Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why We Homeschool

I guess, if I'm being completely honest, we have always homeschooled.  We did pre-k at home when Ella was three, then she attended a pre-k program two days a week at age four.  I figured it would be easier to have her in school part time with a new baby on the way.  Boy was I wrong.  While I got a nice break on those two days she went to school, we paid for it on the days she was home.  She hated school, hated the noise, the crowds, the food, everything.  Later, we learned with the help of many books and her wonderful pediatrician that she has sensory processing issues, which made the whole early school experience painful and frightening.

When it came time to enroll her in kindergarten, we figured a "real" classroom with more structure and discipline would help, so we enrolled her in the public school's French Immersion Program.  Let me say that I absolutely LOVE the program and we have loved each and every one of her teachers.  That said, the classroom setting was still an issue and now she was bored.  Even with not a word of English (except for English class) spoken in the room, she was still bored.  

We homeschooled that summer between kindergarten and first grade.  It wasn't intended to be a trial or experiment or anything like that.  Just a desperate way to keep her busy and stimulated for two months.  It was wonderful . . .  that is, until her little sister began climbing out of the playpen.  Thinking, "See, there's no WAY I could ever do this," I threw my hands up and used that as an excuse to send her back for first grade.  In first grade, she picked up the French well enough that she didn't need the teacher's instruction for seatwork or tests anymore.  She read them (in French) on her own and worked ahead.  After meeting with her counselor and teachers that year, they suggested she appeared to be gifted and offered additional opportunities.  We decided that pulling her out of class a few hours a week for separate gifted projects still wasn't going to be enough for Ella.  She needed science and history, subjects that are severely lacking in most elementary schools.  She needed daily advanced work in her core subjects.  She needed more opportunities to read books in class at her own reading level, not just on the weekends and the evenings with us.  She needed . . . more.

Actually, what she really needed was for me to man up and do what I should have done from the beginning.  She needed me to homeschool her.

But doubt crept in as well as my fear that I could never compare to the French education she was receiving from native French speakers at school.  Would she lose all that she had gained?  Was it right to pull her out when she was finally making friends, finally seemed comfortable (physically and emotionally) in her classroom, and finally came home with her jackets in one piece instead of the sleeves completely chewed to threads from all the stress she felt?  Was I wrong to keep her home when she was making so much progress?

The answer was simple.  That progress was artificial progress.  It was progress at forcing her to do something that was wrong for her in the first place.  I had to accept the fact that I could offer her a better education.  I could offer her plenty of social and sensory development if I just did a little research and made it a priority in our weekly scheduling.  I could even offer her a pretty decent French education with a little help from the internet and books and the help of my French-speaking grandparents.  I could even (with a little prayer and patience) teach her while keeping our two-year-old busy and happy.  I could do all of these things.  I had to.  It was what my kid needed.  And I know, deep down, that I will never regret homeschooling even if I fail at it miserably, but I will never forgive myself for not giving it a shot.  For her.

And really, if I can give up cheese for my youngest, I can certainly homeschool our oldest!