by Briana Elizabeth
I never, ever thought I’d be a homeschooler. Ever. My mother home schooled my brother for a while to catch him up when he had a rough year, but my kids were fine! They didn’t need any catching up, everything was idyllic. They were enrolled in a quaint grammar school where everyone knew everyone and there was no administrative or regulatory nonsense going on, so as I saw it, everything was perfect.
My oldest son who had ADHD was doing well on his medications, and had some wonderful years, along with some skin of his teeth years. But the school was working with him, and he was making his way through with support and a lot of hand holding. And then everything came to a screeching halt. He had had a bad year, and when I had asked about his IEP’s, the teacher was astounded, she never knew he had one. And, remarkably, they had not known about his 504 for years. Which was also my fault, because I trusted the school to do its job. Regardless, now he was failing to the point of no return. Meaning, that if in the last marking period he earned all As, he still would not pass 7th grade. Our family was working with a wonderful psychiatrist at that point, and he drew a line in the sand for my son. “If you let him fail, he will never ever be able to move beyond that failure. You cannot let him fail.”
He was 3/4 of the way through the school year, and with that statement from our very trusted doctor, what was I supposed to do? The only thing I could do: homeschool.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, I need to be pushed really hard into some things in life. Homeschooling was one of them. And that, in the case of my son, was a horrible fault on my part, and not my only one. Beginning on the day I took him home to school him, the truth of what the schooling experience had done to him started to come out. It was a slow leak. I guess because the pressure was off, he felt safe to share what he had been going through. Even thinking about it now almost brings me to tears, how I didn’t see how his soul was being maligned, and his spirit was being crushed. I was one of those parents, you see, the ones that thought that school was good, and teachers were right, and medications were what good parents did. I was one of those parents who just never questioned what the professionals told me. I thought I was teaching him to persevere and work hard. I thought he was learning diligence. I was very, very wrong.
Being propelled more by fear, I also began to classically homeschool him–or what I, at the time, thought classical homeschooling was. It seemed like the best thing to do because of the high quality of the education, and because when people asked, it sounded awfully spectacular. As if I were giving him a private school education at home. It did appeal to my pride, I’ll be honest.
And then we crashed and burned again. Of course we did, I was schooling from a place of pride. My not even giving him a break and then throwing him into Logic and Latin were just about the worst things I could have done. I took the pressure from school and now gave him no safe place to decompress. Out of my fear that I would ruin him, I piled every subject on him, with all of the work that the books told me to. And, to top it off, I was frantic about what I had now learned he had missed all those years he was in public school so we had to do double-time and make up for what his education was lacking.
After the first year of homeschooling, even though it was horrible, we decided to take my 4th grade daughter out of the public school system. You see, even though I had so horribly messed up homeschooling at that point, and the shine had worn off the penny, the beauty of the classical ideal started to come through. And I had learned the hard way that the public schools were not in any way able to teach to those ideals. The final straw came when my daughter was not only being bullied and physically hurt at that sweet idyllic grammar school, but when she started crying over her homework. Long division was the culprit. And as I tried to help her do her homework, all I got was, “Mom, you can’t help me, I have to do it the way the teacher taught me.” Of course I called the teacher and asked what the problem was only to be told again, “Please don’t help your daughter, we’re teaching them a new way to do division and you’ll only confuse her.” My daughter continued to cry over her work, and then began to think she was stupid. This from the star pupil, teacher’s pet, and most popular girl in her class. You could just see the light leave her eyes a little more each day.
She was too smart to end up thinking she was stupid over long division. She was starting to truly believe that about herself, and I was having none of it. We pulled her out at the end of the 4th grade.
So with a baby on the way, I now had two children homeschooling. In this case, ignorance was bliss. I had no choice but to do it, and so I did. I let up on my son some, and now I knew to ease my daughter in. I started to teach myself along side them, because what I learned most of all was that my own education was so lacking that I needed remedial work right along with them. Why I stuck with classical homeschooling was that through my own learning, and theirs, I came to understand the historical precedence of a classical education, the wisdom of it, and, lastly, the sheer beauty of it. It gave me peace to know that no matter what my children did with their lives, they would have a base of knowledge that they could build upon for the rest of their lives. That they would be given the tools to learn more, to understand, and to become fully human.
I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years now, and I have 5 children who have never known what it is to sit within the walls of a public school. To be honest, they are my my most amazing students. They are the ones that learned Aesop’s fables on my lap, who started Latin in third grade, who gained the benefit of my learning that depth is better than breadth, and that more work doesn’t make a better student. But all of them, even though I so profoundly wronged my oldest son, understand the rightness of why we order our lives to love what is beautiful. And that, in the end, is the goal of a classical education.