Someone asked how and why we home schooled. Since these are huge topics, I will try to answer them one at a time. Our reasons for home schooling are different than most, so I am not sure how much you will benefit from knowing them, but it is fun learning about where other people are coming from. So here it goes…
In 1999 we began the process of adopting a family group of three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. We were told by Social Services that they were at grade level in school and doing fine. When we enrolled them in our local school, and then finally received their school records we saw that this was not the case. How could Social Services lie to us? Well, technically it was not a lie. Our children were in regular classrooms being pulled out only for math and reading and being given better grades than they deserved because, as the new school would tell us, ‘those kids need to see those grades.’ (Apparently this is the norm in most schools.) So technically our children were doing ‘just fine.’
But they weren’t. So we worked with the children when they got home, and enrolled our daughter in Sylvan (which was very, very pricey) for extra help. Why? Because at the end of the third grade she was still trying to count beans in math and she did not know all of her letter sounds. Her teacher was very proud of her because when it was her turn to read aloud she did so with self-confidence, making the entire thing up. She won two awards at the end of the school year. These were not ‘special ed’ awards, but awards open to the entire class. One was for best behavior (She was an extreme behavioral problem) and the other was for creative writing (As my husband put it, ‘Her writing sure is creative!’ Remember, she does not know all of her letter sounds yet…)
Since the school’s plan for our children was two thirty minute pull-outs a day, one for reading, and one for math, into a class with a 15:1 student: teacher ratio (the same plan as their last school) we looked for a private school that could offer more and moved them.
Even with the private school’s attention there was still a significant amount of home work to be done at night because our children did not behave well enough to do their work in school. This meant that there was little time for our son who was currently in the first grade and doing well. So we decided to home school him through the second grade so he would have more time with mom, and then we could focus on the other children when they got home.
Our son completed the second grade curriculum in record time. When I asked my husband what he thought we should do now he told me to order the next grade. It was fairly obvious that this child was not going to easily re-assimilate to the slower pace of even the private school system we had put him. Our other children were asking to come home to school too. We had one in kindergarten that did not like the fact that his younger sister (who I was teaching at home for pre-school while teaching the second grader) was getting ahead of him. Our oldest adopted child was also asking to come home. He told the teacher he would have had for the next grade that his mom thought she was too tough and was not going to let him be in her class. I had said nothing about bringing him home, or what I had thought about the teacher, and assured the boy that mom would be tougher. But, since they closed the private school my two oldest were in, there seemed to be little choice. Our options were to put them back into a school system than had already failed them, or take them home. So the two oldest came home. The second grader wished to stay home and the kindergartener wished to come home as well. It seemed the only person not begging to be home was the adopted child who was currently in the third grade. Since he was proving to be a master thief, cheat and puller-upper of girl’s skirts it seemed like a good idea for him to have some more one-on-one time with Mom as well. It was supposed to be short-term, until some of the more obvious problems resolved…
But, when the adopted children’s standardized test scores went from the bottom of the graph to around the 75th percentile it was hard to think of putting them back into the system. Further, the schools had already informed me that my oldest and youngest adopted sons would be placed into a school for behavioral problems after sixth grade, and my daughter would be in a year-round school for the emotionally handicapped. She was expected to live her adult life in a group home, since, with her EH her IQ testing would likely drop into the mentally retarded range as the other children continued to mature, while she did not. No matter how difficult they were at home I could not in good conscience allow this to happen. The younger children were also flourishing, and we stopped talking about what grade they were in because they were significantly ahead in their schoolwork. (They were disappointed when they realized that this did not mean Mom was sending them to college early. While they were capable students there is a maturity that comes with age, and we planned to send them to colleges with other students who were equally as bright.)
All of my adopted children graduated and received diplomas. (Two through Royal Academy, and one through the State of New Mexico which allows home schoolers who test high enough on the GED to receive an actual NM diploma.) My oldest son (fetal alcohol syndrome/ cocaine baby) finished four years in the Marines and now makes six figures doing security work in Kuwait. My daughter (cocaine baby/ RAD) is married, works as part of the hotel cleaning staff, and is expecting her second child. (She is not in a group home!) My other adopted son (cocaine baby) works as a front desk supervisor in a hotel and is working his way into management. My oldest natural born son is going to a very respected school for engineering on a full scholarship. My other children are still home schooling. After four have moved on home schooling the three feels like I am doing nothing! My son who is still in our home school wants to follow his brother and become an engineer as well. They are both hoping to start their own companies. (Home schoolers tend not to aspire to be employees.) One of my daughters wants to be a wedding planner, and the other (whose pictures you will see on my books and blog) wants to be a photographer, though both wish to go to college just to have had the experience.
I am glad we home schooled. I believe all of my children are doing better than they would have if we had left them in school. They are self-confident and capable. They can also cook, clean and do the laundry! My younger children also avoided the bullying I was subjected to in school. (If you couldn’t tell, they are geeks.) While I did not choose to home school them for this reason, I am glad they avoided it. When I see how proud they are to be them, I realize that there was an extra ‘gift’ in bringing them home. By the way: All of the ‘benefits’ of socializing when you are a nerd/geek are baloney. Being abused rarely has good results. (And when I see my college son’s friends who have trouble getting up the courage to speak with me when they visit, even though it is obviously a geek-home, I am glad my children were able to be schooled by me.) That does not mean that we were recluses. Quite the contrary. We were out with friends almost every day. But we picked people who were good to us, and taught our children it is okay to set boundaries with those who aren’t.
Home schooling, like everything else, has its plusses and minuses. For one, our bank account would have been significantly bigger if I had not stayed home, but had continued to work as a physical therapist. I am certain I would have owned my own practice by now and had others working for me. I would also have not had to answer annoying questions every day about why I home school, and don’t I think they are missing out on something/ everything.
There is also a better chance of having a relationship with your children since you see them, and talk to them more often. (Another surprise benefit.) I would not trade this for the world!
That is not to say everything worked out perfectly. In our case, the problems that children who are adopted as older children face still haunt them in many ways, and they like to blame that on me more than their birth parents. That is the price many adoptive parents pay for trying to right what someone else did wrong, but you’ll need to check out my posts on adoption for more about that.
Right now, I have to wrap this up… someone needs help with their math!
P.S. Home schooling also allows you to travel more, and at off-peak times. A perk that makes it more than worth it! (Investing in an RV and being able to just go whenever my husband had the time allowed my children to see most of what they were learning about!)
Photo by Matija Barrett