I’ll admit to having harbored some pretty unfavorable opinions towards homeschooling in the past. I was not only a product of public schools, I was a fan. An extreme extrovert, I’d absolutely loved school, my classmates, all of the extracurricular activities I’d had the opportunity to be a part of. My AP classes afforded me the chance to earn college credits for free, my experiences in band, choir, student government, and as a mascot were life-changing and unique. I had friends, I made great grades, and I had a blast. I loved school, and I was adamant that my children would, too.
Then I had a kid who could not, would not fit in the box. Not with a mouse, not with a fox. I had a child who attended the best elementary school in all of the surrounding counties, the school that other people were fervently trying to get their children into, and it just was. not. working. We cried, we mourned, and we pulled our child out of that wonderful, award-winning school and humbly began – gasp! – homeschooling.
It took a long time to make the decision, to be honest. I’d been such a fan of public schooling for so long that it was not easy to give up the hope that it would be as amazing for my son as it had been for me. If he could only make it to high school, I’d think, then he can find his tribe. He can join band like I did and make the memories that I did. Then we’d have another IEP meeting and I’d leave in more tears. If he could only make it to middle school, he can find his tribe. He can start Pre-AP classes and finally be challenged. Then I’d get another phone call and hang up in tears. If he could only make it to next year, maybe he can get a teacher who knows how to challenge him. Maybe he’ll meet some new kids in a new class and find someone like him. Maybe next year will be better.
Then we sat in yet another IEP meeting, focusing on keeping my profoundly gifted child away from this sensory trigger and that anxious situation, addressing his behavior, his irritability, his overreactions and his social struggles. His principal, the wonderful woman who really had been trying absolutely everything she could to help, looked at me and asked, “When do we get to address his gifts?”
That was it. That was the moment, the confirmation, the sign I needed that it was time to bring him home. Thus began our homeschool journey.
We hadn’t planned for it. I hadn’t looked forward to it. I definitely didn’t feel ready for it. But here we were – homeschoolers.
I cried a lot in that meeting. I cried when we shared the decision with his team at school. I cried when I got home. I cried for a few weeks, actually. I cried at the end of the school year when I saw slideshows of the year’s highlights and pictures of fun field days. I cried over the summer when we decided he’d be staying home that year, too, and this thing was looking pretty permanent. I cried and cried and cried. I was mourning the life I’d always imagined he’d have, mourning the plans I’d made for myself. I’d made the decision to homeschool him, but I was not happy about it.
As an unexpected homeschooler, I didn’t have the same conviction and passion about home education that those around me did. I saw it as something I had to do, almost begrudgingly, rather than something I got to do. It wasn’t an option for us, we’d come to homeschooling out of desperation, out of necessity. I didn’t have the peace that came from knowing I was doing the right thing, I had the terror of hoping I was.
We started slowly, deschooling as the internet told me I should. We explored creeks and visited museums. We talked, for hours, about things that interested him, things he wanted to learn, things we could do together. We read books. We drew. We rested.
It was glorious.
The healing was nearly instant in him. He’d never fit in, he knew he was a square peg and he didn’t miss the round hole. He’d been so miserable in school that the relief of home was immediate. He was smiling again, laughing. He no longer walked around like an injured dog, as his principal had described him, coiled up and waiting to react from the overwhelming anxiety. He was able to learn, not be sent to a corner for the day with a thick book and no plan.
He started bragging to his older brother about how great homeschooling was. The look on his face was nothing short of relief and awe when I told him that he didn’t have to show his math work if he got the answer right and knew why it was correct. He could finally do what he knew to do, as fast as he could do it, without needing to stop and wait for the rest of the class, without having to waste days and attention on reviewing, without following a series of steps that did nothing but slow him down.
He was finally free.
His freedom soon became mine. Rather than seeing homeschooling as a self-imposed sentence, a punishment for having a gifted child, I began to see it as an opportunity, a privilege. As we tore through topics I’d never touched on before I had the opportunity, the privilege, to learn alongside him. As we approached stumbling blocks and frustrations I had the opportunity, the privilege, the help him through them, in his own time, in a safe environment. And yes, when there were nights when he just would not go to sleep, I had the opportunity, the privilege, to sleep in a little more the next day. Homeschooling, I discovered, was more than just a last resort – it was beautiful. It was an opportunity. It was a privilege.
If a topic interests him he doesn’t have to wait until after school, after homework, to dive into it. If a subject is hard for him then there is no rush to master it by the time a standardized test is administered. We spend hours together, talking, listening to him share his ideas and thoughts and hopes and fears. We’re able to be flexible according to weather and illness and mood. We can work on things like social struggles and relationship building, areas where he’d always struggled but never had the opportunity to address in school. If he’s having a bad day, he can have it in the comfort of home. If he’s having a good day, I get to enjoy it with him.
I said in the beginning, when we first started learning about families who homeschooled their gifted children, that I could never do it. I said that I valued our relationship too much to homeschool him, convinced that we’d fight constantly or that his intensity would wear me down to the point of resentment. But we have since grown exponentially closer. I am more in tune with his moods, his needs, his triggers. I can help him more because I know and understand him better. Our relationship has thrived because of homeschooling, not in spite of it. Where before I was exasperated by his behaviors, almost indignant towards him because of all the extra work he took, I am now more understanding, more empathetic, and his behavior has greatly improved. The kid I was afraid to homeschool is not the kid I have now. We’ve both been able to heal.
I love homeschooling now, I truly do. I feel free, empowered, encouraged. I know without a doubt that it was the right decision for my son. I see now that it was the right decision for myself, as well. What I thought was a choice made from lack of options has become a privilege and a joy. What I thought was the end of who I wanted to be has proven to be the impetus towards becoming who I was supposed to be. Homeschooling, while we went into it sobbing, has left me singing.
Homeschooling saved my son, changed him, healed him. It also saved me.