Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Quit Homeschooling

"My oldest is really advanced." The elementary principle rolled his eyes at me. "Every parent thinks that," he said. "I know, but, just test her," I replied.


The Gifted & Talented district coordinator recommended she skip kindergarten and be placed in the advanced 1st grade program.

Wow. But also, not wow.

She began speaking at 8 months and used clear sentences by 18 months. Friends would gasp, "I can't believe I'm having a real conversation with a 2-year-old!"

So, she attended the first grade advanced program. But, I was scared. I was worried she would eventually fall behind and that she wouldn't drive cars and date as soon as her classmates.

I was afraid of Common Core math curricula. I didn't know anything about it. But, other parents were terrified so I became terrified. And Sage Testing...*insert ghost sounds here*. Big, bad Sage Testing. Again, I didn't know anything specific—just that the women in my Mormon community felt all of this was very Big Brother-ish. And that's scary.

The other Mormon moms believed all of this "bad stuff" was Satan trying to ruin our children through the Federal Government, mandated testing, and liberal public schools. We needed to protect our kids.

My husband and I started looking at homeschooling options. I was pregnant with baby number 3, but I was willing to do anything for my kids. And my husband really believed the depth we (I) could provide our daughter on certain subjects would far exceed what should would get in public school.

So, terrified and untrained, I took this brilliant daughter out of school. And then the sinking feeling that I was about to truly ruin my kid set in.

We started that 2nd grade school year with a very strict schedule. We all loved it, to be honest. Everyone started the day with prayer and scripture. We had breakfast, math, reading, playtime and chores. We had afternoon lessons on geography and science, followed by snack and more chores. The house had never been cleaner. My daughter had my full attention. My toddler son was accidentally pushed to the side.

I met with other homeschool moms. Some wore tense, anxious masks. Others seemed incredibly relaxed. Many laughed knowingly and said, "you'll figure it out—it's all trial and error." A majority of the women supported some form or another of "unschooling," which is basically not schooling. The idea is pretty much to just let your kids learn on their own when they're ready. I ran into a few kids who, at the ages of 8, 9, and 10 couldn't read. I'm sure they will figure it out eventually. This just wasn't my way.

Growing up, education was a big deal in my home. My mom was always in college. She's currently finishing her doctoral thesis. (Come on, Mom. You can do it!) Every year in school, if I wasn't being pulled out for an advanced writing or math, I was enrolled in honors or AP classes. My mother is a public school teacher, for heaven's sake. So, naturally, I have high, but realistic, academic expectations for my kids.

During the course of this year as a homeschooler, I researched Common Core methods and Sage testing. I'm gonna say this: Common Core isn't that bad. Is it what we grew up with? Not exactly. But, actually, yes. It teaches the same things in a different order so that every concept is interconnected. It's a GOOD THING.

But, after the excitement of the first few months wore off, I saw my outgoing daughter turn very dark and become very lonely. It broke my heart.

And after I had that baby, I had never felt so deeply depressed and lonely in my life. And remember that toddler son? He was still tippy-toeing around, trying to sneak under my arm for cuddles while I grimaced in pain from nursing the new baby.

It was too much. I was spread too thin. I was breathing but barely sleeping.

The following summer, I reluctantly enrolled the girl in school. I was still scared. She had to be tested again to gain entry into the gifted program again. I was terrified she wouldn't know enough math or write well enough. But damnit if she isn't the quickest kid you've ever met. She took care of her own shit. Thank goodness. Lord knows I couldn't.

She is in 3rd grade now and has been accepted for the 4th grade advanced program, too. She's a year younger but you'd never know it. She's so happy and I'm relieved.


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