It hit me the other day (especially after reading a post of Doc’s) that a conversation that almost always takes place when 2 homeschoolers get to know each other in IRL, I’ve never touched on here. Namely, How did we happen to start homeschooling our kids?
And it’s funny. I’ve spoken to many, many other homeschoolers over the years and can only remember one story of ‘we just never got around to signing them up for school and years later realized that we were homeschooling them.’ For everyone else, there has always been a moment of decision.
We were no different. Our moment came when we moved from Silicon Valley (California) to a small town in the Midwest. I usually tend to describe the transition as falling into it, kicking and fighting the idea the whole way. Anyway, here’s a little background and the story of our ‘first year.’
We started homeschooling Boy when he entered the 4th grade. Up to that point, he had been in one of the small private schools, that are all over the San Jose area, for the previous 3 years. His only year of public school had been kindergarten.
We hadn’t wanted to do that year of public school, but in our naive ‘first child’ state, we didn’t realize that we could have just kept him home. The summer he turned 5, we were in the midst of moving from NY (down state, but 50 some miles north of the City) back to California. To complicate things, Hubby was doing a summer research project outside DC, so Step-mom, the kids and I went cross-country without him to find a place and arrange for our stuff to get there. My sister had a place in the East Bay and had offered to let us stay with her while we found a place. Step-mom stayed a day or so, and then flew back to NY.
That left me with the 2 kids (ages 5 and 1.5) to find a place to live. The catches, as I soon found out:
- Was that while staying at my sister’s place was free, it was more than an hour from San Jose and that didn’t make rental house hunting an easy task with a toddler and a small child in tow.
- The housing market in San Jose was extremely tight. Meaning that rental prices were out the roof and by the time I got down to San Jose, got a paper, and made some calls, most things were already taken.
- Schools that I had expected to start in 3 weeks (based on NY schedules) were starting next week and I had no leads on private schools. (Let alone time to develop any because all my time was taken up trying to find some place to live.)
So, we did that year of public school. It didn’t leave us wanting another. For first grade, we moved Boy into a wonderful private school that went from K to 12. He was in a classroom of about 10 kids, and, as it happened, had the same teacher for all 3 years. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it worked. I’m not even sure that I had heard of homeschooling as a viable alternative at this point.
Then came the move to a small town in Indiana. We were faced with 3 choices for Boy. He could go to the public school, which didn’t seem like a good idea given where he was coming from. He could go to the local christian school, no way; or we could try homeschooling. I wasn’t happy with any of the choices, but Hubby pushed for homeschooling.
And pushed, and pushed. All I could see was that here was this child that fought me day and night over everything (or so it seemed) and I was going to be able to ‘teach’ him? NO WAY, it wouldn’t work.
But after talking about it, and looking at the choices, I agreed to try it. So, with less than a week’s notice we were homeschooling 4th grade. Because of our relationship with that private school in California, we decided to arrange to do that year with them setting up the curriculum and sending us the books and syllabus.
This was the only year that I can describe as doing ‘school at home.’ I didn’t know any different. Here’s your work, here’s the lesson, do these problems, I’m off to unpack, set up, etc. I had him writing everything out, answering every question, doing every page because we needed to send his work back to the private school. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
It was complicated by the fact that Girl was entering kindergarten, and because we didn’t really know much about homeschooling, we sent her off to the public school. (These weren’t California schools!) That year was fine for her, but because she was on 1/2 days, it was totally disruptive for Boy. Add to that, that we started off the year living in an hotel, went to living in a temporary house, and didn’t get moved into our house until the end of October.
Oh, and remember that I knew nothing about homeschooling? I hadn’t heard about giving them decompression time or anything. That fall was a total mess. Nothing got done and everyone got stressed out. The only thing good that came out of it, was that I found a local homeschooling group. There were actually 2, a ‘statement of faith’ christian group and a secular group for everyone else. (Which actually does attract some christians that could join the first group, but choose us instead.) While no one told me what I was doing wrong, they were wonderful about sharing what they were doing and their kids were great role models.
Once we got past Christmas break, we realized that we needed to make some changes. After trying different things, we basically threw ‘school at home’ out the window. It was probably March before we got our stride. Everything and anything that could be done out loud, we did out loud. We discussed the books and stories that he was reading, grammar lessons were done verbally, instead of writing out all those sentences, and math was done with chalk out on the concrete pad by the swimming pool.
Suddenly we were flying through his work. Those last 4 months we did about 8 months worth of work (after spending 6 months getting 2 months worth done.) On top of that, he and I developed a deeper connection and while we still ‘bumped heads’ it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared.
We finished the year realizing that it could work and also that we didn’t need the school in California for the books and plans. Over the summer, I contacted publishers for catalogs and ordered books. After discussing it, we decided for fifth grade to stay with most of the sequences that the private school had been using and so we went into our second year.
Looking back, I don’t remember when I first heard about decompression. But I do remember the ‘slap my head’ moment of realizing that it fit our first year to a tee. Not everyone has so bad, but boy did we.
Coming up (at some point): Bringing Girl Home….