Home Schooling – What I Wish I Knew About Our Family Zoo

Home schooling was a natural choice. I love books, I love to learn and I’m not happy until I have shared my discoveries with someone else. However, my home school experience was not as positive as I hoped it would be and by the end of my children’s educational journey, I did not feel I had been successful.

So what happened?

Initially our oldest child was in the public school system. As a male, born in November – delaying entrance into the educational system would not have harmed him; he was almost a year younger than many in his class and had not reached the appropriate level of maturity. If you’ve seen the movie, Uncle Buck, and his visit to the Principal’s office, you have a good idea of what we faced. Hank’s teacher told me he was digging himself a hole he would not easily get out of (what could that possibly mean for a five year old?) He could barely read a word. We transferred him to a private faith-based school in September where he was taught to read phonetically and received the Highest Grade Average award by the end of that year.

We followed suit with the other four children and enrolled them in a private school as well. Living in a small town, the schools were small and sometimes appeared and disappeared on one person’s decision. We consequently changed schools three times although used the same curriculum. We eventually lost confidence in the system (or lack of) and decided to home school. A pattern of inconsistency and change had emerged and became the norm.

It was also fueled by my behavioral style – solving problems aggressively; and although in some circumstances that is exactly what is called for, more reflection upon the impact of the decision beforehand would have been helpful. Some children are able to adapt to change quite readily and even find it stimulating and invigorating. Others manage change differently; they do not want to change things unless the reason for change makes sense to them. It takes them longer to adjust. The trauma of change could have been minimized by remaining with the same curriculum throughout their educational experience – it would have provided much needed continuity and stability for all of us. Being dazzled by bright shiny things – new and different curricula falling into that category most likely caused confusion and disorientation for some of my children.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and as mother used to say, “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders,” meaning that youth is inexperienced by nature. Because homeschooling was in its infancy back in the ’70′s, (they were threatening truancy and arrest in British Columbia for parents who home schooled) there was no one who went before us who could serve as a mentor. How things have changed! There are many successful homeschooling parents who have much wisdom to offer those embarking on this rewarding and challenging journey. Finding a mentor to help you stay the course and make wise choices in the midst of family crises will pay great dividends and prevent knee-jerk decisions that you may regret.

Besides finding a mentor and being more reflective in decision- making, what else would I do differently? I would become students of my behavior as well as my children’s and find out the answers to the following four areas of conflict that we all face daily:

1. How do they solve problems – aggressive or reflective? 2. How do they process new information – optimistic or realistic? 3. How do they manage change – dynamic or stable? And, 4. How do they assess risk – pioneering or structured?

Knowing this about us would have helped. Sage advice of a successful homeschooling mentor would have helped create and maintain a stable atmosphere so where learning was a joy.

So you ask, how did it all turn out? Four out of five graduated from high school, two went on to higher education and one has become a heavy-duty mechanic. Recently, our oldest son said, “I know you’ll laugh, Mum, but I’m thinking of homeschooling Katie!” As you can imagine, that did my heart good!