Homeschool Confessions: How Homeschooling Brought My Son Back

The day he didn’t pull away–that was the day when I knew I had made the right decision about homeschooling.

It sounds silly to say that I had already lost my son at the age of seven. But, I believe it.

Here’s my story of how homeschooling brought healing to my son–igniting a true spirit of learning in his heart, and growing our mother-son relationship closer than ever.

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My Son Was Growing Up Too Fast

As the oldest of four children born in a time period of just five years, he was forced to grow up quickly. Too quickly. I shutter to think about how I shouted words like, “You are a big boy, you can do that all by yourself!” at him when he was just two and three years old. (It’s a big challenge for new moms, I believe, seeing just how young and needy your oldest baby really is.)

So he grew up before his time–helping with younger siblings and quickly learning that pleasing mom and dad meant not causing any trouble. We needed him to be our big man while our hands were full of babies.

Off to a church preschool program at age four, we wondered if he’d do all right socially. He seemed quiet. Friendship wasn’t his top priority but he liked the learning. He wanted to figure out sight words and letter sounds. It was as if he knew that literacy would completely change the way he experienced the world.

That summer he morphed into a reading and writing machine. He would transcribe the Bible, his Star Wars character encyclopedia, or anything with words that he could get his hands on he would copy into a Spiderman notebook–letter by letter and word by word. School wouldn’t be a problem for him.

Encouraged by his preschool experience, we enrolled him in our neighborhood elementary school. His kinder teacher was caring and seemed to look out for my socially uncertain, smart guy. He liked school, but his enthusiasm towards it began to wane.

I Knew Something Was Wrong With My Son

Something started to change towards the end of his kindergarten year. And, by the summer, my once eager-to-learn son had no interest in reading. His irritability made him hard to get along with. Getting him to do anything around the house required way too much coercion to be considered obedience. Meanwhile, he had developed some nervous habits, biting his hands and picking at his pants. I prayed they’d disappear before the school year began again and assumed this was just part of how a boy grew up.

But two months into first grade, I knew something was wrong. His first grade teacher gushed the whole way through our parent teacher conference. “Zach is so smart. He behaves so well. He finishes his work quickly. I really have no problems with him, at all. He’s a model student.”

I wasn’t surprised.

Then she hesitated and looked down at her notebook. Almost sheepishly she then said, “There is just one thing. I can’t get him motivated. He is eligible to take these extra tests and get prizes. He refuses.”

Now we were on to something.

I went home to investigate and received the lackluster response I expected from my disengaged child.

 “I don’t want to take those tests, Mom.” He said with some defiance. “School is too much work. I’m not doing extra.”

 “But, Zach, you can earn prizes! Mrs. B. said you’ve already read the book five or six times before test day? Why not just try it?”

 “No.” He protested. “I don’t want prizes. I hate school.”

Like Elsa, I decided to just let it go. He was right: He didn’t need prizes. I didn’t want him to stress about it. Something else was wrong. Now, I knew it for sure.

A few days later the picture came in to clearer focus. He feigned sickness to stay home then made a miraculous recovery by 9:30am. I knew this was my chance to find out what was really happening. His confession: He hated playground time.

Playground time?

Scared to death at the thought of homeschooling, I knew that was exactly what my little boy needed. He needed the chance to come home, feel safe, and learn in a way that motivated him again. I was going to have to just do it.

When I asked if he wanted to be homeschooled and his answer was an unhesitant “Yes.”

We’d try it.

How Homeschooling Healed My Son

After just one month I couldn’t believe the changes I saw in my little guy. We joined a Classical Conversations co-op close to our town and the style turned out to be a great fit.  His love for learning returned and he began to read on his own again.

Socially, he thrived in a classroom full of older children and bonded quickly with the boys in the program.

And then there’s the day he didn’t pull away. Almost six months after our homeschooling journey began, this day gave me all the confirmation I needed to know homeschooling was the right choice.

