Ages/Grades of Children: 8 (1st/2nd grade) and 11 (6th grade)
Location: Western Maine
Why and when did you decide to homeschool your children?
In March of 2014, after months of fighting with our local elementary school for help and accommodations for my kindergartner with no avail, we decided – that instead of putting more time and energy into fighting the school district’s red tape and contradictory rules – to homeschool him. The elementary school stated that he needed to fail first grade in order to qualify for an IEP. They were certain he would indeed fail, but refused any help until he did. My husband and I couldn’t see letting our little guy, who was already developmentally delayed by thirty-six months, fall even further behind before giving him the help he needed to learn. He is a special needs kiddo. He has bilateral femoral ante torsion. Which means in utero, his pelvis did not form properly causing his hips to turn inward. This causes his feet to turn inward as well and he trips over them constantly. The public school refused to even make accommodations in gym class or recess, and he came home almost daily with injuries from trying to keep up with tasks he was physically unable to safely do. He will have surgery to correct this in 2016. He was also significantly developmentally delayed by thirty-six months in gross and fine motor. With two years of bi-weekly physical and occupational therapy, we are making huge strides forward! In March of 2015, with the school environment shifted to constant testing and the need for the children to score well to qualify for funding and such, his older brother left public school and began homeschooling as well. Both of my children are out of the box learners. They just were not succeeding in a traditional setting because they need to move and do in order to think and process information.
What is your favorite subject to teach? Why?
My favorite subject to teach is history, but art would be a tie or close second. I love studying our past and learning about where we have come from. My sixth grader loves to discuss how events have changed the world today and if the past events had slightly different outcomes, how would that have affected the world we live in today. We often study the art that was created during the time of history we are studying. We are currently studying ancient history, so we have made cave paintings, death masks and chalk pastel drawings of King Tut.
Which resources or curricula have been most beneficial to your homeschool?
Three curricula options that have been the most beneficial to our homeschool is Reading Eggs for teaching my youngest to read. He has a lazy eye in addition to eye teaming and tracking issues. The optometrist said it was like the letters and words were dancing around the page because his eyes were not working together to focus on them properly. Once he began wearing eye glasses and working on eye convergence exercises with his occupational and physical therapist, he finally began to read. It is still slow-going, but Reading Eggs has made it fun and so much less stressful than traditional methods. Apologia science curriculum and Story of The World for history/ geography have worked really well for us. Both my boys are hands-on learners and have done so well with the notebooking style, as well as the multiple projects, experiments and crafts.
How has your homeschooling approach changed since you began?
My homeschool has changed extraordinarily since we began homeschooling almost two years ago. When we first began, I ordered a scripted, boxed curriculum much like what they would have done in school. After months of tears and fighting from trying to recreate public school at home, I threw it all away and took a much more active, hands-on approach. In spelling we use stamps on play dough, string letter beads together, use wiki sticks, write in shaving cream, bounce on our trampoline and take the test verbally. I took the work out of the book and brought it to life. During math we use tons of games and manipulatives. We do a lot more reading out loud for history or science topics. I’ve found so many documentaries too. Hands-on projects make the learning easier and fun, which also improves their retention of the subject. Recently, my kiddos made models of a cell out of Legos and a map of ancient Egypt on Minecraft.
What’s the best homeschooling advice you’ve ever received?
We are so blessed that my children’s occupational therapist was a homeschooling mom as well! She has been a great sounding board for ideas and encouragement, especially since I knew no one that homeschooled. We were on our own. Her best piece of advice was to teach to the children and not to the curriculum. The curriculum is just a tool to guide us, not law written in stone. Don’t be afraid to tweak it to meet each child’s unique educational needs. You also don’t need to complete every question on the page or lesson in the book to be successful.
How has homeschooling benefited your family?
Homeschooling has benefited our family immensely because we are not tied down to the typical school schedule or calendar. Working with more of a year-round schedule has worked well for retention and to prevent burnout. We school for six weeks and take one week off. My husband is an assistant manager at a major retail chain. If it wasn’t for homeschooling, he probably would rarely see the boys. We love and need that flexibility! Most importantly, homeschooling has benefited us because we can choose the curriculum and teaching style that best suits each child’s learning style.