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Our Home School Journey

Home | About Our Family | Curriculum and  Methods | Teaching High School
Getting Started | Getting Organized | Some Schedules and Forms | PDF Files

About Our Home School

In April 2004, we began a new adventure called Home Schooling. It has been a wild-ride for us with nonstop action and seemingly unending frustration followed by periods of absolute joy. We will start our fourth full year of schooling in 2008 and with God's grace and mercy we will continue to home school our son all the way through high school.

In the Beginning

My husband and I have always been supportive of home schooling and had planned on home schooling our son when the time came for him to start Kindergarten. We lived in Northern California for the first three years of our son's life and knew we did not want to place him in public school (for many reasons -- mostly that the public schools near us were not very good and we did not have other options).  While we would have gladly chosen Christian school, financially this was not an option for us.   Home schooling seemed the natural choice and we were open to pursuing it when the time came.  I cannot really say that I was 'called' to school our child at home.  Well, not at first.  Later on, there were obvious signs; signs we missed and we suffered as a result.  Looking back now, I can clearly see the Lord's hand on our life and how our decisions not to home school adversely affected our home life and our son's health and well-being.

Preschool

I never really thought much about preschool for our son.  I loved being at home and being a mom.  We were very active in group activities such as Bible Study and Awana.  While I loved spending time with the other Mom's, my son just did not do well in these kinds of social settings.  He had difficulty getting along with other children and often would hit or throw toys (one time he threw a toy car and hit another child in the head).  I could not figure out why my loving and very obedient child (at home) could not get along with other children and why he turned into every teacher's nightmare!  I was humiliated and every time I attempted to "socialize" him with other children, the same thing would happen.  He would hit, bite, or kick the teacher.  He was out of control everywhere except at home.  Later on, I learned that the stimulation of being in a noisy and hectic environment (like Sunday school, Awana or Mom's study group) was too much for him.  He acted out and reacted to the stress of the situation and after a couple months, I quit all the extra-curricular type programs  and  stayed home.

We had just moved from Northern California and  I needed some "Mom" time out.  I was home all day long with my very active child and every opportunity to get out and interact with other Mom's and children seemed fraught with frustration.  I had made a few friends at my new church, but every time I was invited to a group event, my mind would race at the thoughts of how my son "might" behave.  I was desperate for friends and wanted some free time for myself and time to be with the "girls."  I was depressed, angry, and actually thought I had done something awful (the "terrible MOM" syndrome.)  Later on I would learn that my son was highly gifted (good news, however, late).   These early years were difficult and trying for me and I really believed that I had failed as a Mom and that there was something seriously wrong with my child.

My son wore me out.  From sun up to sunrise, he was active and moving.  He never stopped asking questions, he never stopped thinking and creating. He took things apart, put them back together again, stuck things in the light sockets, and generally had to be watched every moment of the day.  I was exhausted and once he gave up his naps, it was a long, long day of non-stop movement.  My son was hyperactive, that was for sure, but he was able to focus his attention whenever he was interested in a specific thing.  He could spend hours playing with Legos or blocks.  He would be lost in his own little world and would create voices, characters, and conversations with imaginary friends.  

My good friend from church saw the signs of stress on me and suggested we put our son in Preschool.  She recommended a school near our home and I went over to check it out.  It was a nice Christian school and while it was a bit pricey, it was still affordable for us.  We enrolled our son there when he was four and spent a year and half in turmoil.  School did not help our son's socialization problems -- though it did give me a break two mornings a week.  He still acted out and was aggressive to other children.   We went through three different teachers until finally we found one that understood his needs and could control him in the classroom.  He was five at the time and this seasoned teacher (20 years teaching preschool) knew just what he needed.  I think she recognized his giftedness and as such was kind and gentle towards him.  She gave him plenty of free time but she was disciplined and structured.  In her class, there was order and routine.  

She helped me as well as gave me great ideas on making sure our routine at home didn't change (in fact, it had changed when we moved -- we raised our son on a schedule and as long as we stuck to it -- he was happy and calm).  I did not realize that our move to Arizona along with my frustration and depression had caused me to let go of my daily routine.  In doing so, my son was not able to handle the change either and he did what little children do:  he acted out to let me know that he was under stress and was unable to deal with it.  I finally understood that our very structured home and daily routine were important to my son's ability to be calm and to be focused.  In other settings, where volunteers ran rooms (at church or Awana), there was never any guarantee that the structure and order would be in place.  We were finally able to put our son back into classroom settings but made sure that he was never in a classroom where there was not discipline, routine and order.  I also made changes at home, and thankfully, things improved.

