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May Be Getting a Freshman... Help!


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Hello everyone. I don't usually post much, though I am an avid reader of posts. I'm potentially entering into a unique situation, and could use some advice though. I apologize for the length of this, but I want to give as much info as I can. 

My DS is 8, and we have been homeschooling since day one. We love it and plan to continue as long as it works for us (probably/hopefully through high school). No real problems there. However, I discovered on Saturday that we will most likely be getting our 15-year-old niece after Christmas. She has had a difficult and unstable childhood, and most recently she was dumped with extended family in another state for the start of Freshman year. Her mother has decided she is done being a mother at this point. She isn't done collecting child support and tax benefits, however. As I understand it, the extended family wanted to collect that money for keeping her, and that is why her mother is bringing her back. Now she is looking for someone else to take our niece, and I think it will be us this time. We are thrilled that we will be getting her, and have wanted her for a long time. We have the space and resources to take good care of her, and we just hope she can stay with us permanently. We don't know if a legal battle would be necessary to make that happen though, so right now we are just waiting to see what happens in that regard. 

She has struggled academically, and was held back in 2nd grade because of that. She has been close to failing a number of times since then as well. I think this is mainly due to circumstances in her life, not a lack of intelligence. I want to give her the best opportunity to succeed, but I'm not sure how to do so. The public schools are an hour away, and are not good schools. I don't think there are any private schools, and they most likely wouldn't be an option if they do exist. Online public school is an option, as is homeschool. I think she could really thrive with the individualized approach she would get with homeschool, and in a perfect world that would be my top choice. But there is some uncertainty regarding how long we will get to keep her. Hopefully it will be permanent, but there's no way of knowing that right now. 

I worry that even with an online school she will struggle, especially coming back from a different state, and I really don't want to set her up for failure in any way. I worry that homeschooling could be setting her up for failure too, though. If she doesn't stay with us permanently then she would be forced back into public school and I don't know if anything we did would count in that case. She is close to being old enough to just get her GED if that was the case though.  

Of course, I'm also completely unprepared to jump into teaching high school, but I will make myself prepared if that's what needs to be done. I'm already looking at graduation requirements, transcripts, etc, and I'm trying to come up with a basic plan for her. 

I guess I'm hoping to get some advice regarding what we should do for her. If she was younger I wouldn't be so worried, but I feel like high school is such an important step and I don't want to mess it up. What would you all do in this situation? Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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My advice is that if you don't know how long you will have her with you that you either enroll her in an online school or send her to a b&m school.  The reason for this is that most public high schools will not accept homeschool credits and if she leaves your care and returns to a traditional school, she will need to repeat those courses.

 

Also, you are going to need to investigate your state laws regarding whether or not you are even legally able to homeschool her.  In some states, you are not allowed to homeschool children who are not your own.

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My advice is that if you don't know how long you will have her with you that you either enroll her in an online school or send her to a b&m school.  The reason for this is that most public high schools will not accept homeschool credits and if she leaves your care and returns to a traditional school, she will need to repeat those courses.

 

Also, you are going to need to investigate your state laws regarding whether or not you are even legally able to homeschool her.  In some states, you are not allowed to homeschool children who are not your own.

 

Exactly what I was going to say.  Different schools in the same state treat homeschooling credits differently.  My local school accepts homeschool credits for high school, but the one up the road doesn't.  For that school, you have to start at 9th grade, even if you've been homeschooled through 11th (for example.)

 

And again, you might not legally be able to homeschool her.  I'm pretty sure my state has laws about how the home education must be provided by a parent.

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EKS and Garga, thank you both for sharing your thoughts so promptly. Yes, that was my fear with not sending her to school; that it wouldn't translate over if she has to go back. It seems that is a reasonable fear... darn. I do worry that she won't be able to keep up in a B&M or online school though, but I guess we would just have to cross that bridge if we come to it. 

