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Why I Sent My Kids to Public School My homeschool journey began in 1991. No, I didn't officially homeschool until 1999, but the see...

Our Journey to a Charlotte Mason Education

March 24, 2011 Unknown 18 Comments

Read about this homeschool family's journey from the rocky beginnings of public schooling to homeschooling success. www.HeartofMichelle.com

Why I Sent My Kids to Public School

My homeschool journey began in 1991. No, I didn't officially homeschool until 1999, but the seeds were planted in 1991, when I read a book by John Holt.

At that point my eldest child was 5 years old and about to begin Kindergarten. I really wanted to homeschool her, but knew that I'd gain opposition from my family. I was already such a black sheep with religion, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding, that I decided it was best to send my children to school. 


I volunteered in the school system. Eventually I worked on various boards and agencies within the school system. Although I never forgot about homeschooling and all I had read, Amy did well in school. I did well working within that system.

My son's story was different...

The Public School System Failed My Son

My son, who was diagnosed with severe A.D.H.D. (we now know it was bipolar disorder with social anxiety disorder) was struggling in school. Although he had a 504 plan, a case manager, and all sorts of agencies advocating for him, the teachers themselves would not comply with any suggestions, directives or agreements made for him. 

Some were downright cruel. 

In the 3rd grade, for instance, a teacher used to make him spend his 6 hour days in the classroom storage room. Her reason was actually sarcastic. She told me that she did it because his plan stated he should "not be seated in high traffic areas". Of course, the plan intended him to not be seated next to pencil sharpeners, water fountains and such other busy areas. It did not mean he should be locked away in a closet. My son suffered this treatment quietly for months before I found out this was happening. 

In the 4th grade, we had a problem with a teacher who complied with absolutely nothing she'd been directed to do. She even went so far as to tell me "he doesn't have A.D.H.D., he just needs his butt whipped!" She was horrid.

Another situation: Teachers had repeatedly been told that when he was confused or lost on an assignment, he would not ask for help. (Nowadays we know he has social anxiety.) He was too embarrassed to ask for help. The teachers had been told to approach him and offer help if they saw him looking 'lost.' 

At the meetings, the teachers would agree with these suggestions. Yet when it came time to help him, they didn't. Instead, they called it defiance and placed him in in-school suspension. Eventually, they were going to expel him from the county's school system. He was 12 years old.

It was heartbreaking.

He had been so excited about middle school and having a "new start," but they destroyed it for him They sucked out his joy and replaced it with suspensions and a hatred for school. 


That's when homeschooling became a reality for us.

Our Disastrous Homeschool Beginnings

From 1999 to 2009 was a journey of learning for everyone. 

I started doing 'school at home.' Schedules, texts, timed subject - we did all of that. Oh, what a failure this was! I look back now and realize how very little I understood about homeschooling.  The stress of my homeschool efforts drove everyone crazy and made our days miserable.More often than not, my son just walk out the front door, angry and fed up with all of it.  

In time, we sort of stumbled into unschooling. This was about the time I had my 5th child. The daily battles with my son simply wore us both down and I had no time for such chaos while dealing with a baby who suffered with G.E.R.D. The 22-hours of dealing with a screaming baby each day was more than I could take. From 2002-2009, everyone was more or less unschooled. In 2009, life changed.

The Charlotte Mason Method Works for Our Family

In the spring of 2009, the unschooled kids were adults and I was using a relaxed homeschooling approach with Alexis and Lorelai. In my desire to create a blog which would help homeschoolers, I decided to write some posts on the various homeschooling methods. 

I started researching Charlotte Mason. I immediately fell in love with this method. Within a few weeks, I had purchased some books from the AmblesideOnline book lists. Our first day using this method was so easy, freeing, relaxed and enjoyable!  

When our time was finished, the girls were begging me not to end the school day.

