Friday, July 23, 2010


I never thought I would be a homeschooler. Homeschooling was for religious fundamentalists, back-to-nature extremists, and parents who believed their kids were the new Einsteins. Homeschooling was for the extraordinarily anal and the extraordinarily loose, not for ordinary people like me. I lack the organization, the discipline, the follow-through to push my kids through the scientific method, daily baths and well-rounded meals. I lack the easy-going, stream-of-consciousness, follow-your-bliss free spirit to focus on Japanese folklore for three weeks followed by concurrent units on locking mechanisms, archery and sculpting clay. I lack the patience. I lack the desire. Or so I thought. Because this fall, I will join the ranks of those educational Froot Loops.

Kayleigh will be in 11th grade. The plan is for her to take art and electronics at the high school and the rest of her subjects at home. With me. State law allows her to take two classes at her home district school while being homeschooled, as long as there is space in the classes she wants. The school can choose to allow her to take more than two, but they don’t have to. She is required to take 875 instruction hours per school year and study, minimally, language arts, reading, math, science, social studies and health in sequentially progressive courses.

We’re busily gathering advice from other homeschoolers and researching curriculum. In some respects it’s exciting. Kayleigh is delighted at the thought of studying history that does not involve the American Revolution or Civil War. But in other ways, it’s pretty daunting. I don’t really remember much about chemistry. I mean, when’s the last time I needed to know the atomic charge of calcium? The last time I took chemistry.

It’s not just daunting academically, either. Kayleigh and I have a lot in common, and I think we get each other. But we also are very different. We’re motivated in different ways and our interests are often miles apart. Basically, we can drive each other absolutely nuts. I know that’s true of any mother-daughter pair, but we’ll be stuck together. She can’t slam a door when she doesn’t like it that I’ve asked her 14 times to focus on the limit of X as it approaches infinity rather than what her Achilles tendon feels like when she repeatedly bangs it against the metal barstool – just as I can’t throw my hands up in frustration and stuff my face with chocolate in said situation. Just wait until we’re both in the throes of PMS. Eek.

Kayleigh is a smart kid with a unique temperament. She also has ADD. Although she has usually done well academically, she has never really gotten along with school. School is very regimented, and there is little room for creativity or exploration. She has the rule-centeredness of most first children, but her head is happiest, and perhaps most productive, in the clouds – or, more accurately, in the worlds she created in her mind. She did not excel at rote memorization of math facts, and a packet of instructions for a history project or an English paper that basically tells her line-by-line what to write is completely overwhelming. But she slogs on. The perfectionist in her has kept her going until recently.

She is a well-behaved child. She doesn’t need to be lectured, yet again, on what constitutes acceptable behavior at school, unlike the children who have cut her hair, spit in her face, sworn at her and dubbed her a reject. Hell, even the rejects have finally rejected her. She was often unaware when other children tried to befriend her, likely a result of the ADD. As time passed, they stopped trying. The teachers she didn’t enjoy have called her aloof and oversensitive. The ones who saw past her shyness and self-doubt think she is bright, talented and a joy to teach. They encouraged her to open up more, but after years as a square peg, she gets no satisfaction from participating. Even now that her classmates simply see past her and she could probably say and do anything without social recourse, she remains silent. It is her defense and offense.

I hope that in the last two years of high school we can give her opportunities for meaningful exploration and expression free from the bounds of brick walls, lengthy assignments designed to prepare her for her next standardized test, and judgmental classmates. We are proceeding with hope and excitement, as well as a bit of fear and nervousness. I think we’ll be OK.


Sarah said...

Well, as you can maybe guess, I have some pretty strong opinions on this... The BEST THING my parents ever did for me was pull me out of high school, let me take some time off and get my GED. And would you look at that? I somehow managed to get a college degree and have a successful career in the business world. Traditional education is not necessarily the best thing for every kid, and GOOD FOR YOU for recognizing that and having the guts to stand up and do what's right for Kayleigh. I have a feeling that when she's my age she'll look back on this decision by you and Eric with the kind of gratitude I have for my parents.

Amy said...

Sarah, what year were you in high school when you pulled out? I bet Kayleigh would appreciate talking to you about your experiences doing school with your mom and what led you there. We're all a little nervous because it is such a big unknown right now. Excited, too. Thanks for your support.

Anonymous said...

make sure you create a homeschool transcript for college entrance-you will need it.

MJ Krech said...

Bravo, Amy and Kayleigh! I hope this decision works as well for you as it did for us! "Do what is right for your child" was our mantra at the time and I'm glad to hear from Sarah that she looks back on that time and is glad we did what we did. Best of luck as you step out into this new world!!! I'm with you all the way!

Brandy said...

May I suggest you also look into joining HSLDA? While you may now get along with your State and School system, it's membership is kind of like insurance. Best wishes as you find your way homeschooling. (We've homeschooled from the start, so have no advice for beginning in H.S..)

Amy said...

Hey, Anonymous. I'm going to be as anal as possible when it comes to creating a transcript. That said, I kind of suck at paperwork. Thanks for the tip.

Marcia, thanks for the support. Kayleigh and I are making notes about things she wants to do and doesn't want to do and what she might need to do whether she wants to or not. Like, get out of bed. If you have any materials you could recommend, I'd appreciate it. Or any advice on what worked for you.

Brandy, I've been reading a lot, and HSLDA has come up often. Sound advice. Thanks. And thanks for stopping by!