Category Archives: #homeschooling

A Crazy What If

Exploring the question of homeschooling Kepler is not something I have considered for more than ten minutes his entire school career, which began two days after he turned three years old. His teams at school have always been filled with loving, experienced, knowledgeable professionals. Why would I even consider this? Because I am, that’s why.

As with most kids with Down syndrome, he is delayed in many ways. The gap between the typical kids and Kepler just gets wider and wider every day. I have great confidence in his team to help him reach his IEP goals, and indeed they are, but there continues to be this nagging question for me of what he and I might accomplish together at home.

First, I think of the field trips we might do. Going to the aquarium time and time again, touching the animals in the touching pool, learning about what we see. Visiting the zoo with books about elephants and giraffes and zebras and penguins and reading the books right in front of those animals. Going to the park and exploring. Climbing, wading, running, walking, examining, looking, learning.

I think of trips to the forty-one branches of the public library, where every branch is chockers with books and puzzles, librarians, time to browse and explore and learn.

I imagine trips to the grocery store, Whole Foods, hardware stores, hat stores, toy stores, antique shops.

Museums. Art museums. The Natural History museum. The Children’s Museum.

Lessons. Art, music, martial arts, drama, dance.

Sports. Swimming, baseball, Special Olympics, tennis, ice skating.

And the academics themselves. Creating collages, reading, spelling, writing, learning to add and subtract, fractions by cooking, games upon games upon games. And no school calendar to work around!

Yet, I imagine that the school system can give him way more than I can. That they are equipped in a way that I am not. That the socialization he gets there outweighs the benefits he might get at home.

Most days, I can’t wait for that school bus to arrive and transport him to school. Yesterday, the bus didn’t come, since it was Presidents Day. Having been sick last week slowed me wa-a-a-a-ay down, enough to be willing to say yes to Kepler when he asked me to play some games with him. The child is delightful. He is hilarious. He is playful. He’s engaging and engaged. I have more educational resources than some third world villages.

I wonder what it would be like to actually dive into parenting him by assuming the role of educating him. What would it be like to take responsibility for that portion of his life? Well, apparently, I have a lot of ideas.

What if he could learn at home, but go to school most days for recess and specials? How would I ever get breaks? What if I’m really equipped to teach him what he needs to know to become independent? What if he never becomes independent? What might the two of us experience together that bonds  us even closer? What would he miss? What would he gain? What if I tried it without being attached to a particular outcome? What if I failed? What if I succeeded?

When I homeschooled the big kids, I was doing FOUR grades at once. And I thought I had to do and be everything to and for each kid. Turns out, I gave them some amazing stuff. Turns out, I missed some big things. Although, my experience homeschooling the big kids doesn’t  have to really be related much at all to homeschooling Kepler, if I were to try it.

The biggest challenge I imagine is being isolated. I already am pretty isolated, and that suits me pretty well most of the time. But I do get lonely and I would like to be more connected to people. What if homeschooling him actually led to more connection and less isolation?

What if?

If I Knew Then What I Know Now — Ten Things I’d Do Differently as a Homeschool Mom

This is not what homeschooling looked like here.

Saw a link on Facebook from a homeschool mom who shared what she would do differently now as a homeschool mom. I could relate to some of it. It was posted by a homeschool mom I rarely see, but care about very much. I often read the comments on blog posts, but decided this time to write about my own list first.

First of all, I didn’t know then what I know now. Part of the journey of homeschooling is the learning that the parent does. So, maybe this is all just a moot point. But, let’s see …

1. I would de-emphasize intelligence and strongly emphasize character. Thing is, I actually thought I was doing this. Truth is, my “students” were all above average. I was constantly amazed by their grasp of concepts, their precociousness, and the joy I felt at just watching them learn. I didn’t realize I was reinforcing intelligence as much as I did. There were multiple times when something they did or said just BLEW ME AWAY. Like Valerie just up and reading the back cover of the Billy Graham autobiography I was reading. What was she, three? Four, at the most. I hadn’t even tried to teach her to read. I didn’t know that kids could learn to read just be being read to.

2. I would understand that no one else was going to be as thrilled about my children as I, and instead of rueing that, I would be affirming and encouraging to every other mother I came into contact with, realizing that she was as excited about her kids as I was about mine. At the time, my hands (and mind!) were full. The kids were born in 93, 94, and 95, and then 98. Kepler came along years after the first four, but I wasn’t just homeschooling one — I had a class!

3. I would be so much kinder to myself. Nothing ever felt like it was enough, and I know MANY homeschool mothers who experience this. Probably just about everyone who homeschools feels this at some point.

4. I would recognize a kid “come-apart” as an opportunity, not a sign that I was failing at my job. This might be the biggest one for me. I had a misunderstanding about my own role and responsibility in the feelings of my children. I needed them to be happy, and that was probably the biggest disservice I did them in my zeal.

5. I would remember that every type of school situation is good for someone, and every type of situation is also less-than-ideal for someone. Now that I’m on this side of things, where the educational methods of our kids include(d) some homeschooling, a bit of public school, years of a two-day-a-week homeschool set-up, an exhausting early grades online school, a poorly-administered online high school online, and the learn-while-you-sleep method we practiced for a few weeks months, I’ve discovered that there are PROS and CONS to every method.

(As an aside, big-time homeschooler mother, Mary Hood, wrote a book (June 1995) called “Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell.” Back when I started homeschooling, there were only a few voices writing about it. Although I never bought into Mary’s philosophy, the title comes to me often when I put my little Kepler on the school bus and send him to school where he is absolutely loved and cherished by his team. From the bus driver, to the school secretary, to the librarian, to the other students, I hear all the time how much joy he brings them. And they, as a group, give him things I simply cannot provide at home. )

6. I would find a balance between the heavy peer pressure of the school setting, and the freedom we had as homeschoolers. Without adequate preparation, going into public school can be (and was) traumatic. Happy-go-lucky kids who were unself-conscious became very self-conscious when they entered the public school system, not because they were deficient, not because the school system was evil, but because there are developmental phases that happen.

7. I would never, ever, ever compare my insides to anyone else’s outsides. Because, you know what? My insides ALWAYS came up lacking, when I looked at someone else and thought I knew ANYTHING about them based on what I saw.

8. I would find a balance between my very laid-back teaching style, and a more directive style. Both styles work in different situations, but some work better than others with young learners.

9. I would get up earlier and get us going and have a routine that we stuck to for more that a few days or weeks. Yes, back then, I was exhausted, dealt with depression, and had several “owies” on my heart. But that would have been a great example to my children, and one less thing to chastise myself about.

10. I would get professional photos taken every year. Well, I think I would. No, this one is that I would take a similarly posed photo in a similar place every year. I still have extra copies of the professional school photos I got of every child from every year. They’re so hard to let go of, even if we have enough for every person in our family! My photos would be all about the heart of the learning, the heart of the family, the heart of the giving, the heart of the love.

Things I am extremely glad I (we) did?
1. Read out loud, nearly every day and evening.
2. Do as much experiential learning as we could.
3. Practiced as best I could, a lifestyle of learning.
4. Enjoyed our children.
5. Made it through.