My youngest two children have never set foot in a school classroom. Well, unless you count the few months of preschool from December to May when Son #3 was four years old. They have been homeschooled their entire lives.
It was not the same situation for Son #1 and Son #2. My eldest attended one year of preschool. Then Kindergarten through third grade. (After homeschooling a few years, he returned to public school for 8th grade and then onto private high school. He is now 16 and a junior. Son #2 attended 2 years of preschool then Kindergarten and 1st grade. After his homeschooling hiatus, he returned to public school for 6th grade – completed middle school and is now a freshman in private high school.
During the years that I had all four at home and homeschooling, my oldest two were complete sponges. They soaked up everything and soared through their studies. We use the Calvert School program and each of my kids reported to an “Accredited Teacher” who would check their exams in each of their subjects every twenty lessons. It was intense. But they did well.
During those years, I taught preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade and seventh grade. I was amazed by the intelligence and wit that my children possessed and loved watching their brains in action. I could not have been prouder. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them further investigate their interests and dive deeper into those things that peaked their curiosity. They were wonderful years.
Since the older two returned to their classroom educations, the younger two have remained home with me. When it was time to consider the middle school – it was an easy decision. After the experiencing those years with the older two, I knew that the best option was for the younger two to continue their homeschool study.
This year is the 8th year of homeschool study for my youngest two children. It has been a constant evolving process as my confidence and their abilities have grown. I had so much hesitantcy with my older two. I questioned myself regularly. I worried if I was doing the right thing. I secretly wondered if they were behind the other children. I think that was my reason for eventually caving and sending them to the middle school. But when they took the placement tests, they scored extremely high and above their grade level. I knew that I had done my job well. When I was sending the older two to the middle school, I allowed the younger two to go over to our local elementary school and “shadow” for the day. I had even planned to put them through the Maryland State testing so that I could double check their progress. As I sit here today, I cannot believe I was that insecure.
Around the time that I sent the older two to middle school, I stopped using the “Accredited Teachers” at Calvert School. I decided to teach my younger two, check their work, test them, check their tests and report directly to the Board of Education all by myself. So that is what we have done for the last four years.
Two years ago, after much thought, I had Son #3 go through some testing based on some observations I had made. I had been correct in my assumptions. Son #3 has a moderate language based learning difference. But the doctor informed me that his learning progress had been amazing and that being homeschooled had clearly made all the difference for him. It allowed him to progress on and above grade level where being in a classroom with many other children would have been a hindrance and caused him to have been behind. When I asked her how I should proceed with him, she replied, “I wouldn’t change a thing. Whatever you are doing is working perfectly.” Funny. I am not trained in dealing with this situation. I worried that I couldn’t help him the way he needed. Yet all along I had. Because I understood my child and what seemed to work for him. But mostly I wanted his success more than anything in the world because I loved him like only a mother could. Again, I had affirmation to keep going.
Today as we were preparing for our Board of Education meeting tomorrow, I was again reminded of the excellence that has been achieved. Those days that we don’t make it out of our pajamas; every day that I don’t get to have lunch or meet for coffee; each day that my schedule isn’t filled with anything more than being at home with my two children teaching math and grammar; each time that someone comments about my children’s lack of this or that; each time that I see my child struggle with something and automatically assume it is my fault; I need to remember days like today. They are very few and far between but they certainly underscore what all of these years of homeschooling have actually brought our family.
So in our whirl of preparations today Son #3 says:
“Mom, do you think I could be homeschooled for high school?”
My immediate reaction was to say “Well that isn’t my plan. I’ve always wanted you guys to go to high school.”
But then I paused. And I thought. I thought about how things aren’t always “my” plan. I thought about how that was my insecurity talking again. So I added:
“Well, as a matter of fact, you could be homeschooled while you take a class or two at the high school and you could then participate on the sports teams at the school – but you would still be homeschooled with several other classes.”
“Are there good high school homeschool curriculums? Do you know about them? Would you ever do that? You mean I could still be homeschooled in high school? I don’t HAVE to go to school.”
“Yes, that is correct.”
I said nothing further. I didn’t feel the need to sway him in another direction. I didn’t feel the need to try to bolster my confidence. We simply discussed the facts and the choices.
Later, while we were going over his Geometry exercise, he said,
“Are there colleges that homeschool? “
Very quickly I thought of all of the online college capabilities that are available now. I responded:
“Yes.” “Though when you reach that age, it is no longer a matter of me teaching you- you take the classes, learn and study and do it yourself.”
I saw him thinking.
“That would be great. I could just keep working here without ever having to go sit in a classroom.”
I nodded. “Mhm.”
We continued to work through Geometry. He told me he didn’t need my help. That he knew what he was doing. My attention turned to my daughter.
I suggested that this summer we might work a bit harder at math. While reading, spelling, grammar and all of those “verbal” things come very easily for her; math can be a struggle for her. She gets it honestly, I will admit. She became very agitated with me for saying that and bounced off to her room upset.
Son #3 looked at me. He said,
“She is upset because she thinks that because she needs extra help that makes her “special”. It is kind of how I felt when you made me go to that doctor for testing. Like I was “special” and had a problem.”
I quickly replied.
“You are not “special” and neither is your sister. Sometimes we just need some extra attention to help us along. Not everyone’s brains are the same. They are all wired differently. You can’t expect a group of children to all learn everything the same way all of the time.”
He immediately spoke up,
“What’s wrong with my brain?”
I put on my best cheerful tone and face,
“All brains are different. When we went to that doctor, she helped us identify where your difference was. You are very visual. That is why you are so good at math and geography.”
He interjected excitedly,
“AND Art History, I am really good at that. They have pictures in the book and it helps me see the words.”
“That’s right. Some people are really good with words. Like me. I love words. I love to write and read.”
“And that is why you are so good at Grammar and sentences…”
I smiled and nodded,
“Yes, my brain loves sentences. But my brain hates math and geography. I hate maps.”
“I hate reading and writing. I hate words. Well, I hate words without pictures.”
“That is because your brain takes in the same amount of information as everyone else. But there is this thing that comes to get the information when it enters to take it to its home – so that the next time, something knocks on the door of your brain and wants it to come out with words, it can go straight to it and get it. That is where things get shuffled for you. That little thing just gets confused. So the information is in there. You’ve learned it and you know the answer. You just don’t know where to find the answer to then use your words to respond.”
He shrugged his shoulders and laughed,
“Well, we need to go get me one of those.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice? I think that the school where the boys go have a tool to help you with that. There is a program that helps you file and then find the information so that you have the words to answer. That is one of the reasons that I want you to consider going to high school there. I think it would be good for you.”
He was silent for a bit. His eyes shifted back and forth,
“I think you’ve been good for me.”
He then proceeded to fill my computer screen with little yellow post-it notes where he wrote that I was the World’s Greatest Teacher.
And you know what?
Today I feel like I am…