Monday, January 30, 2012

What Is Your Goal, Part 1 (Our Homeschooling Story)

I got into an unlikely conversation with a magazine editor the other day. I wrote to point out my dismay about her magazine’s use of profanity. This curse word was particularly bewildering to find, since the brand-new publication was being marketed to a pre-existing email list consisting primarily of homeschoolers. When I pointed this out, the editor defensively shot back, “Homeschoolers are a much more diverse group than they used to be.” Oh, really? I didn’t have time to explain to her that I am that diverse, secular homeschooler that is apparently her target audience. Or, at least, I was.

I started out as a secular homeschooler with very different goals than I have now. As the parent of three gifted children, I started homeschooling as The Crazy Experiment. I was at the end of my rope. The ADHD child had already tried public school, and ended up miserable, so I wasn’t going that route again. The six-year-old had arrived at a private school for gifted children, where the teachers had decided to skip her out of the first grade and into the second grade in the first week of school. The four-year-old could read and do simple math, but was not anywhere near ready for the seat work that the gifted school assigned, complete with a first grade math workbook and handwriting sheets. (He was very bright, but he was still a normal four-year-old developmentally, for crying out loud.) It’s outrageous to think about now, I know, but I was desperate, and hoped that throwing money at the problem of my children’s education would solve things.

With a nearly 30,000 dollar yearly tuition bill for the three nerdlets, we needed to be thrilled with the results, and we weren’t. Everyone at this school was well-intentioned, and I appreciate all that they did and tried to do for our family, but it wasn’t the place for us. Which brought me around to The Crazy Experiment.

My husband thought that I had a screw loose. Actually, I probably did. It takes some seriously divergent, and yes, kind of insane thinking for someone like me, with a 3.8 college GPA and an abiding love of school, to even think about taking one’s children out of school entirely. I read, researched, and prayed. Yes, I prayed. I was a marginal, distracted Christian at the time, and I prayed any time that the chips were down. When I prayed, among the things that I requested was the ability to educate these unique children so as to help them to reach their intellectual potential. In this view of education, I was merely the parent, not a qualified gifted educator. I could mess them up, but good, if I wasn’t careful. It was sobering and scary to contemplate.

So, after I read about 20 books on the subject of “how to”, we started homeschooling. I made up elaborate lesson plans and kept meticulous records for my skeptical husband to peruse each day. We needed community, so I joined a list-serve or two (remember those?) for people homeschooling gifted children. I even found a local group for other people trying The Crazy Experiment, which, miraculously, formed on the exact same week in January that I began. The people in my group agreed with me wholeheartedly: Above all, we do not want to be like those religious fanatics who homeschool their kids.

No, we did not, because while we went to church, and called ourselves Christians, we were not fanatics. We even taught Sunday School, for goodness sake, but we were not the type of weirdos who homeschool by reading the Bible for several hours a day. We were going to educate our children. They weren’t going to grow up to be obsessed with religion. These were my wrongheaded assumptions about Christian homeschoolers, formed before I even met the first one.

Be careful what you say. God may have other plans for you. Our goals for homeschooling changed because God changed us.

1 comment:

  1. I love your 'crazy experiment' and look forward to reading more!