Homeschool is for the–SQUIRREL! by Faith

 

I was homeschooled for a few years off and on as a child. My parents used various methods and curricula (or no curricula at all), mixed in with various schools, the gifted program, moving around to new schools and programs–lather, rinse, and repeat. I swore that I would never homeschool my child. I would go crazy. I wanted maybe two children, tops, and they would go to school so I could catch a break. Homeschooling moms were crazy.

Well, I can’t say the last sentence is wrong! Some days I do feel absolutely insane. Sign me up for the loony bin. But we are doing what is best for our family, which didn’t turn out exactly as I had designed it in my head as a teenager.

My oldest child was born while I was in college and working full-time, trading shifts with hubby. My daughter, The Sponge, was adorable, charming, sweet, and we realized we really wanted more. So we had another shortly thereafter, giving us two girls two years apart.

That second girl, The Drama, was an extremely challenging babe. She ended up in Early Intervention, where she received therapy for severe sensory issues, speech and communication issues, and hearing issues from hidden/symptomless ear infections. So when The Drama, my wild child, began to surpass her elder sister in areas of self-control, attention span, ability to sit, ability to listen to anything read aloud, and more, I realized that perhaps The Sponge wasn’t quite on a normal developmental track.

The older she grew, the more pronounced her issues became. The children around her grew, matured, and settled. She did not. My visiting parents commented it was a miracle she was still alive. At 5.5 years, she was still running in front of cars in the street. She ran off wherever and whenever the fancy struck, honestly seemed not to hear people speaking at all; she literally seemed to have a disconnect between her brain and her body. In the moment, she was unable to control herself in any way, even if it meant putting her life in obvious and grave danger. The filter between “what I want to do” and “what I should do/reality/safety/rules” seemed to be completely missing.

She was even unable to handle her once-a-week 50-min Sunday School class without getting in trouble. We tried diet changes, supplements like omega-3 oils, and routines. She continued endangering her own life. When even my friend, a super-hippie, energy-work lady, recommended I take her to see a doctor, I was more than ready. At least it wasn’t just me!

During these formative years, The Sponge maintained a strange relationship with learning. She would hide in the back room, grab the workbooks I had bought for fun at the thrift store, and work through pages and pages and pages and pages without stopping. She could draw for 8 hours straight, but not sit still for two minutes for an actual lesson without nearly going insane. She would literally cry if an audiobook was turned on. She read on her own at three, but would cry and run away if I tried to teach her phonics. She adored logic, infinity, and negative numbers, but couldn’t add and had no grasp of place value. The Sponge was capable of upper elementary science as a preschooler, drank it in like, well, a sponge, and would chatter away about advanced details of anatomy and physiology.

So, how do YOU think school went for her?

First she went to preschool for 2.5 years, thanks to the generosity and love of the nursery school teacher at our church. Preschool was two hours of art, playtime, snack, and behavioral expectations aimed at children younger than she was, in a group of 4-6 children. That she could handle. Usually. She also rattled off constant questions to the teacher on why things worked they way they worked, why the crow was black, on and on and on. In such a small group with such young children, that was fine. She had a late birthday, so she was in preschool and half homeschooled for her kindergarten year (age five), simply because she couldn’t go into a school at her age.

When she was finally old enough for kindergarten, I signed The Sponge up for a multi-sensory charter school. It sounded fabulous on paper. Yet despite being a charter school, the academics were the opposite of rigorous. The packet she was to complete by the end of the year? Apart from knowing her address and phone number, she could have finished the entire thing on her first day–if she could have sat still long enough to fill in more than a few lines at a time, which she couldn’t. She was still at a preschool level of attention and control.

She had a long bus ride(starting at 6:45am!) to a place where she already knew what they were learning, and she was bored out of her mind. This does not help a hyperactive kid, by the by. Before the end of the first week, she was lying and faking sick to try and avoid school. In kindergarten. The fun one.

After many fruitless attempts to contact the (hypothetical) school psychologist, I finally pulled The Sponge from that school. I found a charter school that offered one day a week of all of their fine arts programs to homeschoolers. They were happy to place her with her age peers in first grade for the day. I enrolled The Sponge there and she went once a week for the entire year. She still lied and threatened in order to avoid going in the mornings, because in her words, “I HATE SITTING STILL!” but I thought one day a week was worth it. It did not teach her to sit still, or improve her mental functioning in any real way, but she drew, sang, learned, made friends, and always came home cheerful, which was a welcome change. After that year, though, I knew a traditional school setting was not in the cards for this girl.

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Her learning was so asynchronous as to drive a normal person insane. She was five grade levels apart in various areas. She could not move past one-step math problems. She could not hold the first number in her head while she did the second part. Making ten? Adding past one place value? Not possible. Minute anatomical details and high-level science? Easy. This coincided with the recommendation of similarly anti-medication-minded friends to seek help for her issues before she got herself killed through sheer inattention to the world around her.