My often stand-offish child made certain we knew physical touch wasn’t his love language. Hed push away or yell, “Don’t touch me.” Hugs were always rejected. So, on this day, as he sat on the couch reading, I was surprised when he didn’t move as I sat down next to him. I put my arm around his shoulders and instead of flinching; he leaned in–snuggling under my arm.

Homeschooling had brought him back.

Other True Confessions from Homeschool Moms:

Homeschool Mom Confessions: My Real Homeschool Life (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

Homeschool Confessions: Letting God Lead Our Homeschool (Even When It’s Uncomfortable)

Homeschool Confessions: I Am That Burnt Out Mom

Answers to Your Biggest Homeschool Issues

Your Turn:

How has homeschooling brought you closer to your kids or brought healing in family relationships? How have you seen a child change dramatically due to the decision to homeschool? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

About Heather Creekmore

Heather is passionate about helping women struggling with their body image. She’s a group fitness instructor, author, speaker, mother of four children ages three through eight, and wife to Eric (a Marine fighter pilot-turned-pastor). During her single years, Heather spent more than a decade working in politics and non-profit management. She much prefers being a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom (but thinks it’s more difficult!). She blogs at ComparedtoWho.me or follow her on Facebook.

About the Author

Heather is passionate about helping women struggling with their body image. She’s a group fitness instructor, author, speaker, mother of four children ages three through eight, and wife to Eric (a Marine fighter pilot-turned-pastor). During her single years, Heather spent more than a decade working in politics and non-profit management. She much prefers being a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom (but thinks it’s more difficult!). She blogs at ComparedtoWho.me or follow her on Facebook.

Leave a Reply 38 comments

Karyn - February 17, 2015 Reply

Great post!! I loved your personal story & how you noticed the changes in your son. It’s wonderful to know ti is working well. 🙂

Alice Birchfield - February 17, 2015 Reply

For my son, it was when he started singing again. I didn’t even really realize he had stopped.

    Heather Creekmore - February 18, 2015 Reply

    Alice, same thing happened here! The song in his heart changed…if that doesn’t sound overly melodramatic! But, it’s true. He would occassionally sing a song he learned in gym class (that I would have preferred him NOT sing), but songs from church were no longer the soundtrack to his life. That has changed for us too! Thanks for sharing that and helping me remember to be grateful for that too!

Heather Creekmore - February 17, 2015 Reply

Thanks, Karyn! He is a different kid and I feel so blessed to be given a second chance of sorts!

Emma - February 17, 2015 Reply

We had the exact same experience. My daughter thrived in an arts-based preschool with a small class full of older-than-her children, but she began to wither the first day of kindergarten. She cried every day. Stomach aches. Nervous ticks. Pale skin. We even changed schools to little avail. We did medical testing. Then we did homeschooling. At first I wasn’t sure we’d made the right choice as I tried to continue along the classical-education lines, but after I relaxed and let her lead, she flourished, jumping grade(s) when allowed small spurts of her own pace. Homeschooling saved her. And me.

Heather M - February 18, 2015 Reply

This brings tears to my eyes. What a beautiful thing to find what works for your son and give him the life he needs and deserves. No matter what schooling a family chooses, it always makes me happy to see when parents take the time to make the fit right. It makes a world of difference.

Leanne - February 18, 2015 Reply

Excellent post! Looking back, I wish I had pulled my oldest out of school much sooner. I think we actually crushed his love for learning when he was going to public school. Daily I’m finding reasons that I’m so glad that we made the switch to homeschooling!

Pam - February 18, 2015 Reply

I looked at my husband six weeks into our first homeschooling year and said the exact same thing – “We have our son back.” Our smart, funny, loving, goofy, happy boy who had every last bit of joy drummed right out of him after constant bullying from other kids and utter indifference from public schools. I am so grateful we were able to do this.

Kristy as Giftie Etcetera - February 20, 2015 Reply

I won’t ever homeschool. I’m just not made for it.

Still, I heard the wisdom here. Your little boy reminds me so much of my first grader! I’m glad you found a solution that works for your family.

womenwithintention - February 24, 2015 Reply

I admire all homeschoolers. Loved this story! Thanks for linking up at Women With Intention Wednesdays!

