When we started homeschooling Ryan, it was only because we found out at the kindergarten screening that the public school didn’t teach reading in kindergarten and our precocious Pre-K Kangaroo, who had excelled in all things in preschool, was ready to read. Private school tuition wasn’t a realistic option for our family budget and we didn’t like the idea of stalling his education for a year. So our battle cry became, “How badly can we mess up kindergarten?” That was the extent of our personal homeschooling conviction at that point. Worst-case scenario, he wouldn’t be any further behind than his public school peers, who would be learning their letter sounds and basic numbers that year.
As it turned out, our little sponge soaked up everything we put in front of him. Though I had no training in teaching or pedagogy (I had never even heard the word pedagogy), I taught Ryan to read using a boxed reading program with phonics songs on cassette tapes (a-a apple, b-b-ball, c-c-cat, and d-d-doll…). By Christmas, Ryan was up and reading and we realized that we were not going to completely mess up kindergarten.
But we also realized that he was digging us into a terrible, wonderful hole. Ryan was getting so far ahead and we were beginning to enjoy homeschooling so much that felt like we were reaching the point of no return. A standardized achievement test placed our son in the 97th percentile compared to other kids his age. Armed with a shiny, stellar, state-approved test score (something we later learned was not a complete measure of intelligence or achievement) and new-found confidence, my husband and I asked each other, “How much harm can we do for first grade?” After all, we reasoned, we had both completed first grade in school, so we surely possessed at least a rudimentary grasp of the course work, right?
The first two years we used the curriculum recommended by a friend because we didn’t know any better. While the phonics program worked out well, other parts of the curriculum were too structured for our more laid-back family style. As our confidence grew, we tiptoed out into the nearly limitless world of curriculum choices available for homeschoolers. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can find a curriculum that fits your individual family and your kids’ learning styles. I began to look forward to the day the massive Rainbow Resource catalog showed up in the mailbox.
My confidence grew as I realized I knew my kids better than anyone else in the world and understood their strengths and weaknesses. I knew where they were academically at any given moment and could tailor the curriculum to suit their needs. What school could offer that?