School Begins

In 1999, we moved from a rental home in Scottsdale to our first purchased home in Phoenix .  It was an exciting time for us and we were eager to be settled and to start our new life in our new home.  We still considered home schooling our son but were given the opportunity to send him to a nearby Christian school.  The financial cost was beyond us but we were going to receive some assistance and we thought we could do it.  In my heart, I knew that this was going to really strain us and that it was not what the Lord wanted us to do.  We went through with our plans "on faith," but when the day came to purchase supplies and uniforms, both my husband and I knew that there was no way we could swing Christian school tuition.  We called the school and told them our son would not be attending their school.  

We were stuck and needed to make a choice quickly.  Public school was about to begin and if we wanted our son to attend our local elementary school, I would have to get him signed up immediately.  I was hesitant to do this, but with encouragement from friends and family, I went over and enrolled him in Kindergarten.  I knew it was a mistake but I felt that it was our "only option."  

My son was in this public school for K-3rd grade and it was an interesting experience.  He liked school, he liked his teachers, and for the most part, he did very well.  He had emotional issues though -- tics -- and was stressed over the fire alarms and drills.  He had headaches, stomachaches, and generally nervous disorders every time he had to go to school.  Each year brought another assortment of psychological problems and our pediatrician simply dismissed them as nerves and told us they would go "away" eventually.  

Teachers noticed our son's behavior and we worked hard with them to help them address the problem in school.  Neither DH nor I put "two and two" together -- DS was stressed being in a classroom and needed to be at home.

Things Start to Change

DS' last year at the local school was less than satisfactory.  He was bored most of the time and the classroom was disorderly and chaotic.  The teacher was overwhelmed with too many students and DS began to act out.  He started to get into trouble daily. He was called into the principal's office and later was suspended for throwing rocks at cars.  Our son, who was polite and well behaved started to turn into a disturbed child (one with headshakes, vocal outburst, and aggressive behavior).  

To add to this, DS was denied access to the school's gifted program.  He was tested several times and scored 94-96% on the cognitive abilities test.  No matter how much we persisted, the school would not budge.  The following year, DS would be in 4th grade and would not be allowed to take any advanced classes.  His teachers were surprised because they believed he would be accepted immediately.  The following year, our school changed principals and added a rotating schedule for 4-6th graders.  We knew that our son would not do well in this type of program.  He would not have the same teacher for any subject and the stress-related behaviors would continue to worsen unless we removed him from school.

Charter School - An Open Door

I was working part-time at this point so the idea of home schooling was really on the back burner.  In fact, I had pretty much convinced myself that I could not teach my son at home.  We needed to find another school and a friend recommended a small charter school near our home.  We enrolled DS there for 4th grade and despite reservations in the lack of administration; we decided to try it.

After one month, our son's teacher came to us and asked if she could move our son up to the 5th grade class for math.  She also wanted to begin him on 6th grade language arts (he would do an accelerated curriculum in her classroom).  We were pleased that someone recognized our son's abilities and was willing to work with him.  DS enjoyed the advanced work and actually seemed to be doing better.  By mid term, however, it was recommended to us that we move our son permanently up to the 5-6th grade combined classroom.  His teacher was unable to teach him and felt that this would be a much better move for him.   Additionally, we were told that the school psychologist (hooray!) would evaluate our son and that his approval was needed before our son could be skipped a grade.  The whole testing/evaluation process took months so the school admitted him to the higher grade conditionally, pending the evaluation results.

In some ways, we were glad.  Finally, our son was being recognized as uniquely gifted.  He would be able to do advanced work and would be challenged and stimulated mentally.  We also had reservations.  How would our 10-year-old do in a class full of 12 year olds?  Would he be picked on?  We found out soon enough because shortly after his move up a grade, his behavior started to deteriorate again.  It wasn't long before I was called on daily by both his teacher and his principal and being told that DS was in trouble for talking, helping others in class, for being messy, for not listening to the teacher, being rude and disruptive.  Moreover, the sixth graders were picking him on.   He started to use foul language and act out in ways that were not appropriate for him.

