Our journey into homeschooling was unexpected, at best. Being a teacher’s kid myself, it was really nothing that I had ever considered doing. What changed my mind, ultimately, were the labels that were put on him.
Unfortunately, labels have been part of his life for several years.
He is a strong student, respectful, and inquisitive. He loves to learn and will often seek out extra projects to do. You would think this would be every teacher’s dream, right?
Wrong. At least in his case.
Our Unexpected Homeschool
When my son was very young, it became apparent that he learns in ways that are very different from most students. We didn’t know it at the time, but would later find out that he is profoundly gifted, but is also severely dyslexic, dysgraphic, and has sensory processing disorder.
We just knew he absorbed everything around him!
Luckily, a private school very close to us specialized in teaching gifted and twice-exceptional (2E) children. It was within our budget, the teachers were amazing, and he loved being there.
He came home every day telling us all about what he had learned and what more he wanted to dig into. We had complete confidence in this school and planned to send him there through high school.
What we hadn’t planned on was a cross-country move.
In our new city, we interviewed several schools and found one that seemed like a perfect fit. They spent time evaluating him, looked at the curriculum that his previous school had used, and assured us they could pick right up where they had left off.
He was sad to leave his old school but was excited about getting to be part of a whole new class. He asked about all the things he would get to discover and learn.
On the first day of first grade, we showed up early to set up his desk and meet his teacher.
She came over to him and gushed about how she had heard he could read, exclaiming that there was one other little boy in the class who could read, too.
He looked at me and asked, in total disbelief, “She’s kidding, right?”
That was my first clue. Three days and many mishaps later, I pulled him from school. Our homeschooling journey had begun.
Dealing With Labels in School
I had expected there to be some differences between the schools, and I had prepared him for that.
What I didn’t expect was for the labels to come pouring out at him.
When I picked him up from his first day of school, he burst into tears in the car and told me that “they stuck him in preschool.” I assured him that they didn’t, but then I heard about his day.
He spent 45 minutes writing the letter “a” and another 45 minutes writing the number “2.” (I verified this the next day with the teacher.)
He was reprimanded several times for asking questions that went beyond the scope of the lesson plans, so he just stopped participating.
My little boy ended the day by begging me to homeschool him.
When I told him I wasn’t sure, he promised to clean his room every day…to clean my room every day! He promised he would be good and learn. He just wanted to learn.
The next day when I dropped him off, I encouraged him that maybe the first day was just rough. Surely, the second day would be better.
Wrong, yet again.
When I picked him up, the teacher walked up and none too privately advised me that my son was “severely ADHD and an extreme problem child,” one who “will be medicated if he’s to remain in my classroom.”
Suddenly, homeschooling seemed to be a much more valid option.
I spent the weekend researching homeschooling – laws in my state, how to do it, where to find curriculum, and more. I constantly questioned if I’d lost my mind, but as I read, it made more and more sense.
Learning in Spite of Labels
On the third day of school, I taught him how to daydream without getting caught and promised that it would be his last day there. I spent the day rounding up curriculum and resources, and that afternoon, pulled my son from school.
The smile on his face and the great big hug he gave me let me know I’d made the right choice!
My son is now 20 and is a senior in college. We homeschooled all the way through, from the day I pulled him in first grade until his high school graduation.
(Actually, he still chooses to do courses at home in addition to his college studies!)
Over the years, he has had other leaders and teacher hand out labels, simply because they didn’t understand how he learns.
He has had co-op teachers label him as ADHD because his energy and intensity levels are so high. (This is common with gifted students.) He learns at an extremely fast rate, so it can seem like he’s unfocused. When this happened, we simply sought out teachers that understood how to work with him. Problem solved.
Homeschooling has given him the chance to learn in the ways that make the most sense to him, but it has also given him the chance to understand that his worth is not assigned by others.
His worth doesn’t depend on labels.
Now, if someone chooses to label him, it really doesn’t affect him at all. It might make him work a bit harder to show that the label is false, but it doesn’t affect how he learns or the choices he makes.
Instead, he strives to help the people he leads and teaches understand that labels don’t control them, either. He goes the extra mile to show them that they are so much more than the labels that others assign.
That alone makes it all worth it!
Jennifer Duncan is the owner and founder of A Helping Hand Homeschool, where she offers support and creative resources for families who homeschool “out of the box” learners.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.