For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Evolution of a Home Schooler

Recently, a mom considering home schooling her children asked my husband and I why we decided to home school. What an interesting question! Like many others, I grew up thinking that, if I ever did have children, either my husband (if I married at all) or I would stay at home until they were old enough to go to kindergarten, then they would go to school. An alternative, if the thought of one ever occurred to me, might have been private school instead of public. I vaguely remember home schooling being mentioned as something some parents did, though the only reason I remember it at all is because most of the class, including myself, scoffed at the idea.

Yet even then, the seeds of the home schooling parent I eventually become were already being sown. My parents greatly encouraged my siblings and I to go to school, then college, then get good clean office jobs - or in my case, become a church organist, get married and have a lot of children. ;-) My own parents considered themselves uneducated, and they didn't want us to have to work hard for a living, like they did on the farm. The thought that any of us might want to be farmers didn't seem to occur to them. Both from Poland, I'm told my father went to school until about the 3rd grade, while my mother went up to the 6th grade. In both cases, school was something they went to as long as the weather made it safe to walk, so even what schooling they had was interrupted. Unschooled they may have been, they were far from uneducated. Both were multi-lingual before coming to Canada. ESL classes didn't exist back then, so they taught themselves how to speak, read and write in English, too. My father was one of those jack of all trades who seemed to excel at whatever he put his hands to. He was carpenter and electrician, welder and mechanic, arborist and veterinarian, as needed. I remember helping him build a desk for me and watching in awe as he perform mathematical calculations, using a method I'd never seen before, faster than I could've punched the numbers into a calculator. My mother, determined to fit into her own distorted view of housewife and struggling with a possible mental illness, seemed almost to hide her sharp mind and prodigious intelligence. While they both insisted that we needed school to become a success in life, I could see by their unknowing example that one didn't need school to learn what one needed to know.

As the years went by, I still assumed that any children I had would go to school, while the groundwork for a different path continued to be laid. When my older nephew was about 8 years old, I got a tear-filled phone call from my sister in law. They had moved to a new town and the school he was in had diagnosed him as ADHD. Their doctor simply agreed and wrote out a prescription for Prozac. They didn't want to drug their son, as he didn't display any symptoms of ADHD at home, but while my brother was out of country on a business trip, the school was pressuring her to drug her son. She managed to hold them off until my brother got home, but they finally gave in to the pressure and tried it. The experiment lasted a single day, as my nephew's behavior became erratic and bizarre. After that, they flat out refused to drug him. Eventually, the school backed off, but the pressure was always there. It wasn't until two years later, when my nephew finally got a different teacher, that his "symptoms" suddenly disappeared. This was a story we saw repeated among our friends, as well.

When I became became pregnant with my first child, I was about as prepared for parenthood as anyone who hasn't had a child could be. I had no illusions about how much work a baby could be. I joke that God looked down at me and said "she's just too confident for her own good!" when he gave me my first daughter! After she was born, we quickly discovered that she was not like other babies, and I discovered the whole different world of parenting a "high needs" baby. With the help of La Leche League, we overcame breast feeding problems the doctors we went to didn't even recognize, and it was through them that we learned how to walk down a different parenting path. As we explored our new life as the parents of a high needs child, the memory of what happened to my nephew still strong in my mind, I quickly realized that our daughter would not be a good "fit" for a classroom setting. I could already foresee the day when some school official would tell us our daughter was ADD, and that we needed to drug her. I knew there was nothing "wrong" with our daughter. She just experienced the world in a different way - a way that classroom teaching couldn't accommodate. The idea of sending her to school became increasingly uncomfortable.

LLL had become the source of support and information I needed so much of at the time. The leader that had helped us those first days of my daughter's life had came to our home late in the evening, her two younger daughters in tow. Concerned about the late hour, I'd asked her if it would be a problem for them in school the next day. She told me it wasn't an issue because they home schooled. I wasn't in a position to ask more then, but by the time I met a different leader some months later and learned she also home schooled, I had only one question that mattered. "Is that legal?" As soon as I heard her say "yes," my decision was made. Thankfully my husband, who had been at sea at the time, was willing to give it a try.

My older daughter is now 14. She and her sister have never been to school. As I watch them grow up to become the amazing young women they are today, I find myself thankful that we discovered home schooling as early as we did. If anyone had told me, all those years ago, that I would some day be educating my children at home, I wouldn't have believed it.

Today, I can't imagine doing anything else.

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