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Leaving School

by Maria A. Foust

It all began when my son’s tutor asked if I ever had him tested for learning disabilities. After the 3rd meeting with his teachers, the school’s learning specialist and the head of the lower school, it was being suggested that I have him tested. How can this be? This school has had him since kindergarten. If he had a learning problem, wouldn’t it have been picked up before 5th grade?

To say the least, my son had difficulty in the 5th grade. He confessed to his tutor that he didn’t always know what was going on in class … that sometimes it was difficult to pay attention, to stay focused. All of my son’s academic life had been spent at an exclusive, private school. Yet here I was being faced with the realization that perhaps this private school education was no longer the best for him.

The last day of school, I pulled up in front of the building, searching the happy faces for sight of my son. We spotted each other. He ran to the car and jumped inside. As we pulled away, he put his head down and sighed, "Thank God I made it!" Glancing over at him, I realized just how difficult the last year for him must have been.

The summer following 5th grade was met with a lot of prayer and self-reflection. Most of it was what to do about school. Everyone seemed to have an opinion as to what went wrong in Derrick’s 5th grade year. Everyone had different opinions as to how to fix it. But in the end, I realized that no matter how good the school, no matter how dedicated the teacher, the bottom line was that it was our family who owned Derrick’s education. Keep him in school and my son would graduate to another grade and encounter another series of teachers. To them, he was a job. To me, he was far more.

By the middle of the summer, I had settled on the idea of homeschooling. Not wanting to undertake the matter lightly, I did lots of research. I spoke with those who have done it for years, I read about different methods, I looked into the laws of my state. With the blessing of my husband, (and my promise to call on him for help if needed), I made the decision to give homeschooling at try. At least for a year.

It has been a rewarding challenge. The first few weeks I was overwhelmed by the largeness of it all. But as the weeks flew by, we settled into our own routine. I have an 11 year old who still has not mastered a can opener or a knife. We have discovered a ton of life things he still needs to be taught (and practiced) and homeschooling has allowed us to do that. We explore social issues, cooking, and architecture. We have an in-depth class on money, something my parents never taught me about, and we have our own Bible study and character building units. We have had a LOT of talks about what it means to be a true friend, how it feels to come from a broken home, and what we think happens when we die. Homeschooling has allowed me to find my son.

I want my son to grow up to be a happy, responsible, emotionally healthy adult. I want him to know that HE holds his future – no one else. By showing him that he can take control of his learning, he is beginning to see that there IS something he can do to make a difficult situation better.

I don’t know where this road will take us, or how long we will be on it. But I CAN say that this experience has changed us. He is learning to see me as a teacher and I … I am learning to see him as a responsible young man. I’ve got to run. We need to find an example of a Lepidoptera.

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