School starts in Duval County next week and I’m nervous. Why? It’s not because of early morning bus drop-offs or conflicting schedules. It’s not because of intense homework loads or childcare issues. I’m nervous for an entirely different but great reason. We began homeschooling our 4 children this summer and love it. It just seems so much more real now that they won’t be joining their classmates in the bus-line! This fall marks our official début as a family of homeschoolers.
We happened upon homeschooling this spring as a last-ditch effort to turn our son’s behavior around. Ethan has social anxiety disorder, among other things, and was placed into the local public school‘s “mixed abilities” preschool class to help him overcome his difficulties. After six months in school, he was a changed child… and unfortunately not in a good way. Rather than improving, my normally docile son had become aggressive. He hit and kicked his teachers when asked to do simple things he didn’t like to do. His temper tantrums were out of control. I was being called at home because of behavioral issues several times a week. Not only that, the boy who was so confident in naming his letters, colors, and shapes suddenly couldn’t seem to name any of them anymore. The boy who had been in speech therapy for so long was becoming extremely difficult to understand when he spoke, perhaps because he was modeling his speech after other severely handicapped classmates (I’m not sure exactly the reason). Finally, in mid-spring, the problem hit a terrible peak. I was driving home one afternoon when I got a call from a familiar number: the office. The problem was not so expected. Ethan had been put in time out for throwing a tantrum and had started an electric fire by sticking something into an uncovered outlet. The fire had been quickly put out and no one else was hurt, but Ethan had burned his arm quite badly and I needed to pick him up right away.
I was in a blind panic and drove across town as quickly as possible. His teacher relayed the story again, including the fact that she couldn’t possibly watch every kid at every moment and stating that it was “both of our faults” this happened. My son could have been killed while in her care. He did know better, but I don’t blame him for being improperly supervised or for his classroom being improperly childproofed. My husband and I had discussed what we should do about his deteriorating behavior for a while now and this sealed the deal. Ethan would be homeschooled. We had a lot of work to do.
I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t particularly thrilled at the prospect of homeschooling Ethan. I didn’t want to deal with his intense issues 24/7. I enjoyed the break from him and his tantrums. Yet, what we were doing wasn’t working. Public school was definitely not the answer.
We plunged into homeschooling head first. The first few weeks were rough, his outrageous behavior getting on my last nerve. Then something miraculous began to happen. Ethan’s outbursts decreased dramatically. He started smiling more. With help from his behaviorist, he began engaging and really enjoying learning. After a few months, most of his troublesome behaviors had vanished. He was learning. He was thriving! He didn’t act out aggressively or cry and scream when things didn’t go exactly his way. The difference was night and day. The Ethan of today is practically unrecognizable from the Ethan of 6 months ago.
When school let out for the summer, I began homeschooling my older daughter Alexandria as well. She’s a very advanced little reader with a passion for learning. She had fun at school, but was always bored out of her mind and getting into trouble for talking. She was the “teacher’s helper” because she was too far advanced. She wasn’t pushed to learn anything further either. This summer we tried something new. I let Alex learn at her own pace. The results were amazing. We did school each morning of the workweek, learning grammar, phonics, math, social studies, science, piano, French, geography, and more. We read hundreds of books and went on lots of great field trips. We made learning fun and challenging and had an absolute blast together. Alexandria exploded academically. Her expanding vocabulary and knowledge base blow me away.
My husband and I had a revelation. We had stumbled upon something big. We did our research and discovered that other homeschooling families were having similar successes. Homeschooling is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to the failing public school system and homeschoolers are thriving. They do as well as or better than their public school peers across the board. According to HSLDA (The Homeschool Legal Defense Association), homeschoolers score in the 85th percentile on national achievement tests while public school students score in the 50th percentile. Colleges are seeking them out. They’re entering the workforce as well-educated, well-rounded, capable, and self-motivated citizens. Was this really an option for us?
We had a ton of questions. How would homeschooling work with my husband’s busy work schedule? How would I juggle teaching and my own writing career? How could I successfully integrate the younger children into the school day? How would our lives change, and were we ready for these changes?
It turns out, it’s super easy to homeschool in the state of Florida. Simply write a letter of intent, send it to the proper office, and you’re set. At the end of the year, have a teacher evaluate a portfolio of your child’s work. We began searching for curriculum and choosing a wide variety of materials. We dove into homeschooling and found out that it was a great match. The children love their school time and we’ve had countless fun, productive, and memorable mornings this summer. We’ve become involved with our local homeschooling community and have made some great new friends. Not only are the children learning more than they ever would in our local public school, but we’ve also become closer as a family. I’ve learned how to enjoy spending time with my children a whole lot more than I used to. The children have learned to enjoy each other’s company more as well.
We’ve discovered that there’s a whole new world out there that doesn’t involve public schooling. I don’t have to worry about music, art, or PE being cut from my daughter’s school. Funding and budget cuts aren’t a problem. I don’t have to worry about bullies or peer pressure (too much anyway). I know who my children’s’ friends are and what their families are like. I can help my children reach their true potential in this amazing day and age. With the internet and a city full of classes and social activities, there’s a wealth of knowledge right at our finger tips.
This is the story of how one busy, bustling military family came to be a family of homeschoolers and the lessons we’ll learn along the way.
- Homeschooling FrAnTiCs (multipurposemom.com)
- Introducing the How to Home School Guide – A Tool Written By Homeschoolers for Homeschoolers (prweb.com)
- Homeschool Planning: Back to Homeschool (thehappyhousewife.com)
- Announcing a New Resource Dedicated to Homeschool Fiction (prweb.com)
- Applying College Well : Tips for Homeschoolers (education.com)
- Do Parents Have a Right to Homeschool? (education.com)