Last week was the first official week of homeschooling all three of my kids (ages 6, 8 and 10). I didn’t plan to home-school. When I was little I knew that when I grew up I wanted to have kids. But the thought of homeschooling them never once entered my mind. I’m not sure I knew what home-school was until recently. So why on Earth did I decide to home-school? Three reasons: Ben, Jack and Emma.
Benjamin is my 10 year old son. He’s a creative genius and he’s so caring that he doesn’t understand when someone else is not. He’s a philosopher with ideas that blow even my expanded mind. But he hates to have to sit down and put his ideas into words on paper. Hates it. And his brain just does not understand math. All of this makes it hard to fit into a school environment. He did alright in lower elementary. He had fantastic teachers. But by second grade he just didn’t want to “do” school anymore. He asked me to home-school him. I wasn’t ready and I really didn’t understand what he was going through because he isn’t one to express emotions unless they are really bad. I asked him if he would try third grade and he agreed.
Third grade was hard for him. I worked with the Counselor and his Teachers (who are all awesome), but he just really needed individualized education that public school can’t do. At least not yet. So I spent the summer coming up with a program tailored to how he liked to learn. I also spent the next year coming to terms with the fact that I did not have to follow the same curriculum and subjects taught at public school. That was a tough one for me. The shell shock wore off and he is happier now. No more teeth grinding (to the point of breaking and cracking teeth)! No more stomach aches and crying. He’s back to his happy, creative self. He laughs again! Hooray!
Jack is my eight year old. He is a really laid back kid. He loves to be helpful and needs to feel important. He is a math wizard and a mini Engineer. I figured he would thrive in public school. He loved kindergarten (again, great Teacher)! He did come home pretty tired every day though. I instigated a 20 minute “quiet time” as soon as he got home from school for everyone to just lie in their bed and rest a bit. That helped.
First grade came along and he was excited and confident. But when taking him to school on the second day he looked so tense that I asked him what was wrong. He said “Mom, we have to finish our morning work on time or we can’t go to recess”. I can’t tell you how sad I was to see my happy-go-lucky kid stressed out for the first time in his little life. That didn’t seem good for a seven year old. I talked to his teachers at parent-teacher conference. I didn’t make him do the 15 pages of homework he had per week. I told him as long as he did his best and was working, he wouldn’t lose recess (I had already been through this with Ben).
He got worse. They said he was below reading level and I said it was okay to put him in a different group to help him catch up. He started hating school. He started hating reading – and he had always loved reading! It made me so sad. He got upset if he didn’t make 100% on his spelling test each week. He cried. I started to see Benjamin all over again, only earlier. I asked him if he could make it until Christmas to give me time to come up with a plan for him. I contacted the school Counselor to talk to him. It didn’t help. To be fair to the Counselor, I should add that she only had time to talk with him once. I pulled him after Halloween. He still hasn’t fully recovered from thinking he’s not a good reader or speller. We’re working on that.
Emma was so excited to go to school. I was so relieved. Putting her in a Mother’s Day Out program, she was fine as long as her brother was there (in another room), but when he moved to kindergarten, she didn’t want to stay. She had panic attacks and cried days before “school” because she knew I was going to leave her there. I pulled her from the Mother’s Day Out program eventually. I bought an animated program to help her deal with her anxiety (www.gozen.com – love it). We did breathing exercises before bed. We talked about our favorite part of the day. She improved.
By the first day of kindergarten, she walked right into the classroom without me with no anxiety at all (same great teacher Jack had). But she came home tired most days and cried a lot – usually toward the ends of the weeks. I think just because she was tired. By the end of the year she had begun having extreme crying spells where she couldn’t even talk to tell her teacher what was wrong. She hated music because the teacher wouldn’t let them go to the bathroom. She developed what seemed like sensory processing disorder. I threw my hands up and decided I’d home-school all three. She did finish out the year though and she was happy.
But what the heck? Seriously. If I were a psychologist looking at this as a case study, I’d say this Mother obviously didn’t want to let go of her children and was creating anxiety in them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Having three young children at home all the time is really hard and stressful “work”. I was counting the days until all of them were in school so I could go back to work. Could. Not. Wait. Yeah, that’s not really working out for me. But neither is having children so stressed out that they crack their teeth and chew their nails down to nothing. I didn’t want Emma to lose her love of learning too. I want happy, confident, well educated children – even if I have to do it myself.
Luckily I’m a serial entrepreneur and a problem solver, so I can home-school the kiddos in the mornings and then work in the afternoons/evenings and some on weekends. It really doesn’t take as long as I thought it would. And I’m organized y’all. I have a school planner! I have the first nine weeks planned out including art projects! I am rocking the home-school thing… so far. So, yeah. Not exactly how I thought this whole parenting thing would go, but I’m okay with it.
That’s how life rolls. And so it goes.