The Beginning First {a week of homeschooling}

Well, I think to do this whole series of homeschooling posts any real justice, I should start at the beginning… our beginning. Grab some tea, this could take awhile……

It begins.

Your kid turns 3, they start preschool. After two years of that, you send them to kindergarten. We don't question much of this, we just do it. I have nothing against the system, I have met incredible teachers, this is just our story… the road we've traveled. In the emotions and raw truth as it happened. 

My oldest was an early reader, all on his own. He just read. His reading levels were far beyond his school peers. He did not like coloring. He had a hard time sharing. He liked to be the best at everything. Did I mention he all ready knew how to read. He was bored. Kindergarten sucked.

The teacher repeatedly explained to me that she could not teach to just my child, that he would have to learn to be patient. To wait. To sit. He was six years old, and I bought every word she said. "Be good" I told him, begged him. I trusted the system, heavily reprimanded my naughty school kid, continued to send his little sister to preschool all while not sleeping because my sweet baby girl was a very colicky baby. Man that was a rough year.

The following spring my husband deployed for 13 months. I packed my belongings into a storage unit, loaded the minivan with essentials and my mom & I, with three kids under the age of 7 and a dog, drove from Cape Cod to Valdez. That adventure is still my rockstar moment…. even over childbirth. We spent the year in Cordova with my parents. The absence of their dad turned my children's lives upside down and I must say educationally we were saved by Gayle BelGarde, the first grade teacher in Cordova. She adored my boy. He was a handful in class and yet she still loved him. We needed her in that moment of our lives. The daddy came home safe and sound. We moved to Sitka. Second Grade. Third school attended by our little guy.

This year both kids go off as kindergartner and 2nd grader. They both had fabulous teachers for the next two years. (another shout out to Sandra Fontaine & Ann Walter). Jade was a good kid. She did great in school, never got in trouble. Sam had teacher's that adored him, got him tested to have an IEP for gifted kids. He was an impulsive little boy, too big for his britches 😉 But his teachers worked with him on it. I volunteered about 6-10 hours a week between the two classes. My toddler girl became the mascot of both classes. Life was peachy.

Then fourth grade began for the eldest. For my boy he had a teacher that didn't know he had an IEP. He moved across the hallway in the same school he had attended for two years, and she knew nothing of his history. She was grumpy. She was getting ready to retire. She was constantly harshly reprimanding my boy for mediocre age appropriate stuff. Like saying the would fart. He missed a whale watching field trip and stayed in from recess for this kind of stuff. She did not seem to care for rambunctious 9 year old boys at all. She once kept all the boys in the class inside for recess to talk to to them about their conduct. It was an awful year. By the end of it I had decided to homeschool. At first, just for a year to try and rekindle the smoldered flames of the want to learn in my boy. He was crushed. He hated school. He distrusted teachers. My second grade girl, through no fault of her teacher, was getting lost in a sea of waiting while the poor teacher tried to resolve serious behavior issues in her class. The good teachers routinely end up with the most challenging kids, which means the good kids spend hours a day waiting to learn while the teachers attempt to keep things together. I know this first hand because I spent a lot of time in the classroom.

At the end of this year I realized an IEP (individualized education program) is a way for schools to get more funding. They routinely push for high and low achievers to get an IEP for this reason. What is offered to your child varies greatly by school, but I have heard time & time again that high achievers regularly receive no extra opportunities. Schools generally do not have the funding to offer enrichment programs to their students. It was this moment I realized that through their most earnest attempts to teach to the middle, they were essentially teaching to no one. 

I felt beaten by the system, and hardened by the sober fact that I had blindly trusted people I did not know to teach my children for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, to educate them and return them to me in the same or better condition as I had given them.

More on this tomorrow…..


*here is you link to the other parts of this series : day 2, day 3, & day 4


24 thoughts on “The Beginning First {a week of homeschooling}

  1. Excellently written!!
    “Waiting for Superman” maybe not if Superparents show up as homeschooling moms and dads! I so miss homeschooling but it’s about what’s best for my son not what’s best for me.
    Steph, the picture at the top of your page, what is that tree? Deb


  2. THANK YOU Stephinie. You rock for sharing and this is so heavily on my mind right now that your post has me crying. I know, it is never too late to make changes, but do you ever feel that way? Can’t wait to read on…
    ps. moving to Valdez from Cape Cod? You are a rock star. And no wonder your mom, not near you, misses you!


  3. My story isn’t about MY kid, but about the other kids that I taught, or tried to teach. I saw how broken the system was and I didn’t want my daughter to be a part of it.
    I really want to watch “Waiting for Superman.” I don’t think it’s out yet though.


