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Friday, June 3, 2011

Why We Homeschool


Why We Homeschool

The background:  My youngest child was born legally blind and with global delays... and some autistic tendencies.   She started receiving OT, PT, Speech, Cognitive, & Vision Services when she was slightly over a year old.  It was all part of "Early Intervention", which was what all families with special needs children were enrolled in, regardless of your income.  In order to continue to receive services, we were obligated to enroll her into the public school system into a special needs "box class" on her third birthday.   Putting my three year old who couldn't even talk yet into a room with strangers was upsetting and scary.  If anyone abused her, or if anyone mistreated her in any way, how could she let me know if she couldn't even talk?

Frightening though it was, I did do basically what I was told to do (*miserable sigh*) and put her in the class.   God help me, it was hard.   We were blessed though, with a sweet teacher who genuinely loved the children and was gentle, patient, and kind.   My daughter was in her class for 2 years.  When she was 4 and a half years old, she was finally toilet trained, and could finally talk. (not clearly, but at least she could now communicate).  

She "graduated" into the Kindergarten "box" class, and though I wasn't as crazy about the teacher, the assistant was a Godsend and so I knew my baby was safe with her.  :)   At the end of that Kindergarten year, the school board lost funding for the class.   I was told that my daughter would go to the nearby neighborhood school, and she would be mainstreamed.  I knew this was wrong.. but what could I do?   All I heard about was the "No Child Left Behind" program.. well, guess what?  My child was about to get left behind.  And no one cared.

She entered the first grade... she could identify a trapezoid, but couldn't say the word...  she had a huge vocabulary that amazed her speech teachers, yet she couldn't even properly pronounce even her own name.   I had this brilliant child, but something was "mis-firing".  I couldn't explain it.  I still can't.  

She did well, all in all, that first year.  She learned to read very simple books.  She learned other basic "first grade" lessons.  But she learned slowly... and she couldn't keep up.  When she learned something, she KNEW it, and wouldn't forget any of it, but it took her longer to 'get' things.   The school decided to retain her.   Unsure of what to do, but knowing that it wouldn't be fair to her to pass her... it would put her even more behind, I agreed to her being retained.

Her second year of first grade was slightly better.   Each morning they still had to have a fellow classmate walk out to get my daughter.. she would come to the carport where we moms dropped off our children, and I would watch this little girl who was a full year younger than my daughter take her by the hand and patiently lead her to her classroom.   Every day, the same thing.. because my daughter knew what "facetious" meant, but couldn't remember where her class even though she was in the same classroom for two years.  

I was delighted at the end of the year when I was told she would be passed to the second grade... but at the same time.... nervous.  How would second grade be?  Work load would be harder, the kids another year older, and already she was getting teased.  "Why are your glasses so thick?"  "What's wrong with you?"  "Why does one of your eyes look funny?"   My daughter already was learning that she wasn't like the other girls, and that was upsetting to her.  It seemed the other kids were advancing.. and she was too... but more slowly.  

I talked to the guidance counselor.   And the teachers.  We had numerous conferences, and I was told point blank that "this was not the right setting" for my daughter. Well, duh.  That much I knew.   Everyone agreed, what she needed was plain out, one on one schooling.  Who could provide this?  No one they knew of.  "Maybe a special, private school", they told me.  Riiiiight.  My last name isn't Rockefeller.  

She started second grade.  Only a few weeks in, and I could see it happening again already.  She couldn't keep up.  The rest of the class was finished with a lesson and she was still trying to understand what they were doing.   Such a smart, smart girl, but just very slow at "getting it".   She needed more time.  And a mainstream class wasn't getting it.  

Her vision teacher contacted me and told me that with her newest updated lenses she now no longer needed vision services.  BUT, her "special needs" teacher that visited her for 15 minutes twice a week knew good and well that she needed large print.  The two teachers ended up in a shouting match... one insisting my daughters work be copied as large print so she could read it, and the other telling him that it wasn't necessary.  God bless that special needs teacher.  He was the best... and he knew what my daughter needed.  But he was being stretched out to cover a LOT of kids, and he just couldn't do and be all that was needed for these kids.  Way to use, and I mean USE a good teacher.   It still makes me mad, even today, how the best teachers out there are the ones that they seem to "stick it to them" the worst.  Its not right.  The good teachers that care deserve better.  And it goes without saying, so do the students.  I digress.