Leah Courtney - July 12, 2015 Reply

This is a beautiful story. We’ve homeschooled all along, and I know- from having been a classroom teacher- that my children would not have thrived in a traditional school.

Annette Tinholt Vellenga - October 23, 2015 Reply

very sweet indeed. 🙂

Krista - January 11, 2016 Reply

It is awesome that you saw the need and decided to homeschool your son. I am not surprised that he responded positively to the homeschool environment. I homeschooled my kids for 18 years. It was not always easy and it was a sacrifice, but I am glad I did it. Homeschooling allowed them to be who they were and develop self confidence, something I didn’t have a lot of at their age. Both my sons were homeschooled through high school, went to college and became mechanical engineers. Homeschooling is worth all the hard work.

    Alicia Michelle - January 11, 2016 Reply

    Krista, what a wonderful story! I’m sure you have much great advice to share with 18 years of homeschool experience behind you! Thank you for reminding those of us still in the trenches that it’s worth the hard work!!

Leanne@crestingthehill - January 11, 2016 Reply

what a wonderfully positive story – I’m so glad he found his love of learning again and you’ve got your little boy back! thanks for sharing on our #OverTheMoon link up ~ Leanne 🙂

    Alicia Michelle - January 11, 2016 Reply

    Thank you, Leanne! Yes, I also found Heather’s story quite encouraging! I appreciate the feedback and that you shared with us here!

Forever Joyful - January 12, 2016 Reply

Thanks for sharing this homeschooling success story. Homeschooling moms like me need encouragement that we’re making a difference everyday!

    Alicia Michelle - January 13, 2016 Reply

    Hi there! Yes, I’m grateful that Heather shared her story here! We ARE making a difference… even on the days when we’re not sure that we are! 🙂

Beth Napoli - January 13, 2016 Reply

Interestingly, my story is that enrolling my daughter part-time in a private school “brought her back”. We have always homeschooled, but it wasn’t working for my one (of 5) children. She needed more structure than I could give her and our relationship was deteriorating with battles over learning. Giving her an opportunity to use her leadership traits outside of our home has done wonders for her academically & character-wise, plus brought restoration to our relationship. I’ve written about it on my blog. (I’d love to share my story as part of this “homeschool confessions” series).

    Alicia Michelle - January 13, 2016 Reply

    Hi Beth! Thank you for sharing this here! I also can relate to your situation. Our oldest began a part-time homeschool program about a year ago because homeschool just wasn’t a good fit anymore. I would love to talk to you more about this. Emailing you now. 🙂

Gale - January 14, 2016 Reply

This mirrors my story with my youngest so much, except for two things: He was my youngest, so the growing up too early wasn’t the case…in fact, he was emotionally young for his age, AND nothing academic ever came easy to him, unlike his older brothers.

He cried his way through Kindergarten. At first I thought maybe it was because his grandma passed away his first week of Kindergarten. Or that it was a phase that would end. But no, it was every day. And while he had been attempting to draw letters and make pictures at home he reverted to scribbling in school. His teacher was sweet. But he just wasn’t ready for it.

AND, I think Kindergarten has gotten too academic…too much pressure. My first clue was when they said, at the parent teacher meeting, that they “wouldn’t be learning shapes and colors” but would be “reading at a level you’ll be amazed by” by the end of the year. Then there was an article by a former KG teacher about why she left, after 20+ years of teaching, that clued me into more of what was happening…how kids now were pressured in KG into learning skills that used to not be expected until 1st grade, how play was leaving the classroom, and how it was all for testing, running against what research showed (that early academic pressure was bad for long term learning…that it risked kids burning out while giving very little long term rewards). When, towards the end of the year our Kindergarden teacher told me that she and the other teachers were pushing for more play-based learning, but were discouraged from doing too much of that now by the administration, I knew that sending my child back was the wrong choice.

It’s why we homeschool. The first 6 months or so was just breaking out of the fear of learning my child had developed.

