The idea of teaching your own kids at home may sound wonderful, challenging and even frightening. More and more parents are opting to home school their children for many different reasons. For some it is strictly a matter of providing a religious education along with classical instruction. For others it may be that they feel that they can do a better job or for others it is simply that they have no other choice.
For me and my wife I guess it was a combination of three, but it was something that we had considered since my oldest was in the first grade. Many friends had opted to do it but we didn’t feel the need, plus my schedule didn’t allow for it. My first two started in public schools that were good, but we later moved to another city and enrolled all three of our children in a private, faith based school at the church we were a part of. The curriculum was supposed to allow each child to go at their own pace so faster learners can move on. In order for it to work well parents were directly involved and the teachers were supposed to offer one one one instruction when needed.
The subject of this material is about middle children and homeschooling, and you may be asking, “how did you get to homeschool your children?” The reason that we need to homeschool was because of my middle child. No, she wasn’t a trouble maker, nor was she dumb, or stupid. In fact she tried to get along with everybody and gave it her best effort to succeed. Lyn had fallen behind in reading and other subjects and her standardized test scores showed that she was at least one grade below normal. Why?
Lyn was also bullied and picked on and the teachers didn’t really offer any help nor make us aware of her situation. Once we were forced to homeschool the challenges began in earnest. We soon learned what dyslexia and other learning disorders were and that each child learns differently and some need more attention and others less. The delight was we got to instruct our children and we could choose our own curriculum, as long as met the state requirements. However we soon learned that there was no one set curriculum for each child that we go do across the board.
My middle child not only was more of a challenge due to dyslexia, she wanted to sit down and just do her work. She didn’t appreciate the oldest sisters distracting jokes and remarks, and she just didn’t want to be bothered. Remember, that there is still sibling rivalry and the competition to do better in certain subjects is always there. Because Lizzie learned without so many visual aids we assumed erroneously that Lyn would be the same way. When she fell behind in a subject that Lizzie excelled in she chalked it up to Lizzie just being smarter and brighter.
Visual Aids Please
I will go out of my way to do whatever I need to ensure that my children do their best and excel at whatever they attempt. We became frustrated with Lyn because she couldn’t remember dates or the systems of the body. She did great at foreign languages, but that is a gift all of my children have that I too have. Soon Lyn noticed pictures in her book and quiz books and I quickly learned that she just needs to see it. We learned how to make good use of dry erase boards, and I soon purchased outstanding maps, charts, graphs, and whatever I needed to enhance learning. Now the other two wanted us to teach them with similar aids even though they didn’t require it.
Dealing With Dyslexia
Lyn has never been diagnosed with Dyslexia or any similar disorder but her problem sure fit the definition. When I heard her reading early one morning and said Opapotamus I questioned her and found that the word opossum looked that way to her. So we had to change our game plan an work more and more, one on one. I didn’t know about the techniques that they have now, but we managed to get her going and as I have previously written she now is an avid reader. It took a few years to see those standardized scores get where I felt they could be, but Lyn was in the upper percentiles in almost all subjects.
The Middle Child, The Ordered Child
The middle child was the one that had to do everything in the order laid out. No deviation from schedule. I always gave them a project to do in history on a state or country. Lyn always did a great job but she needed a whole lot more push and help. Sometimes I thought she wanted me to do it for her, which I wouldn’t. She just needed help and guidance but she reached a point where she would say, “I can do it.” The other two either got it done quickly or procrastinated until the end. With Lyn everything had to be done a certain way or it just wasn’t right. If Lizzie gave her project presentation first then next time she just knew that she would be first.
Everything was a challenge but it was an opportunity. As parents we are also teachers when we homeschool. It is rare when the husband and wife both partake equally, but my schedule allowed me to be there in the day time. Also we turned family vacations and other trips into field trips, and we certainly had fun. But there was always competition as to who would pick where and when we went, as far local trips. “Lizzie picked the zoo”, “it’s my turn.” Usually Lyn picked something nobody else liked. Lyn loved nature, hiking and just doing the unusual.
Fun And Not So Fun
I have many wonderful memories of homeschooling all of my girls but some of the fun moments are the dissecting and chemical experiments. Lyn was the only child that actually wanted me to order the actual dissecting kits. The others used online tools. So while Susan was at Ballet and Lizzie was at work or with mom and Susan we turned our classroom into a lab. Of course, Lyn went by the book and had to find everything on the list and then asked what everything else was. Later she wanted the harder experiments, and so we did.
The not so fun was when she requested to do that experiment that you dreaded because of the difficulty and all of the safety precautions needed. It always seemed that if any child was going to have it harder than the others it would be the middle child. Nevertheless, the late nights studying for the SAT test, or helping write essays and papers were worth it. Yes, I did the SAT review and even though she may not have scored perfect she scored well enough to get into most Colleges. That was quite a feat considering all that she had endured to get there.
Part of the process was continual rivalry even in school. She didn’t compete with baby sister in extra curricular stuff because she was no ballerina. Lyn loved Taekwando and yet, she was not interested in the competition. She just enjoyed it and neither of her sisters were competing in it. Since none of them really went out for sports that was not an area of competition. I remember giving them the same elective classes in World Religions and Lyn always asked how Lizzie did. My answer was you both did very well.
Parental teachers cannot compare how well a child did on a test three years previous. Many factors are often involved in why a student didn’t fare well one time or another. Remember some students are better at some subjects than others. Lyn loved science and history. It seems they all did. Lizzie and Susan did well at math. When it came to writing assignments like biographical sketches or essays they all had a different style. Lyn seemed to struggle more with coming up with a topic but we always were able to walk her through the process to get a good one. Often she changed her mind.
When graduation finally came events transpired that kept Lyn’s grandmother’s from attending. it was a 900 or so mile trip and neither could make it even though they both came to Lizzie’s three years earlier. Later, after moving back home Susan had her graduation with both grandparents present. These are the difficult moments where the middle child just feels like the whole world crapped on her.
Whether your child is bullied or has unconfirmed dyslexia or is a genius like Malcolm in the Middle whatever your reason for homeschooling it will fun, challenging, and worth it. I believe that I bonded with all of my daughters but with Lyn it was almost like I found a child that wasn’t there. Whatever happened outside of the classroom we tried to keep it out and we had many great moments not just in learning stuff but, about out children and how to teach a middle child with needs of learning.
So, make the most of your experience homeschooling your middle child and you may find out who they are and they like knowing what makes things work, or they may find that they like Russian history as much as you do. Perhaps you may teach them a skill like cooking or baking or how to drive a car, and it helps to teach them to make sure that it is in the right gear so that they won’t run into the garage. But that is part of the experience. Enjoy!