Monday, February 28, 2011

Odd man out...again

When Dragonette was two, she spontaneously started reading.  By the time she was four, not only was she a voracious reader, she knew the names and locations of the body's organs and the planets in order.  I suspected public school would not work for her even though we lived in a highly regarded school district and began researching private schools in the area.  During my research, I stumbled onto the idea of homeschooling, a concept that I had never heard of before.

The more I read, the more I knew this was the only option if I was to keep my happy little girl a happy little girl.  There is nothing like shoving a love of learning into a square box to create dissonance and discord.

My husband was completely on board and trusted my instincts.  My mother was happy as long as her grandchild was happy and thriving.  My oldest friend's weak protest included me giving up my life, but he, a childless man, did not understand I had done that the day I decided to have a child.

In the first few years, I read everything I could get my hands on about homeschooling: books, articles, email lists, websites.  I learned about homeschooling philosophies, organization, curriculum approaches and how the library was my best friend.  Even though I became well versed in homeschooling and learned how to best fit teaching with how Dragonette and Flower learned, I still had two main obstacles: a lack of any kind of support system outside my home bubble, and a secret worry that I was ruining my child's life.

In the small Ohio town we lived in when I started my homeschool journey, we stuck out like sore thumbs.  Most people loved the school district because it was very well regarded. Of the locals that did homeschool, most began their homeschooling journey due to a child's disability.  We were also transplants to the area, didn't follow a school at home philosophy, or do school in the morning. (Dragonette is most decidedly a night person.)  Talk about a quadruple whammy!

I am sure this lack of support played into my concerns over whether or not I was ruining my children's lives.  It is hard to be a pioneer and back-to-school time was always the worst.  But over time and with repetition, I slowly learned my children would excel despite me.

When we relocated to North Carolina, instantly we found a wonderful homeschooling community with people from all over the world. They brought different ideas and experiences with them and it was truly a breath of fresh air from that small suffocating Ohio town. I finally had no worries about ruining my children's futures and had friends around who didn't think my brand of weirdness was all that strange.

But lately, I have been feeling like the odd man out once again.  High school has either begun or is on the horizon for many in my children's peer group.  Parents are facing new fears on how to educate their children and I myself went through another worry time, similar to the one I went through a decade ago.  I researched and read everything I could get my hands on about homeschooling high school and what colleges look for.  Eventually the worry subsided and I knew we were still on the right path for our family.

But kids we know are dropping like flies, being sent in droves to the infamous brick and mortar school.  The ones that are left don't go to the park anymore to meet up, and mornings are only for school work.  Play time is not allowed unless it is academic in nature and there are no teen groups that meet our needs and no field trips.  Our well loved support group where we found so many friends is now extremely bottom heavy, with parents of three year olds joining and prospering.  While I am glad there is such a strong support network for them that was never available to me, I am melancholy for the old days.

I know how to make a transcript, design courses, and facilitate my children's learning.  Entering school when they are excelling at home makes no sense, so we have no reason not to homeschool through high school.  But like we started this journey, it looks like we will make it to our destination alone.

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