Homeschooling Is Worth It


This year will be my twenty-third year. That’s a long time to be enveloped by the lifestyle of home education. It will be my twenty-third year, and my last.

In the beginning, I was angry. I wasn’t ready for this. I felt forced into it. I graduated with honors and the inability to do much math beyond the basics. I could not analyze literature to save my life. Home educating was not part of my plan. We had moved to the best school district within driving distance of my husband’s work, but then it didn’t work out and we were going to home educate.

I wasn’t prepared.

It was a large undertaking, and I had a lot of studying to do. We got quite a few head shakes. Most people tried to convince me to quit. They couldn’t understand that I had made a commitment. The promise had been made and there was no going back.

There have been things I have kept to myself. Struggles no one but God has seen. I have kids with learning differences. I have a few myself. Health challenges. Incredible financial burdens. Other messy stuff. There is not enough Samsonite in the world to hold all this baggage, and not enough room in Texas to unpack it all.

But I made a promise. Was it hard to keep? Yes and no. Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. Bad days don’t mean much in the grand scheme.

Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. (Tweet This)

When Baby Girl came along and we knew she would be the last, I added up the years this home educating commitment of mine would take. In a moment of self-preservation to maintain mental health, I immediately forgot. I refused to count the days for a long, long, time. Instead, I decided to make them count for us.

They did.

We have made each other rich. The focus has always been relationships. Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. Our purpose in educating is to give a foundation to fulfill each child’s calling and prepare students to do life. Listen more than speak.

Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. (Tweet This)

My daughter chooses her own path. It is our philosophy to let the student lead. It is my job to provide guidance balanced with respect. Confidence in a student’s abilities and encouragement to do their best has been the method that served all my children well.

Many years ago a mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her that particular day.

A mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her. (Tweet This)

Some days it is hard. Very hard. There were days when I considered the cost, hard pressed to weigh out the pros and cons, and days when I thought about taking a different path. There were even a few in-between days when I felt unsure, and reevaluated plans, mulling over options. But in the end, after discussion and prayers, we kept on. My steps were careful. Cautiously bold is how I traveled this way.

In the quiet morning hour, the house is empty. Everyone is living their lives. My senior is at her job, teaching. She says she doesn’t understand why people get frustrated at those who are trying their best. Was this something I taught my children, or something they taught me? The best, most lasting lessons are the ones like these.

I wasn’t prepared for this either, the brilliant gifts that litter the days like gold strewn along an otherwise mundane path.

When I look back I am overcome by the enormity of this job well done, and overwhelmed by gratefulness. I am grateful for the freedom living in this land allows, the wisdom so generously shared by others who went before, and for the grace covered love that carried us through.

If you see me crying in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery, it’s not because I’m sad, or overcome with the prospect of empty nesting, or having a moment of regret.

It is because it’s beautiful.

Here I stand on the other side. Twenty-three years isn’t such a long time after all.

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Confessions of A Hoarding Homeschooler

Confessions of a Hoarding Homeschooler








It all started when I went to look for a literary analysis book. One trash bag full and three boxes into the job, I started finding things. Treasures, really.

We must keep the carousal horse and other drawings, and the book Drawing With Children. I would be happy with only the drawings, but my daughter insists. What if she needs that book for her kids?


This binder says right on the cover Mind Twisting Stories which means it is a titled work, so it cannot be discarded.


Little sister even decorated it.

little sistercontribution

Most of our materials and assignments come with decorations of some sort, be they toddler explorations with marker, coffee rings, important reminders (reschedule dentist, pay water bill, need 27 styrofoam cups and toothpicks for gumballs) or even teeth marks. My youngest literally teethed on Shakespeare for Young People: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


I like to think that makes her sound smart.

I tossed that chewed on copy, but when my middle son came by to visit he noticed the boxes. “But mom, I was in this play! TWICE.”  Since he has his own house now he was welcome to dig through the boxes to his heart’s content.

When I was in the midst of the juggling act, I never realized how precious all those spills and scribbles would be someday.

We must keep the Book of Jokes. This is slap full of things nine year old boys find hilarious. Or HE-larry-US.














Obviously, these cannot be tossed out.

