This history was written in 2005 — Not everything is completely accurate as today especially in things like age and curriculum used but the history and the feelings behind them continue to today.
How we got started on this home school journey…
I decided that before I added any more new stuff to my blog I would go back and give you a little history of homeschool.
We started this adventure in August 1992; well we really made the decision in May of 1992 but started in August. At the time I had two children a 9-year-old boy and a 20-month-old boy. My oldest had attended public school for Kindergarten, Extended K/Pre-1st, First, and Second grades. He started school a bright, energetic, inquisitive boy. After four years in public school he was hyper, impulsive, and very angry. We started homeschooling because we honestly could not think of anything else to try. Why did we wait so long to start? Well I was never going to homeschool. Homeschooling was for wacko. You get the picture.
But in the span of six months my husband reconnected with some old friends who you guessed it homeschooled and had been for years. We had dinner at their house and on the way home I said well I guess all homeschoolers aren’t whacko but I’d never be able to do that. Then I attended a Le Leche League Conference. I “accidentally” sat down in the wrong workshop. By the time I discovered my mistake my little one was happily nursing so I stuck it out. The topic was as you have already guessed homeschooling. There were also a couple of other things that came up that but I don’t remember for sure what they were now. At the same time they had decided to put my oldest on generic Ritalin. The assured me that this was for the best and all side effects would over the next couple of months subside. Well they just got worse. He wasn’t eating, wandered the house at night, and when the medication wore off at 3:30 pm he would explode. I was upset and really feared that I would lose my child if we didn’t think of something.
So with a huge leap of faith and a lot of fear and trembling we started our homeschool adventure. My son was upset about missing some school stuff so we named our school, wrote a school song, picked school colors, made up a motto, picked a school symbol, and named our cat the school mascot. With these details we were underway. We also stopped all medication as well.
That first year was very, very, very hard. I was so ready to give up but the Lord blessed me with some very wonderful experienced homeschool mothers who encouraged me and let me dump on them. I was scared to dump on my dear husband for fear he’d say forget and send him back to school. We used a curriculum that we sent back in because I felt like I needed the reassurance of such a program. This probably made that first year even harder because of the pressure of making their deadlines. I have since heard recommendations of taking things easier the first year if you are pulling a child out of school and I heartily recommend such a program. There are a lot of adjustments the first year as you are changing you relationship with your child and probably working on overcoming learning and behavioral gaps.
By the third year I was still thinking this was all pretty hard and while I felt it was worth it I wasn’t sure it was “working”. Then a friend as me to describe what had been so bad about our day. It was at that point that these bad days we were having would have seemed like great days when we first started. When I stepped back and really looked at where we had been and where we were now I realized how much things had improved.
After that it was easier to see the progress. And now that angry little 9-year-old is a wonderful, dedicated 22-year-old man of God. He is finishing up his senior year of college and will be leaving on Thursday to fly to Minnesota for his seminary interview on Friday. He hopes to pursue a degree in Social Ministry and possible work for the Peace Corp. At this point he has chosen not to date because he feels that dating is in preparation for marriage and he is not in a position to support a wife and family. We all feel that when God is ready for him to take this step he will have to place the woman for him directly into his path so he doesn’t miss her.
Keep On Keeping On
When we started homeschooling my 2nd child was just a little guy. When he turned 5 at the end of 1995 he was seemed like he was ready to start his own adventure in homeschooling. We started a phonics program for him. He quickly learned the names and sounds of all the letters and could blend CVC words but seemed to get no further. So we tried another phonics program, then another and another and another. Finally 2 years and numerous programs latter I decided I was a homeschool failure. There was either something very wrong with my son or with me. Added to the picture were too more energetic little boys who arrived in 1995 and 1997.
I took him to a local eye doctor that had been recommended to me by friends who after the exam said my son had 20/20 vision in each eye and if he wasn’t reading his was stupid, lazy, or Attention Deficit. None of this seemed right. He was stupid. He could retain all kinds of information he gained through auditory input. He wasn’t lazy. He tried so hard to read and ended up so frustrated and upset. And since I’d been there and done that with the whole Attention Deficit stuff I knew this was not the problem either.
Another year drug by. We tried some more phonics programs. We tried doing nothing. After the treatment from the first eye doctor who had held him down physically to put in eye drops this very sensitive little boy didn’t want to repeat the torture and frankly I didn’t see that it would do any good anyway. The only thing I could feel in my heart was that this little boy didn’t belong in a classroom setting.
Then I happened to pass a booth at our statewide homeschool conference. The brochure caught my eye. I picked it up and there was a checklist for children who had vision problems. As I moved down the list and thought about my son I realized that at the very least 85% of the list sounded just like my son. I had missed the lecture but I was able to talk to the doctor at the booth. His office was more than 200 miles from our house but as I described my son he said we needed to get him some help. He offered to do some research to find a closure doctor. He called me the following Monday with the name of a doctor about 50 miles from our home. His exam was not just for acuity but also for vision function. When he sat all of us down in his office it was like hope dawned. The first thing he did was to turn to my son and say you are not stupid or lazy. I can tell you’ve worked very hard to come as far as you have and you must be really bright to have coped with this. It’s just your eyes are not playing well together and you and I will work together like a team to get your eyes working like a team.
Thus began a two-year odyssey of 100 mile round trip adventures to the eye doctor’s office for therapy. The first 6 weeks were 4 times a week and the rest of the session were done twice a week. They were set up in 6 weeks blocks and we got a few weeks off now and then for good behavior. So at the age of 10 my son wrapped up his therapy and finally began the adventure of learning to read.
For him we found that he was a whole to parts kind of person so first we started with lots of sight word cards and then reading simple sentences and then we were able to go back and start phonics instructions.