My daughter couldn't stay with this great special needs teacher unfortunately.  She was in this mainstream classroom, falling further behind by the day.  It was upsetting, and we felt like we had no options, no choice, and no voice.  We prayed about it.  And then, we made a choice.

There was no way I could possibly do a worse job.  I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but surely I can teach my nearest and dearest the basics in elementary education.   I withdrew her from school.  Lord have mercy, I was scared to death.   I half expected the cops to show up and arrest me for being such a bad mother as to not send my daughter to school.  I considered going through the school board for her homeschooling... and decided that NO, I wanted to wash my hands of them, (they'd left a bad taste in my mouth at this point), and my daughter needed the freedom to learn at her own pace, without stress, and develop a love of learning.  I opted for an umbrella school.  Unschoolers, they called it.   I'd never heard this term before.   But, after freaking out, calling and emailing the lady who ran our umbrella school a dozen times, I finally started to relax a little.  

My daughter had a little trouble at first, as she is a creature of habit, and she missed her little friends at school and being with the other kids.  She cried at first, and I wondered if I'd made the right choice.   I had joined a homeschool group, (local) prior to withdrawing her from school, (which is how I learned about umbrella schools), and after much thinking and discussion I slowly started buying workbooks, and finally found the Seton curriculum, which is approved by the Catholic church. :)  We use it, and some Catholic Heritage.  I am terrible at math, so through the advice of a friend and fellow homeschooler, we chose Math-U-See for our mathematics.  (And by the way I cannot recommended Math-U-See enough!  It's the best!!)

Five months after withdrawing my youngest child from school, I finally withdrew my teenage daughter as well.  She was in middle school, and, without getting into too much here, she was in a bad situation, in over her head, and going downhill fast.  Long story short, I got her out of the hell she was in, and brought her home with us.   Having spent many years in public school, she took close to a year to de-school.  But eventually, she stopped dyeing her hair black, stopped the unhealthy things she was doing, the acting out, and slowly she let her wall down... one small piece of a brick at a time.  Lot of praying for her, lot of worrying, lot of bending the ear of our priest, (Thank you Fr Ed!), but THANK YOU JESUS I got my daughter back!  She is now open, sweet, fun, loves going to mass with us, and oh my goodness she talks to me all the time now!  I got my baby back!

When people ask why I homeschool, I try and explain.. but this isn't something I can just put into two sentences.  But I can tell you this... and you can take it to the bank.   My eldest daughter is now happy, healthy, well rounded, smart, and loves life.  I got her back.. and I mean that literally.  

My little daughter is learning by leaps and bounds.  In some subjects she is two grades ahead, and in some subjects she is two grades behind.  BUT she is learning every day, and she is learning at her own pace.  And she is HAPPY!!  We don't do tests... we don't do the "FCAT" (Florida's Conspiracy Against Teaching)  (thanks to my friend Angela for that one! Love that! LOL!!)    I don't worry myself with quantity.. I'd rather have quality.   And we have that now.  

Do I have any regrets about homeschooling my kids?  Absolutely.  And it's this:  My ONE and ONLY regret, is that I didn't homeschool them from the very beginning.  

My girls are precious gifts.. my own beautiful gifts from God.  I love every day with them.   I love that my kids are not having to line up for food, attention, or to use a public toilet..  I love that on cold rainy mornings they can sleep in, and then do math in flannel pajamas while sipping hot cocoa.  I love that my daughters can, anytime they please, go outside and swing under our big tree... or lie back in the grass and photograph the birds and squirrels.  

The world is our classroom.  The funniest thing I've personally learned about homeschooling is that you never know what you CAN do! :)   I never thought I'd have the patience to homeschool.  But I can, and I do. :)  And best of all, I am getting time with my children... I'm not missing out anymore.... and in all truthfulness,  a lot of times I am learning right along with them. :)  

Homeschooling isn't something you "do".  It's a lifestyle.  And we love it!!  

2 comments:

  1. I loved reading your story, Susan! (Thank you for following me recently... that's how I came over here). We are pretty unschool-y too, and I couldn't agree more with all the positive things you say about being able to stay home. God bless you and your family!

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  2. Thank you so much Lynn! I really appreciate that! :) God bless you too!! :)

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