Introduction

At the end of the school year last June, I had made the decision to not take my daughter back to her private school, despite the 80% scholarship. Though the first two years had been wonderful for us both, the third year involved a serious clash with her teacher whose rules were overly strict, and teaching method soul-crushing for my child.

We spent the first three months just trying to negotiate things with her, were refused the opportunity to switch to a different 3rd/4th grade class, and then spent the last few months of the school year just trying to mitigate the damage done and help my daughter finish out the year.

At our last teacher-parent meeting, I was informed that not only were the grades restructuring, leaving no place for my child who was behind some students and ahead of others, but that her teacher was going to recommend she be held back in the 2nd/3rd grade combination in the next year because she had fallen so far behind.

While I withhold many of the details, the constant attempts to undermine any negotiation for compromise on my end just left me cold to the school in general, and specific people in particular. I may stand by their mission, but I do not stand by the ways in which their established, functioning methods are being altered to serve the public school status quo.

So, with the enormous assistance from my friend who has been homeschooling for years, and the assurance that I could continue my final year at university while my daughter entered the realm of self-led learning, we embarked on the grand experiment known as educating my own child.

In truth, most of the day-to-day work fell to my friend, as I wrestled with illness, school, home, scheduling, traffic, finals, papers, compulsory volunteer work, and more, and without her I never would have had the option to try it.

Yet now it is the end of summer, long since past the end of the first year of homeschooling, and I can honestly say it was the right decision.

I know there are gaps that remain in my daughter’s education, in part because we were so focused on getting her caught up with what she couldn’t focus on in 3rd grade, but also because I wasn’t an active enough participant in her development.

The thing about the first year is, it’s all new. For both of us, it was new. We spent much of the first few months just arguing about the fact that she wasn’t doing anything. Video games and laptops disappeared from her reach for weeks at a time in order to motivate her. My mother started calling and offering bribes. Nevertheless, she did start to do her work. Granted, it was only the bare minimum of her core subjects, but she started to do it.

Yet in one school year, she’s not only caught up to her grade in mathematics, she achieved the top score for her grade level during annual testing (required by Washington State for homeschoolers). She was above average in almost all other subjects, and the testing allowed us to see where she was lagging behind, but even there, she was listed as “average” for age and grade level.

Not only that, she’s started to get a sense of her own potential. She’s more observant, and reflects better about what she’s read or seen. She has been better able to articulate many things, but most importantly, what she feels she needs to succeed in her education and in her life. Considering how much of a struggle constructing her thoughts and communicating clearly has been for her, despite her intelligence, this big leap from where she was at the end of 3rd grade is enormous.

As I said, she’d made great strides in her comprehension of math, science, art, and communication in first and second grades, only to suddenly be unable to comprehend any of these subjects in third grade. It’s clear now where the trouble lay, and my only regrets were to not press my daughter to tell me about the severe dissonance within her class and not press the school to make meaningful changes in her environment. After all, even on scholarship, someone was paying the rest of the $14,000 tuition. I think that constitutes having paid for the right to say what changes should be made to help my daughter feel safe enough to learn.

This sounds like a closing statement, but I assure you, for us, this is only the beginning.

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