The day he didn't pull away–that was the day when I knew I had made the right decision about homeschooling.
It sounds silly to say that I had already lost my son at the age of seven. But, I believe it.
Here's my story of how homeschooling brought healing to my son–igniting a true spirit of learning in his heart, and growing our mother-son relationship closer than ever.
My Son Was Growing Up Too Fast
As the oldest of four children born in a time period of just five years, he was forced to grow up quickly. Too quickly. I shutter to think about how I shouted words like, “You are a big boy, you can do that all by yourself!” at him when he was just two and three years old. (It's a big challenge for new moms, I believe, seeing just how young and needy your oldest baby really is.)
So he grew up before his time–helping with younger siblings and quickly learning that pleasing mom and dad meant not causing any trouble. We needed him to be our big man while our hands were full of babies.
Off to a church preschool program at age four, we wondered if he'd do all right socially. He seemed quiet. Friendship wasn't his top priority but he liked the learning. He wanted to figure out sight words and letter sounds. It was as if he knew that literacy would completely change the way he experienced the world.
That summer he morphed into a reading and writing machine. He would transcribe the Bible, his Star Wars character encyclopedia, or anything with words that he could get his hands on he would copy into a Spiderman notebook–letter by letter and word by word. School wouldn't be a problem for him.
Encouraged by his preschool experience, we enrolled him in our neighborhood elementary school. His kinder teacher was caring and seemed to look out for my socially uncertain, smart guy. He liked school, but his enthusiasm towards it began to wane.
I Knew Something Was Wrong With My Son
Something started to change towards the end of his kindergarten year. And, by the summer, my once eager-to-learn son had no interest in reading. His irritability made him hard to get along with. Getting him to do anything around the house required way too much coercion to be considered obedience. Meanwhile, he had developed some nervous habits, biting his hands and picking at his pants. I prayed they'd disappear before the school year began again and assumed this was just part of how a boy grew up.
But two months into first grade, I knew something was wrong. His first grade teacher gushed the whole way through our parent teacher conference. “Zach is so smart. He behaves so well. He finishes his work quickly. I really have no problems with him, at all. He's a model student.”
I wasn't surprised.
Then she hesitated and looked down at her notebook. Almost sheepishly she then said, “There is just one thing. I can't get him motivated. He is eligible to take these extra tests and get prizes. He refuses.”
Now we were on to something.
I went home to investigate and received the lackluster response I expected from my disengaged child.
“I don't want to take those tests, Mom.” He said with some defiance. “School is too much work. I'm not doing extra.”
“But, Zach, you can earn prizes! Mrs. B. said you've already read the book five or six times before test day? Why not just try it?”
“No.” He protested. “I don't want prizes. I hate school.”
Like Elsa, I decided to just let it go. He was right: He didn't need prizes. I didn't want him to stress about it. Something else was wrong. Now, I knew it for sure.
A few days later the picture came in to clearer focus. He feigned sickness to stay home then made a miraculous recovery by 9:30am. I knew this was my chance to find out what was really happening. His confession: He hated playground time.
Scared to death at the thought of homeschooling, I knew that was exactly what my little boy needed. He needed the chance to come home, feel safe, and learn in a way that motivated him again. I was going to have to just do it.
When I asked if he wanted to be homeschooled and his answer was an unhesitant “Yes.”
We'd try it.
How Homeschooling Healed My Son
After just one month I couldn't believe the changes I saw in my little guy. We joined a Classical Conversations co-op close to our town and the style turned out to be a great fit. His love for learning returned and he began to read on his own again.
Socially, he thrived in a classroom full of older children and bonded quickly with the boys in the program.
And then there's the day he didn't pull away. Almost six months after our homeschooling journey began, this day gave me all the confirmation I needed to know homeschooling was the right choice.
My often stand-offish child made certain we knew physical touch wasn't his love language. He’d push away or yell, “Don't touch me.” Hugs were always rejected. So, on this day, as he sat on the couch reading, I was surprised when he didn't move as I sat down next to him. I put my arm around his shoulders and instead of flinching; he leaned in–snuggling under my arm.
Homeschooling had brought him back.
Other True Confessions from Homeschool Moms:
How has homeschooling brought you closer to your kids or brought healing in family relationships? How have you seen a child change dramatically due to the decision to homeschool? We'd love to hear your stories in the comments!