Our homeschooling journey reaped big rewards

Boy doing homework

Sometimes experiences that occur when you are very young impact decisions you make as an adult. It was 2nd grade. Very sick and stuck in bed for six months, I couldn’t leave the house, so school came to me in the form of a bedside teacher. While I always liked school before, this kind of learning was different. Working at my own pace with nothing holding me back was exhilarating. I learned quickly, finished my assignments way ahead of time, and wanted more.

Keeping an active 7-year-old in bed must have been a challenge for my parents (did I mention I’m the poster adult for ADD?). I wanted OUT! So, to distract me, they brought me story books, nonfiction books, comic books, magazines, joke books, puzzle books…books, books, books, books. Small wonder I ended up in publishing as an adult.

Unfortunately, that taste of educational freedom spoiled school for me from 3rd grade on. After the excitement of learning on my own, school was a prison. Looking back, I realize my parents bribed me with library trips and activities. And bribery must have worked. My grades were good enough, but if I had invested a dollar for every school counselor’s “not working up to your potential” lecture I endured, I’d be able to retire to a life of leisure.

Fast forward to 2001: My son was having a tough time in 8th grade. He was shutting down and just going through the motions. This is a smart kid—creative, curious, and rabidly independent. He had been an upbeat, “what’s next?” kind of kid when he started attending this school, but his outlook had turned more into “what now?”  My husband, Tony, and I were very worried. We were losing our kid, and the protective power we felt as parents seemed to be slipping away. Mind you, the school was a good school for many kids. Just not for Josh.

Luckily, he happened to belong to the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, and his best friend at the time was being homeschooled. Encouraged by my memories of 2nd-grade freedom, I thought, “Why not? I can’t do worse.” So I decided to give homeschooling a try.

Homeschooling programs are widely divergent, as are the families who conduct them. Ours focused on both academics and life skills in ways that allowed our son’s talents—his drive for independence and his pursuit of initiative—to flourish. By the time 10th grade rolled around, Josh was following a test and assignment schedule—a detailed calendar that we built at the kitchen table every year in late August. When he did his work and how he did it were his own business. And, with rare exception, he stuck solidly to the test and assignment dates we had agreed to. We provided the necessary resources and set some rules (for example, no TV or video games until 3 p.m. and no computer in his room.) If he needed help, he came to us or did further research on the Internet. It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job for him and for our family.

Our son’s education was a trek through four different educational models: co-op pre-school and kindergarten, traditional public school, private parochial school, and homeschool. All had plusses and minuses. But homeschooling revived in me an excitement for learning as an endless journey. There was always a new discovery to be found.

For a parent, homeschooling is not for the faint-hearted, the disorganized, or the less than dedicated. It is not the easy way out. But while homeschool parents make tremendous sacrifices of money and personal time, the rewards are huge. Homeschooling also confirmed my belief that education is about becoming who you are meant to be, not what others or the culture say you “ought” to be.

There’s a big difference.

About the Author

Linda Malcak lives in Pendleton, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. She graduated from Indiana University and has worked in education and product development all of her professional life. She works for Pearson, managing MyCourseTools.