At an assessment at the pediatrician, she scored extremely high for ADHD and we began Adderall. The change was immediate. She was The Sponge, but with access to her brain. She could pause in that split second and make a choice; for the first time in her life, she could actually control her actions. She could hold numbers in her head, learned place value, learned how to write properly, and shot ahead in reading over the next year. Understanding her condition, her Sunday School teachers allowed her to color in class, which improved her behavior and her ability to answer questions tremendously. That year I homeschooled, and she learned and thrived.

Something else was still wrong, however. It was indefinable, but something was still not right in her brain. Things improved, but only partially. We regularly had to up the dosage of her medication, as it seemed to lose its efficacy. Tics began to show up and increased in prevalence. There was something else just…off in her thoughts and behavior. The pediatrician recommended a full evaluation by a professional.

Extensive testing found the missing pieces. The Sponge was diagnosed with a combination of Asperger’s, ADHD-Combined, and anxiety, plus Tourette’s. That was it. Asperger’s was the big missing piece in the equation. Her medication was switched to a non-stimulant, which reduced her tics and insomnia, plus an anti-anxiety/anti-tic medication that also boosts the effectiveness of ADHD medication. Two small pills, no stimulants. Elegant.

As it was a non-stimulant, the medicine took months to build to effectiveness. Thankfully it was summer, and I could send The Sponge out with her sister to play with friends, a new occupation once the medication began working–previously she had no interest in playing with actual people, only herself and her own games and experiments. In the period between stopping the stimulant and getting the non-stimulant up to an effective range, I was the parent of a hyperactive 2-year-old (ADHD Mode) or 30-year-old (Asperger’s/Anxiety Mode) in an 8-year-old’s body.

The medication is balanced now and she is capable of schoolwork again. The grade levels of her subjects are growing closer to normal, the asynchronous gaps shrinking. She is in a 13-week social skills program. Initially we all thought this program would prepare her for traditional school. However, as the weeks have gone by, I’ve seen how holding it together for the several-hour program takes all of her self-control, how she loses it when she comes home, how her anxiety spikes afterwards, and how she obsesses and over-analyzes the various parts of the program and every person in it. She could possibly manage to follow the rules and sit in a school setting next year, but it would take every ounce of her self-control and she would implode from the pressure.

In addition, she has very slow processing speed, so the work itself, if she could pay attention to it, would take her twice as long as everyone else. She would be doing homework the entire evening. Homeschooling is generally much more efficient than public school and can be completed in a fraction of the time, thanks to a lack of any busywork or crowd control or waiting for others. With The Sponge, we need a full school day of time to finish her work in this one-on-one setting. She would never manage to get it finished in a distracting environment where she is using every ounce of energy to sit still, remember the rules, follow the rules, plus not yell or blow her nose on her shirt or cry under her desk. She is thriving in homeschool: learning, closing gaps, and expanding her horizons. Homeschool is the best place for her right now. (She will be in a drama class with PS kids next year, though. She always needs some social practice!)

So, my kid is one of those Weird Homeschooled Kids. However, she would be the Weird Miserable Bullied Public School Kid or the Weird Miserable Bullied Charter School Kid if we didn’t homeschool. You can’t change Weird, but you certainly can tailor an education and life experience to Weird!

 

Faith–Faith is a highly distractable mother of four. She believes in doing what is best for each child and has experimented with various combinations of public, charter, and home schools. Her oldest child iFaiths diagnosed with Asperger’s with ADHD-Combined and anxiety, and she suspects her third child struggles with it, also. Faith is an unabashed feminist and “crunchy” mom, strongly LDS with a passion for knitting, avoiding cooking, and Harry Potter.

Why I Homeschool, by Sarah

 

Long long ago, in a galaxy not so different from this one,  there was a young girl who hated school. She never could see the point of going to school to be bored for six hours, so very early in her school career she checked out and rarely paid attention at all. She got decent grades even though she paid no attention in class and rarely did her homework. She was a fairly solid B student, and if she had done the homework, she would have had As. Every once in awhile she encountered a teacher who inspired her and she would work, but those inspirations were few and far between.

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Bingo Reading

The girl grew up, went to college–lots of different colleges, actually–met a boy who eventually became her husband, and declared, long before they had children, that she was never letting them have the same experience she had had in school. Years before she had children, she was researching other ideas on how to educate them. Eventually she discovered homeschooling and found a message board where homeschooling parents met to discuss education.

She liked the thought, so six or so years before she was even pregnant she bought her first homeschooling book.  She kept researching, and talked to her husband. He had not had as bad a school experience, but he had been in a magnet program since he was in 4th grade; unfortunately, that magnet program was being gutted and changed, thanks to changes in school environments. The couple did not live in that district anyway. He listened to her arguments and thought about his school experiences, and long before they even had their first child had agreed that homeschooling seemed like a good method for schooling their children.

The girl continued to research; she was drawn to the method laid out in the book The Well Trained Mind, but she also liked the idea of unschooling. She thought for a while longer, and finally determined that she would not work well in within the framework of unschooling; so she decided upon the classical method laid out in The Well Trained Mind, with changes to better fit her personality and those of her future children.

