I have realized I am an academic nonconformist. I don't think I'm alone; generally, the term is "eclectic homeschooler." I don't fit into any particular camp.
I love the idea of a Classical Education. Familiarity with the roots of Western civilization from the roots--the Jews in Israel, the Greeks, the Romans, how Christendom came about... It's fascinating and worthwhile, and not nearly well-known enough. I look back on my own K-12 public school education and have flashes of, "So THAT is what they were trying to do!" I wanted that for my own kids when Madeleine was five.
I've reconsidered since. The amount of time needed for such an education is considerable, not just on the student but also on the teacher. Even if you buy course plans or syllabi, checking over the work and answering questions isn't done instantly. Discussions are supposed to be had to flesh out what's going on, to give that material meaning. So if a student is spending 6-7 hours a day just doing the work independently, when are these profound conversations supposed to be had? Around the dinner table with small children, or en route to extracurriculars? Exactly how many kids are supposed to be having these discussions?
I also chafe at being wedded to a particular curriculum. At least a couple providers tout how flexible they are, but for high school there are parameters or requirements. Course plans or syllabi must be followed exactly to get their diploma and the college track is presumed. And of course that's what you want for your child; her opinion on it is irrelevant anyway, because she's just a teenager and doesn't know what she wants. Mother knows best, after all.
Money question: What's the difference between sending your kids to a brick-and-mortar school where you have little (if any) say about the curriculum, and using a purchased curriculum arranged by someone else who's never met your kid?
I feel countercultural for admitting the following, so I'll just come out with it: I don't know how many of my children will go to college, and I'm not going to force them to. Neither will I feel like a failure as a homeschooler if they don't. There are other barometers of success besides letters after one's name, and I've heard of too many college graduates unable to find jobs where they can support themselves and their college debts. A college diploma is still a ticket for success, but it's changed from comparable to a train to more like the lottery.
Then I swing over to the unschooling mindset. Why not follow the kid's lead? Trust and pray, pay attention and strew. I can't give myself over to that completely because, as one of my children put it, "To go full unschooler would probably result in a whole lot more studying of the Wii." But the idea of the student having some say in what they're studying pulls me too hard to ignore. It just makes sense at an inchoate level that they'll do better when they're doing what they want to do.
The revelation of my nonconformity has become undeniable as Madeleine, her father, and I investigate ninth grade. One school studies the Greeks, one does both Greeks and Romans, another nonclassical has a more-familiar "college prep" feel; I even looked at my and Husband's high schools. After a few hours of dizzying variety, I realized that there are fewer terms more generic and meaningless than "English 9." Sure, it's a required class for graduation, but what exactly is covered in that class is so varied as to render the term useless.
So, I'm scattered. We'll be using one school's Earth Science course for science, continuing with our current textbook series for math, and using a tenth grade course for history and literature because that's where her interest lay. She'll continue her weekly study of Latin as she has for two years now (according to some guidelines, she's already in tenth grade for that), and for her sixth class she wants to study Shakespeare. That should keep us busy and happy for ninth grade. No, I don't want to discuss tenth or Dale coming along in a year or two.