For all of my new readers, here is a little introduction into who I am and our experience with the public school system that ultimately lead to us Homeschooling:
My name is Keisha. I am the mom to 3 wonderful children. My husband and I started homeschooling 9 years ago. Through the years we have used many different styles and methods before settling on Unschooling. Basically, as unschoolers we live our lives as though school does not exist. The world is our children's classroom, everyone they meet has the potential to be their teachers or vice versa, they learn what they are interested in until they are satisfied to move on. They live without grades, tests, and curriculum but it has not always been that way.
My two sons attended public school for two years, Kindergarten and First Grade for the oldest, and Head Start, and Kindergarten for the youngest. I was never content with sending them to school, I had always been a very hands on parent. I have always felt that I was meant for motherhood and from the time my first son was born he became my life, even though I was barely 18 at the time. I threw myself into motherhood with all that was in me. I had come from both a physically and mentally abusive home and didn't know what it meant to be a mother but I knew I loved my son and I wanted the best for him. I became a stay at home mommy, I breast fed him, co slept with him, and met every whimper before it even became a cry. I was the spokesperson for attached parenting before I ever knew there was such a thing. During this time I began to learn how judgmental and opinionated others, especially family members, would become of my parenting style. "If you breastfeed nobody will be able to help you." "Daddy won't be able to help at night." My well-meaning mother in law was embarrassed over my breastfeeding in public and would get me to breast feed in the bathroom whenever we went out together. She saw it as anything but natural. "Crying is good for his lungs." "If you hold him too much (go to him every time he cries) you'll spoil him." "You need to get a job." "You'll never be able to make it without both of you working."
Fast forward 5 years and two kids later, and it is time for my son to go to Kindergarten. Like I said before, I was never completely comfortable sending him to public school but at the time I never knew I had the option of homeschooling, when your kid turns 5 you send them to Kindergarten, isn't that the way it worked in every American home. My son had always been with me. He never had grandparents calling to see if he could spend the night, and I had NEVER left my children with strangers. But now, because he was the right age I was expected to hand him over to total strangers and leave him in an unfamiliar place and be okay with that. He cried at first. Then he submitted and became someone he wasn't, quiet. My loud, rambunctious, spirited child became quiet. The poster child for ADHD, the little climber since he learned to walk was still and quiet. His teacher's often commented to me how quiet and well behaved he was. Red Flag. My child was not quiet he was scared. My younger son wanted to go to school too so I enrolled him in Head Start. Now, you hear all the time how schools don't have enough volunteers. Well I was there every day, and while Head Start loved both me and my young daughter being there the actual "School" did not. The Kindergarten teacher made it quite clear that while I was capable of making cupcakes for classroom parties and chaperoning on the next field trip anything else was "disruptive".
I ate breakfast with the boys every morning and often times returned for lunch. The office personnel and teachers knew me so well that I actually became exempt from getting the "Visitor" pass that all parents had to sign in and wear. Things were going ok. My oldest son made some friends and even though things weren't great we were doing what we thought we had to do. Every afternoon the kids were exhausted and all they wanted to do was watch cartoons. After that we had homework. Yes, Kindergarten had mandatory 2 pages a day on top of studying spelling words and what ever happened to be on the folder for the week. After homework it was dinner, bath, early bedtime. There wasn't any time for family time or hardly any play time. When I did want to take my kids out for the afternoon, maybe dinner and the park I was either up late doing homework or I was writing letters to the teacher explaining why my son didn't do his homework and we were playing catch up for the rest of the week. Once happy siblings after being apart all day began to fight and not get along. My oldest son was disciplined for sticking up his middle finger. Something other kids found funny because he honestly didn't know what he was doing. When he asked the teacher why he was in trouble he was told that he knew what it meant and what he was doing. In the lunch line one day another boy exposed himself to my son. Something the school found traumatic enough to have him talk to a counselor about but not worth mentioning to his parents. My youngest son loved friends, school, and structure and seemed to thrive in his new environment. My oldest son got great grades and top awards. Our first school year ended a "Success".
It was during this Summer that somewhere online I learned about homeschooling. I had always taught, and read to and played with my kids and to think I could legally continue to do this same thing and not have to send my babies away to strangers! Daddy was not quite on board at first, but quickly became convinced. This would be our first year homeschooling! Unfortunately, other members however were not as easily convinced. My mother and father in law listened quietly as we excitedly explained to them about homeschooling and I eagerly showed off books I had been picking up at yard sales and the Good Will preparing for our year ahead. About 2 weeks before the local school was to take session they showed up on my doorsteps for an "intervention". They stated all of the reasons why we were not capable of schooling our own children. I personally didn't care what they thought. I had been my son's teacher since the day he was born, I was equipped by God! My husband however was persuaded that my ideas were "crazy" and he wanted to send the kids to public school. I cried off and on for days but in the end they went back.
We had moved and so this year they would attend a new school. I met their teachers and while my youngest son's teacher and I quickly became friends the First Grade teacher and I never did quite click. I had the door shut in my face for showing up early to a classroom party. When signing my kids out of class early, I was told I could not walk to the room to get them but had to wait in the office until they got there. I had no rights to go see MY own sons! My oldest son is an artist by heart. At 3 years old he would draw me detailed pictures of animals. Often times the kids would be taken outside and asked to draw what they saw. Several times he was chastised for his artwork, his tree had a squirrel in it which he was told to erase since it really wasn't there and his flowers came out rainbow colored while his teachers insisted they be made "right". I began to receive letters asking me to talk to my son about not drawing on the back of his worksheets. (which I never did!). He would often times finish the too easy material early and draw extensive detailed drawings on the back of his papers. He was bored. Why he was not given drawing paper instead of being fussed at I still don't understand. He was chased around the playground with a belt, and cussed at. During the Christmas season the children where asked to decorate a train car on a piece of poster board to be a part of the "Christmas Train". I was very proud of my son when he decorated his train car with a manger scene showing the baby Jesus. My husband helped him and I can't remember exactly what it said but something to the effect of Christ being born. He worked very hard on his poster and we were all very proud of him. He couldn't wait to show his teachers. A few days later he told me his poster wasn't hung up with those of all his classmates. He was very upset. I went to the school and asked his teacher and told there was "No Room" for his poster. While there was room for all of the presents, Christmas trees, and Santas once again there was "no room" for little Baby Jesus.
That may have been the thing that changed my husband's mind, I don't know but I do know that the next year was the first year we homeschooled our children. We basically stood up and began to tell our family that we were our kids parents and we were going to do what we considered right by them. We didn't know anyone that homeschooled, we didn't have a clue what we were doing but we jumped in with both feet and never looked back. I know this has been a little long but to sum it all up I began homeschooling because I wanted my family back, I wanted to be in charge of my children's education. I wanted them to feel valued and appreciated for their artistic abilities. I wanted them to be themselves and not afraid to talk or move. I wanted them to continue to grow as Christians and think of Jesus's birth at Christmas time and I wanted to insure that what they were being taught and exposed to was a part of that value system. I wanted them to be happy and feel loved throughout the day and I knew that there was not a person on the face of this Earth that better knew them and their needs or loved them more than I did. My daughter has always been homeschooled and I feel that the confidence and high self-esteem she has in herself is a direct result of that. All of our children are now not only genuinely happy but smart, responsible, and thriving. I feel like choosing to homeschool our children was the best decision of my life!