Homeschool Happenings

Elijah's Tree

Elijah’s PreK teacher seemed upset, because he didn’t color the apples green. He knew his colors before entering PreK, so he could identify green. He colored the tree in the style of his abstract artist dad. The page is framed and hangs on the wall above my desk to remind myself that the main reason I homeschool is because some children actually think “outside of the box.”

Life is intriguing in that it’s full of surprises. I know that sounds like a cliché, but if anyone had told me that I would be homeschooling our children, I would have told them I have some Florida swamp land to sell them! Really – homeschooling wasn’t on my radar until a year ago despite my having been a teacher in public and private schools for 11 years.

We have two young children, Elijah, 8 and Miranda, 7. Our journey to homeschooling began when Elijah was in PreK and then when Miranda was in PreK. Both experienced being bullied, and it seemed no one was able to prevent it.

Elijah was tested for giftedness in kindergarten. I was told he came close but didn’t make it. I never received his scores. I was also told that he could be admitted into the program provisionally as a high achiever, but that he wouldn’t be, because he was “immature.” The following year, he was admitted provisionally and attended the class for gifted students one day a week. When we relocated to another school district, Elijah was retested and identified as gifted. His teacher was not certified to teach gifted students, but I am. And once again, he experienced being bullied. Still, homeschooling wasn’t on my radar.

All of Miranda’s teachers have said “she’s smart, but works very slowly.” In kindergarten Miranda would often say at the end of the day, “I missed you,” or “I wish I could stay with you.” She often made the same statements as a first grader as well. Nope – homeschooling still wasn’t on my radar.

There wasn’t a single event but an accumulation that put us on this journey. As I list some of them here, please, please bear in mind that I understand that there are MANY great schools that students attend every day and MANY, MANY more wonderful teachers who teach from bell to bell to bell. Well, here goes. Our journey leading us to homeschool was the result of Elijah testing at the 98th percentile in math at the start of the school year and being told that he essentially had tested out of 2nd grade math and that I should “stop teaching him math.”

The Beach

Elijah and Miranda on the beach on Hilton Head Island.

It was the result of his bringing home assignments with equations such at 2+0 even though he was checking out books from the library on multiplication so he could teach himself to multiply. It was the result of both of my children being bullied at various times and no one seeming to be able to stop it. It was the result of Elijah nearly missing out on being identified as gifted. It was the result of knowing that quiet Miranda tends to daydream and understanding that she would get lost in a classroom full of students. It is the result of a curriculum that requires students to learn equations such as 12-9 in 5 steps instead of simply knowing that the answer is and will always be 3 whether it takes a second to solve it or if it takes 10 minutes. It was the result of Elijah having a teacher who wasn’t certified to teach gifted students even though I am. It was the result of both our children having asthma and allergies pervasive enough to cause them to miss quite a few days of school each year. It was the result of Elijah becoming timid and nervous and a mere shell of his Energizer Bunny confident self. It was the result of being in a school system that only displayed satisfactory or needs improvement slots on report cards. There was no slot to note “exceeding” achievement, which could result in children wondering why they should do their best when they wouldn’t be recognized for it. Awards were given for “satisfactory” achievement but not for “exceeding.” It was the result of knowing that the research has long shown that homeschooled students tend to perform better academically – it’s difficult to do better than one-on-one instruction. I’m able to remediate immediately if one of them is struggling with a concept and to accelerate on the spot when they have mastered a topic. There are more reasons I could list here, but to keep this post from becoming too long, I’ll just note this: It was the result of my holding certifications including in gifted education and elementary education, my holding degrees in education and my having taught for 11 years. All of this and more is how homeschool happened to us.

Recipe

Although I scour the internet for the latest teaching resources, I couldn’t resist using this old reading assignment, because we followed it by making the recipe and eating French toast for lunch!

Despite my experience as an educator, I was nervous about homeschooling. Right now, I don’t even personally know anyone else who homeschools. Every day I simply try to teach my children just as I did when I was employed as a teacher – from bell to bell. Georgia requires a minimum of 4 hours of homeschooling a day, but I teach my children for 6 hours instead. I plan engaging lessons like any other teacher would, including one that featured a recipe in a reading assignment that culminated in our cooking the recipe for lunch! I ensure that our children get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day whether that includes my playing catch with them in the back yard or taking them to the nearby park. I try to find exciting science demonstrations like making salt dough fossils. Coding, chess and make-it-take-it are some of our specials classes and I give them a block of time each day I call “computer lab.” Since I’ve always given my children some academic work one day during the weekend, we are continuing that tradition with what we call Half Homeschool – up to 2 hours on Sunday where our children do review, practice cursive writing, practice tennis with their dad and me and other activities we don’t have time for during the school day.

As nervous as I was, homeschooling feels natural for our family. Our first day ended with our not-so-affectionate son giving me a BIG hug and LOTS of kisses! Miranda followed suit.Today, as part of a reading lesson, I read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Homeschooling is a journey on the unbeaten path. I hope it makes all the difference.

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