Our Homeschooling Journey & the Resources that Replaced Doubt with Conviction
Updated: Aug 11
August 03, 2020
(image borrowed from Anna Thorsen, Dyslexia--Untied: A Mom's Journey Advocating for Students with Dyslexia in Tennessee)
Our homeschool journey began in 2010. My youngest daughter, Ashlyn, had attended preschool, public school, and by 2010, was attending a private school. Yet, by her 2nd-grade year, it was painfully obvious that she was struggling in the areas of reading, spelling, writing, and memorizing. I was at a loss. We spent many hours studying, reviewing, practicing, yet things didn’t “stick”. I was puzzled, but mostly, my heart was heavy watching my creative, funny, smart, and kind little soul work so hard and be equally puzzled by why she wasn’t “getting it”. Her peers excelled. They got it. And while they “got it”, she sat alone in her classroom playing “catch-up” and correcting mistakes she had made on her daily assignments as her peers headed out for PE. She was hurting. I was hurting. I knew something wasn’t right. And I was determined to find a solution. I spent her 2nd-grade year researching and home experimenting to finally discover that she is DYSLEXIC. I was ELATED. I had an answer. I knew what she needed to learn and thrive and excel at anything she put her mind to. I had a solution. I could not wait to share this with her school and her teachers! And not just for the benefit of Ashlyn, but for ALL children struggling with Dyslexia, because I became aware it is so much more than the average person knows about this gift. [check out this PDF for the signs of Dyslexia.] And then the unexpected and unthinkable happened. This information was rejected.
It was rejected by her teacher. It was rejected by the majority. It was rejected by those that she spent most of her day with. The ones I PAID to educate her. I was crushed. I had shown up at her school with an overstuffed folder of the latest science and understanding of what Dyslexia is and how to help those with it. I came with years of school papers that backed all the evidence and finally filled in that missing puzzle piece—and I was told it was “something else”. I was told it was her “lack of effort”. That she didn’t “pay attention”. That it was something that “could be medicated”. I knew this wasn’t true.
I don't believe this response was out of lack of interest or support for Ashlyn, but, it was very different from my personal thoughts, beliefs, and full understanding of what she needed. I thanked them for their experience, and knowledge, but stood sound and strong in my belief that they were wrong. I let them know that even with all their years of educational experience, no one knew my child better than me. It didn't overcome my intial response to get angry. And I was angry. It was an emotion triggered by the pain and hurt I was feeling. After getting angry, I cried. And then I got angry again. And in that anger, I professed I would start my own school. One that serves all—all learning styles and abilities—not just a few. That thought quickly became an overwhelming one, but a new, and beautiful idea was birthed: I can start my own school. Our very own homeschool. And Sapona Trace Freedom School was born--with lots of emphasis on FREEDOM. We committed to finishing out her 2nd-grade year and I continued to commit my time to research how we were going to homeschool. They attempted to accommodate her in some ways—and I am grateful for those attempts, but it was clear she was spending the majority of her time in a learning environment that did not meet her needs or fuel her curiosity or nurture her self-esteem. After much research into what kind of education would be right for her, we settled on a Montessori approach to learning in her early years and leaned into unschooling in the latter years. That meant relinquishing the ideas that I had to recreate “school” at home, and it meant trusting in what I felt was right for my child. It wasn’t a pandemic that forced us down this path, but I really and truly felt forced into something I didn’t feel experienced enough in, educated enough on, or capable enough to do. Yet deep down inside, I knew this was the way and I knew we would figure it out. Ashlyn deserved that. There are many people to thank for the success of our homeschooling journey. Friends, homeschoolers that came before us, and a very supportive family. However, any doubt I had turned into conviction when I discovered: John Holt and his GWS magazines (Growing Without Schooling); John Taylor Gatto’s: Weapons Of Mass Instruction & Dumbing Us Down; AERO: Education Revolution (website of alternative education resources); The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn; and the teachings of Maria Montessori and many, many more helpful resources.
It’s been 9-years and we haven’t looked back. Let me add—this is not a bash on the school system, schools, or teachers we crossed paths with. We had amazing teachers and some beautiful experiences in these schools. BUT, I am now so grateful for our struggles--for the push in this direction. It led us on a journey that has allowed Ashlyn to THRIVE and learn and create—at her pace, on her time—on OUR time.
I am happy to report, as Ashlyn enters her 11th-grade year, she is a voracious reader. She has made incredible strides in her spelling and vocabulary, and math has always been a strength of hers. Mostly, I am proud of the time it has gifted her to hone her natural talents: writing, painting, card making, and digital art (you can view her work on IG @beyond_the_gray). And, for those of you who rely on test scores to gauge learning, I am happy to add that her test scores indicate that she places out of High School on most every subject—and we do not teach or prep for testing. Never have. I share this with you, not to boast. I cannot take credit for anything she has learned or excels at for all I do is provide the tools she needs. She does the rest. She is resourceful. She is curious. She is capable. I share this with you as a heartfelt message and reminder you to: Trust the process. Trust the pace. Trust your child And trust yourself. Everyone is curious. Everyone loves to learn. The key is creating an environment that ignites that curiosity; that fuels that need to know; that feeds the mind and I believe that that is created in a multi-sensory, hands-on environment that is self-paced and one they enjoy. Create an environment that they can explore. Get outside. Take field trips. Play. Travel if you can. Recognize the gift of crafting and creating a custom, personalized learning experience that fits your child’s needs and YOUR family’s lifestyle and priorities. There is no right way. There is what works best for you and your child! And if I can help, guide, support, encourage, and remind you that YOU CAN DO THIS--that this is truly a gift--I am here. I am your biggest cheerleader. And I will remind you that there is no one that knows your child better than you.