In February 2007, I walked out of my oldest son’s school, and I wasn’t about to look back. I was a single parent, and a Ph.D. student, and since moving to Michigan, there was one hurdle after another with the school my then 8-year-old went to. The latest problem was that he was despondent each day when he’d get home because he was dealing with a pretty brutal bullying situation. When I pointed out that the school had a “no-bullying policy,” and was told that my son “makes himself a target.”
They made the decision quite easy for me.
It was a decision I didn’t really want to make. I’d been homeschooled myself – in 8th grade because my mom wasn’t happy with the social situation – and again in 11th grade, again largely for social reasons but also so I could take the California High School Proficiency Exam, graduate high school early (November 1994 is when I graduated – I was class of 1996), and start college, which I did at 17 years old at Diablo Valley College in what would have been spring of my junior year of high school.
Even though I’d been homeschooled and the experience worked for me, I wasn’t a fan of homeschooling. It was lonely as a kid, I felt a bit awkward and strange, and I didn’t know any other kids or teens who had been homeschooled at that time. It had a kind of stigma that went with it too – even though I took advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had, in the 1990s, homeschooling kind of pegged you as the “odd” kid. In fact, other than my younger brother, I didn’t know anyone else who had been homeschooled until I met Ben in college, who became one of my close friends. I won’t get into his story much now, but he was homeschooled for religious reasons.
But when my big kid was in kindergarten, I came across the book The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. I started working through it as I was also going through my MA degree program at Northern Illinois University. By that time, Columbine had happened, the whole No Child Left Behind thing was a thing, and, well, even though I was never ever going to homeschool, it began to enter my mind that maybe I wanted to at least supplement what my son was learning in school. When I looked into Susan Wise Bauer, I found that she co-authored another book, one on homeschooling – The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM) with Jessie Wise.
I read through TWTM several times – with a highlighter and a pencil. I then bought their history curriculum – Story of the World (not secular, but at that time, I found it to be the best available. I also picked up a copy of First Language Lessons. My intent was to do what they called “afterschooling,” but in reality, that didn’t happen. So on that day in February 20, I didn’t even blink when I told the school he would not be returning.
Fast forward several years – my oldest wanted to go back to public school for 8th grade, and he did well there, but I missed most aspects of homeschooling. When my daughter was born in 2013, we decided we’d homeschool her and whoever came after her all the way through – and with a brief exception in 2019-2020 when she tried out kindergarten, that’s what we have been doing. And it’s what we plan to do long-term.
If you homeschool, how did you get started?