Something big happened with my family over the summer. When I mention it, I know many people wonder why it had such a huge impact on me. That’s okay. As a homeschooler, I’ve gotten used to not being completely understood a good deal of the time.
Yes … I’m one of those moms. I have been since May 2003 when my daughter and I began an official pre-school curriculum. I say curriculum, but she was four at the time, and my youngest was six months old. From the beginning, I tried to incorporate learning into our everyday routine, much like most parents do. There was a lot of singing. “The Alphabet Song” was a tune that came up in our daily repertoire, but it was just one of many. There was counting and learning the names of colors and shapes. I had more craft supplies than Michael’s and Hobby Lobby combined; felt, construction paper, washable markers, crayons, glue, glitter, feathers and stickers were always trying to escape the confines of the huge closet I tried to stuff them into. I suppose the word ‘official’ doesn’t really apply, either, unless you count the thirty or so minutes we spent at the table each day, pencils in hand while Maya tried to master the letters that made up her name. It was a beginning, though, and it was a lot of fun. The two of us worked well together, so we decided to keep it up.
By the time Maya was ready for Kindergarten, it was obvious to me that homeschooling was the right path for us. I began to organize and plan. It was still early in her educational career, but I did my research and made sure I was aware of all the rules and guidelines I needed to follow for our state. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
We moved when Maya was seven. We still resided in the state of Colorado, but in a different area. My son, Scotty, was just three and a half when we settled into what would be one of many homes for us. He liked sitting at the table while we worked on math and writing, and he’d listen to his sister read from her beginner chapter books. He started Kindergarten earlier than she did. Maya has always been a cool big sister, and if she was doing school, Scott wanted to do it, too.
My husband’s field is IT. He works on contracts, and because of the nature of his job, we have lived in many different places. After this first move, we found ourselves relocating four more times in the next eight years. One of our homes was in Cary, North Carolina. We also got the chance to live in Linden, a small village in southwest Germany not far from the Ramstein Air Force Base. With each move, our decision to homeschool made more and more sense. We took school with us wherever we went, and the kids never fell behind. Maya, who has always loved foreign languages, got to study German while living in Germany. We got many opportunities to travel, and were lucky enough to visit six different countries while we were overseas. We made travelling educational, and we all learned a great deal.
Through it all, I kept precise attendance and vaccination records, and organized portfolios of each child’s school work should I be called upon to present it. Both kids took standardized tests after completing each grade―administered by me, but graded by the testing company. They never ranked lower than the ninetieth percentile, and tested from third grade through eighth. I followed each and every rule. We stuck to a schedule. The kids thrived, and all of us were very happy.
I always thought I’d teach all the way through high school. I knew that wasn’t the norm, that a large number of homeschooled kids quit learning at home after eighth grade and went on to traditional schools as freshmen. I was able to do that with Maya, who wasn’t interested in public school. She’s always set goals, then worked hard to achieve them. Things didn’t always come easy for her―math and science are perfect examples―but she knew she had to take those classes and that she had to do well. She studied for and took the ACT, then jumped into college two months after her high school graduation.
Scotty was a bit different. The two of us worked together just as well as his sister and I did, but as he got older, his interests began to change. He used to love all things science, and, while not a voracious reader like Maya, he did enjoy books on subjects from astronomy to spiders and the occasional novel. He was incredibly good at math, and even though I had to push him, he could write an essay like nobody’s business.
Then middle school ended.
It was gradual at first. He became less and less interested in academics and more into computer programming, audio software and digital music. Basically, his interests were things I couldn’t afford to provide him. Both he and Maya had always been social kids, involved in a ton of sports, book clubs, art classes and swim teams. With our latest move back to Colorado, that had changed for Scott, too. I wanted to fix things for him, but I couldn’t. As much as I hated it, as sad as it made me feel―and it did make me unbelievably sad―I had to admit that maybe homeschooling wasn’t working for the two of us any longer.
Since I became a mom, the most important thing has always been what’s best for my kids. They’ve always been very different people. The environment in which Maya thrived during her high school years was not the same one Scott needed. He’s been attending a public school now for about three months. The transition hasn’t been entirely smooth, but he likes it there. There is still some adjusting going on, but he’s happy. He’s taking a CAD class, and he’s able to do some of the things there that he couldn’t do here. The decision was a hard one to make, but so far, I think it’s been a good one.
I homeschooled for fourteen amazing years. I know with all certainty that if I could go back and decide whether or not I wanted to travel down this path again I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. I may not be a homeschooling mom anymore, but I’m still helping Scott with Algebra and quizzing Maya on facts for quizzes in her Twentieth Century History class. Besides, I have a whole lot of stories to share from my remarkable experience. I have the Diary of a Homeschooling Mom.
J.C. Wing has homeschooled her two children since May 2003. She served as a homeschooling resource for Kids 411, a magazine geared toward families in the Douglas County area of Parker and Castle Rock, Colorado. She wrote monthly articles about homeschooling based on her own long term experience on the subject, and did much research about different homeschooling programs and opportunities in the area. She also served as an editor and proofreader for other writers on staff. After moving to Raleigh, North Carolina, J.C. became involved in a large homeschooling group where she worked with kids between the ages of 7 -12, teaching them creative writing and poetry.
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