I am 2 months into our homeschooling year. This year marks several milestones for our family. My oldest daughter, Lindsey, started medical school. It is with her, 15 years ago that our homeschooling journey began, when we pulled her out of her second week of 2nd grade! Lindsey has Tourette syndrome and had been on a very strong medicine. My husband and I did not feel comfortable with her being away from us. Lauren, our 17 year old, started her senior year and we are busy searching out colleges in Texas. Our baby boy, Cameron leaped from elementary to a growing up teenager entering 7th grade.
This year marks the first time that I don’t have an elementary student! I have officially passed the point of silly art days, wrapping up as mummies, and exploring the backyard! Looking back, it seems so hard to believe that we have come so far and survived!
During our first year of homeschooling, we adopted two international children. Our first “big” field trip was to Guatemala to bring home Cameron at nine months. Then, just a year later, we loaded all three kids for a month’s stay in China! From there, we brought home our 6-year-old daughter we named Candace. Candace too had a special needs; she was blind. Nevertheless, like the other three, we were determined that she would learn at home!
What started out in pure fear has ended up being one of my greatest accomplishments in life. I am so thankful that we decided to take this path. It has not always been “fun,” but it has been worth it! I would not change one thing about homeschooling. Even our “failures” were done together.
People are always curious as to how we homeschooled Candace being blind. I think this is where “blind” faith comes into play. I started the only place I knew, at the beginning. I ordered a Braillewriter, found a dear friend who also had a blind child, and started with Kindergarten ABEKA phonics. We would Braille the letters on the Braille tape and place it over the words in regular reading books. We went up and down those “ladder” steps until like all the other children, she knew them backward and forwards. We all learned Braille with her. Just the same if your child was deaf, your family would learn to sign, ours learned Braille. It was not weird to us, it was our life, and how we did things in our school!
Three years into our school year, we were confronted with something so horrible that none of us knew if we would survive it. Candace was diagnosed with a terminal disease called BATTANS. To say that our world was rock would be a huge understatement. However, once again, we determine that the lives of the other children would remain as consistent as possible. By this time, by oldest two girls, were independent in their schooling, and together they pitched in to help Cameron, who was entering kindergarten. I think homeschooling does that, it teaches our children so much more than math, English, and science, it teaches them about life! It builds their character and helps them to learn to find the place that they need to pitch in to bless and help.
Sadly, three years later, we lost our sweet Candace in July 2009. Due to the trauma our family had lived through, we decided to take a one-year hiatus from school we instead filled our days with field trips and much-needed family getaways. We went to Disney World, the Beach, visited my family’s farm, and spent hours swimming in our family pool just being together. To me, that is the beauty of homeschooling. You can use life as your teacher. Everything around you can become a lesson if you take the time to look for those small teaching moments.
After Candace’s passing, my heart or my mind was not into the totally responsibility of teaching. With Lindsey now in college, I decided to take another leap of faith and join Classical Conversations. My kids needed the consistency of a tutor, and I need to be around other moms and start to feel alive again.
Today, I am happy to say that we are four years in CC. Lauren is doing Challenge III, and Cameron just started Challenge A.
Looking back, I can honestly say I never saw how our journey would take so many twist and turns. Now, on this side of the craziness, sadness, and joy, we have come out of it as a stronger family.
If, I would give points of encouragement to families who are looking at taking this journey, I say, “Jump in with both feet!” Get excited. Don’t stress over curriculum, extra- curricular activities, or even lesson plans! Do what has to be done; math, reading, and English. The rest have fun with it! Kids learn so much more from the museum, a pond, a nature walk, or cooking a four-course meal. They will learn because they are with you! They will learn because it is fun! Moreover, they will learn because “doing” is so much more interesting than reading it in a book.
For those parents that have made the ultimate of choices to homeschool a special needs child, GO FOR YOU! My first piece of simple advice is to teach them just like the other children. If my kids were climbing a rock in Central Park on vacation (field trip) to New York, Candace climbed it too! If they were digging for gems in a large piece of rock, she did too. Our motto was, “We may not do it the right way, but we will find a way to do it!”
Many times parents will say, “I could never spend all day with my kids!” Now that I am coming close to reaching the other end, the final stretch of my journey, I can say from the bottom for my heart, “I can’t image spending the last fifteen years doing anything else!”
Co-owner of A Journey Through Learning