Original Blog Post April 14, 2016
When we first decided to start this homeschooling adventure in January of 2015 it was overwhelming! I was nervous, excited, scared, and eager to be the best I could be. I just knew that this was the best thing I could do and that I would be the perfect teacher. Well that last thought was short lived.
I thought I would plan for a couple of weeks and then pull my special needs son out of public school. He had a couple of fun outings planned and I didn’t want him to miss out as he was looking forward to them. Well one thing led to another and he had a couple of medical issues that led to him being pulled out earlier than I had anticipated. The medical issues had also prevented me from ‘planning’ out anything. So there I was with him at home and 2 toddlers too. Crazy? Yes!
So I quickly joined a couple of special needs groups on FB. Only to be criticized and put down by my apparent ignorance of his condition and lack of knowledge about his educational programs at school. (I didn’t want to go into details with them about the fact that he was recently adopted and that I really didn’t know a lot about his history. I had broke down crying at the first IEP because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do and they had revealed a lot of things about his history that I had not been aware of. It was a completely heartbreaking experience. I also didn’t know that there were resources out there to help me through the whole process.) I was a wreck.
Then I had emails and calls from the school system and they just confused me more. I had submitted the necessary paperwork but I was constantly worried. This constant worry made me exhausted. To top it all off I couldn’t get him to ‘keep up’ with his program that we had signed up for. I was afraid that I had made a huge mistake and that I was failing him.
The FB groups had given me a little direction about online programs. I enrolled him at Kindergarten level and we got started. He was excited at first and always wanted to do ‘school work’. The problem was that he would only do the activities that he liked and he would absolutely refuse to do anything else. If I left him unattended he would be playing games or such and not doing actual work. Well in less than 2 weeks I was frustrated, he was frustrated and so was everyone else in the house.
We were spending 8+ hours/day on kindergarten work! The house was really showing it. Dinners were made but not anything to brag about in any way, shape or form. I was trying to keep a smile on my face when others asked how our homeschooling was going. Inside I felt like they were just laughing at me and saying, ‘I told you so.’.
I prayed and prayed and asked God for help. Guess what? I should’ve been more sincere in my prayers in the beginning. I was using google (my best friend) and researching more resources when I found Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. This has been such a blessing to our family and it has lifted so much stress off of me that I want to shout it out to the world. This site is also absolutely free. (There are optional materials that you can buy and you can also make donations.)
I started out using this with just my one son but then the 2 little guys joined in. Wow! Can it really be this easy? Are they really learning? Yes and yes! Once I was able to feel a little bit more comfortable with the homeschooling process I was able to let go of some of my ‘school’ mentality. This is our home, not a school, and this is where we learn but it is also where we live. In short I had felt ‘pressured’ to make our learning are look like school. Once I let go of most of that then our journey really began.
Then as the end of the school year approached I started feeling the stress creeping back up. A lot of talk about evaluations and I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to ‘prove’ what he had learned. He was 12 and working at Kindergarten level. I could see the progress he was making but would this evaluator? Who would I use that would take his special needs into consideration? A million questions and no answers. Again I turned to God and prayed that he would show me an answer. He did. In one of the new FB groups I had joined I read about Florida Unschoolers . It is a completely free private umbrella school in Florida.
Hmm… This was new. I had another million questions. What was an umbrella school? Would I qualify? Can it really be free? Will I need evaluations? What the heck is unschooling? The site will answer all of those questions and more.
There is also a FB group which has been a very valuable resource for me. I researched a bit and then enrolled my son. Shortly afterwards I pulled 2 of my other kids out of public school and enrolled them. I had planned in my head to let them finish the school year out but plans changed. One of my girls, who was in 2nd grade, was having a horrible time keeping up with her schoolwork and she was stressed out by the upcoming end of the year tests. One was in Kindergarten and she was stressing over evaluations and coming home saying she wasn’t ‘smart enough’.
There were also some bullying issues. We had also had a couple of close calls at the bus stop when people ignored the flashing lights and stop signs. They were in elementary school! The stress was causing my 2nd grader to act out and I found myself going to school several times to pick her up because of mysterious illnesses. Then I got an email from her teacher stressing how important it was for her to do her best. She needed to be reading at a higher level (3.2?) and she wasn’t there yet. That was enough for me. I withdrew them from school that week and they were private schoolers the next week.
Last summer as school preparations were being made my high schooler made the decision to become a private schooler too. Yes, we still ‘homeschool’ but technically they are enrolled with a private school. We haven’t looked back. Life is so much calmer. Yes, we have tough days, and sometimes tough weeks. We rarely have a ‘perfect homeschool’ day… actually today has been pretty close… but perfect doesn’t matter because we are learning. I say ‘we’ because I am learning too.
I am learning about my children, each individual soul, and how they learn best. We are all learning better ways to communicate and relate to others. This whole experience has brought us closer together and made our lives so much better. I am able to spend more individual time with each of them, time that teachers in a 30+ student classroom simply don’t have. I also worked with our family doctor and both of my special needs kiddos are completely off their medications. This was an unplanned benefit. With the kids at home I was able to help them learn their triggers and by setting up routines we all know what is expected and when it is expected. When there are changes we deal with them and we learn how to handle them in appropriate ways.
There are also cons to this. I NEVER get a break from my kids. Ok, I do go grocery shopping once a week, but other than that someone is usually always with me. There is a lot of planning involved, which this is mostly my own stubbornness to let completely go of ‘school’ mentality. I like to have everything planned and scheduled so I can keep track of progress. I am also a little paranoid sometimes that someone will show up at my door and ‘demand’ proof that my kids are in school and learning. I was also stressing a bit about high school transcripts. I had never done them and I had researched several sites but I was still a bit confused. I just didn’t have the time to invest in figuring it out.
That brings me to another really important resource that I have recently found. Yes, I had been praying that God would help me get this homeschool stuff more organized. I had a few different things here and there. I was working on my own spreadsheet/calendar system but I really didn’t have the time I needed to get it the way I wanted. We did use a notebook system at the beginning of this school year. It worked wonderfully except that when I had to write down everything for each child it was a lot of work. Again on FB I found an app called Homeschool Manager . This is not a free app but they did, and probably still do, offer a free trial. It took me a bit to set it up because I have so many kids. But within the first week I had signed up and paid for the membership. This site is amazing and they are constantly adding new features. They also have a FB group for support and advice.
With this app I can almost instantly print off reports for attendance and grades. I can print off schedules and the kids can check off the tasks as they do them. I enter grades into the system and it will keep track of everything. It will even print off transcripts when I need them. Well, its about lunch time for us here. I really hope this might be a helpful start for anyone considering homeschooling. I know I don’t have a lot of resources in this post but I will work on future posts that will include some resources.
I want everyone to know that I am not ‘bashing’ public school and I know that it works for some kids. (I have 3 who graduated from public school and are wonderfully, normal young people.) I am also not saying that homeschooling is the answer to every problem but this is what is best for our family at this time. I also want everyone to know that I have not been, nor do I expect to be paid, for naming any of the sites in this post. I just want to be a help for anyone out there with the same struggles that I have been through.