I was recently asked to write a post explaining why I chose to homeschool, I haven’t posted in forever so I feel like there is so much I should tell you. But I’ll try to stay focused on the task at hand.
I know it may sound cliché but, homeschooling kind of chose me.
My oldest was 4, we had one car and no hopes for another in the near future. She was so bright, so eager to learn. I knew that she needed to be taught to read. I could have walked her into the little town we lived near at the time to go to head start. We couldn’t afford a second car, we couldn’t afford pre-school. I had been an education major in college. I loved teaching, the idea of teaching. I love crayons and notebook paper. I love sharp pencils and colorful posters on the walls with math vocabulary printed on them. Teaching my daughter was going to be a blast. So, I went to the big box book store and bought a “curriculum” and started teaching her. Funny, but I had completed my 3rd year as an elementary ed major and didn’t know how to teach a kid how to read. Maybe that would have come during my Sr. year. It’s weird, that is such a huge focus in the elementary school grades, and in the public elementary school, there should be an entire college course dedicated to teaching a young reader, maybe there is. But I digress. She was ready. So, I sat down every morning, taught her letter sounds and MADE that child read out of readers. She would get so angry and hide and I would get so irritated I’d have to walk away. I could have taught her to read 100 other ways, but honestly, that was the best way for her. She’s read in her 12 years of reading more quality literature than I’ve read in my entire life. From Jane Austen to works translated from ancient Greek (She’s read some teen lit too but much the way I watch HGTV…just to you know…chill.) For her the most exciting part of summer is getting to read what she wants.
But truly I was home schooling out of necessity, not desire. Then along came #2. She loved to dig in the dirt and find rolly pollies and earth worms. All that kid needed was a bucket and a stick and she was happy for hours. The very first time she wrote her name it was in sidewalk chalk upside down and mirror image. I should have known. So, when we could, we sent them to a private Christian school here in Wichita that seems like the popular default for Christian parents. (I’m sorry if your kids go there, I just quit hearing anything really great about that school about 3-4 years ago. HOWEVER there are some kids that go there that I LOVE!) I do have a christian school that I think is amazing so if you’re looking for that option check out www.cswsaints.com.
I did for a minute consider public school. My oldest was actually enrolled to go to kindergarten. I just never took her. Hmmm public school…that’s a tough question. See, I don’t think EVERY one should home school. I don’t think EVERY one should send their kid to private school but for us, for me, safety was actually a huge concern. Madelyn was born right before the Columbine massacre, and I know something like that could happen any where and it scared me. I went to a pretty rough HS myself . (Come on Stallions, we know it wasn’t a cake walk but it made us who we are right? You learn to stand up for yourself, you learn not to go down certain hall ways or into the bath room when certain people are there. I don’t even know who those people were anymore, but for me it wasn’t always easy. I made some good friends, but I’m pretty certain there were a lot of people that didn’t much care for me…we shall save that for another post perhaps.) So, thinking into the future I wanted to really consider those things. Plus, I just don’t feel like it is the government’s responsibility to teach my kids. I want those institutions to exist, because it is their responsibility to care for it’s people especially the little people, but they still need to leave that power in the hands of the parents…the power to make those decisions for our own children. In looking at our local school options and at the time the “no child left behind” act it really made me want to take things into my own hands. So, eventually I did. But, there’s more.
So, Madelyn went to 1st grade and half of second at local default Christian school, I had already taught her 1st grade at home but they wanted to keep her with her “peers.” (would I do that again? Probably not. A mature kid is always going to be drawn to more mature kids. Her friends are still 1-4 years older than she is) Emma went to Pre-K and half of Kindergarten there as well. October of Madelyn’s second grade year we went to her parent teacher conference to learn that Madelyn was bored. She finished her work quickly and correctly and wasn’t being challenged. The teacher told us that with 20+ students it was impossible for her to meet every one’s needs all the time and that Madelyn should be tested to go to the advanced program. It was a pull out program that would challenge her and meet her unique educational needs. It would cost more, almost doubling her tuition. Then, we went to our Kindergartener’s parent teacher conference where we were told our child, the dirt and worms girl, had red flags for learning disabilities. They advised us that she should be tested for the special education program, a pull out program that would…you guessed it, cost more. We left a little overwhelmed. Luke told me that evening that I would need to homeschool the girls. I had a 2 year old as well. I knew he was right, I had thought it too. So, they didn’t go back after Christmas. We began homeschooling that spring semester.
This time was different. I was teaching them because I wanted to commit to them until they didn’t need me anymore, not until I could afford to send them to school. I wanted so desperately to challenge Madelyn and help Emma. We ended up having to get a reading tutor for Emma. She now reads on grade level and has since about the 4th grade. It was a long road. For Madelyn she learned at home one of the most valuable tools a person can, she learned to teach herself. She has the confidence to go about learning any material that she needs. She attends The Classical School of Wichita now as a 10th grader. She gets really great grades and is a very talented performer. Emma, is still at home, in the 8th grade we now are using a program that is part of a public virtual school but isn’t like anything I’ve heard of any where. It is called Maize by Design. Maize is the school district. We work with a teacher, who has for the last 8 years been my homeschooling mentor, to design a curriculum that meets each individual child’s personal needs. She’ll go to school next year, as long as she is thriving in that environment, she’ll stay. She is what we call a maker. She creates beautiful pieces of art from just about everything she lays her hands on. She performs in theater as well, but for her I think it is more about the amazing friendships she makes there. She sketches some and is currently into body art, not my favorite, but I try to encourage her to be who she is…pink hair and all.
I haven’t mentioned the other two because they weren’t really part of my decision to home school, but they’ve always been a part of it. Gloria is in the 6th grade and has this year blossomed into an amazing writer. She loves to play basketball and perform in theater as well as her sisters. Then there is my sweet little first grader. I’m teaching her to read by making her read just like her oldest sister. They are so similar in personality and learning style. She loves gymnastics, riding her bike and playing outside ALL day. She is independent and bright.
Deciding to homeschool wasn’t a decision that came from the time my girls were little, it just sort of became a need for them individually. For Madelyn I think it gave her the opportunity to learn to teach herself and move quickly. It gave her the time to read massive amounts of books. For Emma homeschooling has given her the individual attention she has needed to help overcome her dyslexia, it also helped when she was younger to take the focus off of reading and onto what she did well. Gloria has been able to have more free time, she hasn’t really liked learning until this year and I imagine that she would have struggled in a class room. She would have been more concerned with who she was sitting by, who she could talk to, what was for lunch and if it was 3:00 yet. Audrey loves for me to teach her. She loves to be with us and she loves to snuggle while we read. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
That leads me to the final benefit homeschooling has had for our family. We really love our kids. Sure, they are hard, they drive us nuts, they talk constantly and are super messy. But, we love being together. When someone says something funny or runs up to the office to show Daddy their work, we notice. We realize that in that moment if we weren’t there together we would have missed it. We would have missed that one moment that can never be regained. When someone gets a concept or reads their first words, when they write their name or figure out how to use the Pythagorean Theorem, I was there for that. I got to see them struggle and work it out and figure it out and master it.
It isn’t all lovely, it isn’t all easy, it isn’t all beautiful. But the moments when it is lovely, or easy or beautiful out weigh anything else I could have done with my adult life to this point. I don’t regret a single minute.