Homeschooling: What a Difference A Year Makes

Where did these brilliant children come from? At age seven, my daughter (second grade) is reading at a 4th grade level and doing math at a 3rd grade level. Not only has she finished 2nd grade in 4 months, and has started 3rd grade mid year, but in her spare time she is publishing a monthly e-magazine. She is also excelling in piano and has the ability to play by ear. She aspires to be the world’s youngest millionaire. My son, Age 9 (4th grade) is reading at a 9th grade level, and is showing an incredible amount of giftedness as a musician. His skills on the piano are well beyond his years and he recently began playing the flute as well. In his spare time, he draws models of buildings and airplanes and then constructs them from mini Lego’s and other items he finds around the house. He says he wants to be an architect and a musician when he grows up.

I realize that there are many children reading above their grade levels, who do extracurricular activities on their own and have a potential for greatness. However, a year ago, I could not see such potential in my children. One year ago, I was at my wit’s end as far as my children’s education was concerned. Both children were bringing home report cards that did not reflect the level of work that we knew they could do, and both children were extremely unhappy most of the time.

Jordan was six years old at the time and cried every evening after school. She was convinced that there was something wrong with her. “All the children look at me like I’m strange Mommy and the teacher does not like me,” she would say in between sobs. Every morning she would feel too ill to go to school. There was always an excuse to stay home. She had so many pretend illnesses, that when she was sick, I would often send her to school anyway because I was unable to tell the difference. I was not until later in the day when I had to pick up a child with a high fever or vomiting that I knew the truth.

In addition to her unhappiness, her weekly report always held notes that she could not concentrate in class, or that she was disruptive. Her report card also reflected these problems. Though she was receiving passing grades in school, they were not grades of which we could be proud. The final straw was when the teacher announced that she would need medication to make it through the second grade.

My son, Jackson, was 8 years old also disliked school. He had very few friends in class, and was withdrawn and sullen. He often complained of injustices like no speaking during lunch and of teachers failing to intervene when other children picked on him. He was terrified of speaking out or standing up for himself, because of the fear that he would be the one to get in trouble.

His tests grades were very good, but he almost never turned in his homework. Even when I knew that he did his homework, somehow it just did not make its way to the teacher. Because of this, his grades were less than exemplary. In addition, he was born with a stomach ailment that made it necessary to go to the bathroom whenever the need arose. However, he was often too embarrassed or too disgusted by the mess in the boy’s room to go so he became very ill and was under a doctor’s constant care.

At this point one year ago, we realized there was nothing we could do to help our children excel within the school system. Looking at our own educational history and that of relatives and friends with similar backgrounds as ourselves, it was apparent that problems this early on in ones academic career meant sure failure in the end. We had to do something and we had to do it now. We decided to homeschool our children.

A year has passed since we made the decision. We had them stay in school for the remainder of the year in order to do research, and to prepare for the great task of teaching our kids. This was not an easy endeavor by any means. The time I spent reading and doing research did help to prepare me for the task, but the thought of shouldering such responsibility often kept me awake at nights.

When the children left public school last May, I slowly introduced them to the idea of learning every day. I mostly gave them books and watched. Because they did not like the prospect of doing schoolwork in the summer, I did not push. Nevertheless, I did test them to find out if they had any holes in their education, and when I found such a hole (like my son having no knowledge or Roman Numerals or my daughter not understanding when to borrow in subtraction and when not to borrow) I filled in the blanks. We took the time to get a feel for each other during that first summer and when it was over, we officially started homeschooling.

At this date, one year has passed since we decided to homeschool, and it has been six months since this academic year has begun. I am proud to say that the problems we had last year this time are no more.

Jordan is still as energetic and distractible as before, but her confidence level soars. She is happy, has many friends and knows for sure that all the adults in her life absolutely adore her. We do not receive report cards any more, but other adults do assess her, so I am not just bragging. Her piano teacher is much happier with her progress than she was last year. She has an easier time with the lessons now because she is not an emotional wreck by the time she gets to her lesson. Small errors do not leave her in tears thinking that she is stupid and worthless. Both the Piano teacher and her Tae Kwon Do instructor, who also taught her, last year, tell me that she had matured greatly in a short time period. They both see marked improvement in her behavior.

Yes, she still is very hyperactive, yet she remains un-medicated. Since there is no one for her to bother while she is doing her school work, she often does it while standing, fidgeting, singing, and even jumping up and down. Such activity however has only enhanced the amount of knowledge she has been able to absorb, considering the fact that she has already finished a whole school year.

Jackson has always been mature for his age, but he is now in control over his emotions and so purposeful in his actions, instead of oversensitive and weepy like he was last year. He is very outspoken and never hesitates to ask questions from anyone and everyone who he thinks might hold a morsel of information that might be useful to him. He has many friends in church, Tae Kwon Do, and swimming class and has no problems getting along with others.

His health has also improved significantly, as he may now answer whenever nature calls. In fact he has gained a great deal of weight this year because his body is better absorbing nutrients. Our only worry now is that he may gain too much weight. The curriculum he is working on now is at 4th grade level, but he has electronic learning games that challenge him on math at 5th and 6th grade level with no problem. When he left school last year he was already reading on 7th grade level, but his comprehension was at 3rd grade level. This has is also now up to grade level.

I truly believe that had we not decided to homeschool our children that they would not have achieved these heights. They would continue to be unhappy, withdrawn, and consider themselves as less than the brilliant children they are. What we have done is given them the freedom to learn without unnecessary rules and restrictions. They do not worry about grades and politics; they just concentrate on absorbing information.

It is not my desire to convince you that you should homeschool your children, but to give you support should you decide to homeschool. I hope that my writing can give you a bit of insight into the importance of taking charge of your children’s education. This is possible even while your children still attend public and parochial schools.

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