KIWI Challenge: Homeschooling

Rachel Aydt

Can a young family begin homeschooling their kindergartner?

THE CHALLENGE: Research and start homeschooling for kindergarten

THE FAMILY: Jacqueline and Todd Wilson, and 5-year-old Ella, from Indianapolis
The decision: Tough Ella was enrolled in a traditional pre- K program while the family was living in Michigan, when they moved to Indianapolis last year, Jackie had uncertainties about the local schools and wanted to try homeschooling. “Ella’s very confident, and that’s one of the things that we wanted to keep in her,” says Jackie. “She’s also very creative—sometimes I say she’s weird in a good way. I don’t want these qualities to get squashed by peer pressure. This is the big learning-who-she-is stage.”

Studying up: Todd wasn’t initially on board, but was persuaded after Jackie—a college instructor finishing her master’s degree in education—spent six months doing research, talking to homeschooling parents online, and looking at curriculums. (Each state has different requirements—Indiana doesn’t when it comes to curriculums, but others have strict guidelines to follow.) “After speaking with other homeschooling parents, the one thing I’ve learned is that there is no formula. Most people create their own formula for what works for their kids,” says Jackie. The Wilsons transformed an extra room in their home into a classroom, replete with chalkboards, bookshelves, and carved-out space for art projects. “I was concerned about Ella distinguishing between ‘Mom the parent’ and ‘Mom the teacher’,” says Todd, “but when Ella walks into that room, she knows it’s time to get to work.”

Learning lessons: Getting on track did take time. “I’m pretty sure I cried at the end of the first day!” says Jackie. But, she says: “It’s easy to feel like a failure if you’re too inflexible or if you start comparing yourself to other homeschoolers. I was just speaking with a homeschooling mom who said some of her homeschooling friends are starting their kids on Latin in kindergarten. I don’t need my kid to be a superkid, I need her to be a functioning, contributing part of society. I came to that realization quickly in the first week.”

JacquelineToddEllaWilsonHomeschooling

School days: “We get up in the morning, and learning is sprinkled throughout the day,” says Jackie. Ella has a chore list that’s posted in her bedroom and she goes through the same steps every day, like brushing her teeth and getting dressed. After the morning routine, they go into the classroom, and their usual school day goes until 1 p.m. The academics are spread throughout the week they’ll work on reading three times a week, math twice a week, and have an electives day. “Ella puts everything she wants to do into an electives jar and we pick one out. Right now we’re doing dinosaurs, and we exhaust that subject until she’s done with it.” What’s next? “I want to study what sticks to metal,” says Ella.

Keeping Ella in close contact with other children was a big concern for the Wilsons. She goes on playdates and takes gymnastics and swimming with the same kids at a local community center every week.

Advice for beginners: Tough Jackie says that home- schooling is “not for the faint-hearted,” she is confident that Ella is learning more than she would in a classroom. Teaching is tailored to Ella’s style, and the one-on-one is more ideal than the 30-to-1 ratio in many public schools, says Jackie.

Her thoughts? “Don’t feel like you need to pretend for other people that you have it all together,” she says. “Ask for help. It’s okay to say how sometimes parenting is hard. There’s so much judgment about homeschooling, that I would caution potential homeschoolers that we’re not a bunch of freaks. We’re educated, successful people who made this decision because, for now, this is how our daughter learns best.”

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