The following is a post by contributor Angie Kauffman of Real Life at Home.
We never set out to be homeschoolers. I had never even heard of homeschooling until I was in college. I was working on my first degree in education, and when I heard about it, I thought it sounded ridiculous. How did people think they could teach their children at home when I was spending years in college to become a credentialed teacher?
Life is often funny like that, isn’t it? I can still picture sitting in a class thinking how insane that was.
Little did I know that my views would soften once I started having children. Eventually, they would soften so much that I would not only stop thinking that homeschooling was insane, but I would think it sounded like a pretty good idea for my family.
Our educational career begins
While I’m sure I will receive some gasps from some readers, my two oldest children began going to public school when they were each three years old. Both had special needs that were being addressed at a developmental preschool run through our county’s special education services. Not only did they attend five afternoons a week, but they even rode a small bus to and from home.
We loved the preschool and the staff. They became like family to us. Homeschooling was definitely not on my mind. This seemed like a great fit for them, and we were happy.
Elementary school troubles
When my oldest son began elementary school, accompanied by a paraprofessional to assist him due to an Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD, things still seemed to be going well. It was only after he got just a little older and our other son entered the school system that things got problematic.
It became more and more obvious that both of my boys needed more one-on-one instruction time, as well as to be able to move at their own pace. They were both struggling with school, and it broke my heart. This also came at a time that we were going to a different church and becoming friends with other people who homeschooled.
Although I was reluctant to begin homeschooling, every sign seemed to be point toward it. At that time, my kids needed a slower pace, more individual instruction, and a lot of time to grow.
My oldest, who was then eight years old and in second grade, told me one day that he would like to be homeschooled. When I asked him why that was, he said, “When I try to work on my work, it takes me longer than the other kids. When I finally really start to work, the teacher says it’s time to put everything away and start on the next thing.” He paused and looked defeated, “I just want to finish something.”
That was it. We needed to homeschool.
Transitioning to homeschool
While I would love to say that we dove into homeschooling with glee, that wouldn’t be true. It was a hard, emotional transition. There were tears and regret from more than one family member.
We were committed to giving it a try for at least a year, so we soldiered through it. There are definitely things that I would have done differently to ease the transition, but we made it through.
We learned, changed, and began to thrive as homeschoolers. Our youngest child became school aged, and she joined in. She was our only child to never attend public school.
While we had doubts along the way about whether homeschooling was still the best choice for us, we remained committed. Our children blossomed by taking things at their own pace and having extra attention.
Learning to be committed to our kids instead of committed to homeschooling
Even though our family had the occasional ups and downs with homeschooling, we loved the flexibility it gave us. I imagined homeschooling all three of my children through graduation.
I was surprised when, after our fifth year of homeschooling, our youngest child asked to go to school for third grade. It turned into a summer of prayer and discussions. I wasn’t sure how to let go of homeschooling one of my children. We had been so committed to it that it felt like we were betraying the homeschooling ideals that we had learned to embrace.
I finally realized somewhere along the way that I couldn’t be committed to public schooling, and I couldn’t be committed to homeschooling. It was too much pressure and being so set like that seemed to lose the point of enjoying a freedom to choose what was right for each of my children. I just needed to be committed to doing whatever each of my kids needed, not to some educational ideal.
It was in realizing that my top commitment is to my kids and their needs that I have found a peace and joy in our educational decisions.
What are some of the things that you never expected to do, but you did them because it was what your child needed?