told me it was probably because that he had told the coach and all the parents Me Too was in second grade when they asked him at drop off.  Seriously?    I know he was at the meeting we had about this.    It was a slip of the tongue really (he's used to just rolling with it remember), but so much for our "clean break" and "reestablishing" Me Too's grade level.  To make it worse,  my father-in-law had the good fortune to witness my epic blow up about that one. That moment was probably a little surreal without the backstory, also probably with the backstory. That one's on me, but..seriously!?!?!  

As my husband aptly pointed out, we are the only ones who actually care.  I am only posting about it for two reasons. One is the déjà vu picture.  The other is as a cautionary tale.  Until our school-centric society catches up with our multi-age Montessori-homeschooling revolution, you might want to be careful about what "grade" you let your kid think he's in.  Otherwise you'll wind up with a kid like mine who freezes up like a deer in headlights in the face of the simple but loaded question, "What grade are you in?"

If anyone knows how I can dig myself out of this hole, I welcome your comments!


  1. When people ask is we either say lower elementary or upper elementary now; or give an age, since that is what most people are really asking.

    As confusing as it can be, this is why I love both homeschooling and Montessori. As you said: no labels. We can just give them what they need at the right time for them.

    Now, when a grade has to be given, I will also play with it depending on then purpose of the involved activity or the maturity of the children involved. So in one religious ed group my son is a fifth grade, in another he is in the last year (equivalent of sixth grade) of a Montessori faith formation experience.

    Totally go with the flow ;)

  2. My kids just say, "I homeschool and we don't really 'do' grades." It satisfies most people. For the rest, they know to add, "If I was in public school, I would be in X grade."

  3. lol - my kiddos do what all homeschoolers do - look at me and go, "Am I in 3rd, or 4th grade this year?" J/K The younger ones do ask, because people tend to ask, and WHEN they ask, they also have this 'I-can't-believe-this-really-matters-and-I-have-to-answer-this-question' look. I have them registered where they would be were they in the PS system, because I try to avoid, when possible, something that a potential 'anti-homeschool' authority would not like. I just don't care to ruffle feathers where it's not necessary. In truth, though - I try not to think about it. I still occasionally catch myself saying "You're in ____ grade, you should/shouldn't be doing this" - and immediately cringe. I guess it's the traditional schooler that I once was, popping out again at times. I think it IS, what it IS, and that's all there IS to it :) Your 1st/2nd grader is amazing and I really enjoyed reading this post :)

  4. My daughter was shocked when she discovered that the grade work others are doing is not based on ability but age! It's an upside down world!

  5. This was actually a talk that DJ and I just had recently.When the talk of going back to traditionally school came up he wanted it to be clear that he was a sixth grader in terms of everything else, but he specifically wanted to be in a fifth grade math class. It is cray love how homeschool works out. I would of put him in 9th grade for reading, seventh grade for science and 4.5 grade for math (we both agree that math is a challenge for him, mainly because of the inconsistency of lessons). So really grades only really matter to us :) It is alright if he would like to be in "second grade" if it makes him smile and not have his nose do funny things.. Maybe he will buy it on paper if it was exlpained that due to his age if he entered a traditional school setting that is the grade he would be placed in and he could still do the next grade up at home :) If it ever happened. If Me Too likes it,then you may have a really hard worker at home, competing with self to strive for second grade work. I hope I am explaining this in a way that you hear my voice as I understand, and I am really figuring this all out too. For some reason I feel this will work itself out. Keep up the good work!

  6. We have the same problem. Aidan is "technically" (by age) a 6th grader this year, and we have always left him in that group for other activities but now we are wishing we had "pulled him back" when he was younger because I would like to have another year before I have to face the Jr. High craziness that I know will come. It doesn't matter what grade he is in for school, but I wish I had thought ahead to give him that extra year to mature. I have no academic or even developmental need to "hold him back" now, but I think being homeschooled he doesn't maybe need the drama, etc, etc, that comes with that switch between 6th and 7th for sports, church, etc.