Friday, May 1, 2009

Our Homeschool Story

We are a family of born again believers in Christ and we try our very best to live according to God's word -- the Bible. We knew right from the start that we did not want to put our children in public school. When our oldest came to live with us under foster care until his adoption went through for us, we could not even consider homeschooling -- foster care rules didn't allow it. They also told us that Anthony HAD to go to preschool.

He began in an I.U. preschool class because of the issues that he was struggling with. He was very impulsive and had a lot of anger issues. His I.U. experience was really good. His I.U. teacher was wonderful! She kept constant contact with us by sending a notebook back and forth on a daily basis so that she could let us know how he had done in school and we could let her know about things that happened at home. With her love and support, as well as ours, Anthony made tremendous progress and after being in her preschool class for almost two years, he was ready to go into a regular classroom setting. We, however, wanted to see how well he would do in an environment that had a larger group of children and he would receive less attention, so we decided to have him do one more year of preschool instead of putting him into kindergarten.

He did very well in his regular preschool setting and had another good teacher, so we decided as long as he was doing well in the Christian School that was associated with our church, we would keep him there. His adoption went through right before he began kindergarten and he had settled down so much, now that he felt secure in his home. He did fairly well in kindergarten.

Nicholas came to live with us during Anthony's 1st grade year, and we put Nicholas into a preschool class at the Christian school. This turned out not to be a good year for either of the boys.

Anthony's first grade teacher kept coming to me and complaining about Anthony's behavior. Then, one night while Anthony was doing his homework, he complained to me about having to do it because "it was stupid -- it was too easy"! I called and asked for a meeting with the principal shortly thereafter. I explained that I thought that the 1st grade work was too easy for Anthony. I explained how we had held him in preschool an extra year, more for emotional and maturity and behavioral issues than anything, because he had always been quite bright academically. The principal said that she would talk to his teacher and get back to me.

When the principal called me for a follow-up meeting, she said that Anthony's first grade teacher agreed with me. She said that whenever she would hand out a worksheet to do, she would tell the students not to begin the worksheet until she went over the directions. She said that by the time she returned to the front of the classroom to go over the directions, Anthony had comleted the sheet and usually had ALL of the answers correct. The principal had also spoken with the teacher that Anthony had had for kindergarten, and she, too, felt that Anthony had been advanced in her kindergarten class the year before.

Therefore, the principal told me that she would move him to the second grade and after a month or so, re-evaluate the situation, with the stipulation that I work with him at home on math because that would be the one place that may pose a problem due to skipping some of the concepts that were learned in first grade. This was just one month after school had begun! Anthony did very well in the second grade class and was caught up in math in no time; but, when we hit about mid-year, Anthony began having problems again.

Now, his second grade teacher kept coming to me complaining about Anthony's behaviors. I gave her suggestions on how to deal with him, and she never put any of my suggestions into motion. She kept asking me if I thought Anthony might have ADHD, which really made me angry because I feel that they label way too many children with ADHD simply because they don't want to spend the time and energy on the active boys, or they miss something that is another issue altogther, not to mention the fact that Anthony had been tested for ADHD just two years before this and was not diagnosed.

Anthony's second grade teacher then decided to handle his behavior by separating him from the rest of the class. In the beginning, she would move his desk to the back of the room and explain to him that if his behaviors improved, she would move him back with the rest of the group after two days or so. After a while, she moved him to the back of the class and left him there and gave him no more chances to return to the rest of the group. This infuriated me because I knew the problem was that he was bored again, and she didn't try giving him any extra work or anything, but instead, treated him like an outcast, and I became worried about what it would do to his self-esteem. I felt that she was sending him a message that said he was a bad kid. He had also complained that his teacher liked the girls in the class better than the boys. This was also apparent to me. I worked in the lunchroom at the school during this school year, so I was present enough to have a good idea of what was going on.

While all of this was going on with Anthony, Nicholas was also having problems in preschool. He was getting speech with an I.U. worker once a week and he had an I. U. worker who came into his preschool class once a week to observe him and help him learn how to handle some of his behaviors. However, Nicholas was even sent to the principal one day -- in preschool!

I had been praying throughout all of this that God would help our boys with their behaviors and the teachers with their patience so that they would have better days at school. However, God had another plan. One night, I was awakened in the middle of the night and felt God impressing upon me that I should homeschool. I spoke with my husband about it the next day. He said that he thought I should start researching it and see what I could find out about it.

We knew a lady who was homeschooling at the time, but she was not someone we knew real well and we hadn't seen her in quite some time, so I didn't know how she'd react to my wanting to ask her a bunch of stuff about homeschooling. I sent her a note in the mail explaining that we were thinking about it and asking if she could give me some information. She called me on the phone in less than a week and was thrilled to be able to give me information. She invited me to her house, where she lent me several books about homeschooling, gave me a list of websites and talked about her homeschooling experience. She even invited me to go with her to the huge homeschool convention that is held in a city about a 45-minute's drive away.

Then, the last straw at the Christian school happened. I went to pick Anthony up one afternoon and found him with scratches all over his face! When I asked him what happened he told me that when they were out at recess, one of the kindergarten boys had jumped up on his back and started clawing at his face! He said that the two teachers were so busy talking to one another that they did not see this happen. He said that one of his classmates saw it and tried to help get the boy off of Anthony's back but the boy on Anthony's back punched that boy in the stomach. Finally, Anthony managed to wrench the boy off of his back and the boy landed on his bottom on the ground. Of course, that was the moment the teachers noticed and punished Anthony.

When I questioned the teacher, she said she really didn't know what happened because she hadn't seen it. The next day, however, the kindergarten teacher asked me if Anthony's teacher had given me a written report about the incident. When I said "no", the kindergarten teacher said that his teacher was supposed to, and she said that she had seen what happened. I never did receive a written report about the incident. As a matter of fact, I heard nothing more about it.

Then, I went to the CHAP Homeschool Convention in Harrisburg with the lady who had invited me. I loved it and was overwhelmed by it. I never realized how many resources were available to homeschoolers. I also never realized how many people were doing it. There were people from many of our surrounding states in attendance!

Then, during the summer, the boys were taking swimming lessons at our local public pool and I sat outside the fence watching and waiting for them to finish. One day a lady sat down beside me and we struck up a conversation. It turned out that she was a homeschool mom and she provided me with more information about homeschooling in our area, and she told me about a local homeschool group that offered a weekly co-op, field trips and sports.

So, God just kept leading and opening doors to homeschooling and we began homeschooling that very next school year and have been homeschooling ever since. It is wonderful for my boys! One of the best things about it is that they can work at their own pace. So, Anthony, who loves learning and soaks things up like a sponge can just keep moving. He is extremely self-motivated. Nicholas who doesn't have much of an interest in school and really doesn't like writing all that much can take as much extra time as he needs to understand each writing concept and the grammar. They can also delve much deeper into a subject that they take a particular interest in, instead of just touching the tip of the iceberg as they do in public and private school systems.

We have been homeschooling for six years now and have no intention of ever schooling any other way. The flexibility and opportunities that it offers are also so wonderful. I will go into more detail in other posts about the co-ops, flexibility and opportunities, as well as many other aspects of homeschooling.

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