Homeschool, Public School, and What Works for Us

Last fall, my parents gifted me with a sizable box of papers and treasures from my school days.  My mother carefully sorted projects, reports, and crafts into neat little folders organized by grade.  I was told the box was actually a much smaller version of the collection she originally accumulated.

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My mom made me promise to at least look at every item in the box.  I have a reputation as an overzealous decluttering person.  I also get accused of lacking sentimentality with objects.  My parents worried that I would thank them kindly for the box, wait until they backed their car out of my driveway, and promptly dump the whole collection into the trash.  They need not have worried.

The box turned out to be an interesting archaeological dig.  My early school years’ memories are pretty foggy.  My brain has long since pruned the vast majority of my experiences as a young kid.

For my parents, though, those memories are still clear.  They look at a box of full of crafts, reports, quizzes, and projects, and actually see me.  Not me today, though.  Me thirty years ago.  With bobby socks, pigtails, corduroy, and a serious little attitude.  While she may not have realized it, my mom gave me more than a box of old school memories a few months ago, she gave me an opportunity to see my former self through the eyes of my former educators.

All those men and women invested incredible amounts of time and energy in me.  They wanted me to grow up happy, well-educated, and prepared for the great big world.  I am grateful for the wonderful (and sometimes even not so wonderful) teachers I had during my years in the public education system.

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This begs the question, then: why in the world do I homeschool my kids if the public education system worked out just fine for me?  That question is a good one.  Fifteen years ago, I would have laughed at anyone’s suggestion that I should homeschool my kids.  And then I would have ticked off, rapid-fire, about a dozen reasons why kids should “go” to school.

But then, nine years ago, real life happened.  We had a bad preschool experience and decided to avoid formal education for just one year.  During that year, we did basic reading and math concepts at home, but kept things pretty simple.

A year later, our oldest daughter was reading at a second-grade level, but struggled with even the most basic preschool math concepts.  We intended to enroll her in kindergarten at the public school.

Then we learned that our school district was implementing a new full-day kindergarten program and re-configuring our neighborhood enrollment boundaries.  Our daughter was not ready to sit in a school building all day long, five days a week.  Especially when approximately half the staff, students, and administrators were new to the building.

We knew for that kindergarten year we would need to homeschool our daughter.  Todd was not quite as sure as I that it was a good idea.  He insisted that we reevaluate this homeschooling idea at the six-month mark before making any decisions about first grade.

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That first year was bumpy.  Most homeschooling parents will tell you that is normal.  In spite of those bumps, things got easier.  Homeschooling was fun.  It worked for us.  Nine years later, it still does.  Aside from music and physical education classes, we still do all of our educating at home.

This year has been filled with interesting challenges, though.  We had a fairly laid-back preschool approach for our youngest daughter.  Her temperament and needs demanded it.  Kindergarten meant it was time to buckle down a bit more for her, though.  So we did.

And then we learned that she had problems with her vision at a routine eye appointment.  So we went to the occupational therapist for vision therapy, where we were told it might be a good idea to get a dyslexia screening.  So we did.  Where we were told that she has dyslexia, and it is severe.  Ouch.

For the first time in all the years we have homeschooled, I actually sat down with a professional from the school district and discussed full-time enrollment.  I felt ill-equipped and unprepared to meet our daughter’s educational needs.  The woman I met with was wonderful.  She was truly concerned about the education of my child.  She wanted for my daughter the same things that my teachers wanted for me: happiness, an excellent education, and preparation for life as an adult.

But her educational plan, and the approach of the school district, is not what is best for my daughter.  And so, we continue to homeschool her.  We ditched virtually all of the kindergarten curriculum that worked for our oldest two girls and changed to programs specifically designed to meet the needs of a dyslexic student.

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This is not an easy task.  The curriculum is time consuming.  The training is extensive.  The financial cost is daunting.  But if we want our youngest daughter to effectively read, write, and learn mathematical skills, we have to do it ourselves.

And it is working.  I almost cried when our daughter read her first word successfully.  Just this week, she began accurately identifying numbers larger than 10.  And her handwriting?  It is actually legible.

Until today, our family has not shared much about our homeschooling journey here on the blog.  We have decided to change that.  A couple times every month, I will share strategies that are working (or maybe are not working) for us.  Often times, my subject matter will relate to teaching struggling learners at home.  It is my hope that our experience can help someone else who might encounter similar challenges.

Are you the parent of a struggling learner?  What topics might be most helpful for me to discuss?  Send me an email or comment below!