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Home Schooling - A Family Affair

by Suzy

I remember I first read about homeschooling in a letter in an education column in the paper. I clipped the article and kept it for years - I think my kids were babies at the time. I remember thinking that my family (and even my husband) might think I was crazy if I brought the idea up as something to try. We did talk about it (my husband and I) before our oldest began school, but at that point I think we all needed to see what school was really like and of course we had no idea that our son was so far outside average learning needs.

We began exploring homeschooling more in depth when we saw the disaster that school was becoming for our son. We read the Colfax book: Homeschooling for Excellence, John Holt's Teach Your Own, and David Guterson's Family Matters - His reasons for homeschooling as a way to learn just made so much sense! We began to see more articles on homeschooling appearing in local papers. We were not on the internet then (we didn't even own a computer), otherwise we probably would have pulled our child out of the school system much earlier.

I remember our biggest stumbling block to homeschooling was my worry that I didn't have the personality to homeschool... or rather, I didn't have the personality that most people think you need to homeschool when they don't homeschool themselves. I am definitely not a patient person and I get irritated quickly. I'm not kid-person, although I enjoy the company of my own kids and other kids occasionally on a one-to-one, I don't love being around children particularly (that sounds horrible doesn't it?). I also grew up an only child and a latchkey kid and was used to having tremendous time alone by myself, which I enjoyed. I really wasn't sure if I could stand two boisterous boys underfoot 24 hours a day, much less be (with my husband) completely and utterly responsible for their official education! The weight (and fear) of that enormous responsibility is different than supplementing what the school is doing. Suddenly there is no one else and if they don't learn - then what? That thought alone was pretty frightening and probably held us back the longest from making the leap.

The other stumbling block was that my oldest and I clashed practically from birth and we had a very volatile relationship. We are very different in personality and there were many days I wasn't sure we'd both survive to see him through school-age. To say that people we knew were worried about the idea of us spending entire days together is an understatement!

The funny thing is that homeschooling did the opposite than what I expected! Instead of making me stressed and crazy, it brought enormous calm and peace into our family. No one was more surprised by that particular revelation than I was! I can remember starting out and waiting for the sky to fall - the horrible stress and frustration to hit... the "I'm sorry we ever did this and what was I ever thinking!" point. But I'm still waiting. It just never, ever came.

The first year we homeschooled I think my husband felt kind of left out. It was hard for him...we talked, but there never seemed to be enough time to really catch him up on everything we were doing during the day and he felt like he wasn't really part of things. Now that the boys are older (and we are wiser ), he is enormously involved and he's wonderful at it.

My husband has completely taken over C's math and language arts and is working with the boys on debating skills. He's excited about working with C. as they wade through algebra and geometry and his grumbles about staying up to leaf through possible books to use or think of assignments that might be right barely hide his delight. And the break it's given me is wonderful and I love having him really involved and able to discuss the boys progress with me in a deeper and knowledgeable way and it leaves me more time to concentrate on my younger son. My husband now has a greater understanding of the pace and style of his son's learning and he's wonderful at providing C. with the challenge he needs. They both seem extremely happy with the arrangement!

My husband leaves written assignments in C's language arts notebook and math notebook (detailed assignments). C. gets up in the morning, opens his books and reads his assignments and does them no questions asked. Then when Dad gets home they go over them together and talk about things and directions they want to go with things. Currently they are discussing Tom Sawyer and just finished up Hamlet. They've also been concentrating on geometry and working on monologues and the vocabulary section of the SAT. C. enjoys the sort of independence this style provides and he is free to complete assignments in his own way - choosing what to do first and for some things (he might have a month to complete it) he chooses how and when to get it done.

I still take care of geography, history and other things, and the language arts / math for my younger son who has a learning style that is a little easier for me to cope with, although recently Dad and D. (my younger son) have both expressed interest in doing some lessons together on a regular basis - maybe on weekends (D. suggested it again today). I know that last weekend they were talking about painting together (D. loves painting and art) and my husband's minor degree in college was Art History so that would be right up his alley. We also just visited a local Art Gallery to see a special exhibit that included some works by Van Gogh and that inspired all of us to become a little more creative.

Who knows, maybe your husband will end up being the biggest and most involved homeschooling advocate of all! Sometimes you never know where things may lead!!

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