It is a very straight-forward plan of study, and a pretty straight-forward budget:
- RELIGION- Yes we teach this subject, in addition to modeling it and using our parish's religious education program. Catholicism is simple on the surface, but has 2,000+ years of depth. We purchased "Christ Our Life" by Loyola used. Our children did not attend religious education at our parish this year, but left an excellent Catholic school a year ago, and live in a family that practices our Faith. Total with rel. ed. is $310.
- MATH- We went ahead and got Digital Interactive Video Education for Saxon Math for ALL the Saxon middle school books, from Math 54 to Algebra I. We spent a lot on the math budget, but that's it until Belle is ready for high school. Total: $310.
- SCIENCE- Middle school science needn't be expensive. As a guide, we are using Steck Vaughn's Strategies for Success: Science. We also have on hand the Kingfisher's Science Encyclopedia. We also have a great library, and our television package includes a lot of good science-based programs. There are many offerings to outsource science in our area, including STEM through the Girl Scouts (counted as a field trip, 5 solid hours of intense education). Total: $40, with chemicals.
- READING- Novels. Lots of them. Steck-Vaughn Reading Comprehension, one of which had to be purchased new. Our library again allows a vast array of reading materials into our home. Total: $146.
- CRITICAL THINKING- A good indicator of a good school. Used software, used Mind Bender books, used Steck Vaughn Critical Thinking books, and our very own critical thinking professor (the Mister) keeps costs on this down to $18.
- VOCABULARY- I don't like modern spellers. I simply don't think they do enough to teach spelling. I prefer vocabulary work, which includes spelling, and I recommend Vocabulary in Action by Loyola. Total: $24.
- LANGUAGE GRAMMAR AND USAGE- We call it LUG. Loyola Press produces two excellent texts to emphasize LUG, Voyages In English and Exercises In English. We also own several manuals of style, but we would have those anyway, and they are easily located online. Total: $31.
- HISTORY- I personally feel schools lost educational power when History, Geography, Civics and Culture were lumped into Social Studies and given one value of hours spent. Yes, they intertwine. No, they are not the same subjects. This school year, we are going to study ancient history from the beginning of time to 400 AD. Our local library offers many resources for this. We did feel the need to purchase the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, used, along with Oxford First Ancient History. Grand total: $43.
- GEOGRAPHY- Considering how many people in the United States do not know that the metro area of the District of Columbia includes parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, even a smidgen of Pennsylvania, makes Geography a priority here. Once again, Steck Vaughn's well executed Maps, Globes and Graphs, along with Kingfisher's Geography Encyclopedia were purchased used, $32.
- CIVICS- There are a surprising amount of freebies to teach Civics on the Internet.
- CULTURE- Steck Vaughn's World Cultures Past and Present, with research through our local library and online. $12.
- COMPOSITION- Composition is another victim of combined studies, usually folded into English, studied once a year, reinforced throughout for sure in better schools, but not studied as it should be. I did take some courses in elementary and middle school composition, from several very good teachers. The first thing that each instructor related was that kids need to write DAILY. Toward that end, we use writing prompts, in a spiral notebook, number of lines or words determined by age and ability. These are evaluated for further projects. The Mister and I also feel research is neglected in the younger years, and then scholars are expected to simply learn how to put together a research paper in late middle school, again in late high school. Finally, we do not have Accelerated Reader service, as Renaissance Learning does not offer services to families in individual education programs, and quite frankly, because we think Accelerated Reader is pretty useless as a reading teaching tool. It is fine for brick-and-mortar schools that need statistical data to present to parents and school boards. However, it does not teach anything that reading a book and writing a solid book report will not counter- in fact, less than that. Total cost on Composition:$0.
- PENMANSHIP- Look at the handwriting of young adults in the 18-30 age bracket. Part of this is the lack of expectation Society seemed to foster during the 1900s-2000s. Part of this is lack of penmanship skill beyond the third grade. We use the Writing Our Catholic Faith series. $24.
