I had the best of intentions of writing a post about wrapping up last year, our homeschooling plans for the summer and the big changes that are coming this next year. Yet, today is the first day that I have been able to sit down and take some time to click out some words on the laptop and share about how homeschooling has been going and what lies ahead of us.
To give a brief synopsis of last year is simple; it was a tough year. Probably one of our toughest yet. Homeschooling, the way we have been doing it, was no longer working. My two oldest needed a great deal of intense one-on-one time. My oldest also needed to learn how to figure things out on his own, to an extent. He was in 5th grade and I tried hard to give him room to work on his own and figure out how to manage with his learning disabilities, in a safe environment, but he continued to use me as a crutch. Homeschooling became a regular battle. And I was getting worn out.
By March, I began to research tutorials. And I already know what so many people are thinking; “You can’t put a child with learning disabilities in a tutorial! You are setting them up for failure.” And I have heard that. I had people gently counsel me that a tutorial is NOT the place for a child that struggles with school. Yet, I continued to search. I talked with parents and board members about tutorials. I asked specific questions about having a child with learning disabilities in that environment. And many parents said their son/daughter actually did better in a tutorial than at home.
My boys were not too thrilled about the idea. Both Joshua and Caleb did NOT want to go to a tutorial and when the day came for us to shadow at St. Thomas Aquinas Tutorial, they were both very against it. I had asked them to be open to it and see where God may be leading us as a family. Caleb shadowed the 2nd grade class and Joshua the 5th. I sat in on Caleb’s class first and I will be honest, I fell in love with the class. I was impressed with the Classical style curriculum and I loved the interactive nature of the class. Caleb came alive in the classroom. Naturally social, I could see how this setting would inspire him to learn more than he would be at home with his two brothers.
I was also impressed with the 5th grade class, and the more I researched the curriculum used, the more I felt it was the perfect way for Joshua to learn. It would give him a systematic way of writing and learning grammar that would take a lot of the stress and indecision out of the “how” for him. Yes, his work load would be more, but, in the long run, it would be easier and give him a firm foundation. Plus, he would be forced to figure out how he needed to work WITH his learning disabilities instead of trying to avoid it all together.
Earlier this year I read a book called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. While I cannot recommend the whole book, the author does an excellent job at discussing learning disabilities and how they can actually be an advantage, one which he calls a desirable difficulty. According to the author, when something is difficult, we often look at that as a disadvantage, but it can be an advantage when the person with the disadvantage works to overcome it. Galdwell relayed story after story of how men and women with dyslexia worked to overcome their disadvantage and learned new ways of learning that allowed them to become some of the top in their professions.
I let Joshua listen to these parts of the book with me. We discussed “desirable difficulty.” I shared with him how my prayer for him is that STAT would be a safe place for him to learn how to learn best with the difficulties he has. It is a place where he can use his voice to ask for the things he needs so that he can learn best. Ultimately, straight homeschooling was not giving him that environment anymore. Yes, he was still learning, but there is more for him to learn. More life lessons; more finding how to stand on his own feet, seeking balance and, if necessary, falling a few times so that he can grow into the man whom God desires for him to be.
So, starting this fall, both Joshua and Caleb will be attending a tutorial two days a week. There are times I am so happy with this decision. I know it is the right one. Yet, there are times I feel like I am admitting defeat; admitting that I cannot home school. And I worry about the boys’ transitions to a tutorial. Will they truly thrive there? Will they love it as much as I hope they will?
Ultimately, like every parenting and homeschooling decision we make, I entrust it into the hands of our Creator, knowing that when we follow His will, it will all work out in the end. It may not be pretty or perfect, but it will draw us closer to the author of our Faith.