I have thought of myself as many things over the last few decades, but I never thought I would be a homeschooler, much less a Catholic homeschooler. Although a cradle Catholic, I don’t seem to fit into many of the Catholic female stereotypes that I see in the younger generation. I didn’t covert to the faith as a young adult, I can’t hand-letter Bible verses or paint water colors, I don’t journal a lot, and I only have two kids (Infertile Irish Catholic, not NFP). Therefore, no one was more surprised than I when I announced to my husband last spring that we would be homeschooling our son for 7th grade.
Even though I have my secondary teaching certificate, I was not too sure about middle school. I had taught religious ed to elementary school aged kids, too, but once you’re past the cotton ball lamb phase, it’s no joke. I also had to let go of my own prejudices that homeschooling was somehow not good enough, not “real school.” After all, back in our day, it wasn’t that popular. I confess that I grew up thinking of homeschooling as something of an oxymoron and the domain of sister wives. How wrong I was.
Luckily, we found a program that allowed us the flexible combination of true homeschooling, online classes, and self-paced classes. I learned at least as much as my son this year. Not just Earth Science and diagramming sentences, either. We started off the year with a bang, quite literally, as we evacuated for the hurricane. While my daughter was off school for two weeks, my son didn’t miss a class, thanks to the internet and his portable classroom. He was not too thrilled. Liam was loaded up with seven challenging courses that we both had a hard time juggling. In addition, this was the first time he had been expected to take class notes and turn them in. His autism and ADHD make writing painful for all involved, and, he hadn’t been in classes with typical kids for two years. I wasn’t sure how this would go.
I am pleased to say, he rose to the occasion, on every front. His writing, especially, has improved this year. Rather than missing social opportunities, I have seen him come into himself in his online classes, telling jokes and volunteering to say the opening and closing prayers for class, even though his speech can still be somewhat garbled. He has finally started checking his own assignments and showing responsibility. He loves being in class and having the dogs around him, and he is able to get a Dr. Pepper whenever he wants.
Another reason homeschooling turned out to be a good thing was that Liam grew 5 inches this year. He has spent much of the year asleep, like any teen-aged boy going through a growth spurt. It took me an hour on average just to wake him up. I found myself thankful over and over again that I didn’t have to wake him up with his sister, dragging him half asleep to school.
So what did I learn this year? I learned to trust my son (he is right a lot more than I would have suspected.). I learned that he has a great sense of humor. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, i.e., Math. I learned to be flexible. I learned to tailor our work so neither one of us was overwhelmed. I learned how my child learns, so that when/if he goes back to typical school, I can really tell teachers how he learns best. I learned that when my husband and daughter are gone, it is really quiet in the house.
As we close out this year, I am not quite sure what scared me so much about homeschooling. I am already excited and planning for next year. First Form Latin, here we come! Trust, flexibility, and knowing when to ask for help. Sounds like being a good Christian, huh?