When our daughter Hannah was young, my husband and I both knew we wanted to home-school her. I spent time researching home-school curriculum. I also started saving materials I thought we might use. I wanted to be ready when the time arrived. Sadly, the time never arrived.
Due to our finances, I needed to go back to work to help the family make ends meet. The private school where I had previously taught called to ask me if I would come back and teach for them. Since our daughter was four years old, I agreed I would teach part-time. Life was taking a turn for us. Our daughter started preschool—across the hall from my room—and I found myself back in the classroom once again.
I was set to work half a day, but I quickly found myself at school almost all day. Unfortunately, teaching half day certainly did not mean I only worked half a day. I found myself spending the rest of my day (off the clock) preparing for the next day, grading papers, and corresponding with parents. Since I was already spending my whole day there, the following year I decided to go back to teaching full-time.
Approaching Education as a Classroom Teacher
Learning is fun for me. I try to make the classroom experience as reasonably fun as can be expected. I enjoy teaching! I am a hands-on type of teacher. I think it is important for kids to get involved using all their senses. I believe that personal ownership experience encourages them take pride. And want to learn more. I also believe it helps kids not only learn their lessons, but retain them. I am passionate about finding out each child's learning style and teaching toward it.
The following year, our daughter started kindergarten. And I moved to second grade (my favorite grade to teach). This was an important year for our family. It marked the signs of what was to come in regards to Hannah’s education. Schoolwork was difficult for her. She struggled with learning basic reading skills. She began exhibiting anxiety symptoms when called upon to read aloud in class. I had to ask her teacher to not call on her in class.
At the end of the year, her progress was not where her father and I would have liked it. Since we were aware of Hannah’s learning issues, we decided to have her tested. The list seemed like a death sentence—ADHD, dysgraphia, sensory integration, language delay, dyslexia, and auditory processing problems.
The next school year, my daughter was a student in my class. Having your child in your classroom at school is NOT the same as homeschooling. I expected more of my child than I did of the other kids. I was determined not give anyone a chance to say I favored my child.
Our situation changed once again when our family was transferred from Texas to Georgia due to my husband's job. I had a teaching position lined up. Three days after arriving in Georgia, I ruptured a disc in my back. I was not able to teach. In the meantime, my husband and I decided to retain Hannah in second grade in hopes that she would have an easier time in school. This was a mistake and one that I had always counseled parents against doing. You would think I would have taken my own advice, but sadly, I didn’t. School was almost unbearable for Hannah. By January, the school still did not have her IEP completed. Actually, they had not even started it. Hannah was suffering more and more each day. She was begging us to home school her. We finally gave in and embarked on the best journey of our lives!
Approaching Education as a Homeschooler
That first half of our new homeschool adventure was spent using Abeka, Bob Jones, and supplemental texts. Hannah made good progress and we were both happy. She smiled more, completed her assignments with no fussing, moved rapidly through lessons, and actually understood the concepts. She was so proud of herself when she advanced into a third grade math book as a second grader!I loved watching her enjoy her new found success.
In this beginning stage, I was not very hands-on. Even though that was my teaching style. I was trying to get my legs under me so to speak. I think I was too afraid I would make a mistake or two, so I was a bit too rigid. I decided to make some changes the next year in hopes of adding more hands-on activities. Since the honeymoon phase had ended, I also wanted to put an end to the beginning of problems I could see rising.
For our first fun "hands-on" activity, we both decided to try lapbooking. We mulled over lots of wonderful choices in a catalog. Hannah picked several. I excitedly ordered them all and got everything set up for her to begin a lapbook on Mythical Creatures. I had read all the directions and teacher Jackie knew just what to do and how to do it. Boy, did I miss the mark! The first day, I had my dyslexic child who hates school, copy vocabulary words. Not just a few mind you, all twenty or so of them. That was a prison sentence for her!! How could I have been so blind and so far off course? I can only say it must have been the "classroom teacher" in me. In the classroom I would have had my students do that activity. I naturally assigned it for Hannah, even though I knew she could not handle it. I had not yet learned to separate my "classroom teacher" hat from my "homeschool teacher" hat.
