Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What About Wednesdays:Our Homeschool Story

We are about to begin our 12th year of homeschooling. I can't believe it! We are about to graduate our first 2 graduates in May/June of 2012. How did we get here?

Well, it all began with our oldest who has several special needs.  He has autism and epilepsy. When we first began to notice issues, we spoke with our neurologists on how to tackle the speech issues we were seeing, and they recommended the local school district.

At that time, our son was 3 years old. We did contact the school district and had a battery of tests administered and came up with many answers to the questions we had about our son.  We enrolled him in the early intervention classes, and then into Kindergarten (twice) and First Grade. During this time, he started a diet to help control his epilepsy ( The Ketogenic Diet) which was very stringent, and required a one on one aide. So, for 4 of the years he was in the school system he had a one on one aide.  These aides actually served dual purposes, they helped our son, but they also helped inside the classroom. The classroom teachers were always thankful for the help of the aide, especially since they usually had more than our child that had special needs.

Most of the time that my son ( and younger two sons) were in the school, we had a great experience. We were blessed by wonderful teachers and aides. However, it was becoming  abundantly clear that my son had specific needs, and there were very specific ways to meet those needs. And the school district heads, more specifically the head of Special Education, refused to approve those treatments.  The law states that each child, no matter their needs, are to receive Free and Appropriate Education ( FAPE), however, what I learned during this process is that what I believe to be FAPE and what the school district believes to be FAPE are two very different things. And if they say no, then my child gets the short end of the stick so to speak.

Now, I know that I could have fought tooth and nail, and I very well may have won, however, what we decided to do was to throw the energy I would have thrown into a long and costly legal battle, into educating my children. This was an easy decision for us to make, for several reasons.

First, we worked diligently with our children at home, and we were seeing tremendous progress with the what we were implementing.  I had taken a class during that last year the kids were in school, called Brain Gym. We implemented all that I had learned, and the growth we were seeing was amazing.  Also, 'homework' time took him hours, so we knew that we would be able to put forth the effort to help him. (and our other children)

Second, at this time, my husband was taking college courses, and seeing the product of the Public School System, and it was a scary sight!

Putting all of this together we embarked on our homeschool journey. Our first couple of years, we began with a Charter School. A Charter School is a school that has a charter with a local school district, or district from a neighboring county. These schools are publicly funded. However, there is more freedom than a traditional brick and mortar school. We lasted with them for about 3 years. However, we found that we did not need their services any longer. We found that the amount of  'paperwork' (red tape) that was required was not conducive with our learning styles, and took too much time away form actual learning.

And that is when we had set out on our own!  We have been filing our own affidavit with the state of California every year since then.  When you file your own affidavit you are declaring your home a private school ( this is one of the legal options of homeschooling in the state of California).

We have, all in all, loved our homeschooling journey and path. Our family has been very active with homeschool supports groups since our very early days of our homeschool journey. Something I would highly recommend for anyone looking into homeschooling.  Now that my children are in high school, I think that homeschool support groups are just as important. Teens need to feel like they are a part of a community. For us, that is our homeschool group and our church family. We are very active in both of these arenas.

Now comes the interesting part! We are doing something this year that I never thought that we would be doing, and that is signing up with what is called a PSP ( Private School Satellite Program), yet another option of legally homeschooling in California.  I have never wanted to do this in the past. I have often felt like I do not need to pay someone for something that I can do, which is keep records. Because, with these programs, you the parent are still responsible for purchasing all of your own curriculum, you are doing all of the teaching.  You are even doing all the grading, so I never saw the purpose. Until now!  Now, I have high schoolers, who want to play sports. That is the one thing that I cannot offer them. They are very athletic, and the church leagues, while they are fun, they simply are not challenging. So,  now I am finding myself taking a new path I did not expect to find myself on.  Even now as I type up this post, I am sitting a coffee shop, using their free air conditioning ( and wi-fi) as I wait for my daughter who is at her volleyball practice... in the heat of summer...  oh how my life is changing.

I am looking forward to see what these next several years will bring as we wrap up our homeschooling. In the next 3 years I will have 4 of my children graduated, and I will only have my youngest left.... I can sense the season changing around our home!

While, I would have never thought I would have homeschooled m kids, when I was first having them, I have loved our journey together! It has been a great joy to have the opportunity to have such a hands on role in their life. It has been filled with joy, tears, frustration and laughter! But all in all... we did it together!

One thing helped us get through the rough days.. well actually, even the not so rough days too is; Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. While I may have never thought I would be homeschooling. The Lord knew! And He gave me the heart to homeschool and He enabled me to do so! And for that I am so grateful!

I give God all the glory! Anything that we have accomplished as a family, it was with His power and enabling!

Happy (Homeschooling) Trails!


PS.. I know, this is an unbelievably long post.... sorry... but I must admit it was great to write it all down in one place!

PPS.... I included photos from our homeschool journey.. just to document all the fun we had!

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