Monday, October 16, 2017

Launching into homeschooling

L and J at Arataki Visitors Centre today.

So this will be totally out of the blue for a lot of you, but we've decided to homeschool our eldest daughter, L. Her official school exemption letter from the Ministry of Education came through on the weekend, just in time for us to launch into term four of 2017 at home.

Why are we doing this? Well, in a nutshell, because L wasn't happy at school.

She had to change schools partway through last year when we bought our house, but never really settled into her new school, despite having loved her old one.

Unfortunately for L, her younger sister, S, started school shortly after we made the move, so I was busy trying to get S settled into school for the first time and left L to handle things on her own for too long. I really wish I'd been there for her more last year. I guess I just didn't expect things to go as badly as they did. She had taken to her old school like a fish to the sea and I just kept on expecting her to adjust.

But she didn't.

Over the last year and a half I've watched my happy, outgoing, vivacious girl become increasingly tearful, withdrawn, needy, unsure of herself and unsure how to behave around others.

I had meeting after meeting with her school about it, and they were amazing and wonderful at trying to support L. But the fact is, she's one kid in a big school, so despite the school's awareness of the situation, she still got lost in the system. Which is completely understandable. Teachers are asked to do SOOO much in their jobs. How was L's teacher supposed to deal with L melting down multiple times a day when he had twenty-five other students to help and teach?

Because of all the meltdowns, I started considering the idea of homeschooling. L was begging me every day to let her stay home, so it was natural to start thinking about whether homeschooling could work for us.

I mulled over it for a looooong time. Really long.

But I doubted my ability to educate L in any successful, meaningful way. There's a reason I didn't go to teachers' college, after all.

I wondered about all the things she would miss out on that she gets in the school environment, like daily P.E. with lots of kids, or like the chance to perform in assembly in front of a large crowd.

I also doubted whether I'd have the energy to give her what she would need from me, day after day.

But I decided to put all my fears and doubts aside when L's violin teacher told me she needed to cancel lessons because L was melting down every week and it was too stressful teaching her. In that moment I realised something drastic had to change. L needed major support and one-on-one time with someone who loved her unconditionally, so she could get her confidence back. She needed someone to take the time to walk with her through her dark moments, giving her avenues to take other than to just sit down and be quiet.

Already with homeschooling I've had the chance to see how this one-on-one time with L works in action. I put together a spelling test for L using words I noticed she had misspelt in a story. She got to copy the correct words once, and then I took away the master list and tested her on them. She sat the test and when I marked it, I found that she had only got one word wrong. Her total score was 17/18, for words that half an hour before she had misspelt completely. But instead of seeing the success she'd just had in learning 17 new words, L lasered in on that one misspelt word and burst into tears.

The words coming out of her mouth were just awful to hear.

"I'm so stupid!" was her most commonly repeated phrase. I couldn't believe she'd say that about herself and I said as much, but there was no consoling her.

I told her to go outside and lie on the trampoline and look up at the sky for a bit while I made us hot chocolates (I always feel calmer looking at the sky, so I hoped it would help calm her down too). Then I came outside and we sat on the deck together and drank our hot chocolates while we talked through what had just happened.

I asked her what she would have said to her brother or sister if they had got 17/18 on a spelling test. Would she have called them stupid? No, of course not.

From there we discussed the idea that the way we speak about ourselves shapes ourselves. That we have to be just as kind in the way we speak about ourselves, as we are when speaking about others. The conversation got deep. It got spiritual. And by the end, I could see L was feeling a lot better.

I was so glad to have been there with her for that. If she had been at school when it happened, I don't know how they would have dealt with it, but I'm sure it wouldn't have got to issues of core identity. More likely she would have been sent to the classroom next door while she calmed herself down.

And that's why we've decided to homeschool L. So I can be there with her to walk through the hard stuff that seems to be cropping up for her at the moment.

I don't know how long it will be for - we're taking that term by term - but it will be at least until I'm convinced she's developed the skills to go out into the world and deal with disappointments without being completely debilitated by them.


  1. Wow.. Totally profound, and totally well handled Mum. I know many people will have incredible feed back for you but I just want to say " Well done for overcoming your doubts in Yourself And your abilities.. Stepping out of your comfort zone, reaching and teaching your wee girl from your heart to her 💓. It truly is a God-given "moment" in your lives and I'm so thankful you've embraced it. You are giving her back her self worth. God bless you both throughout this journey. Lvya heaps. X

    1. Thank you Colleen, maybe her education will come along just fine at home. Hopefully it will. And the relational stuff and sense of self is the real goal here.

  2. I am a teacher and not one who believes that a school setting is always the answer. It's a very good thing that you have recognised your daughter's struggle and considered options that might work. It's very hard for many children to begin at a new school or a very different school and sometimes, if that school isn't right for the child for whatever reason, it's best to accept that and find an alternative. I hope that your daughter regains her confidence and sense of self. Meg:)

  3. Poor L! I wonder what happened to make her lose confidence. Sounds like you're doing what she needs now!

    1. Yeah it's hard to know, since I wasn't there during the school day, but since it was affecting everything for her, I decided it's better to pull her out and work on what I can.

  4. I'm sorry your girl is going through these tough times but she's lucky you've got her back and I'm sure it'll be a path of learning and discovery for everyone. An inspirational story - thank you for sharing.

  5. Such a fantastic read. I love how you took your mumma instincts onboard knowing something had to change while acknowledging your own fears and doubts in your abilities. Very relatable story. I feel so happy for your girl that you stepped in. All best for you two xx

    1. Thanks Kimberley! I'm hoping my mama instincts are right on this one. I guess time will tell. Xx

  6. How blessed she is to have such a caring mum! Another homeschooling muma here! 💛

  7. Sounds like you've made the right choice! I'm sure you will have some wonderful times together. There's lots of us homeschoolers out there. I hope you join your local group - it's good to be able to talk to people who are going through a similar thing :-)


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