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Your Opinions? Pros and Cons of Classroom vs Homeschool for Struggling Learners

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    Your Opinions? Pros and Cons of Classroom vs Homeschool for Struggling Learners

    Hello MP friends,

    I would love some feedback on your experiences and opinions of having a child with learning differences in a classroom setting versus full-time homeschooling.

    For background, I direct a hybrid school, and we use MP curriculum. This year we are teaching MPK, MP2nd and MP3rd/4th combo, and our focus is on the language arts and math portions of the curriculum. Our intention is to support our homeschooling parents by providing consistent, classroom instruction in these skill areas, leaving them to coverth e content areas of Classical Studies, American Studies, Enrichment and Science at home.

    We meet four mornings a week, from 8am-noon.

    For most of our students, the model works splendidly.

    However, I have questioned the pros and cons of this model for a few students who have significant learning difficulties in reading. In particular, we have one little guy in our K classroom who is 7, and who has just this year started formally learning to read because mom sensed he was not ready and every attempt at home yielded very little results for him.

    I suspect dyslexia, as he meets several of the early indicators. It is too early yet to really tell, as we are not even through FSR Book A.

    However, my grappling comes with the pros and cons of a classroom environment for struggling learners, and I would love any input you'd be willing to give on this matter.

    I had a similar student in my MP1 class last year. She was nearly 8 and could read almost not at all. Letters just weren't very helpful to her, and common words were memorized only with great difficulty and usually quickly forgotten. Her mom decided to pull her from the program and return to homeschooling her, as the struggle was just too much for all of them. It seemed like instead of class time being enjoyable, it just highlighted what their daughter could not do.

    My little guy in Kinder is a bright eyed, intelligent, interested, verbal child with very high social intelligence. He puts the E in extrovert. He has been counting the days for years now until he could FINALLY go to school. Sadly, I am already seeing him feel very self-aware when he cannot recite even one Common Word card while his classmates, all younger than him, can. Also, his younger brother is in the same class, and he will soon be reading circles around the older.

    Likewise, the little girl I had last year was so excited to be with friends daily, and yet that enthusiasm waned when she started to feel inferior and embarrassed.

    This is a very difficult thing to navigate as a parent and a teacher. We work really, really hard as teachers to modify and adjust as we can to keep struggling students from being put on the spot, and I feel like we are pretty good at it. Nevertheless, they KNOW that what others are doing they cannot yet do.

    The fact is, that prior to entering the classroom, they were blissfully unaware of that reality.

    There is also the reality that even in a small classroom like ours (we have 6-7 students) there is just no way that we can give a struggling student that one-on-one attention that is very beneficial. We cannot simply go back and redo lessons in the book because that one students needs extra practice.

    On the other hand, these students crave the chance to be included.

    So my question is, for those of you with struggling learners...or those who have taught struggling learners in the classroom....how have you balanced the pros and cons? What has led you to keep your child in a classroom program, such as HLS or a cottage school, and what has led you to pull them from the classroom and homeschool exclusively.

    If you were having a conversation with a young parent of a struggling learning in a program like ours, what would you tell her?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    #2
    My son is now 12 and technically in 7th grade. He attended school for preschool for 2 years and then kindergarten. Kindergarten was a disaster. It was the start of academics. He did fine in preschool because it was all fun, yet kindergarten was work. His differences quickly showed. He just couldn't keep up. I will say the classroom was not supportive. The teacher was too close to retirement, instead of being a bastion of knowledge and experience she was just punching the time clock until she could retire. I never intended to homeschool yet there we were.

    He is the oldest of 3. His differences are still obvious in a home environment. Instead of comparing himself to peers, he's comparing himself to younger siblings. His youngest sister in first grade sometimes helps him with his spelling. His middle sister is reading a grade level above him.

    All this to say, his one year in a classroom took years at home to undo his self -loathing and low self esteem. Would I ever put him back in a traditional classroom? No way. Does he still have people to compare himself to at home? Yep.