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Building a Lego Car

Eventually the girl had a child. He was a smart, active boy child who did go to preschool, but would not be a good fit for a regular elementary school classroom.  He needed too much movement time and was not happy sitting and following directions for long.  She also had a smart, curious girl child and then a second smart, curious boy child. Neither of the younger children appeared to have the issues with fitting in a regular classroom that their elder brother did, but that didn’t bother the girl, now a mother of three. She still planned to homeschool them all when they were school age.

Then the unthinkable happened. The eldest boy child fell out a window and ended up in the hospital, recovering, for 7 weeks. His recovery was amazing, but none of the doctors thought public school was a good choice for him. The girl was fine with that because she had always planned to homeschool anyway. So the summer after the eldest boy child came home from the hospital, they started his Kindergarten year, and have been happily homeschooling for 2 years now. The girl child will be joining them full time for Kindergarten in the summer; they will continue to homeschool, following an eclectic classical method with a dash of unschooling thrown in, for as long as it works for all the children in that long ago girl’s family, adapting and changing to fit each child’s needs.

 

Sarahsarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully).  She enjoys reading,  board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.

Homeschooling: Joyful Vocation, by Angela Berkeley

 

Being the mother of a baby, toddler, and preschooler was such a joy to me. I loved watching my daughter grow and figure things out and enjoy her life. I wanted to do a good job, and with no relatives with young children close by I looked for advice in books and magazines, and sought community with other local mothers. I leaned toward attachment parenting, a cozy approach that seemed natural to me–consistent with how we humans were created to be–community oriented, building up a secure base for exploration, sensitive to others’ feelings without being pushovers.

The Lutheran view of vocation was a significant influence on how I approached parenting.  Lutherans believe that God places us in various roles in life, and that each of these represents a vocation in which we should serve ‘as to the Lord.’ Vocations are not just paid employment, but encompass roles like parent, child, church member, employee, employer, sibling, spouse, citizen, etc. Holding the vocation of parent means, in part, being responsible, to the core, for our children’s education and upbringing. This meant that no matter where our daughter studied, I would be in charge and ultimately responsible for making sure that she received a good and appropriate education.

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By the time kindergarten age rolled around, I had read a great deal about various types of education, and had visited and toured several schools. I had benefited tremendously from my own education, learning my Lutheran faith as well as academics in excellent Lutheran dayschools that I attended through ninth grade, and then continuing to study in a very academic high school and a fantastic university.

As I looked at schools and read about different approaches to education, it became clear to me that the most natural extension of our already good life was to homeschool. Our daughter was introverted AND social, easily distracted and frazzled by noise, with an attention span that was longer than most, and verbal skills that were advanced. She loved to be read to, about almost anything, and to discuss things for a long time. The first time I took her to visit the tide pool touch ponds in a local natural history museum, she stayed for four hours in front of that little display, completely entranced.  She was just four years old.

As I learned more about homeschooling, there were so many things about it that seemed to fit just right. We could go on field trips and take our time, experiencing them thoroughly. There would be no time wasted standing in line. Playdates would replace 15 minute ‘recesses’, and would give opportunities for much longer, more imaginative games and deeper relationships than at school. Lessons would begin exactly at the student’s level, and be customized for her learning style, and taught in the quiet, cozy home learning environment that was already working so well. Project-based learning would be easy to work into the days and weeks, and religion would fit into every subject, naturally.

We took the plunge and started when she was in first grade, and never looked back. The style that worked in our household was loosely classical, with an eclectic flair, and we continued very successfully through thick and thin until the end of middle school. It has been a rich and joyful journey indeed!

Angangela_berkeleyela Berkeley–Although Angela Berkeley wanted to homeschool her daughter, she was unable to find others to partner with in this endeavor and felt that it was unfair to homeschool an only child; so she enrolled her in kindergarten. However, because the family was facing a mid-semester cross-country move during their daughter’s first grade year, she pulled her out to homeschool until they settled into their new home. This went so well, and her daughter liked it so much, that they ended up homeschooling through 8th grade.  Using an eclectic classical style, this was an extremely successful process, producing a confident, personable, and academically well-prepared entrant into a local high school.

Why We Homeschool, by Jack Squid

 

“Mom, I want to be homeschooled like them,” my kids’ friend recently told her mother. “I want to be able to get up whenever I want like them, and to learn what I want rather than having the teacher tell me what to learn.”

Though we are indeed night owls who get up ridiculously late, our homeschool is all about hard work — hard work that is often enjoyable, but hard work nonetheless.

It’s easy to see why homeschooling sounds so appealing to my kids’ friend, however. At age seven, she is in first grade. A year ago, she was an inquisitive, happy child who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Now, she has been labeled a failure by the thought-quelling post-communist system. She doesn’t “get” the basic arithmetic concepts that are being presented to her, you see, and she is too creative. Though I think it is ridiculous to expect children to write whole essays during their first year in school, that is what is being expected of them. When this girl described spring as “sweet” in a recent essay, she was rewarded with the lowest grade. “Foods can be sweet; seasons cannot. Essay-writing is not the time to express artistic creativity,” the teacher told the child’s mother.

