To understand our journey, first you have to understand my dd. Sorry, it might get long...
J (9 now) was always a precocious kid. She wrote her name at 2, read small words at 3, chapter books at 4, taught herself cursive at 5, etc. This did not mesh well with school. In preschool she was in time-out a lot, mainly for not feeling like participating in circle time, talking "out of turn", or getting up and walking around for no reason sometimes . Her teacher always looked like she'd rather be somewhere else (and I found out she was fired a few years later for shaking a child)
. In Kindergarten, the teacher thought she understood J and gave her "jobs" to keep her from getting too bored and to satisfy her need to move around. At one parent-teacher conference, she told me that J was "way beyond" the phonics workbook they were doing so she had J sit in the back of the room reading a book and then writing a full page summary of it. Ok, I understood the good intention there, but after that year, dd hated reading and writing.
First grade was horrible. Her teacher really hated her. J was kicked out of an advanced reading group for "excessive talking". She was accused of things she didn't do. The teacher would dismiss the kids and shake her head at me in disgust and J would come out crying on more than a few occasions.
This was when I first started researching homeschooling. Later on, the teacher had the good sense to recommend J for a nearby gifted academy - although her exact words were, "..but I know she won't get in"
. J took the test and was, in fact, the only kid to make it into the program from her school.
I thought the gifted school would be the answer. J would be among her academic peers, the teacher will understand the personality traits that go along with giftedness, and all will be well. So, second grade was not so bad. Every one of J's teacher thought she might have ADHD, though. I had her tested that summer and the pediatric neuropsychologist said that base solely on the teacher's assessment (4-page checklist that I filled out,too) J definitely has ADHD - when shall we schedule a follow-up visit so we can talk about medication. Needless to say, I think that woman was a nut.
In 3rd grade, J calmed down tremendously. After a few months, the thoughts of ADHD was turned into ADD-inattentive. I kept hearing that J couldn't focus, but knew the work. Her science teacher even gave her an A+ on the report card when all J's tests were below 80%. When I asked her why, she said she knew that J understood the work, but just wasn't a test-taker. By this time, I had noticed J's "spark" was gone. That wonderful fantastic love of learning full of curiosity, motivation, and enthusiasm had disappeared. Homework was a struggle, classwork was a struggle, concentrating was a struggle.
My research on homeschooling had once again resumed. I knew it would work and that J would love it. I talked to J about it and after a couple of weeks, she came to me saying she was ready to homeschool
. We both needed time to "deschool" and I let her do whatever she wanted at home. She chose to print out science worksheets and have me grade them for her. She wanted to be quizzed on spelling words and multiplication problems. I researched curricula during this time and decided on Charlotte Mason. J enjoyed the copywork, narrations, nature walks, etc. - for a few weeks. I saw she was happier and in a better mood more often. But then, she would want to skip certain subjects on the list. And eventually we just stopped altogether.
I believe we both just morphed into unschooling because even a loose lesson plan wasn't going to work. She needed total creative and academic freedom. She needed to explore her world on her own terms. She needed to learn how to just "be".
Now, it's been over a year since this unschooling journey began. J has reagained a love of learning I haven't seen since she was 4. All the missing creativity, motivation, and enthusiasm is back
: . She has many many interests - lots of them still hover around some schoolishness: World cultures, maps, capitals, oceans, science experiments, outer space, gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, American Girl dolls, HTML coding and creating websites, lots of trips, and last week she expressed an interest in learning algebra. I peruse the worldbook typcial-course-of-study sometimes (NY has strict regulations, paperwork, and testing, so I keep tabs on her learning level, sigh) and she remains at 2-3 grade levels ahead.
I try not to involve myself too much, but I will always be provide her with resources, opportunities, ideas, and suggestions. She does love to involve me, though! And asks to be taught certain things she's interested in. She has deschooled a LOT and, as everyone I know has also noticed, there are no signs of ADHD or ADD-inattentive at all anymore
: . She is a competitive dancer, going to practices 3-5x a week, we are part of a wonderful homeschool group (with lots of unschoolers!), and she is slowly feeling more comfortable speaking to adults she just meets. She has more friends now than ever before, too.
I have learned so much over this past year. Unschooling is just right for us. I couldn't even imagine ever changing that. And I'm excited to announce that we will also start homeschool ds-5 next year. I never knew life could be so big and juicy.