At the time of this writing, we've been using the Charlotte Mason method for 2 years. I've read Home Education, A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education. I've learned more fully how to incorporate Nature Studies into our lives the by owning and reading,  Handbook of Nature Study and from following Barb's blog

I've have often wished I could go back and start our journey again. My son would have loved this. He agrees. I don't think that any of us were ever completely comfortable with unschooling. I always worried I was failing them. As adults, I've even had to bear some snarky remarks that indicate they felt I'd failed them, too. 

We've had some long talks and we've come to peace with the experience. We agree that the goal of education is to create in them a love of learning so strong that they become self educators. All my kids are self-educators. They love learning. Therefore, it was a success.

I didn't fail them.


They love learning. They love the arts. They have a deep respect for God and nature. They are decent human beings.

Even so...


If I could go back in time with the knowledge that I have now, their educational experience would have looked much different. The journey wouldn't have been so bumpy.

No regrets. Life is what it is. We learn and move forward, right?


What has your journey looked like? What methods have you used? Did you have a rough start or did it all come naturally to you?

Happy Homeschooling!





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18 comments:

  1. I loved reading this post. I especially identified with the part where the teacher told you that your son just "needed his butt whipped" more often. My son only attended preschool (and did well there) before we started homeschooling, but I had family members tell me that "all he needs is a good spanking" when he started having behavior issues.

    Life gets in the way of our homeschooling so much! We are pretty much unschooling for the rest of this year (we school from August - May).

    My grandson is due to be born April 1st, so we will be very busy soon, and I figure we can pick up again in the fall. Still haven't decided what our method will be at that point. Sometimes wish my son wasn't the only one at home. He would have so much more fun with a group.

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  2. I want to thank you for such an honest and heartfelt post. I also have older kids who did well in the school system. It was our third child who we pulled out of 4th grade when his teacher decided that timed tests were mandatory even though we had it in the IEP that timed tests would not be administered! I also wish I had done some things better or different, but you are right...no regrets and we live life and learn from it all the time! Thank you again!

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  3. Audrey: Sorry you had challenges too. My son didn't give them ANY grief (he gave me grief, no doubt, but not them). At the conference when the teacher said that to me, she was trying to prove I was a bad mom who didn't make him do work. I pointed out that he did his work every night. She was supposed to remind him to pull it out of his backpack. She said "No! You just just don't make him do it." Well, we opened his backpack and VOILA! there was all the work he'd been doing that she gave him "F's" for NOT doing. She was horrible.

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  4. Barbara, thanks for the comment. Sorry that we all have these bad experiences but.. I guess it's how we must learn sometimes.

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  5. Michelle,

    That was a horrible teacher! When my son was in preschool, he had the best teacher. She opened her own preschool in a little house in the country and he was in her first class there. They had a garden that they tended, and lots of hands on activities. It was the best experience for him. He didn't want me to leave him there but then he would cry and sometimes hide when I came to get him. LOL...I always thought people would think I was a bad Mom since he didn't want to come home with me. If public school had been like that, I would have gladly kept him in school...but the schools here aren't that great.

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  6. Your heart-wrenching and heartfelt post left me cheering for your family and Charlotte Mason.

    My sister gifted me with "A Charlotte Mason Companion" when she found out I was pregnant with my first. I loved CM's methods from the start but thought I would be an "involved parent" and still send him to our local private preschool.

    We toured the school's beautifully contrived facility and thought we could never do better. Only when we got home and read the packet about the school's "vision" for the children did we realize we would be giving him up to be raised with goals and beliefs that weren't our own.

    All my best on your continued journey!
    Richele

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  7. Hooray for Charlotte Mason's gentle and meaningful approach! I'm so glad you found the light at the end of your tunnel!

    Just recently a friend gave up with her dreadful and frustrating days of 'school at home' and I could encourage her to put aside the labels and methods, and begin a CM's education. Already she had had peaceful and joyful days reading aloud and loving learning.

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  8. What an inspiring story! One of my sons also struggled in public school (and I struggled to get them to work FOR him and not AGAINST him) and is what made me consider homeschooling in the first place! I pulled both boys (fraternal twins) out after 2nd grade and we haven't looked back since!