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I started homeschooling when my oldest child taught herself to read at age four. If she had lived in the country I grew up in, this is when she would have started school. Since school starts at seven here, I decided to start teaching her myself.

Homeschooling isn’t something I knew very much about at that point. A world opened up to me when I came across a great variety of English-language homeschool materials on the internet and found out that homeschooling isn’t all that unusual in America. Around the same time I learned more about the local school system and discovered The Well-Trained Mind. I knew that they couldn’t compare, and I wanted the better option.

We’ve skipped Latin and Greek so my kids could acquire some of the numerous languages that come with their own heritage instead, but I otherwise implement the sequence laid out in The Well-Trained Mind pretty closely.

My children will work on a math concept until they get it, rather than being written off as lazy or dreamers, like their friend. They enjoy chanting the full list of prepositions, rather than being told they must be creative and then being told off for it. They get to immerse themselves in history, rather than being the victim of recent historical events in their country of residence. After hard work they get to play and relax, rather than being faced with piles of homework.

I started homeschooling because I wanted to fill a need, committed to it due to more rigorous academics, and continue because it offers my kids freedom — freedom to delve deep, freedom to develop to their full potential, freedom to be themselves, and freedom to think and discuss their thoughts.

Why I Homeschool, by Jen W.

 

My eldest daughter, Emily, was a very easy, compliant, bright child as a toddler and preschooler. We moved to Germany when she was two, then to a very tiny post in the midst of the beautiful vineyards of the Rhine. I ordered books on keeping preschoolers busy from a fledgling internet company called Amazon. They sent company post-its and once even an Amazon commuter mug in my orders.

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I kept my daughter and her sister busy with Montessori-style activities. They washed their doll clothes on a washboard and hung them to dry with tiny clothespins on the balcony outside our apartment. Maria Montessori would be able to carefully explain to you how these types of activities help develop the fine and gross motor skills that children need in order to eventually use their fingers to move a pencil in just the right way. But of course, in the minds of my two little girls, it was just something fun to do.

Now four years old, Emily loved to stand near me as I cooked their meals. She would remove the alphabet magnets from the refrigerator one by one as I worked: “What sound does this letter make? How about this one?” I taught her the sounds of the letters rather than the letter names, as suggested in one or more of many books. Soon enough, she was putting the letters together to make words. Since her birthday is in December, I went to the school liaison on post that summer and asked about starting her in school in the fall. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense system was insistent that she be five in order to start school. The fact that she was already reading independently was irrelevant.

The following summer, I spoke to the liaison once again, asking if Emily could start in first grade. She was reading Stuart Little and Little House in the Big Woods. Due to the small size of the post, there was only one kindergarten class and they spent the first month of school learning the alphabet. The school system was insistent once again. Students must start in kindergarten. By some strange fluke, the class Emily would have been in had more than 20 boys and only 3 girls (including Emily). I was afraid she would be at once bored and lost in the shuffle of the kindergarten teacher managing that many children.

I talked to the chaplain’s wife who lived downstairs from me. She had five kids, and she homeschooled them. I decided, “How badly could I screw up kindergarten when she is already reading?” The first day of school was at once freeing and nerve wracking. Luckily, I chanced upon The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer, a mother-daughter pair of homeschoolers promoting neo-classical homeschooling. It appealed to me as a lover of history and literature. I carefully laid out my curriculum by following most of the recommendations in the book.

I didn’t necessarily intend to continue homeschooling forever. I thought it might work for a year or two or until we left Germany. But that year was 2001, the year of 9/11, the year that everything changed for military personnel. We moved back to the US in early 2002. But we left knowing my husband would soon be being deployed to Afghanistan. Moving, plus Dad being deployed seemed like a lot in one year. So, we continued to homeschool. It allowed me the freedom to go home when things got hard. It allowed us to take a month off to spend with my husband once he finally came home toward the end of the school year.

We strongly considered putting the kids in school the following year. But never knowing if and when we would move or when my husband might be deployed or when we might need to go home because a family member needed us…it seemed so much harder to arrange around school schedules, so we kept going.

This year Emily is a senior in high school. She moved just before ninth grade, in between tenth and eleventh grades, and just before her senior year. Moving schools would have been tough. She would have had to re-do state history, at a minimum. She would not have maintained the same friends or activities throughout her high school years. Homeschooling lent continuity to the curriculum, at least. It hasn’t always been perfect. We’ve had hard days, hard weeks, even hard years. But no situation is perfect. There are things I will do differently with my younger children. There are things I would have done differently, if our situation had been different.

Homeschooling has allowed us a tremendous amount of freedom and allowed the kids to participate in activities that would have taken too much time away from school in a traditional school setting. The freedom of time has allowed us to take advantage of activities peculiar to our many homes, such as taking sailing lessons in Hawaii. It has allowed me to give my kids the freedom of following their interests in areas where they excel and are strong. It has allowed me to provide extra support and guidance in areas where they are weak. It allows them to take a break to run around when they get extra wiggly. It allows teens to get the extra sleep that even science says they need.

