The Education of a Homeschooling Mum
Posted on February 15, 2014
A little over a year ago, if someone had told me that I would be here writing this, I would have laughed in their face. I would have laughed not because I had a better choice but because I didn't know of a better way to do what I was doing then. All his days, well except for his brief exploration of the world of the star students who took home the price and in which he was a star student for a year in kindergarten, my son had been an academic struggler.

To be honest, he was a struggler, period. It was not just academics. He struggled with trying to keep a balance between making his friends happy and making his teachers happy. He struggled to impress us, his parents, most of the time but ended up thwarting his own efforts even before he had begun. In school, it was obvious that he wanted to impress his teachers, I didn't always know this by the way, but between trying so hard to decipher the endless math jargons, which somehow seemed to only get more 'jargonny', and going with boys like him who also didn't have a clue what they were being taught, fun with the boys always seemed to weight down the scales.

Teachers who tried too hard to help him decode the magical coded language of maths, ended up becoming unwelcome additions to his worries. He became convinced that they were not helping him, but adding to his burdens. Why didnt they just let him go by with his D and E grades? Slowly but surely, the years and the new classes became even more bothersome and of course so did his lack of confidence in school activities.

Then the letters started pouring in,  "Dear Parents, in line with the new school programme, we have decided to devote a special class for some of our slow learners ........ and we assure you that this shall not in any way compromise your child's ability to learn....."

And so a child who already suffered so much lack of confidence from the constant nagging from both parents and teachers suddenly found himself shamefully removed from the midst of "normal" learners and hoisted into a new classroom with some other students whom he had probably heard the other children snigger at behind their backs for being "dumb", " foolish" or "crazy". His fate was sealed! He now had to face the fact that he was one of the "dumb" ones. He gave up. If they had to put him in a special class, then maybe there was something wrong with his brain. His anger and lack of confidence sky rocketed.  Why would his parents allow that to happen? Why didnt that teacher who claimed he could help him, ask them to give him more time to learn? Why were they putting him in a class with the school rejects?

And that was how we (me, hubby, son and teachers) all entered into a permanent whirlwind of endless anger, frustrations, disappointments and sadness. Sometimes I will scream so badly at him, especially in the morning rush time when I find out that he had "forgotten" his assignments at home, that I will spoil my whole day thereon.  Sometimes, the teacher will call me and swear to the effectiveness of extra lessons that his father will instantly agree to pay. Sometimes, he will do so poorly in his school work that we would be called into the school for a meeting with his teachers.

The only reason I knew the teachers didn't completely dismiss me as a failed mother was because I had two other children in the school primary section and one in the baby class. My daughters, bless them both, were star students! They always brought home glowing reports. And so life continued for us. Then we had to move across continents to start a brand new chapter for the next two years. I tried all I could to get all four of my kids into one school in our new country but couldnt. None of the schools I contacted had spaces for all four children. some offered to take in the two youngest, some offered spaces only for the girls, some had a space each for one boy and one girl and so on the funny offers kept coming.

That was when my husband and I decided to pursue other options. We read articles about families who had found themselves in similar situations as us and how Homeschooling came to their rescue. My husband was very wary at first but as there was nothing we could do, we decided it was to be our best option, at least for the first year.  We looked up every article we could find, we sent out emails to providers of homeschool services, we looked up support groups and we looked up curricula. I decided, as I was going to be teaching them, to go with a curriculum that wouldn't task me too much. I had never taught my kids by myself and I wasnt about to take on such a heavy burden on my shoulders in a foreign country in which I myself had come to be a post graduate student.

Having found and contacted a curriculum provider of our choice, we plunged in. For the first one month or so, we were still excited. The kids loved their new teachers, who were little funny online cartoon characters who delivered their lessons in a very funny way. Then slowly, the loneliness began to set in. The kids started to miss their school friends. Even my son who never had anything good to say about school, began to talk about going back to school. I had earlier contacted a homeschooling group in my new home country via email and I was told to simply call and register my arrival so I could attend an introductory meetup to get to know some of the other members.  I knew as soon as my kids started asking to go back to school that it was time to get to meet my homeschool group.

So I called them. I was very apprehensive at first as I found that my kids and I were very different from the members I had met. We were a different race, from a different continent had never homeschooled and weren't even homeschooling by choice at that time.  Most of the mothers I met had been doing it for years and spoke about homeschooling with so much confidence that I questioned our choice instantly. We, my children and I, simply didn't sound like them. I didn't have any confidence or experience to my credit and my kids had been in school and were now asking to go back.

Then, just like a flower unfolds, our homeschool journey began to unfold. We started to feel like a part of the group. My kids suddenly had new friends they looked forward to meeting every week but most of all, my son began to pick a lot of interest in his school work. Here was a cartoon character (his favourite pastime was watching cartoons) teaching him all those boring maths lessons in a completely new way and even asked him all the time to go back and take the lesson again if he didnt understand it. He was in maths heaven! He will come to me with his scores beaming from ear to ear and tell me he just took a test and scored 60%! He who used to score 20% back in school. Not that 60% was even a pass mark in his new curriculum, it was 80%, but the fact that he could score 60% on his own during a lesson was simply magic to him.

Now one year on, I have found new friends, almost sisters, in my homeschool group, my kids have had experiences they would never have had otherwise, my son has finally discovered the magical world of books, my girls have made new friends, our neighbours have pulled their kids from school to homeschool them too after seeing all the positive improvements in my kids, my youngest son jumps up every time he sees the GOOGLE logo anywhere and screams "GOOGLE" and best of all, I have learnt that children all learn in different ways.

My son isnt a "slow" learner, he is just a "different" learner, he is in fact a very "fast" learner of things he was interested in and it was the system in place in traditional schools that almost thwarted his abilities. Recently, I saw something he wrote in which he described his best subject as Science. No, it isnt math just yet but I am sure it is only a matter of time. Did I mention earlier that he hated science then too? So you see, it is a start.

I have learnt so much from my homeschool experience this past year. I don't know what the future holds for us when we go back home, but for now, this is one experience I will forever cherish.

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