|First week of homeschooling: January 2009|
Families make the decision to homeschool for many reasons. Some want an environment where they can teach their religion with no boundaries, free from the political correctness that is so pervasive in public schools, where Christmas has suddenly become a “winter holiday”. Other families feel that the culture of our schools, where performance on a test is rated higher than creativity, outcome is valued over process and above all the score on a standardized test is the end all be all of a child’s educational experience. Some families have children with special needs whose needs are not being addressed in their school district. Other families guided by a Libertarian philosophy wish to be rid of all government rules and regulations that infringe on their family life. Some families travel extensively and school on the road. For some, like us, school was just not a place their children wanted to be.
That is how we came to homeschooling. Our then seven year old was not thriving in school. She was a model student, reading at age 4, writing at 5, patient, kind, a pleasure to have in class. Teachers just thought she was quiet, shy, and reserved. She did not speak to her teacher in Kindergarten and only began speaking to her first grade teacher in April of that school year. Second grade saw her grow socially but at the expense of her health. So upset by the idea of going to school, she would not eat breakfast. More upset by the idea of the cafeteria, she rarely at lunch. One meal a day is not enough to sustain a growing child. Worse still was having to listen to her sleep. Troubled by her dreams, she would toss and turn, sob and cry. It is heartbreaking to hear the sobs and see tears slide down the cheeks of a sleeping child. Sunday nights became a battlefield. “Please Mommy, can’t I just stay home and learn?” she finally asked me one Sunday night. After talking it over, my husband and I honored her request and withdrew her from school.
My other daughter, now age 10, thrived in school. Social, bright and inquisitive, she also was a teacher’s dream student. I like to say that this child knew how to “do school” well. She aced standardized tests, including the yearly Connecticut Mastery Test. This is no small feat considering the sheer amount of tests that are administered in our district. Yet the teachers never saw the impact these tests had outside the classroom. The stress and anxiety affected my daughter and caused her pain. Literally. The aches and pains would start in March, about the same time the test was being talked up. And Up. And UP. But still she persevered and made it through what I like to call March Madness. She never asked to come home, until she saw the unique, fun adventures her sister was having in her homeschool lessons. We helped her make the choice to come home, to have one year respite from the rigors of public school. She may at the end of her year choose to continue on with homeschooling, which would be fine with me. Or, she may choose to return to her school for 6th grade, finish out her elementary year with her friends and prepare for middle school. She would have our blessings should she make this choice then.
Her path in education most likely will be very different from her sister’s. I expect that at some point my oldest will want to return to school for the sports, the clubs, and the activities. I don’t know if her sister will join her at some point. Perhaps if she does return it will be to a smaller private school where she can feel safe and not overwhelmed.
For now, I am a homeschooling mother to two young daughters. When you research homeschooling, there are many books, websites and blogs that will tell you how to homeschool. Many others will teach you about the different philosophies of education we as homeschoolers subscribe to and then guide you to purchase the curriculum to support them.
Not many books, blogs and websites will tell you honestly what it is like to remove your child from the institution of school. The longer a child is in school, the more institutionalized he or she becomes. Suddenly removing the confines of a school building, the mandatory tasks and procedures and the required learning tasks that must be completed on a daily basis and the child can feel completely and utterly at a loss.
I keep this blog as a way to share my experience with homeschooling two older children who spent most of their young lives learning away from me. Now together, living in one home, sharing more time than we have had available since they were toddlers, learning in new and different ways, we are experiencing a time in our family’s life that it unprecedented. I want to give an honest retelling of the feelings, hopes, dreams, anxieties, struggles, concerns, joys and tears that our family goes through this year. It is my hope that other families that may be on the same path as us, for whatever reason, will glean from my accounts, what homeschooling is like, really like. The good, the bad, the failures and the accomplishments.
This is who we are now. Who we are becoming is still being decided. Open your mind and heart to homeschooling and there is no telling the wondrous adventure you may have.......