A Guest Blog – The Default Homeschooler

This is a guest blog from Cindy LaJoy, as homeschool mom (and an excellent writer). I’ve asked her to start to share her homeschool experience on this blog. I think you’ll find her views interesting and her writing entertaining and informative. Here’s the first:
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A little over a year and a half ago, with knees trembling and not an ounce of uncertainty in my heart, I walked out of our son’s 5th grade classroom with cell phone in hand, telling my husband that we had to make a move and it had to be Right Now. What I had just observed in Matthew’s class was enough to scare me into action. There, right before my eyes, I was watching the disintegration of all that we had spent years trying to accomplish. My formerly eager, engaged son had spent the past 15 minutes with his head laying on his desk as his class tried in vain to define the word “agreement”. When in desperation his teacher finally turned to Matthew and asked if he could share an appropriate definition, he lifted his head up and apathetically stated in a flat voice “It’s when people come to an understanding with each other, when they compromise, you know, like with a treaty.” and he flopped his head back on the desk in what I took to be an effort to totally disconnect from this environment that was slowly sucking the life out of him.

Thus it became clear, we had no choice, we had to get him out before that slump in the chair became permanent, before he lost all hope that he would ever once again find joy in learning, and before that apathetic voice became his trademark. We didn’t want to lose our beloved son. I had not doubt that I was watching the introduction to who he was going to become, and I didn’t like it one bit. Living in rural Colorado we had few options available to us…one very expensive, financially-out-of-reach private Christian school, a move to another under performing public school, or homeschool.

And that, my friends, is how we became homeschoolers by default.

What started as a desire to help our son get back in touch with his intellectual curiosity led us a year and a half later to homeschooling all five of our children. We dived in with admittedly fearful gusto, and never looked back. Well, perhaps that is not quite accurate for we have indeed looked back with dismay and guilt, wondering how we could have been so scared to make the jump much earlier, now that we see what benefits homeschooling has brought to our entire family. However, kicking myself over and over again about turning our children over to a system that had the ability to do so much damage is not productive, so I draw the curtain on that stage of our life as I embrace the new found freedom we have in joining the ranks of the home educated.

Why was I so fearful about making the leap? Well, there was the knowledge that, while not testing as a high IQ student, Matthew’s reading level was at the upper end of 9th grade as he entered his 5th grade year. Or it could be that two months after bringing Matthew home we left for a 2 ½ month adoption trip to Northern Kazakhstan to adopt our two beautiful daughters, Angela and Olesya, ages 11 and 10, who didn’t happen to speak a lick of English. I could attribute that fear to the fact that we also had another son, Kenny, adopted at age 8 from Kyrgyzstan, who was at the time 11 years old and still couldn’t manage to read beyond a first grade level. Combine that with his speech challenges due to a cleft lip and palate that was unrepaired until approximately age 4, a diagnosed severe auditory processing disorder, and a dearth of life experiences prior to adoption that had him so deprived he had never even turned on a light switch before, and I guess I can understand why I was a bit hesitant to homeschool. Oh yes, then there is our youngest son, Joshua, then 6 years old and in first grade who was doing basic multiplication and could manipulate numbers in ways that seemed almost graceful, but who had struggled emotionally with Reactive Attachment Disorder in his earlier years leaving him more vulnerable than the average child to feelings of insecurity.

Might I add that I only hold a high school diploma, and I was now to take on the roles of an English as a Second Language teacher, a reading intervention specialist, a speech pathologist, a gifted and talented instructor, and the educator of children in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th grades…all within the space of 9 months.

Other than that, I have no idea why I was scared!

Somehow though, we survived that first year, we made it to the end intact. Actually, that is a complete understatement. What would be more appropriate would be to say we emerged wholly victorious, and utterly grateful for the courage to step out of the norm and give it a try. There isn’t a single way in which we have not seen great rewards from our decision to homeschool, and the learning that has taken place in our home classroom has been not just at the elementary level, but at the doctoral level as well, for that is what it feels like at moments, as if I have been working on a thesis on alternative education in the 21st century.

What began as a decision to homechool by default, has now become a firm commitment arrived at by choice and a belief that individualized instruction can accomplish what group instruction in a public classroom can never possibly achieve.

We are not a family comprised of genius children headed to Harvard at 14 years old, I am not a stay-at-home former teacher who has oodles of training and diplomas to prove it. We are not the traditional model of fundamental Christian homeschoolers who elect not to enroll their children in public school in order to preserve their religious upbringing and protect them from the negative influences that flood our institutions of education.