I adore reading his jokes and remembering that boy laugh. You know the one. The one that makes you laugh along even when nothing is funny. For a second I hear it again. I picture that grin and tousled up hair. It’s so present I can practically smell the little boy smell.

Also making the cut we have a songbook and cassette tape of Down By The Creekbank, a few original one of a kind, hand-designed space themed board games, and a smattering of materials we may actually need sometime next year.

I offered to keep the dissection kit (It’s in perfectly good shape) and order some extra specimens to do for fun.

The girl said, “No, thanks. I’m good.”

Party pooper. Truthfully, I am not so sad to say goodbye to that stage of my homeschooling mom career. Frog guts. Ugh.

Eventually, I loaded up boxes with a bunch of materials, some brand new. I think you may be able to discern why sometimes busy moms end up with duplicate unused workbooks.

My cabinet looks better now, but some old books are still firmly entrenched in the Stone Family Collection. Yes, those are ancient Abeka and National Geographic books. My kids loved them. Old books are friends.


I did find the book I was hunting, but after I skimmed through it I discovered it was not exactly what I was looking for.

I found something better. Messy, hoarded memories and plenty of room for more.

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Homeschooling and Afterschooling High Functioning Kids on the Spectrum: Resources Part Two

Homeschooling and Afterschooling High Functioning Kids on the SpectrumIn part one I touched on parenting tips, behavioral issues, life skills and what I found to be the most useful character based curriculum for teaching my kids.

Support Groups for Parents of Kids with ASD

An invaluable resource, one you cannot do without, is asperger or autism support groups. Parents can provide you with much wisdom, insight, and encouragement. You may find various groups geared towards raising and teaching kids on the spectrum online and locally. I recommend finding both a local group that has meetings and an online group to take advantage of the wide variety of input. Most, if not all, local groups also have an online presence or an email group.

In regards to online groups, some prefer email groups to Facebook groups for privacy reasons. I have made use of both types of online groups. Parents who have been in the trenches can help you in more ways than you can imagine. Adults on the spectrum, especially adults who are now raising and teaching their own children with ASD, can give a unique perspective and provide effective problem solving strategies that may not typically be obvious to others.

I do not know how I would have navigated the difficult and confusing seasons without the wonderful moms and dads who were willing to share their knowledge and support. There is a reason I put this first here. You will need people. Don’t neglect to find your tribe.


You will need people. Don’t neglect to find your tribe. (Tweet This)

*If home educating, you may also wish to take advantage of your local homeschool support groups and activities. These can be found by doing internet searches or asking local home educating families.

Brain Training

There are a plethora of different products and services out there that fall under the category of Brain Training. Some people say these work, and others say save your money. The very first brain training program I ever heard of was Audiblox  when I first began home schooling.

Beware of companies that offer brain training after they give you reduced cost testing. If the tests are not accepted by assistive agencies as legitimate, you may not be receiving an accurate assessment. Pay careful attention to the wording of the test descriptions and do your homework. Cheap, ineffective testing isn’t worth anything in the long run. It may do more harm than good, masking problems or misdirecting from the real issues and proper treatment.

We used a computer game called Earobics for auditory discrimination. One of my sons said it really helped him. This was the first edition computer software for older kids and adults I found many, many years ago. The company now makes more products in the line used in schools in addition to home versions.  You can get Earobics here.

Occupational Therapy-Sensory Integration Therapy

A program called Learning Breakthrough that seemed to have good results for my child who used it. We could not use the ball included due to latex allergy, but found an alternative. We used a plastic whiffle ball covered with a sock hung from a string! This program was easy to use and required no teacher prep. It is a structured occupational therapy program for sensory integration advertised as being useful for people and children with asperger’s, high functioning autism, ADD and learning difficulties.

The DVD speaks directly to the person using the program. The activities are actually quite fun and enjoyable. In my opinion, the product is quite sturdy and the instructions given on the DVD are clear and easy to understand. You can watch a video sample here.

Take A Swing Therapeutic Swing Sets

Here are some pretty cool swing sets for kids and adult sized people that are portable! These can be packed in your car trunk and can be used indoors.