Ultimately, both the strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, are too numerous to list each. I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with my kids for anything. I wouldn’t trade the freedom of our family for anything. I would not recommend homeschooling to everyone in every situation, but it is an option to consider when circumstances warrant it.

  

Jen Wjen_w.– Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn, by Kiki Lynn

 

When my oldest child was small, she was a bright little girl. She learned quickly and seemed to soak up everything that was presented to her. At three, she was reading Level One readers and adding multi-digit math problems. By kindergarten, she was reading chapter books. As much as it saddened me to see her leave th13298850254_0418eb5758e Montessori preschool that we had both grown to love, I was thrilled to see what kindergarten and “real school” held for her. I was sure she was going to grow, thrive, and love every minute of it.

The day came for us to meet her teacher, tour the classroom, and see what kindergarten was all about. I think I might have been more excited than she was. We entered the classroom, and there were colorful posters everywhere and more manipulatives than I had ever seen in one place. And books, so many books! I briefly spoke with the teacher about my daughter. I was curious what they planned to do with a child who was already reading chapter books. The teacher told me that they worked with each child at their level and not to worry. Perfect! This was exactly what I was hoping for. Kindergarten was going to be awesome!

Mere months later, my bright, intelligent little girl was still coloring pages with letters on them while learning little songs about the sounds the letters made. She was bored stiff, and it was starting to show. Her behavior was less than ideal; she was talking instead of working and not completing her worksheets. I suggested that maybe she was just bored, but that was quickly discounted by the staff. By March, the teachers were finally ready to listen and admitted that maybe she was bored after all. At this point, we agreed that it would be best to test her for acceleration (skipping a grade).

The testing process was quite involved. They not only assessed her academic skills, but also her maturity and emotional levels. It was important to not only know if she had the academic skills needed for acceleration, but also if she could handle it emotionally. At the end of the process, we had a meeting with her teacher, the principal and one of the 2nd grade teachers. We were told that after all of the testing, they found that she was a good candidate for acceleration; however they felt that if she couldn’t complete her work in the kindergarten classroom, she would not be able to in a 2nd grade classroom either. I urged them again that maybe she wasn’t completing them because she was bored. She knew her letter sounds and didn’t find coloring enjoyable. This was quickly met with the statement that “gifted children usually accelerate themselves.”

I remember walking out of that meeting feeling like they had done everything in a manner which left me nothing to argue, and yet I was not satisfied. In the end, we agreed not to accelerate her but to give her an IEP for first grade which would ensure she’d be challenged.

First grade went all right. It wasn’t quite the enriching experience that I had hoped for, but it hadn’t gone near as badly as I felt kindergarten had. The following year was amazing. Her second grade teacher was new to teaching and had a passion like none other. My daughter no longer had an IEP, but she didn’t need it. This teacher understood my daughter and knew just how/when to redirect her. He saw through her struggles and took the time to see the beautiful, intelligent child buried under all the difficulties. She felt cared about, and was learning and beginning to love school again. Life was good.

The next year, I made the mistake of filling her teacher in on what we had been through – chalk it up to being new as the mom of a school-aged child. I shared with her the testing, the IEP, and some of the behaviors to watch out for. This teacher took that as a challenge. She went on a mission to prove that my daughter was not as smart as I thought she was. It was almost a personal vendetta. My daughter was scrutinized at every level. It felt as though she could do nothing right.

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Now, my daughter is not one to take guff from anyone. She was only nine years old but easily sensed her teacher’s dislike for her. She became revengeful. It wasn’t right, but she was a child. With every push, the teacher pushed back harder. We were constantly working with our daughter, teaching her that her behavior was inappropriate and that she needed to treat her teachers with respect. We had meetings with the teacher and the principal. We were assured many times that she was simply not adjusting well to 3rd grade. I asked for a classroom change as there was clearly a conflict of personalities and was refused with the reasoning that the placements of each child were made with great consideration for what was best for the child.

To this day, I’m still unsure how we made it through that year. My daughter was being hounded with negative feedback from every angle (including home). While her behavior was less than stellar, she was still a child and needed someone who understood her; who cared about her and saw her not as a problem, but as a person. We were not able to get the school to work with us. Looking back, I have no idea how I was able to stand myself knowing that I was sending her back to that place every day, but at the time it was the only option. School was just something you had to do. It wasn’t optional.

Fast forward to the following year – I had a ten-year-old child who was miserable. She had begun talking about how our lives might be better off without her. She heard nothing but negativity everywhere she turned. We, too, were guilty at home, but we had the school calling us on a regular basis. They had basically thrown their hands in the air and said that they no longer knew what to do with her. We had stooped to begging her to just behave. We assured her that we were trying to work with the school, but that she had to help us out and comply.

