When I got pregnant with my son, I imagined staying home with him, even schooling him myself at home. Then the reality of life sank in. I got pregnant at 19. My husband was only 18. Neither of us had gone to college yet. We both had to work. So when it came time for Jules to go to school, he went to the local public school. Those first few years were a pleasant experience, for both of us. We liked the school. We liked the teachers. I liked seeing him flourish and be independent; he liked getting out of the house and socializing with his friends.
Then it came time for my first daughter to go to school. She didn’t get into any of the three schools I had registered her for! Luckily, my husband had just been given a job promotion, so we decided that I would switch from full-time to part-time at my job and homeschool Taylor for pre-k.
I made her a little classroom in our living room. When I went to college after Jules was born, it was to be an elementary school teacher, so I figured this would be right up my alley!
It was a nightmare. First of all, I had way too great of expectations. I thought that I would teach and she would learn. Unfortunately, there were too many distractions for either. I had a 4 month old baby and a house to keep up with. I wanted everything to be on a strict schedule, and it just wasn’t possible. Taylor was so easily distracted and just didn’t seem to retain anything I worked with her on.
Three weeks into the school year, I got a call from one of the daycares I had registered her for. They said they added a second class and had a spot for her! Hooray! We were both overjoyed. Taylor didn’t like me being her teacher any more than I did. She started pre-k the next day.
After the first week, she was bragging about all that she had learned! Her pre-k teacher managed to teach her in one week stuff I had been fighting with her to learn for three.
She struggled a little, enough for the teacher to mention it, but not enough to warrant any worries. It was pretty much the same story in kindergarten.
When she went to first grade, she started reading like champ and really took off academically. I give her teacher all the credit. That woman was a God-send.
Then second grade happened. Taylor’s grades started slipping and her self-confidence dropped. I started working more closely with her and discovered that she was still having a lot of the same issues she had in pre-k and kindergarten, problems I thought were eradicated in first grade. She was still inverting letters, mixing up sounds, struggling to sound out new words, inverting numbers and math signs, and having the hardest time focusing and retaining information. I started researching learning disabilities and found that she had just about all of the symptoms of dyslexia. The information I found said that ADD/ADHD typically go hand in hand with dyslexia. I always thought the kids with ADHD were the ones that couldn’t sit still, but apparently in girls it typically manifests as fidgeting and excessive talking, which definitely described Taylor. Tutoring her seemed to help. I didn’t like the idea of making her go through extensive testing and evaluations unless she really needed it. She pulled her grades back up and even her teacher commended me for helping her so much at home. Everything was right again.
When she started 3rd grade, I let her teacher know my concerns from day one, but I left Taylor in charge of doing her homework and studying. When her grades started to fall, I stepped in and started tutoring her again. This time, it didn’t help. Part of it was a lack of clear communication between school and home, and part of it was there was just too much information to learn too quickly. By the end of the year, Taylor was a grade level behind in reading and was failing almost all of her reading comprehension tests. I asked her teacher if I could get her tested so she could receive additional help through the school. She had the school counselor call me to tell me that Taylor was receiving all the help she could get at her level and would not be able to do the testing for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) until she was failing.
I felt sick. I felt like my child was clearly falling behind and the school was refusing to do anything about it because she hadn’t hit rock bottom. I didn’t want her to hit rock bottom. I looked into other options.
One option was to have her independently tested by a psychologist to get her diagnosed so she could get the IEP through the school. Another was to seek private tutoring through a place like the Sylvan Learning Center. Both of those options were expensive. I decided my only affordable options were to let her stay in school and fail or bring her home and school her myself.
Because of my prior experience with Taylor, I wasn’t sure if homeschooling would be a good fit for us, not to mention costly, but I really didn’t want to let her fail. Then I discovered there were free online public schools. By the end of the school year, Taylor was begging me to homeschool her. I figured it could go one of two ways: she’d either do well and we’d continue to homeschool or she’d hate it and want go back to regular public school. I figured if the latter happened I would just have to find a way to pay for the testing or private tutoring, but I also thought giving the online school was worth a shot. By that point, we both needed a break from the way things were going for her at school. She came home nearly every day in tears and I felt helpless.