I hope some of these resources will be of use to you, helping you teach your asperger’s or high functioning child with autism.

What about you? What have you found that worked for you?

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Homeschooling and Afterschooling High Functioning Kids on the Spectrum: My Short List of Resources Part One

There is no one size fits all approach to teaching high functioning kids on the spectrum, but I can tell you what has worked for us. Every curriculum needs adjusting, and every child has his or her own set of gifts, talents and needs. Add in the parent teacher’s preferred teaching style, belief system and materials available and every situation will be unique. I am listing a few resources I feel are of benefit to every parent teacher who has students on the high functioning end of the spectrum. Many of these apply in general to child rearing and training as well.

I am limiting my suggestions here, but keep in mind the best teachers are the ones who never stop searching for answers. It’s kind of mandatory, this flexible parenting thing. Kids have a way of changing on us as soon as we think we have stuff figured out.

How Can I Teach Them if I Can’t Even Control Their Behavior?

Parent and caregivers often spend a great deal of energy trying to control unwanted behavior. A better path, in my way of thinking, is to attempt changing the behavior by addressing the heart and motivation.

When there is a struggle, my first suggestion in teaching any child is to examine your current course of action. Is there another, better way to get the desired result? You could try Lori Petro’s Teach Through Love Teachable Moments youtube videos as a quick jumpstart. I have not deeply examined every single concept she has presented, but I have found that I agree with her general approach. She is a parent with Asperger’s raising a child with Asperger’s. These videos give some wonderful insights that can be applied by any parent or caregiver in their efforts to guide children.

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene PhD is an often recommended book. If you have difficulty in understanding or managing meltdowns or angry behavior, the ideas in this book may help.


Considering the way your child with AS reasons out problems and approaches life can go a long way towards reaching them. If you can’t reach them, you can’t teach them. (Tweet This)

What About Life Skills?

Another great common sense resource is the book How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s by Jennifer Mcllwee Myers. This is an easy to read book that I have found to be immensely practical and straight forward. The author of this book is on the spectrum and brings valuable perspective to the subject at hand.

What is the Best Curriculum?

It depends. There are simply too many variables. There is no such thing as a one size fits all program for any student. Each child has their own preferred learning style, capabilities, needs, and strengths. I have not used every curriculum out there on the market, even if it seems like I must have from the amount of materials collected and tried over the years!

What Worked Best for You?

My all-time favorite and most effective curriculum for our specific needs was KONOS. I used the original KONOS three volume set designed for K-8th and these are the books I am referring to. There are other KONOS products but I have not reviewed them so I am sticking to what I know here. We did not do every unit in every book. KONOS is a Christian homeschool unit study program.

Why KONOS? For us, the repetition of a unit organized around a character trait was exactly what was needed. Honestly, I muddled through at the beginning but quickly came to love the results. It truly did feel like a gift from heaven. KONOS integrates character training and academics in a hands-on structured way. I have used and perused a lot of curriculum in 20 plus years. KONOS is the only one that unified the wide variety of issues, academics, and skills I wanted to address.

We studied units that contained practical skills, speech making, literature, poetry, emotions, cooking, cooperative projects and much, much more all based around a specific character trait as a spring board. I started with Courage and we completed the entire unit, then moved on to Determination, Cooperation, and Self-Control. After we’d gotten through these, I did not do another entire BIG unit. Instead we would pick and choose from smaller units within the main category. We used KONOS for three consecutive years, including summers, and occasionally after that.

KONOS is a bit of work to implement for the teacher, but there are supports. KONOS covers all academic subjects except math. You may use the units as stand-alone units of study, adjusting them as you see fit. KONOS is also used for many co-ops. Although intended for use with two or more children, you can use it for an only child but will need to tweak the curriculum. This curriculum is very adjustable and can be used for a lighter or a more in-depth study.

KONOS is effective because it is a structured hands-on curriculum that repeats a core value for the length of the unit using various methods of teaching. It is NOT a social skills curriculum or a curriculum specifically designed for kids on the spectrum, but it sure did work well for us. Your child will need additional repetition for life skills and certain issues.