    I would maybe look to offer enrichment in the afternoon or on your off day. He could then still be with friends, but not focusing on academics. Granted this will only cover him and students like him for a few years, but it would add enough gap time for him to be tested for learning differences and figure out some supports.
    DS12- Simply Classical mash-up of SC Spelling 1, intensive reading remediation, and MPOA 4th grade math.
    DD10- Classic Core 4th Grade w/ 5th grade literature
    DD8- Classic Core 2nd Grade

    We've completed:
    Classic Core Jr. kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade
    Simply Classical levels B, C, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5/6

    Comment


      #3
      Hi Shawna,

      One thing to consider with this student is the fact that he is already in a classroom with children two years younger than he is. Is this really going to be the best social environment for him? He's bright, verbal, social, and apparently without any developmental delays, so it is possible that being 7 years old in a class of 5/6 year olds is not going to give him the kind of friendships and social interaction he has been longing for. He would be looking at a school career of always being two years older than his classmates, not to mention that one of them is his younger brother who is already outpacing him academically.

      Colomama is right that bringing the student home is not going to eliminate comparison. It will be abundantly clear to him that his little brother is succeeding in the school where he did not. I have a 5 year old daughter currently sailing through MPK, and an 8 year old son with dyslexia whom she will soon outpace. That has brought tears to his eyes already this school year. BUT, if homeschooling this student is on the table, it could help to point out to his parents that homeschooling could give him the best of both worlds. Academically, he can receive a tailor-made education. If mom is too busy with the younger siblings to do intensive reading tutoring, perhaps the school tuition can be rerouted to a private reading tutor. Socially, he could make friends with his actual-age peers at a Trail Life group, a Sunday school class, a homeschool park day or non-academic co-op. Or, if a possibility, could he just join your cottage school several times a week for enrichment and PE with his chronological grade (1st or 2nd)?

      Our family is part of an excellent all-boys Christian classical school community where my husband is a teacher. We made the hard decision to forego several of our boys attending that school due to their learning differences. I am well aware of the opportunities that are lost to them because I have other sons who attend the school. But, the benefits of learning to read far outweigh even an outstanding, well-ordered classroom where a student is not going to learn to read.

      And lastly, homeschooling for the primary years does not mean that a child will never be able to attend school. My older dyslexic son stayed home from our classical school until age 11, at which point he had learned to read and write well. He entered the classical school at only one year behind his age level, which was not a problem socially for him, and he done so well there. That thought might help your student's parents too--the possibility that their son could return, closer to his chronological grade, after a few years.
      Catherine

      2022-23
      7th year with MP

      DS19, college freshman
      DS16, 10th
      DS & DD14, 9th
      DS10, 4th
      DD7, 2nd
      DS4, JrK
      DS & DS, 1

      Comment


        #4
        So my question is, for those of you with struggling learners...or those who have taught struggling learners in the classroom....how have you balanced the pros and cons? What has led you to keep your child in a classroom program, such as HLS or a cottage school, and what has led you to pull them from the classroom and homeschool exclusively.

        If you were having a conversation with a young parent of a struggling learning in a program like ours, what would you tell her?
        It took me a few days to get back to the question, because my response was far longer than I could manage on a smart phone screen.

        For background --- I have identical twin sons. One has dyslexia and dysgraphia, while the other has auditory processing disorder. They have been homeschooled since the very beginning.

        We are blessed to live near an amazing cottage school and my boys actually started there before we had an official diagnosis. I wanted them to have a classroom setting, with top notch teachers, in a controlled environment. As a working mom, with lots of children, I utilize the cottage school as a huge support for me.

        When we put them in, I chose a level that was fairly easy for them. I wanted them to be successful in the classroom, not to feel like they were climbing a mountain.
        At that time, they started in a full day 2nd grade class -- they did all the classes/assignments on Monday. My boys COULD have done 3rd grade at that point, but it would have been a complete SLOG, and we all would have been miserable. As a result of putting them in a class that fit their developmental level, they're about 18 months older than most of their classroom peers.