Everything finally came to a head when my daughter began stabbing herself with pencils and punching herself in the face. She felt worthless. My world was crumbling around me. How could I have let things get this bad? I could no longer sit back and say that we were working on things. I spent many, many nights in tears. I didn’t know how to help my daughter. I felt like her little life was slipping through my fingers and that one day soon I would wake up to find her in an alley on drugs. Dramatic? Yes, but that’s really where I saw her life heading. The path she was taking surely would not end well.

My husband and I began to look into private schools. The cost was far more than we could afford. I felt helpless. My ten-year-old was miserable, suicidal, and I felt like there was nothing I could do about it. The only option left was homeschooling. But weren’t homeschoolers strange? Would we be the weirdos? What option did I have though? I had to get her out of that place. I needed to protect my daughter.

I proposed the idea to my husband. After many, many long discussions, we agreed to a one-year trial. By that time she would be ready for middle school, and we hoped that we could spend the year resetting her behaviors and that the change in schools would be enough to break the cycle. I had no idea how much I’d love homeschooling or just how incredible it would be for my daughter.

Fast forward four years: she’ll be a freshman next year. Bringing my daughter home was the single best decision I’ve ever made.

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My daughter still struggles with responding appropriately to situations, especially those that are less than ideal, but the strides she’s made are nothing short of a miracle. Because she is home with me, we are able to regularly have in-depth conversations and discuss situations as they arise. She has grown to be a mature and beautiful young woman. Her manners, thoughtfulness, and mature thought processes never cease to amaze me. I’m so fortunate to have this time with my daughter…the child I was so certain would end up on drugs or in trouble with the law.

I recently asked her where she thought she would be today if we hadn’t brought her home. Her answer was quick. She confidently told me that she had no doubt she would be hanging out with the wrong people and doing the wrong things. Validation. It is so very sweet.

 

Kiki Lynn is a homeschooling mother raising four children in eastern Iowa. Her homeschool journey began four years ago when her oldest child with anxiety, ADD, and likely Aspergers didn’t fit the mold at the local public school. She has since fallen in love with the tremendous benefits of having her children home with her each day and looks forward to being an integral part of their growth and learning. “Crunchy” and more introverted than she ever realized, Kiki Lynn enjoys dance, gymnastics (as a coach), and crafting.

Homeschooling: A Love Story, by Genevieve

 

I was eight years old the first time she visited my daydreams. I gave her a name that day in my little yellow bedroom, a name which means ‘tower of strength.’ I dreamt of her again in my twenties. She reached out her arms to me, across the darkness, across the stillness, across the middle of the night.

When the doctor told us we might never have children, I hung on to the vision. I had seen her. I had named her and she was going to be mine. One beautiful August day she was. Within moments of her birth, I could hear the delivery room nurses saying, “Huh, I’ve never seen a baby do that before.” With practically her first breath she proclaimed that she was different.

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I had it all planned out. She would stay home with me until she started public kindergarten. Then I would be a room mother and bake cupcakes and plan parties. I might even be president of the PTA. By the time she was two, I realized that my plan was going to need a little revision. She wasn’t natural and comfortable in her interactions with other children. I decided that she might benefit from Mother’s Day Out two days a week.

I found a wonderful program where I could keep her new little brother in his sling while I taught next door to her classroom. She had a chance to learn new things from new people but I was right around the corner if she needed me. Seeing her in a class full of two-year-olds made it even more clear how different she was. By this age, she was reading over fifty words and yet she had difficulty with some of the simplest classroom routines. I decided that she needed a program more tailored to her special needs, so I started my own preschool.

I was both headmistress and lead teacher. My church donated the building and the utilities. My husband donated our supplies and materials. Without those expenses, I was able to keep a ratio of five children for every teacher. We were also able to provide scholarship slots for children living in low-income housing. It proved to be an ideal environment for my daughter. Even though she continued to lose control in certain situations, I still planned for her to start public kindergarten right on schedule. I still saw PTA President in my future.

That summer, we moved to another state that is not known for its public school system. Fortunately, we found the private school of my dreams. Every child in this school was in two plays each year. Every child learned to swim and how to ride a horse. The third graders each had a garden plot. The teachers truly valued diversity. The curriculum was a year advanced in each grade level. Every student, including incoming Kindergarteners, had to pass an entrance exam. Despite her August birthday, she passed with flying colors. In fact, they later told me that she was able to read the teacher’s manual. She thrived in such a challenging but supportive environment.

Unfortunately, when she was halfway through first grade, we were transferred back to Texas. I met with the principal of our award winning local school. Based on test scores, my daughter was immediately put into the gifted program. She had problems from the very first day. She was different. For six years, she had been taught that its okay to be different. No, it is actually pretty awesome to be different. She was in a situation where she was expected to conform and to crank out a vast quantity of mediocre work. She absolutely would not comply with those expectations. I don’t blame the school. I don’t blame the teacher. In a classroom setting, how could anyone meet the needs of a kid who was years above the program academically, but years behind in maturity?

