Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Our Journey in Homeschooling

Our homeschooling journey started when I felt very strongly that I needed to homeschool Spencer for 8th grade.   We did it just that year and then he went off to high school the next year, refreshed and ready to work hard.  I didn't necessarily have the same strong impression to do it for Cami as I had for Spence, but she really, really wanted to do it and over the course of that year, we decided that 8th grade was a perfect year to pull all the kids out.  Thus our homeschooling for just 8th grade tradition officially began.   It's been a beautiful way to reconnect with each child before they head off to high school and I like that the only thing on the high school transcript that we have to worry about that year is math, and other than that they can each have some freedom to explore and learn about things that interest them.   

When Ellie started having seizures when she was in kindergarten, I wondered many times if I should just pull her out and homeschool her.  She was so tired from the medications and the seizures were so frequent that they interrupted her learning time at school.   I was frankly rather surprised when I prayed about it that it wasn't the right thing.    The reason for that answer became very clear the next school year, though,  when Spence was diagnosed with leukemia and our lives were 100% turned upside down.   I've often been grateful for the loving and steady support we had from the kids' elementary school during that crazy time and, in hindsight, I can see that having them in school was absolutely the best place for them to be at that time.   

Sometime during Ellie's 2nd grade year, though, I had the impression that I needed to consider homeschooling again.   Her medication side effects were less than they had been, but her seizures were as frequent as ever and they were starting to affect her socially too.   We met at length with the school staff that year to find solutions, but ultimately we realized that there was no amount of "special education" she could receive in a school environment that would ever suit the needs of our intelligent, well-behaved child who had frequent, but quiet seizures.  Basically, because of her intelligence,  she'd find strategies to fill the gaps in instruction that she'd missed during her seizures, but still it wasn't enough to keep her from struggling.   But because she didn't struggle enough to make her work fall below grade level expectations, she didn't qualify for anything in the way of special education. 

Everyone at the school was actually great to work with and tried very hard to be accommodating, but  because a school is a school with hundreds of students and our one student had a rather unusual set of circumstances that caused her to struggle, they couldn't offer what she needed.   It was quickly becoming clear that Ellie was being set up to fall through the cracks of the educational system.  What she needed was  someone who could tailor her education to her individually, who could pause when she had a seizure, and help when she needed extra help.    She needed mom to be her teacher.  

We prayed and this time felt very strongly that we needed to pull out both Ellie and Adam.   Adam was a kid who was doing great at school and that answer frankly surprised us a bit, but looking back I can see that it was absolutely the best thing we could have done.    Homeschooling them  has changed the daily dynamics of our family in a big way, but it has been a blessing far beyond what we ever could have imagined.  

When I started homeschooling, we just approached it as a take-it-one-year-at-a-time mentality.  After four years though,  I think we're in it for the long haul.  It's changed us all for the better and the fact that Ellie still has seizures is only one tiny factor in our reasons to continue to homeschool. 

It's definitely been a windy journey to figure out the type of homeschooling that works for us, but after four years, we're getting there.    We've got a great network of homeschooling friends around us, the kids are working hard (without having meltdowns), and the rigor for all the subjects seems just right.  And I feel like we're finally really starting to reap the benefits that homeschooling offers--benefits like having the freedom to be able to travel and  the kids actually loving to learn (and not just checking boxes to get a grade).   

It really is a beautiful thing!  

What better way to study culture and architecture than to walk the streets of Venice and visit Basilica San Marco in person?

One of the best parts about living near DC is the opportunity for really cool field trips.
This was Adam at a class on the Constitution at the National Archives. They dove into documents,
learned about the different parts of the Constitution and what they mean in today's world, and
then went to see the actual Constitution.  How cool is that?   

Here is Ellie at the same class at the National Archives.

We also recently attended a class all about birds of prey.  

We have a co-op for Biology this year and it's been the perfect blend of academic rigor and hands-on experimentation. 

We extracted DNA from peas and examined it under a microscope.

We've also examined cell structures under a microscope (Adam was very proud of this picture)

We also have a AP US Government co-op class where they dive into the history and workings of the US Government.
I don't have many pictures of it, but this day Adam, his friend, Abby, and his class went downtown to a
National Lawyer's Convention where they got to hear national politicians (Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, etc) sit on panels and discuss controversial topics that America  is facing right now. Again, how cool is that?!

1 comment:

Dana said...

I started out knowing it would only be for kindergarten and my daughter would be signed up for school in first grade. And she's graduating this year, homeschooled all the way!

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