This is not THE ONE curriculum; it is only my personal favorite. It is not my favorite to prepare, but it is my favorite to actually teach and do.

KONOS has been around a lot longer than I’ve been homeschooling. That’s a long time, mommas.

You can find more information on the specifics of this curriculum at

Today’s Parting Word on Teaching High Functioning Kids with ASD

Do not try to make every moment a serious teaching lesson.

Yes, some kids need every.single.thing taught to them in excruciating detail with grueling repetition, but they also need you, just you. Spend down time with them. (Tweet This)
Do the fun or interesting things that they are into. Talk to them. Your child needs to know you respect and enjoy him or her as a person. And you need to take joy in being mom to an awesome kid.

Do you have a favorite resource or bit of wisdom to share? Please comment!

Lessons That Matter






My highschooler comes home from her new part time job, Tuesday through Thursday, at lunchtime. The chatter is non-stop for a while. I love to watch her as she talks.

She works as a pair of extra hands at a private school.

A helper was needed for two special needs kids, teenagers. When the job posting came up, I thought it might be of interest to her. Patience with certain children is one of her attributes, and she is not scared of different. I asked her if she was interested and she said yes.

Our homeschool schedule had to be adjusted, but that is fine. We can well afford to be flexible with the hours.

Important lessons take precedence, and some things need to be experienced. (Tweet This)

I felt this would be an excellent opportunity for her.

After the first week she says to me, “I’m really surprised by how much I like it.”

“I knew you would.”

I am too smug. She wrinkles her nose at me, then rolls her eyes. I pretend to be affronted, and defend myself.

“Well,” I say, hands on hips and trying not to grin,“at least I didn’t say, ‘Told you so.’ ”

This earns me a skeptical sideways glance and a lifted eyebrow.

“OK,” I admit. “It’s kind of the same thing.”

“Kind of exactly.”

We laugh.

Over the following days I learn that The Wiggles and Minions are her students’ favorites, about words missed and corrected, and many other things.

I listen to it all.

We are in my room after she gets home one day and conversation goes as usual. She pauses for breath, hesitating.

“Do I talk about my kids too much?”

My kids.

I shake my head no. “I want to hear,” I tell her.

She smiles and speaks of how much her boy student likes to color all the pictures in, not just the right number to get the answer, of gentle tugs on her sleeve and sweet laughter finally earned. She isn’t looking at me as she describes the laughter. There is a particular light in her eyes.

When she still rested in the womb I placed my palms on my naked, swollen belly. With fingers splayed out across the roundness, I wept and promised her she could be who she was, not knowing what future would come.

Here it is. I watch an unfolding woman’s soul begin to enter into being.

“My kids,” she said.

Just when I thought she couldn’t get any more beautiful.

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Under the Microscope

When we first started homeschooling, I wasn’t aware of it. I was too busy trying to get all my ducks in a row. Besides, I have never really understood why what I do should be of such intense interest of outside parties.

It was the homeymoon phase and didn’t last very long.

Every mom knows this intrusion on her parenting skills. It starts just about the time your baby bump begins to show, and continues until . . . well, I don’t know when it ends. I haven’t got there yet.

With homeschooling it’s kind of like that, times ten. Your friends, neighbors, relatives, random strangers on the street suddenly turn a critical eye on your life. Everyone has an opinion. And then there are the demands we place on ourselves.

The very first book I read about homeschooling advised me that my house must always be in order. I tried to laugh that off, but it made me nervous. A week or so later, I joined a group. With member ship came a list of written rules. The most important thing we were to remember was that we represented something important. Members were severely admonished us to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting this responsibility. At all times. 

Then there are the questions. Most of the time these are fine. An exception would be one of those ambushes when an angry looking adult corners the poor homeschooled kid. Then the adult proceeds to quiz the child on various subjects until the child is caught in a mistake, at which point the angry adult says something like, “Aha! I knew little Johnny’s education was being neglected! He can’t name all of the Kings and Queens of England in chronological order!”

During these inquisitions the homeschooled child will misspell simple words, fail easy arithmetic, and forget the name of the city in which they reside. They will also confess to sleeping until 11:00 because, “Mom said she was never teaching us anything ever again,” and “We like to sleep all day.”

