Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Story, Part I

I had no idea that anyone was leaving comments here - sorry y'all. My Hunny stumbled on this "secret" blog and reminded me it existed! I appreciate all of your input and insight!

First, some clarification: I truly enjoyed schooling my first two children for the first four years. They were a delight to teach. This is not to imply that my third child is not a delight as a human being, but he certainly was not fun to teach, for a variety of reasons. His teachers in public school tell me they enjoy him in class, that he is the hardest working, most polite and helpful kid they've ever taught. Bright, sweet and talented. I couldn't agree more. He is all those things, and especially for THEM.

More clarification (I may as well unfold the story): I went into homeschooling for some of the right, and some of the wrong, reasons. Being an elementary education major in college, I thought I knew what I was doing. I also knew that I detested a classroom environment. I'd get sick to my stomach just walking into a traditional school building. I was afraid of the type of socialization that my kids would get (some of that rightly so, I still believe, but it shouldn't have been fear driven on my part). I wanted to give my kids more time to be kids while they learned. I wanted the kids to learn via their interests and personalities.

Pushing my decision were two outside factors, positive and negative. My aunt, who is ten years my senior, was home schooling her three children, also two boys and a girl. She was enjoying the experience and doing it well. Our personalities are similar and I could envision myself being that kind of mom and teacher. She lived three states away. My mother-in-law was home schooling the two daughters she'd adopted from Korea. She was convinced that there were no options other than home education. And she was a very pushy individual. What she said was law. She even handed down much of her used curriculum. We lived near her the entire time I taught my children.

There are obviously a lot of family dynamics which come into play in my decision to school, as well as the way I went about it. My own personality and stubbornness played a factor in my failure as a home educator. Our home at the time - marriage and parenting and extended family - factored hugely. Really? I can only tell you all my own experience, not as rules or guides or advice, but simply my story and what became of us.

The principle players:
Flea - me, the mom
Chris - my Hunny, the dad
Mae - now nearly 16 and first child
Oliver - nearly 15
Nathaniel - almost 12

Mae and Oliver learned to read at nearly the same time - they're a year apart, so they would have been four and five - using Hooked on Phonics. I liked the program, mainly because someone had given it to me, and because it worked. I'd grown up in an era when phonics was the only way to learn. Anything else was ineffective long term.

Neither child enjoyed reading much. At least, not the way I did as a child. I was a voracious reader. But they progressed in their learning. We enjoyed our days, playing our way through en education. They were both bright enough and picked up on everything pretty quickly. And I read to them a lot. All the while there was a little one, Nathaniel, under foot. Later on (much later) he'd be diagnosed as being ADHD. I'd be diagnosed as being ADD. What a great combination, eh?

When Nathaniel came of age to school and learn to read was when things began to roll the wrong direction. The first four years was a breeze. Well, I take that back. As Thaniel got older, he was more work, distracting from the school day before he was even part of the classroom. I would take advantage of his nap time to read aloud to Mae and Oliver. And the days were short.

Granted, I had my own challenges. Not knowing you're ADD can be a tough thing. Focus, for me, has always been difficult. Structure nearly impossible. And I'm weak in math and science. At some point I just gave up when it came to math. Another challenge was the funds for curriculum. There were people giving me books and materials, but always incomplete, used. We limped along most of the time. I also tried a couple of new curriculums, only to find what didn't work for us. The one which worked well? Expensive. And my Hunny was frustrated by our lack of progress, but was far from supportive. I now call him my first husband at that time. He makes a much better second husband than a first. :) He was a mean cuss back then.

During the second year we schooled, we joined our first cooperative. I squishy heart the homeschool co-ops! They're the cat's meow when it comes to being connected, socialization, finding like-minded educators, having someone to go to for advice. The best. And the first was no exception. Nor was the second or third or fourth. All good. Some of my best friends I met through co-ops.

And then Nathaniel came of age. We did Hooked on Phonics. And Leap Frog videos. And hand held phonics games. And books. And manipulatives. Puzzles. Everything I could think of to teach the boy to read. It just wasn't working. At all. And he would climb things. And sneak away. And he was REALLY LOUD. All. The. Time. Really.

Nothing worked. I cried a lot. He cried a lot. For three and a half years. It was horrid. I also read aloud everything. Except math (oh, in math? Cuisenaire rods and workbooks were our saving grace - they ROCK).

One day I realized that Thaniel could NOT hear the differences in vowel sounds to save his life. He was trying so hard, poor thing. He just could not read phonetically. So I bought a box of Dolch sight words. Within a month he was reading at a kindergarten level, having memorized basic words. And I knew that his intelligence was far above his reading level. It was killing me. And him.

So there's the first seven and a half years of our experience in a very tight nutshell. I'll stop here and pick up part two later. Please ask questions if you have them? Thanks.

In Freedom ...


Friday, September 26, 2008


Welcome to Tales of an Ex-Home School Mom! Hopefully my tale will unfold over time, as I unpack the guilt involved in schooling my children, my unhealthy ties to some other home school moms, as well as my identity crisis in the midst of it all. Join me! Tell me your story! No gaurauntees I'll begin at the beginning, or even post regularly, but I do look forward to your input.

In Freedom ...