There is nothing like the sight of a cheerful, brightly-decorated, primary classroom to fill me with an incredible sense of both anticipation and nostalgia. The beautiful, themed bulletin boards with their fanciful colors and shapes recall the excitement I felt for each new school year and the sheer delight I experienced with each new season. The crisp black and white alphabet strips snaking their way around the room, the neat rows of paints, crayons, and pencils, and the pint-sized desks and chairs artfully arranged around the room flood my mind with blissful memories of crafty projects, picture-filled books, and the tingling excitement of learning something that was genuinely new to me each day.
School was a mostly happy place for me. Sure, I had all the normal problems any growing child has at some point or another. Learning to make friends, grappling with sharing, enduring hurtful teasing, feeling left-out and misunderstood, or struggling with sports or schoolwork that others seemed to find so easy were all issues to be confronted, but, overall, I was quite good at school. I was always one of the top students in my class, and though I was never one of the popular girls, I had a nice circle of good friends and the respect and friendship of most of my teachers and peers. I had to work hard to do well, but it was never overwhelmingly difficult.
My strengths lay with the liberal arts, and I reveled in the study of history, art, and language, but with perseverance I came to appreciate the sciences as well and grew to love a myriad of topics in biology, chemistry, and physics. My parents and teachers forged a wonderful support system for me and helped me to understand that knowledge of a wide variety of subjects whether they pertain to your chosen profession or not provides one with the tools to accurately assess and successfully navigate all of life’s challenges no matter how big or small. Mine was the classical education derived from the great philosophers and thinkers of antiquity like Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and Archimedes.
In my family, everyone went to college, and it was an unspoken expectation that we would attend respected universities and graduate with honors. My husband’s family carried those same expectations for him and his siblings to an even more extreme level than what I had experienced in mine. No other course of action was ever considered for us and so that was what we did and what I found myself naively and unfairly expecting with my own children.
Like any parent, I wanted the absolute best for my children and would stop at nothing to ensure that every opportunity be provided to them. I wanted them to have the ability to choose any career or lifestyle that they could dream of, and in my world, that required an outstanding education from elementary school through college and beyond. A classical education had worked out well for my husband and I and so a traditional, classical, well-rounded education in a traditional, classical, well-rounded brick and mortar school was what I was sure was best for my children, too. Yup, I was sure about that.
Enter reality. My husband and I have two loving, gentle, intelligent, and just plain amazing sons who are in our totally unbiased (okay, I guess seriously biased) opinions the most wonderful children anyone could ever ask for. They bring us so much happiness and joy, and every day we are so proud and honored to have them in our lives. Like all people, our children possess an incredibly complex combination of intellectual and physical abilities as well as challenges which weave together to produce beautifully unique and wondrous individuals. Individuals who may not necessarily thrive in a traditional educational setting in the same way their parents did. Our boys are very intelligent, gifted by the public school’s test standards, thoughtful, and hard-working, but they also deal with some significant disabilities including Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, and sensory integration disorder. And so, that happy, memory-filled classroom of my youth which I had so mistakenly known (yup, known) would be an enjoyable and beneficial place for my children is in actuality an incredibly scary, confusing, and frustrating spot for them.
Our oldest son is very philosophical yet has difficulty with abstract thinking. He assimilates languages easily yet struggles with the subtleties of human expression. He is curious about the sciences but dislikes physical experimentation. He notices everything but cannot find the way to emulate the behavior of others or control the anxiety that surges in him with every sight, smell, and touch he experiences.
Our youngest son is a mechanical genius but has difficulty coordinating his movements. He visualizes intricate contraptions and complex mathematical equations but cannot remember a single multiplication fact. He adores hands-on scientific investigations but struggles to write the simplest of sentences. He is often oblivious to his surroundings and cannot comprehend the sounds he hears when he does in fact tune into his environment.
For my boys, our local schools, though filled with dedicated teachers, nurturing staff, and many kind-hearted children, were places of overwhelming stress, constant frustration, and often deep sadness. They were also places where federal and state mandates had created educational systems that rarely allowed talented and creative teachers to foster a love of learning in their students and drove desperate administrators to simply teach students to pass the required tests to ensure adequate school funding.
After several years of watching our children struggle and losing a continuing fight for resources to help them with their disabilities, we made what was for us the difficult but necessary decision to homeschool our children.
This blog is an effort to share all of the things I have learned about education and the art of teaching in the nine years I’ve been homeschooling my boys since accepting that traditional schooling simply wasn’t an effective or even tolerable educational option for them. What I knew would be a very challenging endeavor turned out to be an infinitely more difficult and far more rewarding venture than I had ever imagined. I am not a trained educator and lack the wisdom and expertise of experienced teachers, and I quickly discovered that true learning involves so much more than a comprehensive curriculum and a willing parent. There is so much to know about learning styles, curriculum development, special needs adaptations, and a host of other pertinent topics that it can be overwhelming for even experienced homeschoolers to effectively help their children achieve their infinite potential. I have benefited tremendously from the recommendations and insights of other homeschool parents, life-long educators, medical professionals, and many others who have bravely and entertainingly documented their personal experiences addressing all of these issues and many more. While I haven’t the wit and prowess of many other writers, it is my sincere hope that this account of my experiences and discoveries will serve to help, comfort, and inspire others who wish to provide a classical education to their very special, non-classical learners as well and maybe share a chuckle or two along the way. I am honored you have stopped by and want to sincerely welcome you to my blog!