Why Do I Homeschool?
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” – Ignacio Estrada
When I began my first year as a public school teacher in 2009, no one could convince me that I hadn’t found my purpose in life. Even though I was teaching at one of the lowest performing high schools in Philadelphia, and I was working with students who had been diagnosed, labeled, and placed in special education, I saw nothing but promise and possibilities when I went to work everyday. I absolutely loved teaching 9th grade special ed, and seeing my students make progress brought me a great deal of satisfaction. One peculiar thing that I noticed however, is how few female students I had. In a classroom for 25 children, I could count on one hand how many females I taught. The majority of my students were African- American males. I remember wondering why this was so. Was there something inherent in males to make them more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability? (This question alone is enough for another blog post, but I have included some recommended reading on this topic below.)
Because I had so many male students, I made it a point to teach in a way that honored a kinesthetic learning style. I also made sure to integrate many positive Black male role models into my lesson plans, as well as integrate an element of competition into everything. What I noticed is that the more I honored the way my male students learned, the more they learned- and as the year progressed, I honestly didn’t see why my most of my students were in special education at all.
This invaluable lesson is at the core of why I homeschool.
As life would have it, my work with special education students in Philadelphia was a training ground for my most challenging student yet- my son, Phoenix. Since my son has been school-aged, I have tried placing him in a number of school settings- and it has been a painful experience to say the least. From the age of five, he has been labeled “slow”, “ “lazy”, “ anti-social” , “awkward”, and “unable to focus”. Although my son began reading at the age of four, his teachers were unaware of this and failed to see his ability to do much of anything. I sat in countless meetings with teachers listing all of the deficiencies of my child- and I found it baffling. How could it be that his brilliance- which was so evident to our family and everyone else outside of school- could not be seen inside of the classroom? In Kindergarten, I had to bring in video footage of me working with my son at home for his teacher to believe he actually had the capacity to sit still long enough to do school work.
Affixing the title “learning disabled” to a child has serious implications. In the beginning of my first year teaching, it was a real battle trying to get my students to unlearn the helplessness that they developed as a result of being in special ed for so long. I knew there was nothing wrong with my son’s ability to learn. He, like so many other Black boys who get labeled as “ADHD” or “LD”, simply did not thrive in a traditional classroom setting. After several failed attempts at finding a school to meet his needs, we decided that homeschooling was the best option for him.
As both a special educator and his mother, I understand that if my son is having difficulty learning from the way that I teach, it is my responsibility to teach him in a way in which he learns . Homeschooling has transformed him into a student who is excited about learning. Homeschooling allows him to do projects, be creative, and move around as much as he needs to. He is able to follow his curiosity and because of this, there are no limits to what he is able to accomplish.
I want to use this blog to share our homeschooling journey. Maybe you are like me, and have a child who has been struggling in school. Maybe you have been considering homeschooling and you don’t know where to begin. Perhaps you are a special education teacher and are looking for some strategies for engaging kinesthetic learners. What is your story? What brings you to this blog? If you have any feedback, ideas, or strategies to share, I would love to hear in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and please, stay tuned for more of my journey in Raising the Phoenix!