No, we are instead the new wave of homeschoolers, the non-traditional kind who are homeschooling by default because our kids simply don’t fit anywhere and are not cookie cutter model students that conform to the norm. But frankly, what kid IS a cookie cutter kid? We are at the forefront of the influx of families you see at the homeschooling conventions who may not look like what you have come to expect from examples shown on cable TV. We default homeschoolers are frustrated, disappointed by a system that has failed our children, and most often do not have the children who will eventually go on to achieve a perfect SAT score.

In other words, default homeschoolers are you and I…we are average, and we love our kids deeply and want to see them love learning and succeed in life, even if that success means they are a skilled plumber or a nimble fingered court reporter. We want to provide our kids with opportunities to explore their gifts and talents, we want them to graduate high school with a solid core of life skills which is sorely lacking from public school experiences, and we want our children to be decent human beings. Notice, I do not say we default homeschoolers are looking for Einstein to suddenly blossom from our 5th graders. No, we would be happy to see them master 5th grade math, read a few really good books, and be able to hold a decent conversation afterwards about them. We want time with our kids which is stolen by a broken system that requires 8 hours of their time every day, and then demands 3 or 4 hours more in the form of homework each night. We want our family time back, we want our children’s delight in learning back, and we want our kids’ innocence back.

We are the default homeschoolers of the new millennium
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From Steven:

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works. (Cindy, who wrote the article above, has used CTT courses extensively with her five children.)

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

17 comments for “A Guest Blog – The Default Homeschooler

  1. March 18, 2011 at 9:08 am

    What a joy to read your post, Cindy!
    I would love to hear more about your interesting family and your homeschool journey. Hope others will back me up in this request.

    • March 20, 2011 at 7:02 am

      Hi Elsa,

      And I’d love to see you write something new for this blog, if you’ve the interest!

  2. Karen Nehren
    March 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I agree with Elsa, I would be truly interested in hearing more about your homeschooling experiences, adventures and also your children.
    I too am homeschooling my 11 year old daughter with no more then a high school diploma. I’ve been doing this for a total of 10 months now. Wondering everyday, okay who am I kidding every minute if what I’m doing is right. What I do know is that my child was so abused both emotionally and physically by both class mates and teachers a like that per drs orders she can not go back there. Even knowing that I feel as though I will never be able to give her the education she deserves. And to boot she no longer has that love of learning she once had, and I do not know how to get that back for her.

    • March 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Karen,

      I’ll be hosting a free webinar on exactly the subjects you mentioned on Tuesday, March 29, at noon Los Angeles time. If you’re interested, you can sign up at:
      http://www.stepsed.com/webinar.php

      You could even call in with the concerns you indicated, and allow them to be discussed in what should be a helpful forum. Please feel free to join us if you can.

  3. Rorimandi
    March 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Agreed. I discovered the same problem being rural Oregonian. The options leave any decent parent no choice – homeschool or allow expectations to turn my exceptional daughters into subpar adults.

  4. March 20, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Thank you for the kind comments! Karen, I had to spark both my daughters interest in learning, and regain it for the boys…it took time, and you know what else? It took freedom for them to pursue what interested them. At first it was an uncomfortable process for them, as they were all so used to structure and being told what to learn….spoon fed. It was also uncomfortable for me to watch! Hahaha! In time though, something gradually began to happen. I’ll try to blog more about it. We do have plans (Steven and I) to have ongoing blogs appear that I have written, so don’t worry, you’ll get to know my family well! 🙂

  5. October 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Another homeschooler by default here. I never planned to homeschool, but here I am 10 years later with a SR. and JR. The oldest has already been accepted to college w/ scholarship offers. Not a genius, but truly unique. This is what colleges are looking for.

  6. October 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Andrea,

    Well done! And agreed…in so far as colleges are worth anything. Increasingly we’re hearing thousands of stories of students who took outrageous student loans, got through college…and discovered that nothing was waiting for them in the job market. This is, in fact, becoming an epidemic in the U.S. I think that this fact, along with a few others, makes the value of college for many people highly suspect.

