The Educational Road Less Traveled

Four years ago, my family made the difficult decision to take an alternate educational path and pull our daughters from traditional school to homeschool.

This was not an easy decision, and has not always been an easy path to take; but looking back, it was the best thing we could do for our kids at the time.

It quickly became evident to me that the stereotypical reason that people homeschool is to push their children to learn quicker and move ahead. Many people made comments about how advanced our kids would be, and how quickly they could soar through math. This was not our goal. Instead, we chose to homeschool for the following reasons:

  • Competence – Already by first grade, my oldest daughter was throwing pencils during homework. Shouldn’t she be working on number recognition, simple addition problems with cute little pictures, or manipulatives to see and experience the reason we do math? Instead, math was about counting money; reading clocks; concepts that required understanding how to count competently by 5’s and 10’s; and doing homework – every… single… night… She was in first grade, and her confidence in her ability to do math was already blown. By third grade, she was at the teacher’s desk daily; and she hated math, and quite honestly learning as a whole. Our goal was to back things up, build a solid foundation, and continue from there. I knew that if she believed in herself, learning would be an entirely different story. She may never love to learn or excel in school; but she didn’t need to think and feel that she was incapable of doing it.
  • Foundations – If simple addition wasn’t in place, incompetence in math was sure to follow. We knew we needed to build a solid math foundation for her to move forward. In addition, we learned quickly that our younger daughter had auditory processing problems due to her chronic ear infections as a child. She struggled in first grade too, not because she couldn’t understand the concepts. She couldn’t accurately distinguish sounds in the room, and tapping pencils, crumpling paper, or feet shuffling would become auditory priorities over what the teacher was saying. This wasn’t because she didn’t want to learn; but her brain never learned to appropriately prioritize the sounds coming in. Remediating this problem needed to become a priority before a classroom environment would be appropriate for her.
  • Small Classroom Environment – Having one daughter who was overwhelmed with school and the other overwhelmed with the sounds of the environment, it was essential to provide a small classroom so as to support their individual needs. Our older daughter had the flexibility to work at her own pace, and our younger daughter didn’t have to filter the multiple sounds of a busy classroom. We could back up and support them according to their own needs so neither one of them felt so overwhelmed.

While the process wasn’t always smooth; and there were days and weeks that I questioned whether we were doing the right thing, I can look back now and know with certainty that this was what they each needed. The reasons they were pulled from traditional school were clearly very different, but made sense for both of them. In my many years of working with families, I’ve often noticed parents feeling trapped when school wasn’t going well. If traditional school isn’t going well for your child, there are several options available that may be a better fit – even if only temporarily, to get him/her back on the right track.

Post written by Michelle VanderHeide, MSW – Social Worker at Horizons Developmental Resource Center

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