    Alicia Michelle - January 14, 2016 Reply

    Gale, thank you for sharing your son’s story!! I completely understand what you’re saying about the pressures often found in regular school… often as early as Kindergarten! A dear friend of mine has spent the last year “de-schooling” her kids after they’ve spent their first years in a traditional school format. The biggest thing she keeps telling me is that they are so burdened by a pressure to perform. While I don’t believe that homeschooling is the best option for every child in every situation, there’s no doubt that it can really be a blessing both for the child and for the entire family. Thank you again for your heartfelt comment!

Kerry - January 18, 2016 Reply

A great post! We went through something similar with my oldest daughter. Instead of homeschooling, we sent her to a Montessori school nearby (which in my opinion is practically homeschooling since kids can learn at their own pace). What I want more than anything is for my kids to love learning and that just wasn’t happening at public school. Best decision we ever made.

    Alicia Michelle - January 18, 2016 Reply

    Fantastic! I think, no matter what, the most important thing is that we’re giving each child whatever learning environment they need. I’m glad to hear you’ve found that for your daughter!

Munchkintime - January 18, 2016 Reply

Love this! So inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing! I love homeschooling my daughter, we get so connected! Pinning this!

    Alicia Michelle - January 18, 2016 Reply

    Yay! Awesome! I’m so glad to share Heather’s story, and it’s great to hear how it inspired you as well! Happy homeschooling!

Janis - January 23, 2016 Reply

A wonderful post. Knowing your child. Understanding his needs. Changing when you needed to change. Well done.
Blessings on your homeschooling challenges.
Janis
I am following you from Grace and Truth linkup.

    Alicia Michelle - January 23, 2016 Reply

    Hi Janis! Thank you! Yes, Heather’s example is a great one: Listening to our kids and meeting their individual needs, no matter what the outcome! Thank you for sharing and I’m glad you found the site through Grace and Truth! Hope to see you back again soon!

Emma - January 23, 2016 Reply

What a powerful post! I’m seeing the same thing in my first grader – her whole personality has changed this year. The only difference is that she ISN’T doing so well academically, either. It’s enough to make us consider homeschooling for next year and this post confirms that I’m on the right path! #ThoughtfulSpot

    Alicia Michelle - January 25, 2016 Reply

    Hi Emma! I’m glad to hear that Heather’s story touched you. It’s beautiful to see your openness to do whatever schooling method may be best for your daughter–whether that’s homeschooling or another method! I’m praying that God will make it clear the best path for your child for next year! If you should choose homeschooling, we’ve got lots of great resources here at Your Vibrant Family to encourage you, including this post which is a compilation of many of those: http://yourvibrantfamily.com/homeschool-not-working-homeschool-issues/ I’ve also written two books that may be helpful: Plan to Be Flexible: Designing an Homeschool Rhythm and Curriculum Plan That Works for Your Family http://amzn.to/1NuZ23T and the Back to School Survival Manual: A Girlfriend’s Guide to an Organized and Successful Homeschool Year http://amzn.to/1Um5hwk Blessings to you!

Christia Colquitt - January 24, 2016 Reply

This gave me goosebumps. One of the most important whys to me of homeschooling is to bring my children closer to me. This is an awesome post and very encouraging.

    Alicia Michelle - January 25, 2016 Reply

    Thank you, Christia! I’m so glad to hear that it encouraged you! I too am inspired by Heather’s story!

Tiffiney - January 26, 2016 Reply

Hi Heather!

That was a great post! I’m soooo glad that your son came back to you. What a sweet and inspiring story. God is sooo good.

I found you at the Grace and truth link up. Love your homeschooling encouragement! (I home school, too!)

Blessings,
Tiffiney

Anne - April 4, 2016 Reply

This made me cry. My daughter is finishing first grade in public school and we have made the decision to home school starting next year. I see everything in her you described from the stomach aches, attitude, and behavior. She is so excited to home school. I am so hopeful that my joyful child returns once she is out. It’s been a hard decision because all of the teachers and staff are always saying how wonderful she is doing…. but she’s different and she isn’t happy. That has to be what matters most. It took me almost this whole year to get hubby on board. But he finally said that if she finishes out the year she can stay home!

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