We’ve Decided to Homeschool.

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.



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25 Responses to We’ve Decided to Homeschool.

  1. Stephanie October 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    I think it’s a great idea. You do know her best and that will give her the best chance to succeed because you’ll focus on things that are important to her and that you know she can do. That will help her build her own educational foundation, which, let’s be honest, is not easy for most teachers to do well when they have 30 students in a classroom–the individualization is just not happening!

    If you ever need help with social studies, please let me know. I teach both middle and high school SS online and I’ve got lots of good materials and resources.

    • Lisa October 1, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks, Stephanie, I will keep that in mind!

  2. huh October 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Oh you are scaring me! Once made a huge joke about the same issue and how I really wanted to be one but no way. Now I am VERY VERY frustrated with a CC issue at a higher grade level and have considered switching districts a year, online or college level course for the single disagreement course and now homeschooling huh…food for thought.

    no no no but you can do it. Enjoy! CA has sooo many options I hear vaguely so you are supported without a doubt

    also there are videos online of soooo many topics that kids google them when they don’t understand the teacher anyway

  3. Katie October 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    My youngest has fallen through the cracks at her school. It took me two years to get her tested and and IEP for her. Her pre-k teacher saw a lot of red flags. I was in constant contact with her kindergarten teacher and telling her our concerns, but she would always blow it off. Even with her IEP she struggles every day, has stomach issues, has anxiety issues about school and going. She only goes because she wants to be with her friends at this point. I have thought about home schooling as well, but I don’t want to have to go through our distract. Good luck to you and your daughter. You are doing a great thing for her and I believe she will do great with it.

  4. Ruby McGill October 1, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    I applaud your decision. I know how easily a child can get lost in the system and often a school/teacher does not want to acknowledge this, in case it reflects on them. I’m sure that your daughter will do well, as you can already see where she is lacking information to enable her to grow in her education.

  5. Sheila October 1, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    Holy crap! Good for you! I know this is a bold move for you, but clearly you’ve thought this through and I’m sure you will be great. You’re going in for all the right reasons and no doubt Lilah will benefit from this. I have a friend who took this task on for her kindergartener, she’s working with a place where her daughter goes twice a week for a half day which works in conjunction with the curriculum she teaches at home. So far, she is really loving it, despite all her fears. Her only balancing act is with her younger sibling and how to manage him during ‘school time’ when he wants her attention. How do you think Scarlett will be? I think you’re more than capable, the only thing that really popped in my head was how will the other kids react to Lilah “not having to go to school”.

    • Lisa October 1, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      Sheila, I am worried about keeping Scarlett happy during “school time.” I guess now’s the time to introduce her to crayons and Play-doh. Plus, it’s a good thing she likes Blue’s Clues! I’m also worried about being able to get the majority of “school time” done while Finn is at school – it’s a fairly small window.

      And yeah, the other girls – well, really Annabelle – are already making noise about why Lilah gets to be homeschooled. They don’t even want to be homeschooled – they’re both doing great at school and are very enmeshed in the social community of school – but they seem to be worried that Lilah will be home watching TV and eating ice cream all day long.

  6. Jay Iyer October 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    “I’ll have lots of freedom and flexibility” Ha, ha – taken out of context and applied to you, I have to laugh because I don’t think of you as having freedom and flexibility with your very busy family life 🙂

    But regarding Lilah, it’s not just that you are her mother, you also happen to be very smart. A smart woman who knows what it is to experience joy in learning, and who I am sure can convey that to her daughter. Good Luck – and how exciting!

  7. Jisun October 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    Don’t worry about fitting it all. Overwhelmingly, the homeschoolers I’ve known have discovered that the time you do spend on academics is much more concentrated and “sticks” because it isn’t watered down with all the behavior management and logistical crap that often happens in a classroom.

    That love of learning, I read over and over again, is the most important factor in a kid’s later success. It is what creates a person’s intrinsic motivation to reach goals and chase dreams. If that is the only thing you give back to her after her, I think one or two years of homeschooling will be a huge success! xo

    • Sheila October 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Yes! Couldn’t agree more with Jisun’s comments here.

  8. Deborah Tomai October 2, 2014 at 2:45 am #

    Sounds like a good choice for Lilah! (I’m smiling at the other girls thinking about Lilah watching tv and eating ice cream – my kids enjoy school, but they still occasionally ask to be homeschooled – I think because of the tv). 🙂

  9. Gretchen Gear October 2, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Lucky Lilah! You are the beat mom ever. She will benefit from the time with you… your support and love are the greatest gifts for Lilah, and her love of learning will grow daily as a result of your interactions. Best wishes for a wonderful school year! Hugs from Oregon… Gretchen

    • Lisa October 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      Thank you, Gretchen!

