2 Cute Explorers (Part 1)

This is the story of how our homeschooling journey began. It all began with my fourth and last child and a move from Arizona to Canada. Up until that point, my other three children had always attended the local public schools and in Peru they attended a private Catholic school, which is a story in and of itself.  I will probably mention some of our experiences with traditional schooling, the good, the bad and the ugly, in later posts.

My youngest son has a late birthday so the year he was 4 turning 5-years old, he was not eligible for Kindergarten in Arizona because he was not already 5 when the school year began in September.  However, the following year, when he was 5 turning 6-years old, we moved to Canada and discovered that he was suddenly too old for Kindergarten (hereafter referred to as only 'K') and so he was enrolled, against our better judgment, in first grade. 

It was the second week of that school year when we introduced our children to their new schools.  Our oldest son was in high school. The other three could be together in the same elementary-middle school (grades 1, 5 and 8). My husband and I stood in the main office and argued with the secretaries about the placement of our youngest son. We knew he was not prepared to skip K and go directly into first grade. We asked to speak directly to the principal or vice-principal concerning the matter, but we were flatly refused. We ended up trailing dejectedly behind the secretary who guided us to each classroom. I was in tears because this was not what I had envisioned or imagined for my son nor for myself as his mother. I had looked forward to having him home with me every other day that year. I have always enjoyed having my children home with me during the day and I think it didn't hurt so much to send them off to school, one by one, as long as there was at least one younger child still at home. Suddenly, I found myself alone for the first time in fifteen years.

We accepted the situation as final and made the best of it. My husband even bragged to his coworkers that his son skipped a grade in school. At first, Marcus was excited to be going to school with his two older sisters. It was a novelty. He was thrilled to have a brand new backpack, his own school supplies and an action-hero lunchbox. He liked his teacher and made some new friends. We lived too close to the school for a bus so while the weather was nice, we walked the three blocks together.  Every morning I put on a brave, happy face as I helped my children with their morning routine, dropped them at school and then went home where I sat and wondered what had become of my life. I felt empty and lonely all by myself at home and I didn't like it one bit, but I also didn't want to be selfish.

By the third month of the school year, something was changing in my little boy. Getting up for school every weekday morning became pure drudgery to him. He fought me every step of the way and I started bribing him with anything I could think of to get him from our front door to the schoolyard. Once at the playground, he clung to me as if I were his life-line. I forced him to stand in his class line after the initial bell rang and then I literally pushed him inside the school door. One afternoon at recess, Marcus ran away from the playground, towards the general direction of home. My oldest daughter happened to be outside for lunch at the time. She chased after him in a panic and brought him back to their school. One of the office staff phoned me at home to inform me of the situation and assured me both my son and daughter were just fine, although my daughter was distraught. The school dismissed the incident, but in my mind a red flag went up. My little boy was clearly miserable at school. I knew he disliked all the sitting at his desk that was required. Even lunch was at his desk and the rule was that he had to keep to himself and eat in silence.

I couldn't believe his first report card. His teacher gave him all D's! As the school refused to help him "catch up" to his peers, most of whom were beginner readers and could recognize and write their letters, it was up to us to work with him at home in the evenings. This he wanted no part of because he was mentally exhausted from six hours of forced learning in the classroom.

One afternoon I opened up and shared my frustrations and concerns with a new friend in the neighborhood, who happened to homeschool her children at the time. One of her daughters is my son's age and I noticed that she was one bright little girl! She already knew cursive. After listening to me vent, my friend looked at me and said, "Why don't you just pull him out and teach him yourself?" She went on to say that I could watch her homeschool and she would share her resources with me. She said homeschooling was not rocket science, and I could give my son back his K year. It was as if a light bulb turned on! I had honestly never considered homeschooling as an option because I had never thought to take the less familiar, less popular, less chosen route. I left my friend's house that day with something I had not felt in a long time: hope. I discussed homeschooling with my husband, who was a bit reluctant at first, but also desperate to see a happy wife and son again. After a week of praying about it and researching homeschooling on the internet, I made the bold decision to pull my son out of public school. I reminded myself that a parent is a child's first teacher and I knew in my heart that I could do this. I gave his teacher a heads-up and we set Valentine's Day as his last day of class. Surprisingly, she was in favor of my decision.

I waited until the morning of my son's final day of school to hand the office the notification in writing that I was pulling him out of public school to homeschool him. This was the only legal requirement for Ontario. Of course, then I was ushered into the vice-principal's office to discuss the whole matter. It was a horrible experience. In fact, he quickly reduced me to tears. He told me I was making a huge mistake that would negatively affect my child the rest of his life. I finally got up and walked out of his office with a feeble promise to wait for the school to offer my son the extra help they weren't willing to give him before. I went home and cried on my bed. The vice-principal phoned a couple hours later and left a message on our answering machine (I was smart enough not to pick up) saying he had worked it out so that my son would receive fifteen minutes of extra help during the school day, twice a week. I sent my husband to deal with the vice-principal that afternoon. He marched in and told him we were homeschooling and that was final. He said I would give our son all the focus and attention he needed because no one else will ever be as invested in our son's education.

We have never looked back because homeschooling has been such a blessing in our lives. I only wish I had discovered it sooner. It has given me back precious time with my baby boy. Childhood is fleeting and precious. I don't want to miss out and six-hours away from home, five days a week, adds up fast. I would rather spend those hours together while I have them. Stay tuned for part 2.

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