- FOREIGN LANGUAGE- We broke out the big bucks on this. Public schools do not teach foreign languages in our area until sixth grade. Private schools do not teach anything but Spanish until high school, and then usually only by fifth grade. This year, we are having a good foundation for other languages as well as English with the Christina Latina series, starting with Prima Latina. Belle would like to learn Spanish, and Baby would like to learn French. Used Rosetta Stone for both Spanish and French! Our local library as well as one of the Mister's client schools give access to Mango and other sources of foreign language study. $367.
- FIELD TRIPS- We budgeted $300 for fees as well as transportation.
- UNIFORMS- I discussed this in another entry. We will spend about $200 on khaki-style pants, plain polo shirts, a nice blouse or two, skirts, socks, sweaters and dress shoes. These clothes wear like iron, wash and dry well, and always look nice. If you want to see what uniform clothes can do for your children, visit French Toast, Lands End or Penneys.
- SCHOOL SUPPLIES- We buy them starting in July, when they go on deep discount. Nobody is claiming the leftover supplies for a classroom communal locker, as frequently happens in brick-and-mortar schools. Nobody is forcing scholars to pitch old materials in a frenzy of cleaning to be ready of the last day of school. There is no prohibition against re-using school supplies acquired in prior years, such as protractors, ring binders, rulers, flash drives, etc. Total budgeted cost: $100.
Now, why on earth would a woman in her fifties choose to stay home with a group of children, albeit her grandchildren cum children, and facilitate their instructional needs? Do the public schools not exist? What about Catholic schools? Christian schools? Private schools?
When we adopted our grandchildren, we decided public school, excepting for special needs if possible, was not a good idea. We previously raised children, and find that in our area, public schools have not gotten better over time.
Too many aspects of public education have been federalized. Too many prejudices exist against teaching children to read early, teaching children other languages early, allowing children to work independently at their own rate of speed. We do not accept global warming as proven science, yet there it is, being taught all over our area, and being taught as THE ONLY accepted truth. We want our children to hear as many scientific theory as possible, not just outdated Darwinism, certainly not only global warming out of context.
We do not care if Jennifer has two daddies at her house, and are sick of hearing about Heather having two mommies. Why does anything have to be said about Jennifer's and Heather's home life, anymore than anything needs to be said about Belle having grandparents for parents? All the time taken up with worrying about whether or not double-daddy and double-mommy families get fair treatment (and they often get much more than fair treatment), instead of modeling how to behave properly through good, old-fashioned etiquette, could be used to teach a foreign language. All the time spent on parental education through children could be used to teach extra math, extra science, and perhaps extra physical education, or even (gasp!) reinstate recess. We would then not only produce better educated and better mannered children in public schools, we would take care of a large portion of the alleged childhood obesity problem we hear so much these days. The rest of that could be solved by walking to school, no matter the weather unless severe.
Simply because our children are also our grandchildren does not mean they need to be enrolled in therapy, certainly not at the hands of the public school system. Just because our children were abandoned does not mean they were crack babies, fetal alcohol syndrome victims, or victims of extreme physical abuse. Their quirks and idiosyncrasies might mean they need a little work on their social skills, but they do not need to sit in special education five days a week- not with those IQs! Yet, in our state, gifted and talented students receive very little from public schools, unless parents are cut-throat and willing to go out and get it for their children.
Christian schools are nice. As Catholics, some are way too evangelical, in that they consider our children fair game to evangelize away from Catholicism. They average about the same price or more than local Catholic schools.
We have gone over our objections to the local Catholic schools, and don't wish to hash through them again. Let us simply say that we feel they are not the value they should be for the money and effort to send our children to them.
Brick-and-mortar schools of any variety do not offer the flexibility of distance learning. Every school we checked, and we checked over 25 schools in the area, has maybe four field trips per year. We have utilized our metropolitan area to go on no less than 11 field trips, and that's slacking in my opinion. When a scholar in our school wants to use a computer, he or she does it. If the kids want to learn something more in-depth, we do it. If we want to start the new school year in April for one scholar, and June for the other, and do work all the way through summer just as adults work all summer, so be it.
I understand there are grandparents who need to work just to put food on the table and a roof over the grandchildren's heads. I understand how blessed I am to have the Mister, who not only goes out there and brings in the first income, but is there for emotional and spiritual support. I am not saying ALL public schools are horrible, ALL Catholic schools are less than stellar, ALL Christian schools could use more work.