  10. Julie October 2, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    Sounds like a decision made very carefully and one that will be a benefit to her learning. As a librarian, I am horrified she hasn’t even been taught about the Table of Contents! Gah! But also, as a librarian, I would encourage you to look into any resources that your public library (I hope they have children’s librarians on staff) can offer as support, such as getting books/resources on topics you’re focusing on. Good luck with the transition and implementation! Keep us posted on how it’s going.

  11. Deborah Mitchell October 2, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Just further proof that you are always putting your kids first and doing what is best for them. There are a lot of homeschoolers around here. I know a mom who even homeschooled her son for two years, and then when he was caught up, he enrolled in 7th grade. I also hear that some parents “trade off” teaching certain subjects. One mom might take math and science and the other might take history and language arts. I thought that was a good idea, too.

  12. theeisforerin October 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    I hope it goes well! And if it doesn’t, you can always change your mind. But I think the opportunity for personalized learning is what is so great about homeschooling. I agree with Jisun that most homeschoolers find that they do not have to spend the same amount of time as traditional school to get the equivalent amount of learning – if you think about how much time is wasted on “classroom management,” how many kids just get lost in the shuffle, etc.

    It’s interesting to me that one of the biggest obstacles in getting an alternative school or even a homeschool co-op started is that the homeschoolers in the community love what they are doing so much they don’t even want to give it up to be part of a co-op of like minded people! (And ours is a decidedly non-religious group). That to me speaks volumes about whether homeschooling “works.”

  13. Rons October 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Good on you, Lisa.
    I pulled one of my kids out of school mid-year and homeschooled him for 2 years. His brothers were doing fine but he was suffering. Best decision I ever made!
    Eventually, we enrolled all 3 in a democratic school and everyone is happy.
    Trust your instinct.
    Best of luck!

  14. Lisa October 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    My second child sounds a lot like Lilah. I have to admit I never thought about homeschool before. I think he could have used another year at home before starting kindergarten. I will be curious to hear how it goes for you.

  15. Andrea Smith October 4, 2014 at 2:38 am #

    I had to homeschool my now-senior son his 4th grade year. He was gifted, but he was also very ADHD and OCD and the school did not support gifted education and the whole situation was hell. It was a rough year, but way better than having him in that school system. I had a 2 year old toddler at home and my husband and I had just become disabled and I was trying to help my husband sort out his seizure disorder while I tried to function with arthritis. We went through a virtual school, and my son was able to do self-directed work for the most part. The following year we moved and put all our kids into a different school system and he went back to public school–I was relieved that he didn’t really lose any ground that year that he homeschooled. I felt badly that I didn’t do a better job of home schooling him when I DID have a teaching degree and was a special education teacher, but life was total chaos at that point. I think you are making the right choice, and I think it will go well for you and Lilah.

  16. Molly October 5, 2014 at 3:37 am #

    Have you read “Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year”? A memoir by Laura Brodie, her story reminds me of yours, but I have only read the first chapter …

    • Lisa October 5, 2014 at 3:41 am #

      No, I haven’t! I’ll have to look for it. Thanks!

  17. lindseyarticolo October 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    As always, you’ve impressed me. This is something I’m strongly considering – but not just for one, for all 3 (one with special needs). So glad for you that you got that final impetus to do it. Waiting still for mine.

  18. DeDe Jordan October 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Go for it. You will do GREAT. I know qite a few people that home school. Some their children are adults….attended college and are quite successful. Who else knows their kid better than their mother. I would home school mine but her father would never allow it. We aren’t together anymore. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You will be amazed at the progress she will make in a very short time. AMAZED!

  19. rachel October 10, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    weeeeellllll I was homeschooled and I do not know how my mother managed to live through it. We did not have a very good relationship, that I will say. Each family is different, each child is different, and just the fact that you are not making this decision based on religion or fundamentalism is a good start (unlike my family). I personally just about have to sign up for psychotherapy every time I have to work with my second grade daughter on any kind of school work. Not because she’s not sharp, not because I don’t know how to teach the material, but just because, since I’m her mom and not her teacher, she totally thinks she does not have to listen to anything I say! Sometimes we start an assignment on the right foot but only once or twice has she ever finished an assignment on the right foot!!! She gets distracted and doddles. I get irritated because the clock is ticking and I have 10 other things I need to get done and the toddler is whining. And it spirals down from there.
    There have been, however, a couple of times that she has actually accepted my advice and is using my methods to her advantage. I am proud of that. Those few concepts have really stuck with her (like how to read holding a card under the line so you don’t lose your place, how to recognize ones and tens, how to use a tape measure to see the numbers in sequence, how to tell the difference between a b and a d). So, if your daughter is willing to follow your instructions, things could work out very well!!!
    Best of luck to you! I hope this won’t be too much for you, as you obviously have a lot going on!


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