I never thought I’d be a parent uttering those words.
I think I used to have a vague picture in my head of what homeschooling looked like (kids staying home and not actually learning anything of value – how could they if they weren’t in school?) and what homeschooling parents looked like (religious fanatics who were intent on sheltering their kids from the real world). I think I pictured something Duggaresque, with makeshift classrooms set up in family rooms, replete with blackboard (not whiteboard), a mother in a long skirt and apron at the front of the room, and children in cotton shirts and dungarees clustered at small tables. I don’t even know where these pictures came from. I know there was definitely a time when I thought (and said), “I would never presume to think that I could teach better than someone who is actually educated and trained to be a teacher!”
Even when I started realizing that homeschooling has many, many different faces – because there are so many homeschooling paths out there – I still thought, “There is no fucking way I could ever pull that off. I just don’t have the discipline and organization skills.”
Okay, I still kind of think that. Or, at least, it’s definitely something that intimidates me about homeschooling.
But, I’ve come around to the belief that I need to at least give it a shot – even though I was a parent who never dreamed she would consider homeschooling. Why, you ask?
I have a child who is getting lost in the shuffle at school. She is slipping through the cracks.
Lilah is in third grade now. Pre-k and kindergarten were great for her. First grade – the first real school year she had – was rough. That was the year she started coming home and crying over homework. It was too much. She was tired after putting in six and a half hours at school. She started complaining of tummy aches, and not wanting to go to school. She had a teacher who was very committed to the notion that homework is a necessity, and that was the year I began doing battle with not only that teacher (which ended up costing our friendship) over homework policies, but with the school and the district as well. Last year, in second grade, Lilah was with an older teacher who – very nice woman – had a reputation for being apathetic. Clearly counting the days until retirement (and she did retire at the end of the year). Everyone knew that if your kid got that teacher, you kid wasn’t going to grow or progress much in second grade. But, I thought, it would be okay. It’s second grade – not college, after all. Sure enough, Lilah had a pleasant enough year, but didn’t grow or progress much as a student.
This year, for third grade, she was put with a teacher who, although she has subbed before, has never taught her own classroom full-time before this year. Okay, that’s fine, I thought. We’ll just see where it goes. Then, a week into the school year, I get a call from the principal telling me that because of enrollment issues, it’s been decided that Lilah’s class will be made into a combo class with grades 3 and 4. So, a teacher who is new to full-time teaching, is now going to juggle two grades (in a classroom of 35 kids). Huh. I was alarmed at this news, but the principal reassured me. Okay, I thought, maybe it will all be okay.
But it’s not okay. Lilah is getting lost. She manages. She does just well enough that nobody thinks she’s struggling. She is known as a slow worker. She gets the work done, but she’s rather plodding about it, and then she gets stressed out because she’s pressured about time constraints; it’s always time to move on to the next thing already. She passes spelling tests because she can memorize her weekly spelling list, but she has no clue about spelling rules and patterns and how to apply them to anything outside of a spelling test – so her writing still tends to be very phonetic. She hates reading. She and her classmates were assigned a “President Project” where they are given a U.S. President, and they have to research him and write a report about him. I discovered that Lilah has no idea how to use a table of contents to find information in a book – she’s never been taught that, and yet she’s being expected to do research. She dislikes school. She’s not at all excited about learning. And she’s only in third grade. I’ve just come to this realization that if something a little drastic isn’t done now to turn things around for her, she’s going to start really losing ground and school will be a miserable experience for her for years to come. I don’t want that for her.
So after a lot of soul-searching, and talking to homeschooling parents, and looking into the various homeschooling options out there, I’ve decided to pull Lilah from school and homeschool her for a year or two. We’re going through a local charter school that will provide all the instructional materials we will need, as well as instruction and support for me to create lesson plans and so forth (application and paperwork are submitted, I’m just waiting to hear back, so I’m not sure of the time frame yet). I’ll have lots of freedom and flexibility to work with Lilah in ways that best suit her – and that’s a big thing I think I never realized about homeschooling before, that my knowledge of her as her parent will guide me in ways that a trained teacher just isn’t going to have the benefit of. No, I’m not a trained teacher, but I am her mother and I know her better than anyone else in this world does at this point, and I’m far more invested in her than any teacher she’s had, and those things will be invaluable tools in this endeavor.
What I want is to give her a strong foundation. Give her a chance to absorb the fundamentals. I want to inspire her to enjoy reading. I want her to be excited about learning.
I’m totally intimidated, but also excited. I might suck at this, but I have to take a crack at it. And even if it ends up being a failure, I can’t imagine that Lilah will be any worse off academically than she’d be if we kept her where she’s at this year.