    I, too, never really studied Charlotte Mason until about a year or so ago, and we have been homeschooling for 5 years! I had heard about her, yes, but never really looked into her methods. At least I had read much on Ruth Beechick's methods in the past and had at least been heading more in that direction already, but CM has even more wonderful ways to homeschool.

    Alas, though, my boys don't always appreciate all of the CM methods, so we have had to take what does work (living books!, narration, nature study) and leave what doesn't - at least what hasn't worked for them since I have had to return to work fulltime. We do a mix of things now, but I always try to keep CM's methods in the forefront of what we do.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is a reminder that even if wish you could have done things differently all along, that as long as you love your children and care for them, they will turn out fine!

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  9. I enjoyed this post. Everybody has a different story and and their own struggles, and that's part of what makes us who we are. I think we can always look back and think about what we wish we'd done differently but we can only live life forward and we just didn't know then what we know now. It sounds like you did some important things right. I hope my children will all love God and learning when they are grown.

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  10. I have enjoyed reading your blog! I'm new to homeschool this year. My son's Public School story sounds similar to yours. I've been blogging about it @ eclecticramblings.blogspot.com. We started with "school at home", but then I realized why should I try to do what was not working. We've been drifting towards relaxed eclectic/unschooling. I'm starting to get interested in Living Books, and trying to incorporate them into our routine too. Right now we're reading the Story Book of Science and my son is actually asking me to read to him!

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  11. I'm glad everyone has been enjoying this post and deeply appreciate your comments!

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  12. I have enjoyed reading your blog! I'm new to homeschool this year. My son's Public School story sounds similar to yours. I've been blogging about it @ eclecticramblings.blogspot.com. We started with "school at home", but then I realized why should I try to do what was not working. We've been drifting towards relaxed eclectic/unschooling. I'm starting to get interested in Living Books, and trying to incorporate them into our routine too. Right now we're reading the Story Book of Science and my son is actually asking me to read to him!

    ReplyDelete
  13. What an inspiring story! One of my sons also struggled in public school (and I struggled to get them to work FOR him and not AGAINST him) and is what made me consider homeschooling in the first place! I pulled both boys (fraternal twins) out after 2nd grade and we haven't looked back since!

    I, too, never really studied Charlotte Mason until about a year or so ago, and we have been homeschooling for 5 years! I had heard about her, yes, but never really looked into her methods. At least I had read much on Ruth Beechick's methods in the past and had at least been heading more in that direction already, but CM has even more wonderful ways to homeschool.

    Alas, though, my boys don't always appreciate all of the CM methods, so we have had to take what does work (living books!, narration, nature study) and leave what doesn't - at least what hasn't worked for them since I have had to return to work fulltime. We do a mix of things now, but I always try to keep CM's methods in the forefront of what we do.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is a reminder that even if wish you could have done things differently all along, that as long as you love your children and care for them, they will turn out fine!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I want to thank you for such an honest and heartfelt post. I also have older kids who did well in the school system. It was our third child who we pulled out of 4th grade when his teacher decided that timed tests were mandatory even though we had it in the IEP that timed tests would not be administered! I also wish I had done some things better or different, but you are right...no regrets and we live life and learn from it all the time! Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Audrey: Sorry you had challenges too. My son didn't give them ANY grief (he gave me grief, no doubt, but not them). At the conference when the teacher said that to me, she was trying to prove I was a bad mom who didn't make him do work. I pointed out that he did his work every night. She was supposed to remind him to pull it out of his backpack. She said "No! You just just don't make him do it." Well, we opened his backpack and VOILA! there was all the work he'd been doing that she gave him "F's" for NOT doing. She was horrible.

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  16. I recently discovered your blog but hadn't read this post about your journey until today.  Thank you for sharing it with us and using your experiences to bless others!!!

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  17. Awww thanks so much Jenn! I appreciate that!

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  18. Hi Michelle,

    My son is 4.5 my daughter 2.5 and I am considering homeschooling. I'm a little lost of where to start or what to do but I'm doing lots of research and if you can see from my site, I haven't always done crafts, sensory things, learning games etc. Thank you for your blog. It helps me find some answers I have been looking for.

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