    My wife was an opera singer and classical musician with a Master’s in Voice and Music. She used to say that if you wanted to kill someone’s interest in being an artist, send them to college. I agreed then and now. College is really for 1) Those few professions one MUST have a degree for, such as being a doctor or lawyer or engineer; 2) People who haven’t a clue what they want to do, who want to “mark time” until they figure it out, and 3) People who want to party. I’m really not much of a fan. (And I taught at U.S.C. for a year and a half – yuck!)

    Your children sound very creative and bright! That’s worth all the effort involved in homeschooling! Wonderful!

  7. January 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    We are at a similar point with our sons education.
    He is in 3rd Grade and has Aspergers and is on a gluten and dairy free diet. He is bullied in his classroom due to his diet restrictions as there are so many food based activities in the classroom.
    Academically he is expected to keep up in English despite struggling due to literal interpretations at times. In Math he will have achieved the goals for the year by the end of January.
    He’s learnt more about Science than in school from an electronics kit and knows more about the world from stories we tell him about our travel and the maps we have on the walls. We have other options in the same school district although the only one I think will work involves a significant drive and parent participation and we will still have at least 1 hrs of homework each day. I wonder often if the social skills he is meant to be learning at school are really that beneficial or that if we could offer him many more social opportunities if he isn’t doing homework until 6 or 7 every night.

    • Gail
      January 13, 2012 at 2:08 am

      Hi Rebecca, I have four children, all home educated, who are very adept socially. None of them went to formal school until they were 14-15 years of age for the final two years of schooling here in Australia. Socialization was the main reason we decided to home educate our children. There were plenty of other opportunities to socialize – judo, ballet, gymnastics etc – that didn’t require hours spent in the company of other children. They are all very articulate and when they finally attended school the comment frequently was (from the teachers) that they were very mature for their age. If you’re unsure as to whether or not it is the best for your child maybe you could give it a trial run for 6 months and see what you think?

  8. Gail
    January 13, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Loved reading about your journey Cindy. It’s so worth all the effort isn’t it!

  9. Jemma
    January 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!

    I am a Mummy from the UK who is embarking on this with our eldest Child (aged 2 years 6 months) and I am aware that within the next 6 months, I will have to have decided which school I wish her to go to and map out her educational future. Except we are breaking from the norm and are firmly and wholeheartedly going to homeschool our children from the get go.

    I fully disagree with children being taken at age four and thrust into a judgmental school system where I know from my own experiences, that the life and soul will surely be sucked out of her passion for learning. She is incredibly intelligent (worryingly so actually) and can count to 30, knows the entire alphabet and is beginning to read. Her memory is excellent and she can recite entire books and poems with ease. We have not pushed her; this is simply her brain function developing at her own level. I know that at a “normal” school these abilities would be lost and I am keen, if this is who she is, to allow her time to explore her potential and develop in ways which, as you rightly say, no school can possibly allow.

    Although we have not yet officially begun our HS journey, we are incredibly excited and liberated at the possibilities of doing so.

    Thank you all for your words of complete inspiration!

    From a newby!

  10. Ash
    February 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hi I’m ash and I’m 18 and I live in the UK, I am one of a large family, there are 13 of us in total, discounting parents. Mum and dad homeschooled is all through primary and secondary school, me and a few other siblings are now at college or university while the others still are being educated at home. I felt slightly sorry for my parents who had to go over so many different things to get the kids up to the level they should be at their age. Dad mainly taught the two sets of triplets as they would only be a year apart in school and he teaches them the same syllabus where as before each child had something completely different to cover. My social life felt restricted due to homeschooling, but could partly be because my parents were to busy to take me to any clubs etc, I wish I hadn’t been homeschooled even though I believe it benefited my grades hugely. Thanks for sharing your story, I thought I’d share mine.

  11. April 15, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Thank you for an awesome article. My school district TOLD me they could not accommodate my eldest daughter, and thus began my homeschooling journey. For many parents with special needs kids, homeschooling becomes the only option. thanks for sharing this message; well written and wonderful.

    • April 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Yes, we hear this from many parents! I would argue that you are better off homeschooling. It’s unfortunate that schools leave few options, but public schooling today is such a bust, is it really an option for a concerned parent? I don’t believe so.

  12. May 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I can definitely relate to this. We didn’t start out as a homeschooling family. My husband was initially against it as he thought our children would be missing out on “something” by leaving traditional school and now his opinion is the opposite and he would never want our kids back in school.

  13. October 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Fabulous post! Our family is about to join the ranks, and we’re starting with our daughter, who will be in 5th grade next fall. Thank you for the encouragement!

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