Over the summer, we prepared ourselves for what was to come. We set up a learning space for her, did all of the online orientations and made a schedule for our day.
Then that first day of school came. Nothing could have prepared me. It was awful. Taylor couldn’t follow along with her lessons, so I had to hold her hand and walk her through it. I looked at everything that was going to be required of her and how they were presenting the material and decided on that very first day that it would be better for me to just teach her myself. I figured I’d have to spend a lot of time walking her through the online work anyway, so I’d actually save some time by not making her go over it twice. Plus, I didn’t want her to have such strict deadlines and so much work to turn in. I wanted her to find learning fun again. So I withdrew her from the online public school and signed a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool. I went to Amazon.com and bought some used text books similar to the ones the online school had sent.
The next day was our first official day of homeschooling on our own. I had Taylor read a chapter in each of her textbooks, and then I went over the material with her. Instead of quizzes or tests, we just talked. She seemed way less overwhelmed. I was actually enjoying the quality time we were getting to spend together.
For six weeks, I made little lesson plans for Taylor to follow. I would sit and review the lessons with her. Each week was harder than the first. She never wanted to sit and learn, so it was like pulling teeth every day. Since she didn’t want to learn, so she didn’t retain anything. The only stuff she enjoyed doing were the little art projects I would have her do. I started to realize that Taylor had become too accustomed to being able to do things her own way. I wanted to get rid of the tests so she would just learn for fun, but she didn’t want to learn the things she needed to learn. That wasn’t her idea of fun, no matter how it was presented. And honestly, I understood where she was coming from. It just didn’t make a difference. She needed to learn these things because the powers-that-be decided that they’re important, and no matter how unimportant they actually are, colleges and employers are going to agree with the powers-that-be.
During those six weeks of homeschooling, Taylor also became very clingy. She wanted to go everywhere and do everything with me, which was the opposite of the independent girl she used to be. I couldn’t work out, hang out with friends or clean the house without having to cater to something for her. The house was always trashed, I was always stressed, and she wasn’t doing any better academically than she was when she went to school.
We were at the park walking with friends one day when Taylor got tired of walking and dramatically collapsed. I knew it was a ploy for attention so I told her to stay put and I’d be back around the track to help her in a little while. The next thing I know, she’s running up behind me screaming, “I hate you!” in front of all of my friends. I was so embarrassed. I said good-bye to my friends, loaded Ty in the car and called her old school on the way home. They said we could come in and register the next day, and even though it was a Thursday, I said, “We’ll be there!”
Surprisingly, Taylor wasn’t devastated when I broke the news to her that she was going back to school. I don’t know if it was because she knew she didn’t have a choice or if she secretly missed it, but she didn’t shed a tear. She even got excited, especially since it meant she got to go back-to-school shopping since I hadn’t bought her any supplies, clothes or shoes when I went shopping at the start of the school year for the other kids since she was just going to be hanging out at home.
I was a little worried about how her school experience would go since she had such a rough time the year before, but surprisingly, it’s being going really well. She tested into the Early Intervention Program (EIP) for math and will be coming out of there soon since she’s doing so well. She’s still making C’s in reading, but I’ve come to accept that she won’t be a straight A student like her brother. As long as she isn’t failing, the school won’t step in to help her. Her teacher even told me he wouldn’t recommend getting her tested for dyslexia or ADHD unless she gets to that point.
So, it turned out that homeschooling is not my thing. I still believe that it’s awesome for the families who are able to do it, but my kids seem to do better in school. And if I’m being honest, I enjoy having a little time to myself during the day. I do think it was the best decision to make in the situation I was in at the time. It was just the break Taylor needed to get out of her funk and get back to being the confident independent girl she’s always been. She knows she has to work a little harder than most, but she doesn’t let it get her down. Now, someone else gets to teach her all day and I get to go visit her for lunch every once in a while. Win-win.
This post is not intended to put down anyone else’s personal choices for how they educate their child. I do not believe that public school is better or worse than homeschool. I believe public school is the best choice for my children at this current time, but that could change at any time. I applaud any parent who is involved with their children’s education in any capacity! It’s tough work!