        Once they had a diagnosis, I reached out to the director at the time and bent his ear about how to handle cottage school. I was a nervous wreck asking for any sort of accommodations, but wise people have reminded me that for my children, the accommodations are as necessary as glasses, hearing aids, braces, etc.

        So, every year, I sit down and pour over the accommodations recommended by our psychologist and audiologist, and I condense them down to the items that are important for us in a classroom setting --- examples would be preferential seating (up front), being able to type papers, etc. I write these up as a request for classroom accommodations. I also mention the things I am doing extra at home, pre-teaching, scribing, editing papers, etc, to make sure that teachers know that I'm not putting the onus entirely on them. As my boys are getting older, I'm also walking them through how to self advocate.

        I send this over to the teachers and administrators via email before school begins. I don't think it's the kind of thing to discuss on the fly at Meet the Teacher, and prefer it to be a private conversation. In my experience, it's been received very well.

        It's worked beautifully for us --- for a number of reasons:
        - I'm a committed advocate for my boys. This is not an easy road we are walking, but the view is beautiful, compared to a few years ago.
        - I'm experienced with the MP path. I'm not an expert, but I know the scope and sequence, and the expectations. I also know that their path may look different than their siblings. They may not make it all the way to Latin translation, and that's ok. We'll climb as high as we can.
        - The administrators and staff have been amazingly supportive.
        - I make frequent contact with their teachers --- staying on top of potential trouble spots, etc.
        - Cottage School classes come FIRST with our time and effort. They are our priority, because I don't have wiggle room or control there.

        My boys are thriving, and I consider our cottage school to be an integral part of our homeschool.

        As far as having a conversation with a parent with a struggling learner --- that's HARD. I would encourage them to read Simply Classical, peruse the forums here, and get familiar with the scope and sequence. I'm a firm believer in evaluations by skilled professionals -- because you need to know exactly what you're managing. I'd also encourage them to place their children in levels that are developmentally appropriate. Some parents will be willing to tackle the extra work at home to keep their children on track, while others may not. Challenging a child is one thing, but I think keeping them in a class that they are simply not ready to handle can be detrimental.

        I agree with Colomama --- in this situation, enrichment type classes are your best bet. My boys were involved in a co-op for a semester where they took a Human Body class, and kids Cross Fit. Hands on learning and exercise was an excellent fit for us.

        I hope this was helpful. ?
        Last edited by DiannaKennedy; 10-13-2020, 06:20 PM.
        Plans for 2022-23

        Year 12 of homeschooling with MP

        DD1 - 27 - college grad, bakery owner
        DD2 - 16 - 11th grade - HLS Cottage School - online classes, looking at dual credit - equestrian and theatre
        DS3 - 14 -7A Cottage School - soccer/tennis -dyslexia and dysgraphia
        DS4 -14 - 7A Cottage School -soccer/tennis -auditory processing disorder
        DD5 - 10- 5A, Cottage School - inattentive ADHD - equestrian and tumbling
        DS6 - 9 - MP 1 - home with momma

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by CatherineS View Post

          And lastly, homeschooling for the primary years does not mean that a child will never be able to attend school. My older dyslexic son stayed home from our classical school until age 11, at which point he had learned to read and write well. He entered the classical school at only one year behind his age level, which was not a problem socially for him, and he done so well there. That thought might help your student's parents too--the possibility that their son could return, closer to his chronological grade, after a few years.
          This is a FANTASTIC point. I completely agree.
          Plans for 2022-23

          Year 12 of homeschooling with MP

          DD1 - 27 - college grad, bakery owner
          DD2 - 16 - 11th grade - HLS Cottage School - online classes, looking at dual credit - equestrian and theatre
          DS3 - 14 -7A Cottage School - soccer/tennis -dyslexia and dysgraphia
          DS4 -14 - 7A Cottage School -soccer/tennis -auditory processing disorder
          DD5 - 10- 5A, Cottage School - inattentive ADHD - equestrian and tumbling
          DS6 - 9 - MP 1 - home with momma

          Comment


            #6
            Excellent discussion --

            Adding to readers only that DiannaKennedy contributed a section to the 2nd edition of Simply Classical on this very topic!

