“I Want to be Homeschooled.” Taking on My 8th Grader’s Education


Editor’s Note: What would you do if your child asked to be homeschooled? Recently, writer and EP Guest Blogger Francesca Biller’s 14-year-old asked her that very question. What would you do if you were in her shoes?

When my daughter calmly told me that she wanted to be homeschooled, I was anything but calm. My first reaction was to cry, take her decision personally, and preach to her the endless benefits of public school.

But as the mother of a teenage girl, I knew the worst thing I could do at the moment was overreact, so I tried my best to remain calm and listen. Let’s just say that mothering has taught me more than a few life-lessons, namely patience.

It was obvious that she had thought about this for some time as she explained a concise list of reasons why she wanted to leave middle school.

Leave middle school? Those three words rang in my head like an incessant school bell as she opened up to me in a way she had never done before.

“I can’t focus any longer,” she said with sadness in her eyes. “I feel anxious when I am around other kids because of all of their drama.”

She also confided how teachers spend most of their time “just trying to get students to behave,” that her classes were overcrowded, and how “she knew” she could learn much better without all of the distractions.

She even confessed that she felt like somewhat of a failure with not being able to “deal with it all.”

Again, I tried not to cry.

I also wondered what I had done wrong, how I could have been so “out of touch,” and convinced myself that I was a terrible mother, as I continued to listen to her carefully-worded feelings.

It turns out she had been miserable for some time, and that she felt anxious and nauseous at the mere thought of going to school.

Mind you, since kindergarten she has been an “A” student, on the honor role, played competitive sports, received awards for her art, and never complained about anything.

But here she was, this bright and sensitive fourteen-year-old staring me straight in the eye while she asked if I would be willing to be her home-school teacher.

Quite honestly, my first feelings were selfish as I knew this meant I would have to devote hours of my personal time to schooling her.

After all, it seems like just yesterday when my youngest finally went to school, and for the first time in years, I was able to devote time to my career while teachers took care of my kids between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. I’d finally found what I thought to be the perfect balance.

Yet instinctively, I knew this was coming. Over the past couple of years, an alarming number of parents in my community were implementing industrious ways of educating their children through homeschooling efforts. But I never expected I would be doing the same with my own children.

But I have to say, in all honesty, parenthood has never been so fulfilling and challenging all at once since I agreed to take on this new role.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with counselors at her Middle School, enrolled her in a thriving Charter School, met with her Independent Studies teacher who will assign all lessons, and hauled heavy Teachers Edition Textbooks into my home which I am expected to use for teaching, guidance and grading.

The other day,  I was feeling sorry for myself after ploughing through eighth grade History and Science books for hours on end.

But just then my daughter  walked in and said, “Thank you for all that you are doing. I know how hard this must be for you, but I promise that I will make you proud.”

I answered back, “I am already proud, because you are an honest and brave young girl, and we will do this together.”

She just smiled and went back to the living room, where she continued to read a greatly-anticipated new novel for credit, one advantage she is truly enjoying.

As for the coming months of homeschooling, I do not know exactly how things will turn out, but I suspect that it will be interesting, frustrating and hopefully successful for both of us.

I will keep you all posted.

*** This is the first in a series about my experiences homeschooling my daughter. The next post will reveal our first weeks of academia, and our experiences with educating in the home.***

Francesca Biller is an award-winning investigative journalist, blogger and Op Ed writer for print, radio, television and the web. For nearly 20 years, she has covered politics, families, popular culture, the media, race and the economy. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Golden Mike awards and four Society of Professional Journalists awards for reporting and writing. You can find out more about Francesca here http://open.salon.com/blog/checka and here http://francescabiller.webs.com/.

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