For some, the decision to homeschool is made before their children are even born. Others decide to homeschool because of a negative experience with public schools. The list of reasons why families choose to homeschool is nearly endless.
Why we chose to homeschool
My son, Jaden, attended first and second grade in a small public school in Texas where we now live. He's an August baby, so being one of the youngest in his class meant that he tended to fall more in the middle of the class when it came to reading and most other subject areas. He really didn't excel in any one area, but at the same time he wasn't doing poorly in any area either. He was…well, he was average.
But this didn't necessarily bother us at the time. Jaden wasn't much of an eager learner, but since he was bringing home A's and B's on his papers we thought, "Well, at least he's learning."
Enter the Maya Indians
That is until one day, near the end of second grade, when Jaden brought home a thick packet of worksheets that his class had been working on; they had been studying the Maya Indians for a few weeks, and they'd just completed the unit. I looked over the packet of papers and asked Jaden one simple question: "So, who were the Maya Indians?"
He shrugged, "I dunno."
"What do you mean you don't know?" I replied (calmly). "You've been studying them for weeks?"
Still he claimed ignorance.
And you know what's so sad? I shortly realized he was really telling the truth. He truly had no idea who the Maya Indians were.
The stark realization hit me instantly—my son was suffering from the same "malady" which I had suffered from throughout my schooling years—something I call the worksheet mentality.
So what's the worksheet mentality?
I'll give you an example of what it meant for me.
When I was in school, my teachers would assign a worksheet for me to work on; it didn't matter what subject it was in—it could be science, math, reading, history…anything. I would complete the worksheet precisely according to the directions, take the test over the material covered on the worksheet, score an A or A+ on the test, and then once the test was over, I would promptly forget everything related to what I had "studied." I made it through high school with a 4.0 GPA; but ask me what I learned, and I couldn't tell you.
That's a worksheet mentality: Do the work, take the test, and then forget it ever happened.
And that's what I recognized in my son. He was completing his work at school, but with such a mindset that he was basically working on short-term memory the entire time. For him, worksheets were just something to get done, not something to learn from. That wasn't how his mind worked—he didn't learn that way.
My husband and I talked about it and came to the conclusion that if we really wanted Jaden to learn—to truly learn—we'd need to make some changes.
So I began to research homeschooling.
But I did so with much trepidation, however, because we had previously homeschooled Jaden—and it had been a hellish experience, and not one we ever wanted to repeat.
Our first homeschooling disaster
We had attempted homeschooling Jaden in kindergarten with the intention of getting him into a good first grade class at the private Christian school at which my husband worked.
Why was homeschooling such a terrible experience that time? Not only was Jaden not ready to take on formal schooling at the age of five (at least not as the curriculum prescribed it), but I was not prepared to teach him; I had "romanticized" the idea of homeschooling and was not prepared for the frustration that I felt when Jaden was not progressing at the same rate as the curriculum prescribed. At the time I also didn't have any support from other homeschoolers, and I didn't realize that I could be a little flexible with the curriculum—that it was okay if my son needed more time to learn a certain subject.
To make matters even worse, I had just given birth to my third child, so my focus was severely divided between my husband, homeschooling Jaden, caring for my three-year-old and my newborn, and teaching piano lessons five days a week.
It was a recipe for disaster—and that's what we had. A disaster.
Trying homeschooling again…with fear and trembling
So here we were, more than two years later, trying to decide if we really wanted to homeschool again.
We prayed about it, and my husband and I discussed it. And even though he had some reservations about homeschooling (and no wonder, remembering what I was like during our four-month stint of homeschooling before), we decided that we'd "try it" for a year.
So, armed with what I had learned from my previous experience, the support of a few homeschoolers I knew, and lots of prayer, I withdrew Jaden at the end of second grade, and Jerah at the end of kindergarten and began to homeschool.
So began our current homeschool journey. I won't say the last two and a half years of homeschooling haven't had their difficult days, because they definitely have, but I was better prepared for the difficulties this time. And my husband was quickly won over, too, and has become an incredible support in our schooling. We believe we're doing exactly what God would have us to do with our children, and Lord willing, we'll continue to homeschool through our last child's graduation—in 2020!