Homeschooling Ben

When we moved to this house in Wellsville I started my research on schools for Ben. Of course there was the public elementary school down the street but the Wellsville school never really showed up on my list when I did my ‘best schools in Cache Valley’ search. I had conversations with his former preschool teacher who assured me that Wellsville school had just gotten a new principal and that her niece teaches there and had nothing but praises about it.

After getting the news that Ben didn’t get into a charter school we were hoping for (it’s lottery after all…what were the chances?) we decided that we would try the public school.

It started out good. He was so excited and so was I! His teacher seemed really amazing (she is). We got his backpack ready and all the anticipation and excitement of the first day of school was as expected. We were in it for the long haul. The programs, the homework, the volunteer opportunities for the parents, the school schedule and even all the germs that were being introduced those first few weeks! Ha!

I thoroughly enjoyed dropping him off and picking him up each day to hear all the cute girls in his class say, “Bye Ben!” as he would get into the car.

He really got along with the girls in his class. Not as much with the boys. He was just as his preschool teacher predicted, the teachers pet. He was a fantastic student. Before we pulled him out he was tested; I think they are called dibels or dimmels or something; and out of the entire cache county school district he scored in the 96th percentile.

But before that happened I started to notice something. Yes, his homework was too easy. He already knew everything they were going over. He was a bit bored. His favorite time was recess (which happened twice during a 3 hour period). But that wasn’t what concerned me. I know that a lot of kindergarteners are bored and already know everything at the beginning of the year. And ya, they weren’t cramming those 3 hours with learning only, which I wouldn’t want anyway…that’s too much for 5 year olds. It did seem like a lot of his time was filled with fluff but that wasn’t what bothered me the most either.

It was a day that the morning wasn’t going as smoothly as others and I probably threatened him that I’d keep him home from school if things didn’t change. In preschool that threat always got his attention and things changed. He loved preschool. LOVED it. It was an amazing school…his teacher was probably the best in the county which is why people didn’t mind driving long distances for her. Anyway through that experience he learned to love learning. We saw it happen before our eyes. We knew and his teacher knew that he is a very bright boy and it was such a perfect atmosphere to kindle that. He excelled. I know you might be thinking, he was four Anna! It’s just preschool. But it’s a fun experience when you see your child grow so much and do so well, even beyond his years.

So that morning when his response to my threat was, “OK, fine, I’ll stay home from school, I don’t care!” I knew something was off.

It didn’t happen just that one time either. He subsequently showed signs that he didn’t really care to go to school or that if he missed it it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Once or twice he even asked if he could stay home and play with William instead. Complete opposite of the year before.

And this is not because he wasn’t getting along with his classmates, or that he was being bullied. It wasn’t because he wasn’t doing well. A meeting we had with his teacher at one point made that all very clear. Ben was well loved by everyone and was an excellent student. But for some reason it’s like I could see his beautiful light of learning slowly start to dim. It scared me to death.

So that’s when the door opened in my mind to homeschooling. I never thought that door would open. I really didn’t. Not for me. I knew that someday when David had his dream of starting his own school come true that we would pull our kids out at that point and he would take over most of the grunt work. I never imagined that I would be doing it myself. I had a small belief that moms shouldn’t confuse their role as moms with that of teacher because it’s confusing for the kids. I knew that the social aspect of homeschool was complicated but despite all this and more I knew that it was the right choice for Ben.

A conversation with my family (mom, brother and sister in law) also really helped me take the leap forward. They also know how bright Ben is and helped me see how much more freedom we’d have with him at home. Yes, he could learn at a faster rate but more importantly we could facilitate the love of learning that public school just wasn’t doing….already.

We went in for another meeting with his kindergarten teacher to share our thoughts with her and ask for her thoughts about it. She was so understanding and kind, not at all like I was expecting. You know, judgmental and concerned about the ‘homeschool’ mindset. She understood where we were coming from with Ben and said that she didn’t worry about him as she does with others who do homeschool. She did in a way beg for us to keep Ben in school because she just loved him so much. She said if she could have 20 Ben’s in her class her life would be bliss. She said she would miss him.

A week later Ben was home for good.

Most of the questions and concerns that I’ve had about homeschool have been resolved since then. For instance, concerning the confusion of roles, teacher or mom, I feel strongly now that that simply wasn’t true. Who else might I ask, is better suited to teach my child than me? And isn’t that the literal description of my responsibility as a parent anyway?

The biggest concern I still have is about the social aspect of it. I’ve actually been have a bit of anxiety about it the last couple days. I worry and wonder about what Ben is missing out on at school. What life experiences is he missing that could be super beneficial to his growth? Am I ruining him in some small way? Or big way?

I still don’t know the answer. But, I do know that we will do our best by getting him in activities like karate or soccer or music lessons. Also that we will have him in play dates and group activities with other kids. I also know that public school ‘socialization’ isn’t necessarily the best form of socialization out there so I can take comfort in that. I just have to have faith that even though I don’t know all the answers right now, this is still the best choice for Ben and everything will work out!

Plus he’s only in kindergarten. No better place to start right?

I’m grateful for this little learning journey I’ve been on with Ben and am excited about the ones to come!