Thursday, February 11, 2010

How We Became a Homeschooling Family – Part One

I have shared bits and pieces of our story before, but I felt led to write our complete story to share with anyone who might need or want to read it. This is a long post, so please bear with me. I am beginning at the very beginning to share a but of my background, so you can understand the path I traveled that led me to the place I am at now in my life, and how our family had it’s beginnings, as did our homeschool journey. Let me first share a small disclaimer: I did not grow up going to church on a regular basis and I had very skeptical views of God and faith growing up. It took a long time for me to surrender to God, and because of that, I did not always make wise choices. Ok, so here goes…

When I was a little girl, my favorite thing to “pretend” was school. And yes, I was always the teacher (even if my students consisted of teddy bears and cabbage patch dolls). Throughout my elementary and junior high years, if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, teaching would have been my answer. As I got older, and started to enjoy school less, I gave up on that dream and decided that it was not worth going to school for 4 more years. But the desire never really went away, I just pushed it to the back of my mind.

Fast forward to 2001. I was now a single mom to a beautiful blessing who was one year old. I started thinking more about how I was going to provide for and support my son. I was working in retail at the time, living in Section 8 housing, and getting food stamps. I was not getting any child support. I started thinking about going to school. But not to teach. No, that wouldn’t be near enough money for the kind of life I wanted to give my child. So I started college, pursuing a nursing degree.

During this time I met someone, and got married. Things went well for a while, but soon the marriage fell apart. I won’t bore you with all the details of that story. Regardless, in 2003, I found myself going through a divorce, amicable as it was, it was not ideal at the time, but it happened. I found myself a single mother again and going to school had to be put on the backburner while I tried to figure out what I was going to do.

It was soon after all of this, that I met my husband. He had 2 children, I had 1. Things moved pretty quickly. Not long after we were living together, I found myself desiring to learn about God and His Word. I became a Christian. Now I found myself uncomfortable with my living arrangements. But not uncomfortable enough to leave. I loved him, and even though he had expressed several times that he was not ready to surrender his life to God, nor to get married again, I found myself hoping, praying and waiting.

During this time, we were living in an area whose schools were not ideal, not in the least. In fact, I did not want my child to attend those schools unless I had no other choice. I also started thinking about preschool and Head Start programs, and how since I was a stay at home mom, I did not want to send him somewhere else every day to learn his colors, shapes and alphabet. So I decided that for the time being, I would work with him at home. He was 4 at the time. I went to a local teaching supply store and purchased workbooks and other learning materials. I started spending a couple of hours every day reviewing colors and shapes, and teaching him about numbers and letters, and how to write them.

Not long after, a new charter school opened in our area. I thought this was an answer to prayer and of course went and signed him up to begin attending Kindergarten there the following fall. It was that summer that my husband and I got married in the living room of the house we shared with his mom. Our next door neighbor was a pastor and handled the ceremony. Our children and some of our family and friends were there (it was kinda spur of the moment) and I was so happy to finally feel at peace about our relationship. There was still the nagging feeling that I was wrong in marrying someone who did not share my faith, but God had given me a peace about it and I felt reassured that it was only a matter of time.

After we had decided to get married, we began to talk about our living arrangements. We both felt that we needed to have a home of our very own. We needed to be an independent family unit. We needed to depend on each other for all our needs. So we discussed our plans with my mother in law, and began searching for a house.

As I stated before, the area we lived in at the time was not ideal. Being a small town girl, I was sooo out of my element. It was not an area where I felt safe. My car had gotten broken into several times while we were living there, cops were in the area every other day, and we even had an occasional drunk pass out in the alley behind the house. So we began to look for houses in better areas, with better schools. We did not hunt for long (in hindsight, we should’ve taken more time) until we found a nice house in a nice neighborhood with good schools in a suburb very close to the city. So we bought the house, moved in, and signed our then 2 school-age children up for school, which was only a block away from our house and right across the street from a nice park. I continued to work with Drew, then 5, through the summer, trying to prepare him for Kindergarten in the fall.

