If you were reading this blog about four years ago, you would have seen a lot of posts about homeschooling. It was my first year teaching Lorelei at home, and I was full of plans and eager to share them.
Lorelei spent her first four years of schooling at a parochial school. It’s an excellent school, and her former classmates seem to have been very happy there. But Lorelei was showing signs of stress and anxiety from the ever-increasing amount of homework, even in the summer time. And I wanted to spend more time with my last baby.
Sending her back to “real” school eventually was always my plan: when we would do it and where she would go were left TBD by needs and circumstances. All I was sure of was that the transition would occur before high school.
I’ve homeschooled four of my five children for varying amounts of time, and it’s been a different experience with each of them. I’ve come to realize that homeschooling does not provide the best learning environment for every child.
I am not sorry that I removed Lorelei from an environment that was stressful for her. At home, we were able to recognize that she suffers from anxiety and take steps to combat that. I was able to get to know her very well, and to spend time with her, and we are very close. And she was able to devote extended time to non-academic pursuits. Lorelei has always loved art, and I’ve been amazed to watch the changes in her pictures over the years. She also became involved in an online group devoted to making music videos, and I was beyond impressed to see how she navigated the online community and taught herself skills both online and off. I learned (and I think she did too) how very capable she is.
She also played outside a lot, as children should. And remained a little girl longer than it seems most girls are allowed to these days.
But the academic side of homeschool was a real struggle. Part of that was my change in circumstance from the last time I did this. I’m at home, but I’m working several hours each day, and I have to get things done. But part of it was Lorelei herself. When I taught Teddy at home, for example, I could read off a list of assignments and he would do them on his own. Lorelei would complain and resist and insist that she couldn’t understand; she would freak out about possibly putting down the wrong answer even though her mother was the teacher and there were no grades; or she would go off to work and never return for her next assignment, and I wouldn’t even notice because I was so busy. Every day, every subject, every assignment was fraught. There were many days when we didn’t even attempt school, and we both felt guilty about it.
I’ve always known Lorelei was smart, of course. She made high grades when she was enrolled in school. But I had about decided that although she was a very capable person, she just wasn’t academic. We all worried about what would happen when she returned to school.
Lorelei started eighth grade at the local public middle school in early August. And she is thriving. The transformation has been remarkable. First progress reports are in and she has straight A’s. Her Language Arts teacher has commented more than once that Lorelei should be teaching the class. Her Social Studies teacher asked her if she would like to be in the Honors class. Her art teacher invited her to apply for Art Club membership. She joined the Book Club. She comes home chattering animatedly about her classmates. She stays on top of her homework without prompting. And she joined the Youth Group at church to continue her religious education without complaint, and is enjoying that too.
So what happened? Where did this motivated, happy, energetic, self-directed, intellectually curious student come from?
The answer, I believe, is that Lorelei is an extrovert. She is drawing energy from the school environment and applying it to her studies. It never would have occurred to me that this could be a factor–she wasn’t pining for school by any means; she was happy to have been removed and enjoyed being with me. But the evidence is clear: Homeschooling was not an academically good fit for Lorelei; traditional schooling is.
Again, I have no regrets about removing Lorelei from school. The homeschooling experience may not have been an academic success, but it was valuable in other ways. And she is quickly making up any ground she may have lost. But I also have no regrets about putting her back in!
Some people–I was one of them once–are very tied to a certain way of educating their children. “This is how our family does things,” they think. For me, it was the ideal of having all my kids graduate from the parochial school attended by my sisters and me, and then going on the be members of the third generation of our family to attended Knoxville Catholic High School. Family circumstances and the individual needs of my children forced me to rethink and relinquish plans I thought were set in stone, and my kids are the better for it.