On the other side of the coin, there are the enthusiasts. A truckload of shiny assumptions line the path to the homeschool pedestal of perfection. Myths abound. The idea that mom has endless patience and the children are all little geniuses and are always perfectly behaved does not really describe what our family looks like. Not that reality ever stopped me from trying to grasp the elusive brass ring so tantalizingly out of reach as the ride takes me ‘round and ‘round.

This brings me to my own worst critic. Me.

There are lists, scope and sequence charts and all sorts of assessment tools that are meant to be a guide. Being a mom, however, I can easily and quickly turn those helpful tools into proof of my inadequacy. Although logic dictates that not everyone congregates around the 90th percentile, no one ever brags about being average.

I celebrate all kids who have found there place to shine, and am rightly proud of them. But being average in a world of perceived stars is hard. I forget the truth. Everyone has their own specific gifts and should be encouraged to flourish in them, whether those gifts are the usual ones or not. I have to remind myself that the quiet gifts are as valuable as the loud, trumpeting kind and that nurturing is my calling, not comparing.

My house is a mess. My yard is a mess. I have allowed poor nutritional choices on occasion. If I am supposed to be wonder woman, I think I was strangled by my cape.

All of this pressure to be perfect can blur the home educating mom’s vision.

Most years January was my typical time of year to panic about school. Mid-year evaluations would reveal how much we had fallen short of my goals. Never mind that I knew full well that these were unrealistic.  I would disregard the fact that at the time I made these plans I never actually expected to complete everything. This need to compete would typically unbalance me for a week or two before I returned to my senses. Sprinkled throughout the journey, in moments of weakness and stress, sporadic fits of ‘pursuing perfectionism’ have plagued me as well.

I’m doing better now. At least so far today.


Seven Things to Remember

We are destined to fail at perfection, because perfection does not exist in this world.

No one can do it all, be it all, or have it all. We were never meant to.

Growing up young men and women is imprecise and not to be measured by man-made standards.

There will be mess. Always.

Critical people are not useful and can really get in the way of your goals. They do not have the right to ruin your destiny.

Trying to live an ideal not your own is life draining and a stumbling block.

Good enough is good enough.


Any time you decide to break away from what’s expected, you will have fallout. It can be changing religions, or loving the wrong person, or simply choosing something different from the status quo.

We can predict some of those who will oppose us. We know their thoughts and opinions, and these we can prepare for. But there are often surprises.

It’s very difficult when you have been of one mind with a friend and grown used to leaning on them, only to have a thick black line drawn between you, to be pushed away and delegated to the land of Not Like Me. Wisdom tells me friends who behave this way were never really my friends at all, but it is still a loss. And it still hurts.

If you live your life with any passion or guts at all, there will be people who should love you who decide not to any more.

There will be holes. Spaces are always filled. Some of those who smooth over the gaps will be the core people, the ones you always hoped would be there. Others will wait on the periphery, treasures you never saw coming. They will step up and stand beside you.

They will say, “I trust you. Even if I don’t understand and may not agree, I have faith in you.”


Homeschool Beginnings: Culture Shock

One of the most unexpected things about homeschooling was the attractiveness of the culture.

I’d only known a handful of homeschoolers, and I hadn’t thought too much about the lifestyle. It was fine, I guess. It didn’t concern me.

My first experience with any type of homeschool group was drama class. The baby was four weeks old and my friend called me. She was very enthusiastic about the classes.

She told me, ”The teacher is so great! She’s teaching the kids how to act like animals!”

I laughed and told her I needed someone to teach mine how to act like humans. They already knew how to act like animals.

We went and it was fun. Most of the kids were around the ages of mine, and it wasn’t any different than doing something with a church group or a large play group. The teacher was excellent. She is still teaching high school drama today, and periodically appears in additional stage productions herself.

After I met a few families, I started networking and checked out all the different groups. We joined about three main groups the first year, and a few more activity based ones.

I tend to jump in with both feet.

I distinctly remember what drew me to my ‘home’ group. It was at a meeting at the library and the ages of the kids were widely spaced. An older child stopped talking to his friend to bend down and help a struggling toddler into a chair. They did not appear to be related, but I asked another mom to be sure. No they were not.

