SOUNDOFF: It's HOW some kids like to learn

HOW (Homeschoolers On Whidbey) is an inclusive organization offering support and information pertaining to home-based instruction, commonly known as homeschooling. It seeks to provide a means by which members assist one another in the adventure of educating their children at home.

I don't know how much you know about homeschooling. Many do it for religious reasons, some do so because their children were falling behind in the public school system and many more do it just because educating their own children is a natural progression of the quality time they are used to spending with their kids. There are many different styles and methods of homeschooling. HOW includes all in their support.

I can tell you about why I am doing it to perhaps give you an idea. I have two children. My daughter is 10 and my son is 8. They both attended public schools on the East Coast prior to being homeschooled. My daughter attended until third grade. She excelled in the public school system, always in advanced programs and making her parents proud.

My son ended his career after kindergarten. He was heading down a path where he was going to be labeled as the bad kid, actually he was already there by the end of that year. He would always get in trouble because he didn't listen to the teacher's instructions unless it's something he is interested in. He doesn't like to sit when a story is being read, instead wanting to play with a car and listen at the same time. That was unacceptable. I was called in weekly to speak with his teachers and his special ed. counselors. I got the sense he was a candidate for Ritalin right away. Ritalin was not an option, as I believe it is over prescribed to American children. A child needs to have a severe ADHD/ADD problem to really need this drug. That’s something I know my son didn't have bad enough.

I decided I would homeschool him before he would ever be put on drugs. By the end of that year, he started shutting down. He didn't want to go back, he cried about going to school and no longer was interested in learning. When his sister found out our plans, there was no way she would let her brother get homeschooled without her.

I took them both out of the public school system at the end of that year, deciding to try it for a year and see how it goes. We are now on our third year. I give them the option of returning to the public schools each fall. My daughter says she may go back later but not yet. My son says, no way, never does he want to go back. He is now a very positive, inquisitive kid who understands the inner workings of a molecule, among other things!

I know that I couldn't guarantee a teacher each year who would understand his needs and had the extra time to spend on him like I could. We now realize that his problem has always been that he is dyslexic, something I am working on with him now. (Time Magazine just had a large article on dyslexia.)

We homeschool year round, taking lots of field trips, whether for a day or several months, the kids can take any paperwork and books with them and do their homework. With Washington's great weather, our days vary depending on the weather. That means we can take the sunny days off instead of sitting in a classroom on those rare blue sky days, which also means, you might find us doing “school” work on the weekends.

The most frequent question I get from friends, family and strangers is: What about socialization? Luckily, due to the HOW support group, I have met many families who my children get together with on a daily to weekly basis. Forget about a 10-minute recess a couple of times a day, we have a full day's worth of social time, quite often bringing each other's school work to finish together at the house du' jour. The response becomes, "We are getting TOO MUCH socialization!" That isn't a complaint though.

I am not against the public school systems. It is a great system for one type of learner. The ones that can sit and listen, read by first grade and like to do workbook pages is the ideal student that will breeze right through school.

For everyone else that needs a different type of learning, the public schools can't truly accommodate them. I believe the teachers have their hands tied, with not enough funding, resources or help. I know they are lucky to get a full five minutes a day with each individual child. How many are taking Ritalin? How many are in special ed classes? How many turn to drugs from the peer pressure? How many are there just because it's a requirement that means nothing to them because nobody has noticed they aren't learning anything? How many get lost in the system and become juvenile delinquents? How many still cannot read by the time they graduate? How many have lost their thirst for knowledge?

I had no intention of letting my child be a burden on the system. I put off my own career to ensure my children become well adjusted productive adults in society one day. I feel we are well on our way.

Erin Clark lives in Oak Harbor and serves as publicist for Homeschoolers on Whidbey. For more information call 279-2755 or e-mail agee@pugetsound.net.

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