Removing Our 5th Grader From Alton Central School (ACS) and Homeschooling Her!

This morning we handed in the necessary letter to the Superintendent of ACS so that we can start homeschooling our 5th-grade daughter as of Monday next week.

This was a huge and unforeseen step for all of us — but one we had no choice but make.

If you had asked me even a week ago whether I would ever consider homeschooling I would have been emphatic in my answer: ‘are you kidding?

But, we couldn’t take it any longer. She was learning next to nothing, especially when it came to science and math — and I stress learning which I appreciate is different from that ‘of being taught‘. That said, from all I could see, the quantity and quality of what she was being taught left a lot to be desired. [q.v. this post] I have been doing this off-and-on for awhile. When our daughter gets home I grill her on what she got taught that day, what paperwork she did in school and what she got for homework.

When she was in 3rd-grade we found a major anomaly in the homework policies of ACS and we ended up going and speaking to the Superintendent. That got fixed within the day.

In 4th-grade, i.e., last year, she got more homework than she is getting this year. Math and science homework, since the start of 2012, has been trivial. Yes, I have taught and I know that marking homework is a chore. No homework — nothing to mark. Yes, they have a variation on that too. Homework that isn’t marked. Suffice to say that all of this was not helping our daughter.

Yes, we are lucky that we can afford the ‘luxury’ of homeschooling. I am retired and at home most of the time. And yes I have a Masters in computer science (from the University of London, U.K.), have taught post-graduate and graduate computer and marketing courses at SNHU, and from 1983 to 1998 spent much of my time doing professional, stand-up, 1 to 5 day, IT training in the U.S. and Europe. So, I think I can handle the challenge of homeschooling particularly since my wife can also help — full-time.

Yes, we have been ordering books like crazy. 12 are on order. Plus, we have a ‘few’ books in the house!

Until this week I really didn’t have much truck with homeschooling. It was not something I could identify with. Funnily enough a month ago I attended a Saturday training program for Destination Imagination (DI) assessors (i.e., judges). Met a number of local mothers who were homeschooling. When they learnt that I was also a rather passionate DI Team Manager, they asked whether I would consider being a Team Manager for a team of homeschooled kids next year. Well it looks like I will …

I am and will continue to be a big believer in Public Education.

My father, put his life on the line, quite literally, to make public schooling a reality in Ceylon. I only found out about it much later, but it appeared that there were two kidnap threats against me to try and stop my father from going ahead with what was called ‘the schools TAKEOVER’. Here is a good headline on it from 1960. Here is an article.

My father, as a civil servant, was put in charge of implementing the takeover. I was 7 in 1960, and attending a private school that my father tookover! It was ‘fun’! Teachers would get me to stand-up in class and harangue me for what my father was doing. This takeover lasted quite a few years. I later learned that there were three attempts to assassinate my father. I remember the police guards and some days going to school with a police escort. I remember my father’s office surrounded by barb wire and armed police guards. This was the defining experience of my early youth. Though it was and still is controversial, we as a family are very proud about the success of the schools takeover act. Kids in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, get free education. Even the university system is free. The motives were good.

So, public schooling is something that I feel passionate about — though I attended 3 years of private schooling (in Paris and London) and my son, now 19, went to a private Catholic school in Leominister, MA — ostensibly so that he could play football. To be honest I was not impressed with that school though to be fair he did get a good education and he is doing well at Wheaton. My eldest daughter, nearing 23, attended public school, albeit in southern NH, and is now finishing her Masters in Forensic Psychology. She is very proud that she graduated from public school. Looking back, I have to say, the difference in the level of education she got and what I am seeing at ACS is like chalk and cheese. The irony is that the school system that she attended, serving three towns, is in an area that, in terms of demographics, is nowhere near as ‘well off’ as Alton. I will be surprised if there are even 10 million dollar homes in that entire area!

Yes, I plan to document this new unexpected chapter of our life: homeschooling a 11-year old.

3 thoughts on “Removing Our 5th Grader From Alton Central School (ACS) and Homeschooling Her!

  1. homeschoolhappymess

    Congratulations! You are about to embark upon a great adventure, which will come with many joys and also a few frustrations. I, too, am a Destination Imagination team manager and our kids have been competing for many years and have been homeschooled for many years. It is all great fun and an exciting challenge to inspire our children with the love of learning rather than the boredom of non-think schooling. Have fun and be patient!


  2. Sheree

    You don’t need a master’s degree to homeschool. You need patience, discipline (for yourself), creativity, the ability to create an environment that encourages learning and other abilities like that.

    The thing that I’m finding in homeschooling is that we can cover far more in a far shorter time. There’s no teaching to the lowest learning in the class while the brighter students get bored because I have only one student… my son. I can teach to his capabilities and if there’s a subject he has a hard time with, we can spend more time on that. In public school there’s a lot of teaching to the lowest level learning so that the slowest students can keep up, shuffling kids around from place to place, disciplining kids (such as it is) while the other kids wait around and so much more. Because they have so many interruptions during the day, they have to have a lot of homework at night.

    But, we cover everything in the morning and early afternoon and then my son has time to just be a child and play. There’s no more homework for the day. I find that he does so much better and, frankly, we way ahead of where he’d be at this point in public school.

    You have an opportunity to invest in your child in a way you couldn’t when she was spending so much time away in school. I look forward to hearing more of your journey.


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