During this time, we attended and end times series at a local church. It was a 4-week series, and I convinced my husband to go with me, since he was really into prophecy type stuff. At the end of the series, during the 4th Sunday, there was a very powerful altar call. The pastor pleaded with us to get right with God. He shared some more facts and details from scripture about the end times. He reminded us that at any time, Jesus could come back, and we did not want to be left behind while our loved ones vanished in the blink of an eye. I looked over at my husband, and saw the tears in his eyes. He looked at me and I quietly whispered to him, “Please, just go!” And he did! Praise God he went up to that altar and cried and prayed with another man who was a deacon minister. My prayers were finally answered! Little did I know that during that same time, in the children’s service, our daughter was also responding to an altar call and praying to be saved! From that point on, we attended church every Sunday, as a family. It was an awesome feeling!

Fall came and the school year started. Drew would bring home papers and projects, and I really enjoyed seeing the work he had done at school. But in the back of my mind, I wondered when they were going to learn something I had not already taught him at home. They taught him to count to 20 and how to write all his numbers. they taught him his letters (one a week) and how to write them, and the sounds each made. They worked with colors and shapes. After a couple of months, I noticed the work he brought home was getting messier, and sometimes things were not even completed. I talked to him about it and asked him why was his work so messy when I knew he would write his letters better than that? He said he was bored and tired of writing the same letters over and over. I asked him about the incomplete pages and he told me that he had not understood what to do. I asked him why he didn’t ask his teacher (or the teacher’s aid) for help, and he told me he did but she was busy helping other kids and never got to him, so he just didn’t do it, worried that he would do it wrong. Obviously, this concerned me. But I again pushed it to the back of mind, thinking it would get better.

March rolled around, and they began to do St. Patrick’s Day activities. One day, Drew came home from school and I over heard a conversation between him and his brother (then 4) about what they had done at school that day. I can’t remember the exact details of the conversation, but it somehow came to my attention that my son was telling our then youngest that rainbows were made by leprechauns, and if you followed a rainbow you would find a pot of gold at the end. Ok, innocent enough, they had probably read a story or something that day that just confused him. SO I talked to him about it and told him that was not true. He felt very strongly that it was true and I couldn’t convince him otherwise. That is, until I got out my Bible and read to him the story of Noah and the ark, and how God had made the rainbow as a sign of the covenant he had made to never again destroy the earth with a flood. It was after this conversation that I realized something, something that knocked the wind out of me – what he heard in school, from his teacher and his friends, held more weight than what he heard from me, his own mother! I did not like that one bit! I decided that very week to pull him out of school and bring him home for good.

My sister in law had been homeschooling her oldest that year, and helped me figure out where to go from there. I knew very little about homeschooling and felt completely lost. Sure, I had done PreK with him, but not it was for real! I wanted to make sure I had all of my bases covered. SO I purchased a complete curriculum and we were off!

I started fresh with him, using a Kindergarten curriculum that was known to be more advanced than a typical public school Kindergarten program. I made sure that we wouldn’t be rehashing the same things that he already had down pat. I wanted to focus on teaching him to read and use numbers to solve problems. I wanted to challenge him and keep him engaged and interested. SO that’s what we did. We schooled through the rest of the school year, and then through the summer.

That fall, in September, Isaiah was to turn 5. this meant that he would not be able to start Kindergarten until the following year. We had not discussed homeschooling him up to this point, and I had pretty much made the decision to homeschool Drew on my own (with my husbands permission). Through a lot of conversations, my husband agreed to let me homeschool Isaiah for Kindergarten that fall, and go from there. He was leaning towards having him tested into 1st grade the following year if all went well. So in the fall of 2006, I started teaching both boys. By this time, Drew was in a first grade curriculum by the same publisher, but using a slightly different program. SO I repurchased the workbooks we had used for Kindergarten with Drew, and began teaching Isaiah.

I was so unprepared for what happened. He did not do well with the program at all! I did not understand why, or what to do about it. So I began researching. I learned about learning styles and learning difficulties, and how different approaches work better with different types of learners. I decided to back off a bit. After all, he was not even 6 yet! there was no rush. At the same time, I felt pressure to get results. My husband expected him to test into 1st grade the following year. I had after all, already taught one child to read and do addition. Why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with the other?

Please stay tuned for Part Two of this story…


: ) Cassie

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