Additionally, I was spending an hour to hour and half every evening working with him to help him catch-up in certain "weak" areas.  He had trouble with math facts (he could do the harder work with 100% accuracy but could not do basic addition); he could not write a paragraph and his grammar was very poor; he struggled with social studies and spelling.  His teacher told me that his writing skill was 2nd-3rd grade at best.  I was encouraged to work with him, to drill him in math facts, to teach him at home to help him come up to grade.  In science, he was working several grades above.  In reading, he was far surpassing all the students.  Yet, despite all the weakness, he was getting straight As in his classes.

The situation was spiraling downward and when I was just about at the end of my rope, I found out from a parent that my son had skipped the before school Chapel.  My son loved chapel and loved bible study and he had never skipped a class before.  My friend found him sitting on the swings by himself.  When she asked him why he was there and not in chapel he told her that he never gets to swing because the "big kids" won't let him (the 7-8th graders who did all the bullying).  I was so upset at this news (sort of the tip of the iceberg) but once I calmed down and started probing him, he confessed that he had been threatened and hit by 5-8th graders, sometimes while a teacher was present.  He had told a teacher who simply instructed him to "stop tattling."  It was at this moment that I realized the Lord was showing me direct signs and we made the decision to remove him from school the next day.

We should have pulled our son months before but he was in the middle of testing and we really wanted to see the psychologist's report.  It had taken over 6 months to get him evaluated and finally the time had come.  We needed to wait to receive the report before we could pull our son from the school.

When the test report came, we were stunned.  Our son was bright, but not gifted.  He scored 95% overall on his cognitive abilities test and the psychologist said that he was delightful, well mannered, articulate, and generally a very bright boy.  He just was not gifted.  After some research to find a better interpretation of the data, I came to see what the Dr. was saying.  Yes, our son was bright but he failed to mention that he was exceptionally gifted in spatial awareness and processing ability.  Moreover, in several specialized sub-tests, our son scored perfectly, but due to some other weaknesses, his overall score was lowered.  In non-technical language, he was not gifted in the traditional way (auditory-sequential -- or gifted in linear/sequential subject areas such as math or language).  Our son was gifted perceptually, conceptually, and spatially.  Additionally, his processing ability was near perfect so this meant that he needed very little drill and repetition and that he constantly needed "new" information to keep himself challenged (I think back to those early years of his constant movement).

Most public school classrooms do not know how to deal with these types of children.  They 'think outside the box' and are often spacey or messy.  They cannot follow directions or stay on task, yet they can tell you volumes of information about subjects that interest them.  Teachers often say that they are "different" and that they "think" above their peers.  They are easily bored because they grasp concepts very quickly.  They have poor short-term memory so they do not do well on tests.  They do not like to write and struggle with things like basic math, grammar, and spelling.  They love complex logic problems, advanced math and science but they are often held back because they are unable to demonstrate basic skills (they can mentally do complex math but cannot "show" you how they arrived at the solution).  They are capable of working many grades above their level in school, but often work below grade in linear or abstract subjects. Sadly, most visual-spatial children get into trouble or they drop out of school after feeling as though they are not smart enough to learn the way other kids do.  They mistakenly believe they are stupid or unable to do simple subjects.

Visual-Spatial Learning is a relatively new study and it has opened my eyes to see that I am also a VSL.  My school experience was similar to my son's, though, I did not act out.  I just did not care very much for school and moved through the grades doing "C" work.  I knew that I did not want my son to repeat my experience so we jumped into home schooling and it has turned out to be the very best decision we could have made.

All of our son's social and behavior problems are gone.  He still prefers a routine and schedule but has moderated some to where he can actually do school on his own without my constant attention.  He has matured and developed several interests:  piano, computer programming, and game design.  He is happy, well adjusted, and delightful to have at home.  He never ceases to amaze me and constantly tells me the most interesting things.  We still struggle with math, writing and grammar, but we are doing better.  We have made the decision to home school him through high school because we have seen the blessings of learning at home.

**Next: Our First Few Steps

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