The experience that catapulted us into homeschooling
Six Years Ago
On a hazy late summer afternoon, very pregnant with my third baby, I dutifully and proudly marched my oldest child, my precious little 5 year old Hailey into the local elementary school to register her for kindergarten. Right away, I was handed a two foot stack of paperwork to fill out while she was ushered away for “testing”. I waited patiently and listened to a fellow parent use the “F” word several times while talking to her toddler until Hailey came bounding back with a sticker. I was told grimly that Hailey was able to correctly identify all but seven of the letters of the alphabet and was able to draw four human attributes on a stick figure. Arbitrary information, I thought, but okay. I was glad that she was able to perform like a good little minion. The thin lipped tester then led us into the principal’s office. What had we done?
Her first question was if Hailey had attended daycare or preschool. I shook my head and explained that she had always been at home with me. The principal smugly nodded and explained that all incoming kindergartners “really should” be able to correctly identify each letter and sound of the alphabet as well as draw at least 5-7 human attributes on a stick figure (think hair, clothes, facial features), as well as be able to count to 100, etc., etc. The list went on.
She went on to say that the incoming class of kindergartners would be reading by Christmas and suggested that we consider starting Hailey next year after some preschool. I broke out in a cold sweat and felt the red creeping up my neck and out of my billowing maternity Mumu. Exasperated, I asked as calmly as possible what exactly kindergarten was for if she was already supposed to know all this stuff.
She explained that most children are in daycare until 3 years, then in a formal preschool program until kindergarten so they come in “prepared” to begin reading. She didn’t want Hailey to fall behind and it would be very difficult for us as parents to try and pick up the slack at home to catch her up, not to mention difficult for her teacher to help a child who was behind. I’m pretty sure my jaw was dangling on the floor and I was sweating like a stuck pig.
Not only was I embarrassed that my bright and precocious five year old was “behind” on some schedule I wasn’t aware of, I was angry that school hadn’t even started and already the “experts” were labeling her. I was frustrated that I hadn’t been more diligent in helping her complete the preschool workbook I had bought for her. I felt like a failure because while trying to be a good mother and being there for my child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I had somehow failed her. I hadn’t properly prepared her for the cut-throat world of kindergarten.
As we drove home, Hailey happily hummed while my mind raced. There was no way I was taking her into that den of idiots to be educated. What were my options? Private school, preschool, a different school district? I had no idea how expensive private school was! We might be able to pull it off for one kid, but we were going to have at least two more to consider in a few years. That was not going to happen unless my husband got a Sugar-Mama. My husband! How the heck was I going to convince my husband of any of this?
The Public School Solution
After a couple of manic days of searching for a solution, I kept coming across information on homeschooling. Though I was homeschooled after 3rd grade, it had strangely never been a consideration until that point. I think mentally and emotionally I was resisting. I had returned to public school for high school and really thrived. My husband had a good experience with public schooling as well, so I guess I just always assumed my kids would go because that’s what everyone else did. Being the good little sheep, I followed protocol.
I think my biggest concern with homeschooling was teaching a tiny human how to read. By. Myself. Was that even possible? Surely one must be an expert for that. Reading well is the hallmark of a good education. If you can read, you can learn anything. If I somehow screwed it up, my children could be scarred for life. That, my friends was my biggest hurdle! After all, if Hailey couldn’t read by Christmas like all the other kindergartners, she would undoubtedly become a social derelict.
After exhaustive research, prayer and one super-convincing letter to my husband, we made the decision to homeschool over pot-stickers at T.G.I. Friday’s. Our fate was sealed; our kids would be ours 24/7 for the rest of their childhood. Gulp. If we made mistakes, so be it. We would take their lives into our own hands and take full responsibility for their upbringing, training and education. Imagine that.
Was this always the goal?
Hailey was reading by Christmas that year and another little girl has since learned to read with me as her helper. I have two to go and have never regretted our decision. We didn’t know it at the time on that steamy southern day 6 years ago, but we stood at the beginning of a revolution for our family. That pivotal day has influenced our family in such a way that I don’t remember a time when this lifestyle wasn’t the goal.