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
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
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
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
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
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.
In 1999, we moved from a rental home in
to our first purchased home in
. 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.
- 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.
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
Copyright 1998-2010. Carol Hepburn.