His progress since then has been slow but steady. He tires easily and must rest his eyes after sustained reading. Last January at 14 years old he was reading at the end of third grade level but considering it was only the 4th year that he’d been reading it was really on track. This year he has made tremendous progress. He is actually picking up books for pleasure. He is sticking with assigned books even when he doesn’t like them. We are both anxiously waiting for this year’s testing to see if all this work will show up on his testing.
The Younger Crowd
My younger ones all seem to be pretty typical average kids. The biggest problem my 10 and 8-year-old boys seem to have is that I was so busy copying with vision therapy and having babies and loosing babies that it was in some ways easier to let them play.
In some aspects they would not have been ready for very formal schooling but they should have had a little more formal school time.
My 10-year-old has made a lot of progress this year and has gained a lot of ground. Spelling is still a little weak but they take after their mom there, poor things. He enjoys exploring and experimenting. One of his favorite things is for his dad to bring old car parts home for him to take apart.
My 8 year old is further behind that I would like him to be. He has developed some lazy habits regarding work of any kind and this will be a big focus for us over the next several months. He tends to want to be the school clown and always looks for the easy way out.
My 4-year-old is the only girl and she is very different from her boys in so many ways. She loves her school time and I have had to keep adding more and more to keep her stimulated and out of trouble. I have a 4-year preschool plan and we are starting our 3rd year now. I combined the stack of Sonlight Pre K books. Additional books added to the Sonlight PreK plan by a mom on a Yahoo group for users of Sonlight users. I also grab a bunch of great books off our shelf that we never seemed to get too. I took these books and divided them over 3 years. That was all I had planned but I’ve found Hannah needed a lot more than I planned. So far she has completed Letter of the Week Preparatory Level and Little Hands to Heaven from Heart of Dakota.
We have recently added Christ Centered Curriculum for Math and Reading the 4-year-old level. It is a very intense program but she is soaking it up like and sponge and really loving the pace.
Well that’s about all the history of our homeschool. Watch for assessing goals for our upcoming school year.
This second session was written in January of 2009 I think that this information is timeless.
Recently on one of the groups I belong to a mom shared her frustration with her child who is struggling in the area of reading. Like I had so often done in the past I heard the hurt and the hope that someone will have the magic answer. If you do this or use that life will become wonderful again. So this was my answer. The answer born of walking this road. An answer born from my own tears and heart ache. And I decided to post the answer her in the hopes that others who struggle with their own feelings while watching their child struggle will find some comfort although no answers in these words.
If you read some of my early post here you will see that I tried every program available at the time of our struggles. None of them worked. The only thing that did work was intense and long-term eye therapy. Even with all that we had to start over and his reading will all be an area of weakness. Just using the Sonlight readers at a much slower pace, sight word cards, ETC, and MCP Plaid we got him up to mid 6th grade level. Adding in the RFBD(Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic) audio reader program we got the word recognition to mid 7th and the comprehension up to mid 10th. The reality is that he will never read for pleasure, reading will always be a chore, he will never love reading. Through audio books he will be able to continue to feed his brain. He will continue to enjoy good literature. He has enough reading skill that he can read for information. He can read enough to play his video games. He is holding his own so far at the Adult Basic Education classes. Once he gets his TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) score up to an over all 9th grade level he can begin GED classes. It is still a very painfully slow process. I still get frustrated. But I have had to surrender everything I thought would happen for my child.
I taught myself to read at a young age. I loved to read. I love books. Jacob was a bit older but he taught himself to read. Caleb can read but he reads slowly and not for pleasure. I figure he will end up in a remedial class if he goes to the public school. Joshua is only a year ahead of Hannah but is making steady progress now. Hannah well I’m not sure if she teaching herself or what I’m doing is actually working for once.
Every early reader story used to break my heart and fill me with guilt. What am I doing wrong? Have I ruined my children for life?, etc. And if I read one more article or had one more mom tell me that early readers are born to moms who spend time reading to their children I was going to strangle someone. I’ve read to each and every one of them since before they were born. I would read until my throat was scratchy and raw. I provided a stimulating learning environment. We had years with no TV, video, or electronics games. And we have had years with them. I tried all the wonderful this will work programs. I’ve been free-flowing and relaxed. I’ve been highly structured. And in the end my children are who they are, they are as God made them.
The road of the struggling learner and therefore their parent is long. The road is lonely. No matter how many other on the road everyone’s place is unique and it seems that you are on it alone. And the hardest part is that there are no guarantees that if you just do X, if you just use Y that things will suddenly and magically be okay. That depending on the challenge extra work or special programs may catch them up and move them forward but the reality is that some of them will never reach what our peers would view as “normal”. It hurts so bad that my son who is bright and intelligent will always have to struggle for his place in this world. Or worse still is that even if others don’t care he cares. He compares himself. He feels less.
So prayers and hugs. No easy answers. No,do this and it will all be magically wonderful. Because from the perspective of being down the road and looking back the road was rocky, full of pot holes, and periods of dense fog. I’m glad that I homeschooled. I’m glad I was able to walk down that path with my son together. I’m glad that I got him to the point where he is able to move on to the adult education program. But I can’t say that I got to the end of the road and walked out into a beautiful sunlit field of wild flowers or that I came out to the interstate smooth and ready for forward movement at great speeds. I came down the rocky road to head up the next bumpy road. I can’t see yet if this will lead to a better, smoother road or not. And that of everything is the hardest thing for me as mom. I don’t feel I failed but I wish with all my heart that what I did had changed him. But it didn’t and that’s what I laid down. That is the child God made. He is just the way God wants him to be. And ultimately he is in God’s hands.
So that’s it my heart and my thoughts raw and emotional. Use what you can.