Lesson plan

“Oh, you’re doing that, too?,” the building contractor asked when he walked in while my son was working on his Literature lesson. “My youngest daughter is taking high school online. They were bullying her at school.”

While he undid something interesting my wife had done to the garbage disposal and then measured for book shelves, he added, “It looks like she’ll already have her freshman year finished in December.”

Just weeks after signing on to home-based schooling, and two days into formal lessons, we’re running into a fair number of kindred spirits who also opted out of brick and mortar schools. Some are using traditional homeschooling methods from a variety of sources, others (like us) are paying for online private schools, and the majority use virtual charter schools, which are an easy option in Arizona.

My sister has been homeschooling one of my nephews with a mix of offline and online resources for a year.

They all tell us that the initial learning curve is steep, but it eventually settles in. That’s good news, because my wife and I feel like we’re back in school ourselves, prepping lessons and mastering the school’s tools. Anthony, for his part, took to the new school like a fish to water. The fact that he looks forward to his lessons is a hell of a nice change from our experience over the past year.

Much of that enthusiasm, I’m convinced, comes from the fact that the pace can be tailored to him. He’s already tested out of material that was too basic, and he doesn’t have to sit at a desk waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. “It feels like they’re trying to help me, not bore me to death,” he told my wife.

We move him through assessments until he hits a challenge, and then we get down to actual learning. Even then, the goal is mastery, not just putting ink on worksheets. If he learns the information, we move on.

And we no longer have to wade through answers of “he’s doing fine” when we’re curious about Anthony’s progress, only to discover that “fine” can have a surprisingly broad range of meaning. We track the lessons and approve assessments ourselves.

Our contractor is having a similar experience with his daughter, as evidenced by her conversion of freshman year into a semester. My 11-year-old nephew is sufficiently well along that he could probably educate some of his old instructors.

It’s too early yet to call our experiment in schooling at home a success; I suppose we could still [mess] this up. But for the first time in a long time, my son is enjoying learning.