Homeschooling at the Crossroads
- 2005 4 Mar
It had been a difficult kindergarten year for both of us. My son hadn't learned like the others. He came home from school over stimulated and even angry. He was frustrated, and I was concerned. My husband and I brought our son home and entered the home school highway in the first grade.
Hand-in-hand we walked the home school road for seven years. He blossomed under my tutelage. Learning was difficult for him, but we strove together. His character was developing and his faith was deepening, and our grappling to understand each other was ever-challenging.
Then one day I was sitting at the kitchen table grading papers. I shook my head. How could he keep making these same mistakes over and over? I thought. I held out the paper I'd marauded in red and said, "You got a 66% on this math paper. You are going to have to do it over."
He shrugged his shoulders noncommittally and said," The only reason I got a 66 is because you don't know how to grade it."
For months my son struggled with an angry, defiant attitude toward me and toward schooling. He refused to put forth his best effort. Though he was disciplined, he continued to resist our efforts to help him progress in his education. He begged to go to school. I could physically feel my heart breaking.
Homeschooling hit a crossroads. One sign read "Rock," another read "Hard Place," and the other "Monolith Straight Ahead". Public school wasn't an option for us. Private school was too expensive. Homeschooling was making us miserable.
I believe most children go through a phase where they no longer want to take their parent's word for how the world works. The same child who at age seven delighted in your every word suddenly thinks that you have nothing worthwhile to say. They want to know that what they are doing at home is connected to the rest of the world somehow. They are painfully aware of how different they are as homeschoolers (at an age when being different is about as embarrassing as it gets), and they are sure that they are missing out on some real great stuff by being at home.
Of course, I wasn't real philosophical about it at the time. I was hurt and angry because being my son's teacher was causing tension in the relationship we'd worked so hard to develop. The act of assigning work, helping him with the assignment, and grading the assignment was putting us at opposing sides. I wanted to be his facilitator, his mentor, and his model. I wanted to be on his side helping him accomplish his goals… not insisting he meet mine.
I had to find a new avenue. I found the traditional answer (sending him to school outside the home) wasn't the only option. There are roads less traveled (but that are becoming well-worn paths) that can truly offer a wayside for weary travelers.
When my children were very young, a good friend suggested that we get together once a week. Every Thursday morning I would teach art and she would teach music. Then we would eat lunch and visit while the children played in the afternoon. That was my first co-op. We looked forward to the social time and our children reaped the benefits of our bartered talents. Whether the co-op is made up of 3 or 30 families, whether it is informal or rigorously academic, co-ops are a wonderful support for you and your children. They balance out the curriculum, provide friends with similar ideals, and are something to look forward to each week.
An umbrella school is a private school, church group, or organization that oversees your home school. Many umbrella schools employ a certified teacher or experienced home school mom who can give advice, review progress, approve curriculum, etc. Most umbrella schools provide record keeping, assign credits, council students, prepare transcripts, communicate with colleges and universities, and award diplomas. Some of these schools also offer classes taught by qualified teachers in difficult subject areas. Most umbrella schools are much cheaper than private school tuition; well earned for all the services rendered.
Mail-in correspondence schools have discovered cyberspace. Imagine having all the benefits of a school (first-rate teachers, assignments, grading, counseling, tutoring, etc) while wearing your rubber-ducky P.J's and fuzzy slippers! Some Internet schools even offer clubs and instant messaging with the other students. Many hold national or state accreditations and offer diploma programs for full-time students. Whether you need a school for all subjects or a couple of tricky ones, an Internet school may be an advantageous and affordable avenue.
Don't forget to check out your local community college, YMCA, public library, and local Parks and Recreation departments. These resources offer P.E classes, local histories, foreign languages, and visits from authors, art and music classes, and driver's education among many other things. There are always experts who are willing to help interested learners. Last year, a retired university professor decided to offer a Latin class to any interested high schooler for the cost of the textbook alone! What an opportunity!
I have used all of these options in various degrees and measures throughout our high school career. For any subject I either cannot teach (foreign language) or my child cannot stand (world geography) or which is just a lot more fun with a group of peers (science or PE) I will employ one of these methods. My role as high school facilitator encompasses identifying needs, locating opportunities, helping with assignments, carpooling, etc. In short, I'm simply the guidance counselor and general mastermind.
Now for "the rest of the story". My son was enrolled in a private school with a home school umbrella program in January of his eighth grade year. My son's teachers had marked the same problems wrong that I had. His teachers insisted that he do his best work, and miraculously, he had. In fact, he made tremendous progress in all subjects on his own steam. By April, my son apologized for how he had treated me. He told me that he realized how much I had helped him, how much I had prepared him, and that I had known what I was doing after all.
Today he is a faithful, successful, driven college student who still calls his mom to talk about his English themes...and many other things besides school. We are still grappling to understand each other, but our relationship is intact and blossoming. And I treasure the fact that we continued to walk hand-in-hand on the home school journey throughout his teen years.
Our Heavenly Father is the way maker. If you are sitting on the home school crossroads, pray that He will blaze a new trail for you. It might be an unexpected byway, but He is the navigator and He knows exactly where He wants you to go. Rely on Him and forge ahead, for it is written, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him." (I Cor. 2:9)
Lori M. Henry is married to a very supportive husband and is mom to three terrific teenagers. She has homeschooled her children since kindergarten and graduated her eldest in May 2004. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education and has taught in many settings from public and private school classrooms, to homeschool co-ops, to one-on-one instruction at home. You can reach Lori at email@example.com.