What I Learned This Year at Homeschool
Back when we entered the world of homeschooling last September, I had this picture in my head of what homeschooling families were supposed to be like.
This made me worry. A lot.
I pictured blissed-out parents and totally enthralled kids reading poetry in the park and decorating nearby sidewalks with sonnet-inspired art—or trying Mythbusters-inspired science experiments in the backyard. I envisioned endlessly patient parents assisting always-happy kids with mind-boggling math problems.
Looking back, I think I was drinking a lot of coffee at the time.
It didn't take me long to figure out that homeschooling families have good and bad days, just like other types of families; that you don't have to be a super-parent to homeschool your kid; that there are all kinds of resources and supports (including real-life human beings) available to assist you as you embark on this adventure. And that it's impossible to feel alone or lonely in the world of homeschoolers.
I also learned that that there's no such thing as a typical homeschooling family—just as there's no such thing as a typical family, period.
Each homeschooling family has its own reasons for homeschooling.
Some families make a conscious decision to leave the classroom behind (in which case they may choose to use the term unschooling to describe the approach to learning which their families have embraced); others find that the decision to homeschool is made for them when the mainstream educational system is unable to meet their children's needs. All too often, the families in this latter category are the parents of children with some sort of special need—something you may find hard to believe unless you happen to have friends or family members whose children have fallen between the cracks in our supposedly inclusive educational system; or your family is experiencing that frustration first-hand.
The numbers aren't pretty, as these statistics from The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey indicate. The study (which was released by Statistics Canada late last month and which focuses on school year 2005-2006) reveals that
You may be wondering what all these numbers have to do with my family's adventures in homeschooling. In a nutshell? Pretty much everything. You see, our ten-year-old son has Aspergers Syndrome.
He's being homeschooled because we couldn't stomach the idea of enrolling him in another school last September, this following a disastrous experience with a public school and a merely painful experience with a private school.
Homeschooling has made all the difference in the world: both his world and mine. I've seen his confidence blossom, his social skills improve by leaps and bounds, and his love of learning return. And I have been able to nurture and support him through an important time of healing from what came before.
When I flip through the pages in the motherhood memoir that is being etched in my heart, I can already see what is being written about this past year. The words are simple. Thank you for this time.
Just a quick aside: My intention is not to in any way "bash" the traditional school system or to indicate that what worked for our youngest child this past year would be the right choice for other families. My point in writing this column is to talk about how you sometimes have to rethink all your preconceived ideas about educational options in order to find the solution that's right for a particular child at a particular time.
In that spirit, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this column and, more importantly, about your own family's experiences with different educational options.
I am so excited that our new blogging format allows comments. As anyone who has read my books knows, I believe that we have so much to gain by sharing experiences with other parents. I hope this blog can provide a warm and supportive place for some of that sharing to take place.