  4. Can’t wait to read more! I’m definitely traveling down the homeschooling road and will love to follow your journey. Thanks for sharing and good luck with these new (awesome) changes!


  5. I’m looking forward to reading more to. I know that what you’re saying about IEP’s is true. I used to be a special education teacher. My dream was to help kids, my reality was that I spent most of my day writing IEP’s that rarely were followed. I would say that in an ideal school, every kid would have an IEP (that was followed). But, my experience was that they were just a way for schools to get extra funding.


  6. Hi Stephanie,
    Your rockstar moment freakin’ rocks. Love that. And here I am feeling sorry for myself when my hubby is out of town for a few days and my assistant can’t come to school…Perspective can not be underrated.
    I’ve often described Bea as our little mascot too!
    Wow…what a journey. Your oldest sounds like my husband when he was little. Moved around a lot. Too smart for his own good. Teachers didn’t always get him. Good for you to take the time to rekindle the love of learning flame…What a gift.
    Can’t wait to read more.


  7. For so long I thought that it was just me who felt that they system was broken, who felt that there was something that was so different with the way that schools were being run from when I was a kid. The more I hear mamas (and dads too) discussing this topic, the more it breaks my heart that school life is what it is in this country today. Thanks for starting these posts, I will be including them in my homeschooling list.


  8. Deb, that is exactly “it”. Doing what is best for our kids 🙂
    We’re looking forward to watching Waiting for Superman as well. Oh yes, the picture is a seed pod from a magnolia tree. Isn’t it cool? Right now they are turning brown and little red berries/seeds are popping out of them… birds are everywhere eating them up.


  9. Nicola, you gave me a reason to share our journey. I think reading about real life experiences helps us so much to find the direction we need to be heading. It is never to late to follow your heart…. it will always guide you in the right place. And you can always change your mind. Our oldest is at a public highschool right now! Doing what feel is right here and now is what it’s all about for us….


  10. In theater! Wonder if Morgan City will play it (laughing) I do plan on watching it via netflix, it looks very powerful and I do think public education will change greatly in the very near future. At least, I am very hopeful that it will.


  11. It’s been quite the journey…. with many years to come. I hope our story inspires others to follow their heart and feel advocate for their children, whichever educational path they choose.


  12. Isn’t it frustrating? The system is so broken. It’s heartbreaking to know that so many kids are lost in a sea of paperwork. I hope that this generation will start a revolution and make some changes to our educational system. While I do miss the time volunteering, I know my kid’s homeschooled years will greatly influence their path as adults… and for the good in so many ways!


  13. It is heartbreaking. But I do think that our children’s generation will have many, many parents that demand change and challenge the way we are doing things. Here’s hoping.


  14. Ella got lost in her class too. Then, when the counselor jumped at the chance to begin the testing process for getting her into the gifted program, I felt a sense of hope and relief. A few weeks later (after they began the testing and got all of the paperwork THEY needed) she didn’t recognize me or my child and we never heard from them about the results. That spoke volumes to me, and pretty much confirmed that we were doing the right thing by not sending her back.


  15. Great post. Our school experiences are part of the reason why we are choosing to homeschool, by our our mean hubs and I.
    We both were in the “gifted” classes (different types of programs at different schools) and even then most mornings I know I dreaded going to school (teachers I thought were SO mean). I don’t want to put our kids through that. I don’t want some random person to take away Kid #1’s happy attitude and break him.
    At the kindergarten here in the area in a few towns (can’t think if I’ve said it before)they are expected to eat lunch without talking, then to put their head down on the table when they are finished.
    Recess has been cut to just one — and if they do something “wrong” teacher’s can take it away.
    Free play is important to us. Keeping Kid #1’s spirit intact is important, too (Kid #2 is a baby). And so the idea of homeschooling began.


  16. Wow. It’s heartbreaking and yet empowering. To know that you are advocating for your own kids, doing what is right for them is really amazing. And yet at the same time it’s sad to know “the system” can be so broken, especially knowing that there are a lot of passionate teachers and people wanting to work with kids stuck in the middle of it all.


  17. I so hear you on the “breaking them”. As if breaking their spirits is a means to educate them. To think that anyone could expect 5/6 year olds to hold still and sit and “behave” for 6 hours a day is just ridiculous and sad all at the same time. Those little bodies need to run and sing and dance and move to learn at that age… learning IS doing when you are little, you know? Free play is important to us too, I love knowing I (we) are raising independent thinking young people that will be strong enough to make wonderful changes in their world.


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