As for the legality... As I understand it, a parent or guardian must do the instruction in our state. We would have to be given some kind of guardianship to even enroll her in school (or anything else for that matter) so as I understand it we would be able to homeschool with that as well. I would double check that with an attorney, but that's how it seems from what I can find myself. 

I guess with the information we currently have we should plan to enroll her somewhere and try to help her as much as we can. At least until we can find out if this will be a permanent situation or not. If anyone has other thoughts or advise I'm happy to hear it. Thanks again!

Edited by PoisonHemlock
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Another factor to consider is that you really don't know where she is academically, or as a learner.  Before your final decision on placement, I would do a full assessment of things like where she is in math, her reading level, her general background in history and science (harder to measure that, but talking to her about what she's done along the way may give some sense of it).  Then there is the question of ability - how fast she is likely to pick up math, for example, which is partly innate and partly bout what else is going on with her emotionally etc.  I'd also try to get  a sense of her study skills - does she know how to read  a passage and answer questions bout it, does she have passable writing skills, does she know how to approach math problems.  And perhaps most important - does she have goals for her future, does she have interests or passions, what is her attitude towards school work, how much work is she willing to do to achieve her goals.  With her goals, skills, and abilities in mind, you can also assess her resources and help her plot out a path to self-supporting, independent adulthood.  Questions about socialization will also arise - if you are rural, how will she interact with peers?  Would she be interested in things like 4H or other local activities?  Does she have hobbies or passions that could be continued/nurtured to create some positive experiences, confidence, and self-esteem?  
 

If you do enroll her in a cyber school (or other public school), having some sense of the answers to all this will help you to be her advocate within the system, which she will need in order to succeed.

Lots to consider!!!  Good on you for taking this on!!!

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Sounds like online school charter type school like K-12, or Connections perhaps, might be a good option in this situation. 

 

You can work with her a lot,  both for school and also for emotional support and bonding, and  save 2 hours commute per day.  If she ends up in your care with permanence you could switch to full homeschool, but if she goes elsewhere she can still move into a regular BMS with a record of coursework they'd likely accept.

 

Or also check what else your area might have, for example, our area has had a charter school with schoolwork that is done at home with the parent, but also a live teacher who comes out every couple of weeks or so, and is reputed to have much more leeway in materials used for each subject than k-12 or Connections, but I believe still has grades that would transfer easily.

 

If she is in a brand new situation, also thinking about how and where she will be able to make friends seems important.  

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EKS and Garga, thank you both for sharing your thoughts so promptly. Yes, that was my fear with not sending her to school; that it wouldn't translate over if she has to go back. It seems that is a reasonable fear... darn. I do worry that she won't be able to keep up in a B&M or online school though, but I guess we would just have to cross that bridge if we come to it. 

As for the legality... As I understand it, a parent or guardian must do the instruction in our state. We would have to be given some kind of guardianship to even enroll her in school (or anything else for that matter) so as I understand it we would be able to homeschool with that as well. I would double check that with an attorney, but that's how it seems from what I can find myself. 

I guess with the information we currently have we should plan to enroll her somewhere and try to help her as much as we can. At least until we can find out if this will be a permanent situation or not. If anyone has other thoughts or advise I'm happy to hear it. Thanks again!

If she can't keep up, then she wouldn't keep up in public anyway. At least at home doing it you will be there to help her one on one as she goes. And with an online school it is going to not move on until she masters it, from what I understand. I have no experience though. If you do end up with her permanently and legally in the next 4 years, then you could switch to homeschooling and count any passed PS classes as part of your transcript. But the public schools may not do the same for your homeschool classes. (though I will say, I have seen it happen for the first time here recently. A homeschooled student who had homeschooled all of the way entered our local ps online charter school with a mom made transcript. They accepted the transcript and put her in as a senior. She is the first time I have heard of this happening here, so changes may be coming more and more, hopefully!) 

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Thank you all for your great, thoughtful responses!

I had never considered other online schools like Oak Meadow or Calvert. That was a great idea, and I will look into those options more. I'm also happy to hear Connections suggested as a possibility since that is the online public option in our area. I hadn't realized it was a charter, so that gives me a bit more hope for it being a good fit for her. 

