As a newly emigrated young child, emigrating with my mother and father all the way from the Belleville, Ontario, to sunny southern California, I learned English from my schoolmates and teachers. My father was bilingual, and my mother spoke only French. From the very start, it was determined by my parents that we would only speak our native French tongue in the home in order to preserve our language and heritage. And so, I learned my abc’s, colors and numbers in my new language which was English. Early primary school fun was truly fun and exciting. Every day felt like an adventure and the days passed by quickly. Unfortunately, to my surprise, school ceased to be an adventure somewhere in the 3rd grade. At that point, some of the students started presenting behavior problems and not respecting authority. Rebelliousness became the norm for many students. Back in the day when teachers could physically touch a student for deviant behavior, my third grade teacher would frighten the rest of us and traumatize mischief-makers by grabbing the ears of the guilty, usually the same boys, and herding them out of our classroom by their ears. Ouch. My days were regrettably spent daydreaming while staring out of the window, in a sea of 40 students or so. Where was the adventure of learning any more? This continued through high school. I was completely burned out on school by the time I started university.
So how did I get interested in the prospect of homeschooling? After numerous years of children in diapers, countless 3-ring circus acts during dinners with toddlers, and constant motion and noise, I have to admit I was looking forward to a little peace and quiet when my daughters would go off to school in the morning. Those early days I honestly felt that making my bed and eating breakfast was a serious accomplishment! Crazy and chaos were the words of the day. The thought of homeschooling the children did not occur to me until I met a certain homeschooling family at a certain event after church one day. Their family worked as a unit selling religious items, a company called “Catholic Caravans”. My husband was in a long conversation with the dad, and I had the opportunity to sit with their numerous children for a good hour or so. I was struck by their good manners, their vocabulary, their conversation with each other. So carefree they seemed! They had so many stories to tell, stories they fondly told of each other. So that is where the seed was sowed. The thought entered my mind that this is what I wished for my children, that it might be an option. Maybe peace and quiet weren’t in the near future, after all!
In retrospect, I have benefitted from homeschooling as much as my girls. I truly regained the enthusiasm which I had in early primary school as I relearned math, science, literature and history with my children. I learned so much about writing by learning alongside them as they struggled to put their words down on paper. Prior to homeschooling, I had become very self-conscious about my writing ability because of one solitary experience. Funny how one experience can taint a child. A professor in high school had critiqued my assignment of a sunset description as “a sunset that sounded like a thousand others”. Little did he know that I had sat there in my hilly rural backyard and seriously contemplated the glorious event in the sky as I was writing the paper. It may seem trivial, but in high school comments like that can discourage a child. Fast forward to Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He took our homeschooling family on adventures we never dreamed of. He turned 4 reluctant writers (including me) into expressive-on-paper individuals!
I haven’t kept a diary since one year in high school, a highly emotional and rather depressing time of my life. The classes were for the most part dull, the cliques were tight and mostly unavailable to the shy types or outsiders like me, and the school ride to and from school was filled with vile language, in other words nothing I care to discuss here! This year I have resolved to keep a journal of my 180 school days, that being the standard of most schools these days. After my own 13 years of compulsory classroom education, 5 years of university, an additional year of night school to get my teacher’s credential, 2 years as a substitute teacher, 10 years in the traditional classroom setting, 4 years of part-time work visiting homeschooling families through a charter school and 10 years with my own homeschooling family, I felt it would be enjoyable to share a school year with you, the reader. Why did I choose this year to journal? This is an extremely unique and special year, as it is the year that my oldest daughter is graduating from high school, and making some big decisions for the first time in her life.
Every year’s story is so different from the one before it, and the one to follow. This year is one which I will hold close to my heart forever because this year is the last year that I will have all 3 of my daughters under my homeschool umbrella. As previously mentioned, my eldest will be graduating from our itty bitty high school at the end of this school year.
Enough said! Every year has its share of good and bad drama, tears and joy, and this one is no exception. If you are contemplating homeschooling your own family, my hope is that you find it encouraging and realize that even a veteran classroom teacher and experienced homeschooling teacher seldom has days where all goes as planned, and that the daily structure of the school day varies considerably, unlike the traditional school setting. And that is okay, because ultimately the same goals get accomplished in the long run. For other parents who have been doing this a while, I hope that you find it amusing and maybe pick up a few ideas, here and there, as well as renewed strength when the going gets rough. Finally, for those of you who are not contemplating homeschooling, I am sure you can also relate to the craziness and busi-ness of life with growing children at home and that you also encounter many of the same situations and frustrations often. After all, we are all homeschooling parents in the grand school of life.
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** Note to the Reader- Today’s narrative is an excerpt of our family’s school journey from a few years ago, during my eldest daughter’s senior year in high school, a rather emotional year, with its many ups and downs.
May God shower blessings on your family as he has on mine. Annette