This would not have been enough to make me stay with these people, but my boy sorely needed a soft place to land and the behavior of this young man caught at this momma’s heart.

This group offered a co-op, and somehow we got in on the ground floor. At the first class we were supposed to be doing an activity to learn about electricity. My boys pooled their batteries and wire, and hooked them up to make more power.  They lit up the tiny little light-bulb before the mom/teacher had passed out all the supplies. Only after the fact did I realize what had happened.  I should have reminded them wait for direction. Anyway, it was great fun and right up our alley. All the activities were hands-on. We met once a week and spent the day on co-op. Though structured, the atmosphere was relaxed and encouraged exploration. It was considered a good thing to wait on the children here, to have the freedom to listen and answer.  Moms traded off teaching duty and those who did not want to teach could contribute other ways.


If you ask any of us from the core group, we will all say it was the very best. My family has participated in many groups and there has never been a comparison. I believe the key was respect and simple kindness. And a willingness to forgive.

We all had the same primary goal, to provide educational opportunities for our kids. I loved getting to work with these families. It was a unique, inclusive group. We didn’t share all the same views, but we didn’t have to. The different world perspectives and philosophies I encountered made me rich, because they were clothed in grace. I believe these women were among my greatest blessings. I know they changed me for the better, and made our home education journey so much richer.  I would have come just for the lunch break.

We never missed enough classes to get bumped onto the waiting list.

Homeschool Beginnings: Gifts and Regrets

If you haven’t read my previous post you can find the first part of this story here.

Over the next ten weeks or so, my boy plowed through the curriculum, applying himself as was his nature, but something unexpected happened.

People remarked on it.

I was amazed and overwhelmed by it.

My boy returned to me.

I know no other way to put it. Like night and day, the change in him was undeniable. Here was my boy, reentering his world and reengaging in life.  All those ‘normal’ behaviors we thought were part of a natural growing up process began to peel away, layer after layer. The person that emerged in the first months of home schooling was the same child he had been at four. Older, yes, but the spark was back. And so was his sweet disposition and curiosity.

This was the first and greatest gift of homeschooling.

Fast on the heels of this wonderful surprise came my deepest regret. It sounds cheesy, but it has always been true. So true that even now, decades later, I can’t think of it without wanting to cry.

I wish I had brought him home earlier.


Mommas, you know that tight feeling in the pit of your stomach? Maybe it’s about more than you, or your insecurity, or being over protective. Pay attention to your intuition and follow it up with good common sense.

Sometimes, many times, it is only closely wrapped ties of love constricting your pulse when that large part of your heart goes out into the world unprotected by strong arms. But even that means something. It is not to be ignored.

I am not a counselor, psychologist, doctor, or childhood expert of any sort, but I do know this: Your child is more than a number on a list or one of a collective. Each person is unique and should receive respect. As a parent, it is our duty to provide for our children’s individual needs in the best way possible. Seek counsel from those you trust, but season all advice with your own mother-wisdom.

And this was the second gift.

I learned to trust myself.

Did this gift also come with regrets? Of course it did. I could have done some things differently, made better choices. But these regrets are small and inconsequential in the big scheme of things. They primarily involve curriculum, extracurricular activities, and college funding.

If you think I am telling you what you choices you should make, you are missing the point. Read this cliché carefully. Repeatedly, if necessary.

We all live with our choices, so make sure the choice you make is one you can live with.

The third gift came in the summer of our first year.

My husband and I attended a meeting for newbies. It was one of our first forays into the homeschooling community outside of our small circle. The event was provided by a local homeschool group and was of the orientation type, with speakers on topics of interest to those starting out or for curious folks considering the journey. Tables of materials lined the walls, and chairs were arranged in rows facing the platform. Various speakers gave talks on the basics of beginning homeschooling.

After the speeches were given and the Q & A was over, we were free to look at the different information displayed on the tables and mingle.

As we perused the offerings on one of the tables, my husband began talking with a man who had been one of the speakers. Their conversation somehow got around to a specific high school program.

