One of the biggest questions I get regarding homeschool is, “Why do you homeschool?” Everyone has a personal reason for this. We are no different.
Why did I not put my kids in public school? When my oldest went through the public school system she was miserable. She was different. She was treated differently by the teachers because of this. She was pointed out by her classmates as different. Eventually, even if she never noticed, she began the process of fitting in with the kids that were different, too. And not in the good way. In the beginning, she was on a twice daily medicine for her ADHD. Schools required all medicine to be distributed by the school nurse, so the kids on Ritalin (and other meds) had to line up every day at lunch time to get their afternoon dose. Because she was on a plan for children with special needs she didn’t take timed tests – which meant she either spent the test time in the hallway or in the library. Her self esteem plummeted and her grades dropped. She went from a high reading level to not reading any more than necessary because her peers didn’t think it was cool to enjoy reading.
Then, when we hit middle and high school, we found we had to fight every year because some teachers would claim they didn’t get her paperwork for special needs accommodations before the year began. The teachers would give her timed quizzes and she would freeze up and not finish them (sometimes she was doing well to get her name on the paper). This is how she decided she sucked at math, those ten minute quizzes at the beginning of every class and were the reason she was doing horribly in the class since they counted for 1/4 of her grade. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do the work; when we would sit down with her and work on the subjects we found she just needed a little help and encouragement and be allowed to take her time to think things through. But she didn’t believe in herself.
We took her out of public school near the end of 10th grade. She was going to fail the grade and we were tired of fighting with her belief she couldn’t do the work – so she didn’t do the work – and fighting with teachers constantly to follow the plan (we would talk to them and then a month later would find out they had stopped again). We hit the last straw when she said one of her friends said failing a grade was no big deal.
When we started we had thought we could just finish out the year, getting her grade averages up to passing, and start on 11th grade subjects in less than six months. We ended up reteaching 10th grade from the beginning and it took us all year. Because she didn’t know basics. Her reading comprehension was horrid and she didn’t know the first thing about writing a paper of any kind – not even a creative writing prompt.
All ended well, though. She graduated just six months behind her peers in public school (in December instead of June). Her SAT scores were much better than the scores in her former school, according to the demographics I found for the school district. She is enrolled in the local tech school now, in the nursing program. Her self esteem needs some work still, but at least she knows she can do the work.
Why do we homeschool our youngest two? Because we don’t want them to suffer through school the way our oldest suffered through school. We want them to know from the start they are capable of doing any work we put in front of them, even if it requires a little extra work to learn. We want them to find the JOY in learning something new. To see the adventure in learning. We don’t want them to think failure is something to strive for, that reading is something to be avoided at all costs, that “fitting in” is the way to go because they are too afraid of rejection to be themselves, or that being smart is some how a bad thing.
I am not saying that everyone in public school has these experiences. I have family members with kids in public school where they are doing just fine and are learning and having a good time. I’m not painting public school with this broad brush of bad. I’m not saying all public school teachers ignore special needs plans or are bad teachers. I have a great respect for all teachers in all of the different places our children are educated. I just do not believe public school is the right fit for our family’s educational needs.