Next, I had her cut and paste every picture and make every mini-book. She saw all of it as a waste and extremely boring. Hannah would have been much happier if we had researched online the various mythical creatures and read about them. She would have enjoyed checking out books about them and looking at the pictures, watching videos, and listening to online stories. None of which seemed educational "enough" to me. I wanted something to show for the work. I wanted to be able to say, "This is what we accomplished. See, we really did do some work."
Rather than what was going to work for Hannah, I focused more on being questioned about how much and what type of learning she was getting. Since Hannah had been a student in my classroom, I knew her learning styles. However, what I found out next, surprised to me. She did not want to do much hands-on activities now that we were homeschooling. Since we were learning about volcanos, I purchased all the supplies we needed to build an erupting volcano. She was not the least bit excited or interested in building one. I could not figure out why. It did not make sense to me. I assumed she would want to do all the neat creative stuff just like when I had her as a student in my classroom. I was the one disappointed, not her. Again, I had failed to see there was a difference now that we were learning at home. I was determined to find something that clicked with her. I wanted my child to to find that school could be fun and enjoyable.
Next, we tried our state’s virtual online school. Virtual school worked so-so until about mid-year. Hannah's needs were not being met. She did not like it at all. The work was getting harder. She was not getting what she needed to reach their expectations. I hope you notice I said “their expectations” not mine. I found that virtual school and I did not agree on how to homeschool or what to teach. I did not have any rights as far as teaching my child. I was the learning coach, but had no real authority. I realized that finding the perfect curriculum or solution was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. While these texts, curriculum's, and schools were all helpful in many ways, they each came up short in meeting Hannah's needs.
Approaching Education as a Mother
Hannah was becoming quite independent. I felt like she still needed me to take the lead in her learning due to her learning challenges. But she was working hard to show me that she wanted to take the lead. I am not sure who was the most hardheaded. I did not want to let go. I knew I needed to find something that would allow her to be more independent and self-directed, but still keep me involved. I was learning so many things about Hannah.
- How much of a visual learner she really was.
- What her interests were, not mine.
- She was not as much a kinesthetic learner as I thought she was.
- She remembers what she hears very easily. Way more auditory than I gave her credit for being
She is capable of more than I realized. I wanted to shield her from failure or frustration. I believed I was actually holding her back. I was forcing my ideas on her rather than listening to what she was saying. She was telling me plainly what she wanted to do. But I was listening to my own ideas of what should be done each day. I became more determined than ever to find something that worked for both of us.
I joined more Yahoo-type educational groups in order to hear/learn about what others were experiencing. I knew I could not be alone in this experience. Surely there were others out there going through some of the same issues we were experiencing. I joined lists for homeschooling only children, children with ADHD, children with dyslexia, and children who hate school. I found out about online schools for homeschool kids through many of the lists. I was aware of being able to purchase boxed curriculum. But I was not aware of actual interactive online learning programs.
Virtual school was not, in my opinion, an interactive online learning experience. I began reading reviews written by parents about different multimedia homeschool curriculum choices. We tried Alex for math. Hannah hated it and I was not too thrilled myself. We tried Click N' Kid. She thought it was very childish, but indulged me. It did not make a lasting difference either. Finally, we looked at Time4Learning. Time4Learning's flash, audio, and visual style appealed to my special needs learner. She is very much a right brain visual learner, so it fit the bill.
Finally, school can be fun after all. I am thankful T4L meets the unique learning style of my child and thousands of others. There is hope for us all! The journey has been long and I know we still have a long road ahead. But I think we are finally on the right track. I have come to realize that being a classroom teacher does have some benefits when teaching your own child at home. It also comes with disadvantages if you are not keenly in tune with your child. I do not regret for an instance that I was a classroom teacher. I am just thankful that I was able to make the transition from a classroom teacher to a first-time homeschool teacher/mom.
Bumps are to be expected along the way. I feel I have hit just about every bump in the road. But, this journey has led me from a classroom teacher to a homeschool teacher. Now, finally to a Mom who realizes she just wants to meet the needs of her daughter.