My husband sounded firmly confident when he said, “That’s what we are going to use.”

He and I had not discussed anything beyond third grade at this point, but I scooped up a brochure on the program mentioned.

He thought I could do this.

This was the third gift.

Daddies, believe in your woman. She will need it. Be her champion.

Did my husband agree with all of my methods or educational opinions? Don’t be ridiculous.

We are married, not mind-melded.



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Homeschool Beginnings: Square Pegs

Traditional school did not work for us.

My oldest was a very shy four-year-old, so even though it was not the customary thing to do at that time for moms who stayed home, I sent him to preschool.

Back then, preschool was basically a structured playtime to learn how to stand in line and adjust to a classroom setting. Academics were not of primary concern. My boy was already reading a little by then. I’m not sure how much math he knew. Learning just happens when you encourage curiosity.

He had plenty of company at home since I had a home daycare. He never acted lonely, but he was a quiet child and did not talk much. After talking it over with friends, we decided he needed to be around lots of other kids and away from mother so he could bloom socially.

It didn’t happen. He was stoic, but never really connected with all these little strangers. It was a mystery. At the end of the year, his teacher advised against kindergarten yet. He was advanced academically and he got along fine with everyone, being a very well-behaved child. Still, she felt he needed more time to develop socially. I wanted to send him to this particular preschool for another year, but they did not accept children for more than one year in their program.  So he stayed home the next year and we read books and did projects and lived our life.

He went to kindergarten late.

I knew some homeschoolers. I did not think it was the best way. Kids need to be around other kids, not cooped up all day with nothing but textbooks for company. While I had some pretty firm beliefs about education and how learning happened, I was still influenced by my school experience and had not really explored my thoughts on the subject.

The way I taught my preschoolers at home did not seem to me to be ‘real’ school. We did that kind learning for fun. It was not school.

My attitude had been colored by years of public school attendance, sitting at a desk in a classroom with thirty age-mates doing worksheets or reading textbooks. Homework was usually more of the same, me working at the dining table, or in my bedroom scribbling away in a notebook. I knew that much of my interest-led learning had been done outside of the classroom, with library books or activities of my own design, or by doing things with my grandmother or older sister. But that was different, not official or something.

In honesty, no deep reflections on how learning happens or what education means troubled me when I bought my son a lunchbox and backpack and all the other stuff he needed before sending him off on that big yellow bus.


But school didn’t work. At all.

We tried, believe me, we tried. Halfway through second grade we entered into full crisis mode. Pulling him out to homeschool was an act of desperation.

While I would not attempt to teach a whole classroom of elementary children, I was pretty sure I could tutor my child in second grade anything, at least until we could figure out a solution. Even with its disadvantages, I had a deep knowing that this was a better alternative for him.

Two days after we made the big decision to bring him home, I found out I was pregnant. All my friends assumed that this was a game changer. I already had a preschooler and a school aged child. Now we were having another baby.

The situation may have changed, but my conviction did not. Once I had made that commitment to my son it never crossed my mind to go back on the promise. It was not lightly made and would not be easily broken.

We drove to the nearest store that offered homeschool curriculum. It was a very long and bumpy road trip. Morning, noon, and evening sickness plagued me. After we arrived, I promptly threw up. It did not help.

Normally, I love to shop, and books have always been at the top of my best things to shop for. I did not even glance around. My research had been done and a friend had pointed me to placement tests. I knew exactly what materials we needed to purchase. There was no deviation from the prepared list. I have never, before or since, gotten in and out of a book store so quickly.

My husband actually completed the transaction, because I was outside sucking cool air into my lungs and dreading the return car trip.

When he came out he asked me if I wanted a ginger ale.

I thought, “Only if it comes with a bucket.”

I shook my head.

The blessing of the Nine Month Flu (okay, maybe not the entire nine months) kept my teacherly exuberance in check and spared my son from too much schooliness. The time allowed him to decompress and deschool.

He did his assigned work for school. Once the ‘schoolwork’ was finished, our family went about life at home and in the world, doing our regular activities. I checked his work and waited for the baby and prayed for my stomach to settle.

To read the rest of this story, click here.

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