            Comment


              #7
              Hi ShawnaB

              I know as a parent, that I would have appreciated a private conversation about my child's struggles in the classroom when it became apparent to the teacher that there were struggles. That does not mean you as the teacher have to have everything figured out, but do give the parents an indication that the child is struggling more than peers and need to be watched. Then the parent can watch to see if they notice similar struggles at home.

              I am in a co- op this year, one day a week for 3 hours. Not much. My twins are 12. They are not at the same place as their peers. But no one makes fun of them. My boys just do what they can.

              A child might need more help for one topic and not another. It is ok if you cannot give one on one-maybe a classmate can assist for something. Let the child go at the pace they need to. Send home work that a parent might help the child with. But just know, in a class of 10, or even 20, any child who struggles will still get way more out of the instruction than they would ever get at a public school classroom with 28-30 kids.

              Please allow the child and parents grace. A teacher who cares goes a long way.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by ShawnaB View Post
                If you were having a conversation with a young parent of a struggling learning in a program like ours, what would you tell her?

                Thanks for your thoughts!
                Hi, ShawnaB. I agree with applepie99 and with the implicit desire of your question. Do speak with the parent of any child evidencing "red flags" as soon as you see them. Convey to the parent all of these:

                - We love your child's ____ and ____. Fill in the blanks. Ex. smile, eagerness, work habits, determination, willingness to help, kindness.
                - We believe he needs more help than he is receiving in the full classroom. One-on-one instruction would be ideal.
                - Discuss starting tutorial instruction after school asap. If at all possible, supply the names of local classical tutors, teachers, or veteran homeschooling moms who can teach reading directly from Simply Classical Level One or Two, depending on the need of the student. If these are not available, the homeschooling mother can teach directly from Simply Classical Level One phonics & reading herself. We would be happy to customize whatever subjects she needs.
                - Discuss with the parent the pro's and con's of remaining with the group. If the parent and child want enrollment in the program to continue, determine ways to modify further, such as not asking him/her to respond or read in front of everyone. Ask the student to display his best characteristics, such as being a classroom helper, being a good friend, being a team leader at recess, or displaying artistic talents.
                - Note the advantage that your specific program is only four half-days weekly. This allows families great flexibility! The afternoon and 5th day can be used effectively for more intensive tutoring.
                - By combining 1) the social benefits of your program, 2) academic accommodations with a shift in the child's participation to emphasize his strengths, and 3) a more intensive outside tutorial component, this might enable such children to continue in the program.

                As you have found already, each year you might have one or more students in similar situations. Rather than excluding the student after classes begin, you may want to institute a more comprehensive Readiness Assessment prior to beginning. Use the Simply Classical assessments. Group students by readiness, rather than age, or suggest to parents that Simply Classical Level 1 Readiness, for example, is required for starting.

                For future similar scenarios, create a list of willing tutors in anticipation of students who will need this. Survey homeschoolers familiar with MP or SC. Survey your current teachers willing to learn. The SC program is reasonably open-and-go, as our homeschoolers have proven!

                Have a vision for such children. Eventually, you might offer an in-house tutorial program for students who need this in math, spelling, reading, or writing. This would make your entire program stronger.

                I love your question. Please keep us posted.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Dear friends, thank you all for the generous and very helpful advice. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences. cherylswope your practical advice is invaluable and gives me confidence in navigating this, with hopes of doing a better job as I continue to learn. And YES to the idea of cultivating tutors. For the last two years, I have thought that reading support could be such a beautiful ministry for individuals in our church who desire to support our academic ministry. What an opportunity to pour into a child's life in a very meaningful way. As I have grown more competent as a reading teacher and more familiar with the MP reading curriculum, I believe I could be at the place of training others to work individually with students.... I sure think there is a need! I have been asked so many times over the last couple of years for tutoring support for struggling students.

                  Comment

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