Home Schooling, Two Months On

It has been a little more than two months since S and I started home school. I worried about a lot of things before I started—whether I’d have the time or patience for one-on-one instruction, whether S would have the patience or attention span for it, whether she’d end up being imbalanced by not learning in a classroom of kids her own age, whether she’d be miserable without other kids around her, whether I’d be miserable not having my own personal time during the day, and so on. So I have to say I’m genuinely astonished at how well these last two months have gone.

Before I go into all of the good that has come from home schooling, let me fill out the background a little so that you’re aware of some factors that have probably played a large part in all the goodness.

First, I stopped taking on copyediting projects. This is a hard one for me. I love freelancing. It’s really part of who I am. So consciously setting it aside to focus on a child who has actually managed pretty well in an assembly-line educational setting was painful. But recognizing that the assembly-line format wasn’t allowing her to develop into her best self made my sacrifice feel worth it.

"I'm not imbalanced. I'm balanced."
Factor three is that S is not a typical ten-year-old girl. She has an incredible attention span for anything that interests her, and most academic things interest her. And she has shown herself to be more mature, cooperative, and helpful than I had expected. That was a happy discovery that came after I took this leap of faith.
The second factor that probably contributes to much of our success is that we live on a compound, which is basically a gigantic multicultural neighborhood where kids are free to roam and explore as if this were the 1950s. S has lots of non-family social opportunities after school and on weekends. 

At any rate, I’ve independently confirmed what her teachers have been telling me for years: S is a wonderful student. Far from seeming imbalanced because she is not in a classroom every day, she actually seems more balanced and happier than I’ve ever seen her.

She’s more confident too. That may be because she gets hours and hours of attention from me during the school day. Undoubtedly, it also helps that she’s no longer surrounded by people who are always telling her how shy or quiet or sad she seems. Nor does she waste time wondering if everybody is whispering about her because of a thorough answer she gave in class or because she’s reading in the corner while everyone else is talking.

Her new confidence seems to make socializing a little easier. She’s more comfortable with who she is. She still doesn’t go out of her way to meet new people, but she’s excited when friends come over, and she plays with them enthusiastically and with great imagination. S is now even brave enough to attend her dance classes without requiring me or her little sister to stay in the room with her. (That was a milestone accomplishment.)

Because I’m a chronically task-driven kind of mother, sitting and watching my child complete assignments from start to finish has always been hard for me. But home schooling is schooling me. Taking time to understand the learning process helps me better understand not only S but also my other children.

Although I obviously have less time for my routine tasks, slowing down enough to watch my daughter work has been revelatory. I recognized how much time she must have been wasting on material that comes very easily to her. Although we’re only a couple of months into the school year, for example, S has finished more than four months’ worth of her spelling course. Conversely, within the first few weeks of math, it was evident that she didn’t even understand how to do the prerequisite long division. (And I’m guessing that had she covered this material in a regular classroom, she wouldn’t have been assertive enough to get the help she needed to understand the process. She would have been left behind.)

She has also discovered that she actually enjoys playing the piano. She plays it whenever she feels tired of studying; it’s a great way to reignite her mind and body when she has lost her focus. What a great realization!

Truth be told, these last few weeks have been some of the happiest both of us have ever lived. Home school has definitely disrupted my life, but overall the disruption has been pretty great. My daughter is thriving like never before, and I am becoming a better mom.