A month before our girl would start kindergarten, I worked diligently to teach the tiny little thing to recognize the letters “A,” “B,” and “C.” I was a licensed teacher and couldn’t do it. She could barely hold a pencil, was adamant that her name was spelled “S-O-Y-A,” and couldn’t use the bathroom on her own; or she could but chose not to because that was something she could control when her world was pure chaos.
When I reminisce about the time in our life when Sonya was in kindergarten, it is hard to believe how drastically our lives have changed since then. For the people who only know her now, I don’t think you would truly believe what a journey it has been.
I was teaching in a room down the next hall over. Weekly, this tiny little blonde terror was called into the office, where I had to discuss with my boss my child’s behavior. Almost daily, as soon as I walked my 3rd graders to the bus and stopped to pick her up, she would melt down in my classroom. Throwing furniture, screaming, spitting, pinching herself, basically just exploding after I’d left her all day to cope with school.
Then it would be time for homework and meetings when she was already maxed out and just needed her basic needs met. If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, it’s basically the idea that you cannot fulfill one need until others are met. So if the most basic need of safety isn’t met, there is no way the ABC’s are going to matter.
I was consumed with exhaustion, shame, and guilt all year. I was supposed to be making a difference in this wild child’s life, but I was sending her to school each day which was such a battle. The day she got suspended was almost a breath of fresh air (as guilty as I feel admitting that) because Will stayed home with her while I went to work and could breathe knowing she was safe and not harming others. And you know what? She thrived that day in a safe environment with one-on-one adult interaction that she craved so much.
I remember telling my principal (who was a saint that year), fighting back tears as she handed me a tissue, that I wished I could just home school her.
I had nothing left after pouring into my 16 kiddos (who I really did love and pour into as if they were my own). I couldn’t spend extra hours after work trying to get her caught up while she struggled to learn anything.
The whole year was a struggle, and I continually wished God would provide a way for me to stay home and teach her.
During that year, I pulled out the camera that Will (the best hubs) had gotten me and started taking pictures. A lot I didn’t share because they were of Sonya and our other foster love, Jada, who lived with us for a few months before finding the sweetest forever home. But it quickly became a creative outlet I so desperately needed. I needed an escape at the time and photographer provided that for me.
Fast forward to this school year, and God, who knew exactly what He was doing, turned that little escape into a joy-filled full-time job that has allowed me to finally fulfill that desire He planted in my heart during such a heart-wrenching kindergarten year.
Even though Sonya has grown leaps and bounds since that first year, school was still such a difficulty for her. She needed a safe haven, and one teacher who is trying to meet the needs of 17-25 students just wasn’t enough. She needed safety and security that was hard to find when separated from her mama for 8 hours every day. She needed a place to be creative and to work through hardships instead of sitting at a desk for hours trying to write sentences she didn’t understand.
Thankfully, Sonya was blessed with truly caring, patient, and talented teachers and staff at her little country school that showed more grace and kindness than we could have ever asked for, and I would never ever want our decision to seem like a negative reflection of them. Without them, we never would have gotten to this point. But she just needed the time at home that she didn’t get before.
And imagine if each teacher only had one student. How much more progress would one child make with a teacher targeting his specific needs? How much more learning could be done without interruptions of attendance and assemblies and attitude problems? What if the child who is an auditory learning could have targeted instruction and the child who needs more hands-on style learning could do that?
I know all of the arguments about socialization, but the positive social interactions Sonya has had this year through dance, gymnastics, church activities, an after-school program, weekly trauma therapy, attending photo sessions, traveling with Will and interacting with college students, multiple field trips, etc. have taught her and had far greater benefits for her social skills than the 20 minutes of recess and the instructions to be quiet in a classroom all day.
I understand that home schooling is not possible for everyone, and I am thankful for all of the teachers who work so hard to meet every student’s need in the best way they can.
Will we home school our little bean on the way? Honestly, I have NO idea the plans God has for us before then. I don’t even know if we will continue next year with Sonya! I do know the benefits of homeschooling that we are treasuring this year; I will share these soon!
I know I am thankful God has provided the means for this journey this year, but I also know He sees a much bigger picture than I do, so we are just going to take it a day at a time. But in the meantime, we are truly thankful for this journey!!
If you have any questions about our homeschool journey so far, feel free to leave it in the comments!!