I should have also mentioned that she is not new to us. She has often spent weekends and summers with us in the past, so she has friends in the area from that. She was also part of a church group with one of those friends, so that could be an option for the social aspects if she is still interested in attending. She also has friends in the town an hour away, so we would try to let her visit with them too. I feel like 4-H could be good for her, so we may look into that at some point. I don't want to get her into it only to have her ripped away from it though, so we'll probably wait a bit on that one. 

As for where she is academically... I don't really know. I know she finished 8th with mostly Bs and Cs, but I have no idea how she is doing this year. She has not been allowed any contact with family or friends while she has been out of state, so we're really in the dark on that front. I do know that during the summer between 7th and 8th I tutored her a bit in English, and she went from nearly failing to an honors class. To me, that suggests she can get better with help. Hopefully that will hold true. 

Again, thank you all for the support. You have given me more to think about and research, and I really appreciate it. I'm sure things will be much more clear once she gets here, but until then I feel like I can start moving forward in getting a plan together. I'm one of those people that REALLY needs a plan, so that is a huge help. Thanks again!

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One further thought--

 

I had a friend in your situation. She took in a teenager from an abusive home. The teen's mother willingly signed over guardianship on condition that my friend never disrupt money mother was receiving for teen. In this case, it was clear that it was necessary to save the teen from clear abuse so my friend agreed.

 

So if you can afford it at all, please consider not fussing about the money. Your girl would likely rather be safe and loved even if she is poor.

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Since you have tutored her in the past and she was able to not only catch up but excel, if you put her in an accredited  on-line charter but keep the classes from being overwhelming, with your help she might be able to catch up in areas she is behind and might thrive in some, especially if she was allowed to take something she was genuinely interested in.  Hopefully whatever you use for her academics will include assessments to determine where she actually is. 

 

Math is a biggie.  If she is really far behind in math and the school refuses to place her where she actually is vs. where she should be, she could end up floundering and losing even more ground.  I would solidify any gaps in her basics ASAP.  You might give her your own assessment first (post in a separate thread for specific suggestions of resources) to see if you need to get materials to help her with review while you also help her function in her on-line math class.  For instance, let's say the school won't let her go back further than Algebra I but she is actually not ready for Algebra I because she is really weak on Fractions/Decimals/Percents and her math facts.  You could run her through the Key to Fractions/Decimals/Percents books and maybe Prodigy or Reflex math on the side while you help her get through the Algebra class with lots of scaffolding and discussions.  You could also do something like Hands On Equations. 

 

With scaffolding she can probably make due in other areas (such as if her decoding skills/fluency was behind you could read to her and let her listen to audio books while you worked with her on reading strategies separately). 

 

One thing to absolutely keep in mind is that most kids this age who have NOT had to deal with what she has had to deal with still need structure and scaffolding and support.  She will almost certainly need such things.  She may also need a lot of help learning skills like note taking and communicating with the teacher when she has questions and even how to set up her notebooks and turn in assingments, etc.  In other words, if she will let you, I would sit near her during her on-line classes when possible and help her stay organized and on top of assignments.  She will probably need a lot of help setting up calendars and keeping track of due dates, etc.

 

She may need emotional support from a neutral third party as well so if counseling is at all possible I would recommend it.  Even if it were temporary, if you could find someone she felt comfortable with, that might give her a safe place to process.

 

Finally, if as she is moving through classes her struggles with academics continue you might look into some learning challenges as well.  People can be highly intelligent, even gifted, and still have learning challenges such as dyslexia or stealth dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia (either the physical act of forming letters or the mental act of getting thoughts organized and onto paper coherently), low processing speed, low working memory, etc.  Any of those things can be tricky for a layman to detect.  The child's strengths mask the weaknesses and the weaknesses keep them from really soaring in their areas of strength.  

 

Hugs and good luck.

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