I began to understand that I would never become president of the PTA. I’d be up at the school every day instead, advocating for my daughter’s needs. If her education was going to be my new full time job, I might as well teach her at home and give the poor public school a break. We tried out homeschooling over spring break. After that one week, she was hooked. This kid was made to homeschool. She loved every minute of it. Once, a relative teased that she was going to be so mad when she found out that she had never had a summer vacation. She replied, “That’s just stupid, who would ever want to go months without learning?”

There were days I wondered if I was failing her. There were days that I wondered if I was going insane, and days when I felt ready to give up. I didn’t give up because my love for her has always been stronger than my plan of living a tidy, ordered life. I came to homeschooling so reluctantly. I was driven to it by a child who was absolutely, fundamentally not going to to succeed in public school, but I survived and I do not regret one moment of the journey.

She is an adult now, a thriving college student, a small business owner, a devoted sister, a loyal friend, a happy, happy human being…and my tower of strength.

Our Path to Homeschooling, by Emma

 

When our oldest was born, we swore we would never homeschool him (or have a homebirth, or let him sleep with us, et cetera.). Homeschooling was fine, for other people. It just wasn’t for us. I didn’t know ANYONE who homeschooled, growing up. My husband knew one child who was homeschooled.

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Fast forward a couple of years, and many new friendships later, and a whole new world started opening up to us. After our son was born, we found ourselves re-evaluating most of our previous beliefs. Almost everything we had said we would never do, we now were seriously considering. Including homeschooling. My husband was still sort of on the fence. I was quickly warming up to the idea. We decided to put our two-year-old in preschool for a year and see how it went. Well, it was…fine. Not good, not bad, it just was. The teachers asked if he spoke much at home because he was so quiet at school. That shocked us because at home? He never stopped talking! So we questioned if it was the best environment for him. I started researching homeschooling, talking to other moms and trying to figure out exactly what homeschooling would look like. As our baby became a preschooler and then turned five, we decided to give it one year. One year to see whether it worked for our family. It only took a few months before we were convinced this was the right path for us.

Homeschooling has allowed our children the freedom to be kids. To play, to use their imagination, to be free to live outside the box. In our home, a school uniform can range from pajamas and a funny hat for our son, to a princess costume or a bathing suit for our daughter. Homeschooling has allowed us to spend more time together as a family. My husband works odd hours, so homeschooling gives them time to spend together when he is home. It has given us the freedom to travel as needed or desired. It’s been a blessing during times of family difficulties.

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I don’t know if we will homeschool through high school. We still take it year by year. Given how well it suits our children, though, I’d be surprised if we didn’t just continue down this path. I always said I wouldn’t be a life-long homeschooler, but I was wrong about everything else, so why not this?

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Emmemmaa–Emma has been married for seven years, and is mom of two, plus one once-crazy dog. She’s been homeschooling for three years now in NC. In addition to being a wife, mom and educator, she is also a Graphic Designer.

 

 

Why I Homeschool, by Cheryl

 

My husband and his siblings were homeschooled, while I went to public and private school. I always wanted kids, but I also always planned to send my kids to school because that is what I did. I knew nothing about homeschooling. A few months after we were married we made friends with a family at our church; they homeschooled their three children. They were our best friends, and I spent a great deal of time with their family, even living with them for a week when a giant ice storm knocked out our power! It was watching this family that helped me gain the initial confidence that I could actually homeschool.

If we had stayed in Missouri, we were going to homeschool to allow flexibility to visit family in Oklahoma. When we moved home to Oklahoma, we researched districts and schools and bought a house in a highly ranked district with a great neighborhood elementary school! Then I called to enroll our oldest in kindergarten.

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Why we started:

Aidan had learned to read very easily at four years old. He loved to sit and do workbook pages. He could sit for an hour at a time and do thirty or more pages in a sitting. I let him. He learned addition and subtraction. He could do two-digit problems in his head, quickly. He could count to 100. His handwriting was better than most adults’ writing. He was more than ready for kindergarten; in fact, in most subjects, he tested at a second grade level.

We missed the cut-off date for kindergarten by three weeks, so he would have been in preschool where he would be “taught” his letters and numbers. There are no exceptions, no testing, just preschool. I checked with public and private school. I called the district office and talked to a woman who said, “We would hope that his teacher could keep him busy with work on his level.” Hope! Hope that a teacher with a class full of students could keep one kid busy with harder work. We decided that preschool was not the place for our son.

One private school said that if we homeschooled kindergarten, they could test him for first grade the next year but he did need one year of school before they could test him. (It is a blended school: two days at school and three at home.) That became our plan. Homeschool kindergarten, test into first grade at the private school; or if I really messed up kindergarten, enroll him in kindergarten at the public school and call our year at home a very rigorous preschool year. 

Kindergarten went very well. We loved every minute of our “school time,” and our son excelled. By the end of kindergarten, it was obvious that a brick and mortar school would not serve his needs. I don’t know if he is gifted, as we haven’t tested him, but he is smart and he is quick. He needed to move at his own pace.

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Once we moved on to first grade we discovered that homeschooling just worked better for our family for a variety of reasons.

Why we continue:

1. We keep a crazy schedule with our performing arts academy. If the kids were in school, most days I would only see them an hour, if that.

