My childhood self always dreamed of growing up to become an artist, a writer, an interior designer and a teacher. I went to college and earned my degree in interior design. Check one. I got married, started a family, decided to stay at home with my children, and started writing a creative blog. Checks two and three. My childhood dreams of becoming an “artist” simply meant that I would be allowed to be creative and play with art supplies all day. Yep, that’s pretty much what I do. Interior designer, writer and artist – achieved.
It is with mixed emotions that I am now about to embark upon a journey that will check off #4. Teacher. We have decided to homeschool our boys and will begin teaching in mid-January.
We have talked about the possibility of homeschooling our children since our oldest son, Sawyer, was only 2-years-old. I loved the idea of learning at home and being my sons’ primary educator, but with a rambunctious toddler and a baby in tow, I was exhausted. I needed a break, and I was thrilled to discover an incredible Montessori preschool not far from home. Sawyer began attending there three days a week, and our younger son, Sutton, joined him when he was old enough.
We loved everything about our Montessori preschool, so it only made sense to us to enroll our children in Montessori elementary as well. In the first years, the boys loved their Montessori elementary school. They had wonderful teachers and a community of friends, many of whom they had known for most of their short lives. Still, they would often ask if they could “do homeschool,” and I found myself wondering, why not? The fact that Simon, our high needs baby, had grown into an even crazier toddler was the reason why not. As much as my heart longed to homeschool, and I felt pangs of sadness every time I dismissed their requests with a “maybe someday…” I knew that when the boys were at school they were in an environment much better suited to learning.
This year, however, several things changed. The educational requirements and differences between first and second grade sent Sawyer reeling. He was excited to learn new math ideas, but the amount of reading and language exercises overwhelmed him. Reading has never been his strong suit, and he began to shut down. He stopped trying to figure out what the words said, and started guessing instead. Eventually he stopped caring if his guesses were right or wrong. He would make himself physically sick, and he stayed home from school or was picked up early on many occasions with stomach pain and nausea. I started to feel an incredible amount of guilt, thinking that maybe a more rigidly structured classroom was actually what he had needed all along. He asked nearly every day if he could “please do homeschool.” My tough guy, who hadn’t cried in years, was suddenly having tear-filled breakdowns every evening before bed. My heart was breaking for him, and I cringed every time he would bitterly mutter, “I hate school.” My second grader. You’re not supposed to have that much contempt for school when you’re seven.
We had a productive conference with Sawyer’s teachers, and he received several months of additional help from a reading intervention specialist. Eventually his skills were strong enough to stop attending the specialist class, and his homework struggles lessened, but he still lacked motivation and confidence. His spark for learning was rapidly diminishing even though his skills were increasing. He says that being with his friends is the only part of his school day that he actually enjoys.
Sutton is in the opposite camp. While he also enjoys being with his friends at school, he has a voracious appetite for reading and learning, and is working far above his age level. He is in first grade, but placement tests say that he is reading at a fourth grade level. He’s a natural with math facts, and he loves researching answers to all of his questions. He also frequently asks us if he can homeschool, but I suspect that his reasoning is related to the fact that he’d love nothing more than to spend the entire day in his pajamas reading books and playing educational computer games. His teachers admitted to us at his conference that “It will be a challenge to keep him challenged,” and that statement is going to be especially true at home. Fortunately, his idea of fun is having me print multiplication tables for him!
Simon, our youngest, turned three in September, and has really been the catalyst for our entire homeschool discussion. Simon was delayed in his speech, and he didn’t talk much at all until he was about two and a half. We always knew he was an intelligent kid, but I had no idea the magnitude of that statement. When he was in his “crazy stage” my mom would often say that the reason he was so difficult was because his intelligence had developed far quicker than his verbal skills, and he was frustrated that he couldn’t properly express himself. Turns out, she was right.
As soon as Simon’s verbal skills caught up to his brain, he took off like a freight train intent on learning and speaking as much as he can. It has changed his entire demeanor, and my wild child is now much calmer and content. I can’t even count the number of times that I have heard the comment, “It’s like he’s a whole different kid now!” Aside from his dramatic personality shift, Simon’s speech development made us realize just how intelligent this kid actually is. He has a firm grasp on phonics, and can sound out large words well enough to put him at a first grade reading level. He recognizes and can write numbers up to 1,000. He has an affinity for the Spanish language and often stops our conversations to tell us how to say it in Spanish. He loves books and wants to stop and read every word on every single product in the grocery store. Sometimes when we’re reading bedtime stories, Simon will know the words when Sawyer doesn’t, and I hope that doesn’t become an issue between them.
Due to school registration birthday cut-off date restrictions, Simon won’t be able to attend kindergarten for another three years. My husband and I used to joke that this kid will have to be homeschooled or else risk being bored stiff at school. Now we’re thinking that’s more of a reality than something to joke about.