Like every good story, you must start with the beginning. But where does our homeschool story begin? Perhaps it needs to begin with my own story. I am a public school teacher. (Insert gasp here). That’s usually the response I get when I tell people that I am homeschooling my children, and it is more exasperated when I tell people that I am a public school teacher. Some people have the idea that if you are a homeschool teacher that you are automatically against public school. That is not always the case, and it certainly isn’t the case in my situation. Perhaps my background in public education has helped me to open my eyes to situations within my own family that required us to make this change.
My story is more than just being a public school teacher. It is also about being a mom of three children, and someone who suffers from anxiety and panic. The later two are part of what led to his crazy journey that we are on. I have always suffered from anxiety. For as long as I can remember, I worried about everything. I would hold my breath in hospitals because I was worried I would get sick. It didn’t become unbearable though, until the death of my dad. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I began having panic attacks. I was placed on medicine, and stayed on it for nearly a year.
After his death, I began seeing a therapist to help me deal with my anxiety. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). After several months, I discontinued therapy. During this time, my husband and I desperately wanted to start a family. Without going in to details, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. While that diagnosis does not make it impossible to have children, it does make it really hard to conceive. Three miscarriages later, we decided we were done. Adoption was always something that we had discussed, and it became a reality. We adopted three beautiful children from foster care.
About a year before we met our children, my brother had an aneurism. His illness had a profound impact on me. I began having panic attacks daily. Multiple times daily. I couldn’t leave the house for fear of having another attack. Being in the car left me in a state of panic. I began seeing a therapist again and was diagnosed with panic disorder, agoraphobia, and post traumatic stress disorder. I remember telling the therapist that my anxiety was the first thing that I thought of every morning, and the last thing I thought of every night. It had taken over my very existence. It was determined that I would begin taking medicine again. It was my saving grace.
Fast forward four years. I was still on the lowest dose possible of medicine. I was living. not just functioning. I was standing in my classroom when I started to feel those panic feelings again. Usually, I could distract myself and it would subside. That day was different. There was nobody who could cover my room, and I began to feel trapped. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the feeling. When my instructional assistant entered the room, I told her I needed to step out for a few minutes. I went to the restroom, and began to have my biggest anxiety attack in four years. It was so severe, I had to call my husband, who had to leave work and come get me.
I was shaken to my very core. I became afraid to go to work, for fear of having another one. I missed several days of work. I talked to my doctor about increasing my dosage. My anxiety had such a grip on me and it wouldn’t let do. My thoughts at work began to focus on my anxiety. I was letting my students down. I could feel it. I was becoming grouchy and irritable, and I couldn’t concentrate. The medicine wasn’t helping. Before work everyday I would throw up, multiple times. I would shake. After a few months of this, I knew I couldn’t continue. It wasn’t fair to my students, my school, or me. I was placed on medical leave.
The break that I am receiving, is helping, but my anxiety is nowhere near gone. It’s baseball/softball season and all three of my children play. This forces me to be out of the house. The whole time though, I am wrestling with feelings of anxiety. I laugh, and joke through it, to make it bearable, but its there. Many people who see me, wouldn’t even realize that I am having any issues. They don’t notice me rocking back and forth, or shaking my legs. They don’t notice me taking deep breaths, or clutching my husbands hand.
My children attended the school that I taught at, which is out of area for us. I would have to drive them every day to school, or move them to a new school. After talking with my husband, and taking into consideration the issues they were dealing with, we decided to homeschool while I am off of work. We have been doing it for a month, and it has undoubtedly been the best decision we could have made. But why?
Please keep in mind that our children were adopted through foster care. They were 6, 5, and 3 when they came to live in our house four years ago. They came with diagnoses of ADHD, and trauma that we deal with every day. Our oldest, aged 10, is a beautiful and smart girl.
When she was first placed with us, she couldn’t read very basic sight words. She couldn’t spell. We would spend hours every evening at the table with her yelling and crying. She would call herself stupid. Her teacher mentioned holding her back, but the educator in me knew this wasn’t the right answer. We worked hard all summer, and with the help of her remarkable first grade teacher, she began to thrive. She never tested well though. Her MAP, and I-Ready scores always had her scoring at the bottom of her class. She could do the content, but she couldn’t test well.
She also had horrible separation anxiety. She did not want to be away from us. If she was, she would cry and become hysterical. When my husband started a new job, she threw herself in front of the car so he couldn’t leave. If I was absent a day from work, it was almost unbearable for her. We had worked on this, and it was getting better. If I would miss a day, she was okay. Maybe not at her best, but okay. She could function.
When the school shootings in Florida happened, she became a different child. It was so gradual, that we really didn’t understand why it was happening. We didn’t make the connection to the school shooting until several weeks later. She would cry before school. She became clingy again. The presence of cops in the building sent her on edge. She told us that people at school told her it was because people were bringing guns to school and were going to kill her. She was petrified of being there. The nurse and teachers were calling me daily that she didn’t feel well. She had temperatures of 99.9. It took several trips to the doctor to determine that she was having anxiety. Once we determined that, we began to talk with her about what was bothering her. This is when it all came out that the cops in the building scared her, and what people were telling her. We also discovered she was being bullied. We knew of some things, but she began to open up about so much more.
Our middle child, who is 9, also struggled academically. He is a very smart kid, and is very athletic, but when testing on I-ready, and Map, he would consistently score in the lowest group. He was pulled for RTI, and this became a source of bullying and frustration for him. He was being treated for anxiety, and suffered from night terrors. In October of last year, he began having difficulty seeing the board. He had just gotten new glasses, so we thought that maybe his prescription was wrong. Several trips to the eye doctor, resulted in an ophthalmology referral. We received diagnosis after diagnosis. We were told that he had unstable vision due to fetal alcohol syndrome. After seeing a geneticist we were told he didn’t have FAS. We were told that he had an euryblepharon and this was causing his eyes to dry out. We tried eye drops and it still didn’t help.
During this time, he began having severe headaches. They were so severe that at times he would have to lay in a dark room, with an ice-pack on the back of his head and close his eyes. He had an MRI and it showed nothing. He was diagnosed with migraines, and placed on medicine. We had to log everything he ate, drank, and any activities he was doing. He was leaving class many times a day to get medicine, and it wasn’t helping. We determined that stress was his trigger. His headaches had become more frequent and severe when his friend passed away from cancer. They were occurring multiple times a day. We got him into therapy to help him.
Our youngest, age 7, is such a character. He is funny and silly, but also very hard on himself. Academically, he is very gifted. He isn’t the best test taker, because he likes to rush, but he always tested higher than grade level. He had an IEP for speech. There were no issues with him, but when I left school, he didn’t want to go either. Since we had already decided to homeschool the oldest two, it made sense to homeschool him too.
That’s it. That’s our story. The long, complicated story about how we got to homeschool. There are so many other things that I could add as to how we got here but my goal in this blog isn’t to hurt anyone, but to enlighten people to our journey. There is a stigma when it comes to homeschool, and my goal is to remove or change that stigma. From someone who has been on both sides of the fence, public and home, I see the advantages to both.