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2. When we have musicals, we are at the theatre until all hours of the night. I can let them sleep in during those weeks. We can even take the week off from school if we want.

3. We love the extra family time we get. Being a fully self-employed family, we are together more than we are apart. My kids don’t know how blessed they are to have as much time with their dad as they get.

4. All that togetherness means that my kids are each other’s best friends. Do they fight? Yes. But they get along really well most of the time.

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5. I can pick what they learn and when they learn it. I can tailor our school plans to my children’s needs and interests. We have had fun making up our own science this year. I have also thrown in some extra history when I have books and videos that line up with our curriculum. I also know everything they are learning. I am even learning many things with them.

6. My kids are still young. In three hours we are done with school. We can go to the zoo, the pool, the park, the science museum. We can do a puzzle, have creative play time, or just be lazy and watch TV. My kids get a lot of free-play time.

The longer we homeschool, the more I realize that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I cannot imagine my life if my kids were at school all day. My house might be cleaner and I would have fewer books (but who says that is a good thing!), but I would be bored. My kids keep me entertained and on my toes. I have not questioned for even one day whether we made the right decision for our kids and our family.

 

Chercherylyl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

 

Understood Betsy and Me: Why I Homeschool, by Caitilin Fiona

 

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Understood Betsy is one of those books. Those books are the ones that help to form and inform your life in some serious way. In my case, Betsy has informed both my parenting and my homeschooling, which is a bit odd, now that I think about it: there’re no parents and definitely no homeschooling in it at all! What is central to the book, though, is self-knowledge and strength: that is, the strength of character that self-knowledge brings with it. It is a very dated novel, to be sure; it is highly moralizing, and the author constantly intrudes upon the story, just to be completely sure you’re not missing the point she’s making. But in spite of these flaws, or perhaps, strangely, even because of them, it has been for me an effective philosophical treatise on the goals of child-rearing.

The first and central truth Betsy teaches is the vital place of unconditional love in the soul of a child. Betsy is first loved unconditionally by her Putney cousins, for though Aunt Frances, her first primary caregiver, loves her, it is as an extension of herself, not as the separate and whole person that is Betsy. It is from the deep, strong, solid but unspoken love of Ann, Abigail, and Henry that Betsy draws her strength. This is the parental love I’ve striven to give to my own children, and to share with my students. I believe in them, and as I do, they’ve not disappointed me.

My believing in my children and in my students is manifested in the fact that I see them and, consequently, treat them as real people. By this I mean that I try not to talk down to them, and that I try to engage them as much as I can on an equal footing, just as Abigail and Henry do when they teach Betsy how to make butter. They teach her by showing her how it is done, and then by letting her do it herself, because they believe that she is capable of it. I never assume that something is beyond them, and they, like Betsy, rise to meet the challenge.

In contrast to Abigail and Henry’s sensible and loving attitude, Aunt Frances has always tried to prevent Betsy from doing anything for herself, preferring instead to cultivate in her the permanent feeling of fearful helplessness which mirrors Frances’ own experience of the world. She is the ultimate in helicopter parenting: nothing, from food to dreams, from school to music, is Betsy allowed to experience unmediated. In Frances we are shown what Betsy herself would have become if she had never met her Putney cousins and the freedom they share with her.

Betsy is able to receive this freedom from her new family because they get out of the way, out of the way of her learning and experiencing the world on its, and her, own terms. This is something for which I reach in my parenting and in my homeschooling. When I get out of the way, I give my five year-old the space to investigate how shadows work by lying in the sun, moving a Playmobil figure into different attitudes; I give my teenagers the space to explore and develop their relationship with God and toward faith. Home education is at least as much about what is not said as what is.

The deepest lesson I’ve learned from Understood Betsy, though, has to do with self-reliance. From Cousin Ann, Betsy has learned the great lesson of how to face trouble straight on. She saved Molly from the Wolf Pit, because she was able to think critically, and rely on her own judgment. She was able to get herself and Molly home from the fair when they’d been left behind because she used what modern educators like to call problem solving skills and creativity, and relied on herself. Finally, she has learned to rely on herself in that most complex and hard-to-navigate strait–human relationships–when she saves herself and Aunt Frances from the struggle that would have been their reunited lives, and she does so with kindness and love. This development and use of one’s own good judgment is what I pray for and work toward with my own children. It is the final and most important lesson that Betsy shares with us.

In my view, self-reliance is what makes us homeschoolers, and good ones. Homeschooling is being “in no grade at all!” all the time, but as we travel down our paths toward the goal of well-educated children, we, like Betsy, come to see that the names of grades, levels, styles, and curricula don’t matter. What does matter is the progress we have made and continue to make toward the goal, relying on our children, ourselves, and their and our own good sense. We can–in fact, we should, we must!–learn from our foremothers, and from our fellow travelers. But in the end, we all must “walk that lonesome valley…nobody else can walk it for [us], [we] got to walk it [for ourselves].” For though the valley can sometimes be lonesome, it is ours, and we should walk through it smiling and confident.