Yes, We Homeschool, And, no, we're not crazy.
By: Judy Judy
April 6, 2012
There are many reasons why I feel extremely lucky to live in Alameda.
I love that it is centrally located in the beautiful Bay Area. I love the mild weather — and I can think of no better place to raise a family.
With top-rated schools, two involved parents, and limited TV and computer time, it seems both of my kids should have everything they need to earn one of those "My kid is an honor student" bumper stickers in middle school. Right?
Wrong. We'll never have one of those bumper stickers, because our children won't be going to our neighborhood school.
Although both of our girls went to Edison Elementary, we’re on the second year of homeschooling our oldest, and we plan on doing the same with our youngest next year.
I love homeschooling now, but the decision was not made easily.
My husband was the one who first suggested it about a year and a half ago, after he saw the trouble our daughter was having conforming to the middle school regimen. He sat himself down and did some good ol‘ fashioned research and he liked what he learned. His learned there are many different home school curriculums to chose from, just as there are many different traditional schools to choose from. Once he was done, he was convinced this was the way to go for our family.
But let’s start from the beginning. When our oldest was at Edison, she had some simple processing issues, nothing major. We never worried about her getting held back, but she did get extra help from a resource specialist. School was not easy for her, but she did fine.
Then we hit middle school. I will not bore you with every agonizing detail, but Lincoln was not a good fit. Going in, I knew that the workload was going to be greater in middle school — just as I expect the workload will increase when my daughters go to high school. But I wasn’t ready for the amount of work and the complete drop in my daughter's confidence.
I thought maybe she just needed a little more time to adjust, but I also worried because I know that difficulties in school, no matter how minor, are hard on the psyche. To not fit the public school system, especially when your friends do, can really do a number on how children see themselves. And when children think they're dumb, slow, stupid or in any way inadequate in middle school, keeping them from hating school for the rest of their natural born lives can be a nearly impossible task.
Sound like I'm speaking from experience? Well, I am.
I have dyslexia. Had it since I went to Edison, decades before my daughters. And although I feel like I was always getting pulled out of class to take this test or to look at that ink blot, I didn’t get labeled until I was in high school. Yes, I knew I wasn’t the town idiot, but I sure also knew I didn’t learn things the same way or at the same rate as my peers.
If you keep being told you aren't good at something, pretty soon you're going to believe it. I did, anyway. And I wasn’t quite ready for my daughter to sit in the corner of her room all day, wearing too much black and listening to death metal in the dark.
Not in junior high, anyway. She has to at least wait until high school for that kind of angst.
“What about the homeschooling package I emailed you? Have you looked at it?” My husband would ask.
I finally did. And it looked good. Really good. But when I mentioned we were considering homeschooling to other parents, reaction tended toward negative. Yes, some were positive. Many were understanding. But other people acted like we were crazy.
Was I? I wanted to take her out of a top-rated Alameda school to have her learn at home. I’m not even a teacher!
What about the social ramifications, I worried. If I kept her home, she was sure to turn into a loner, right? She would be excluded from all social events with her peers and she would never be invited to another birthday party or sleepover for as long as she lived.
Come to think of it, if she were homeschooled, she would probably only have imaginary friends. She would quit swimming and water polo and be obsessed with horses. She’d make up her own horse language that I couldn't understand and she'd only eat apples and the grass from our front yard until she ran away to become a horse trainer for a traveling circus! All because I kept her home for the three years of middle school. Come back, sweetie! It’s all my fault!
OK, yes, sometimes my mind does wander.
My husband, for the record, did not share my anxiety about homeschooling.
Before pulling my daughter out of Lincoln, I toured most of the middle schools on, and some off, the island. Public and private. Most were comparable to Lincoln, but two, located off-Island, seemed fantastic!
I would have signed her up right then and there! However, they were both over $20,000 a year.
Did you hear what I said, Alameda?
Over $20,000 a year! Now, multiply that times three years, then by two kids. I went to art school, but even I know that's $120,000. We do not have that kind of money to spend on middle school for grades that colleges don't even look at!
That was when my husband and I chose a homeschool program. It is fully accredited and my daughter has her own teacher. We send in her lessons every two weeks by U.S. mail or email.
Her teacher, in return, sends back corrections, comments and feedback. There is very little stress involved anymore and her grades are through the roof! She still has to take tests, write reports and meet deadlines, but it is one-on-one learning, with little administrative interference and no pressure caused by standardized tests and the like. And she doesn’t hate school any more. Bottom line: I’ll never have a honor roll bumper sticker, but my daughter is happy again. That is a trade I’ll take any day.
So far the experience has been a complete blessing. Thank goodness I finally talked my husband in to trying it!