Monday, September 27, 2010

My Evolution to Embrace Homeschooling pt. 1

As a lot of my readers know, I have taken on the challenge to homeschool my 6 year old daughter.  This was a very difficult decision to make.  I know many people are curious as to how my family came to this decision, so I thought I would share my story.  This is the first part and I do hope that I will be able to finish it up at some point!

Just a few years ago, if you had asked me about homeschooling, I would have said, "Isn't that just for people who are too lazy to make their kids go to school?” My thoughts were based on the people I saw come into the educational district office where my job was housed. These were obviously not people who should be homeschooling. Their children were always in trouble and the parents looked like they just rolled out of bed after a hard night of drinking. Not to mention their poor speech and misspelled words on applications. They, in no way, looked as if they would be able to provide an appropriate education for their children. My husband, on the other hand, thought homeschoolers were just, "whacko Christians." He based his opinion on the media coverage of the bizarre homeschooling families that make it in the news, after all, who really wants to hear about the normal homeschooling families? So, why, with all our misconceptions from just a few years back, have we made the decision to homeschool?

I did dabble in doing “school” with my children at the preschool age. It was so much fun to teach them things, explore nature, and get creative with art. My girls and I couldn’t get enough of hands on learning activities. I joked that I missed my calling to be a preschool teacher, especially with my love of laminating things! Never did I consider homeschooling. In fact, I was disappointed that my second child missed the cut-off date for 2-year-old preschool by 13 days. I dreamt of the days when they would both be in school and I might get a couple hours to myself. Since becoming a parent, I have had my children 24/7. We have no family to help us or give us a break—it is just my husband and I and an occasional babysitter. Being new in town, we didn’t even have close friends yet when the children were young.

So what changed in these past couple years? First, I became friends with a wonderful Christian woman, former teacher, and homeschooling mother (and now my “boss” when I work). Her husband is a pilot and she loved the freedom to travel and she chose to homeschool. Kim is very intelligent and extremely organized. Plus, she was a teacher herself so I could understand why she chose to homeschool. Even though I “did school” with my preschoolers, I still didn’t anticipate homeschooling. After all, that is a huge commitment and I looked forward to some free time.

But, before my eldest entered kindergarten last year, she was reading at a 3rd grade level. I started questioning what the schools had to offer her. I contacted the private schools and the public schools. The public schools basically told me they offered zilch till 4th grade, when they began testing for giftedness. Even then, they still didn’t seem to offer much. The private schools were willing to work with her and would offer her more. So, we tried kindergarten. She did enjoy kindergarten and I have no regrets sending her there, but I still worried that she was not advancing like she could. They did give her a special reading book, but basically, she was separated from the other students and worked mainly on her own. Whereas that might not be bad in kindergarten, I didn’t want her singled out in later grades, for fear that she would to feel different because she was smart. But my options were limited.

Then steps in my other best friend, another former teacher and Christian. We met when our children were in 2–year-old preschool. Her son is also gifted. She was dealing with the same thoughts as I regarding our children’s needs. She also sent her son to kindergarten, but he had a bad experience at the beginning of the year with some of the students and she decided to homeschool him for the rest of the year. It was a rough year for her, and she struggled with if she was doing the right thing and was struggling with her decision of what to do for first grade. She had been to just about every school in the area and none seemed to offer what she believes her son to need. She knew I struggled with the fact that my daughter was not going to get her needs met in school. I heard the stress in her voice when she asked me, “How are you ok with not homeschooling?” My answer to her that night was that I wouldn’t know where to begin, and that, being the semi-perfectionistic person that I am, I feared would spend too much time putting together the perfect curriculum. That, I thought, would be too stressful and I would be irritable and then would not be a good mother. I told her that first and foremost my job is to be a good mother to my children and I wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away from that. That was early last spring.

To be continued...

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