Homeschool: Slice of Life 16/31 #sol16

slice of life

This afternoon, we’re making it official. We’re filing papers to become homeschoolers.

Partial homeschoolers. My son wanted to keep his first-period math class, which he loves. Every morning, he will go to his most regulating class—taught by a very structured, unflappable teacher who loves math and loves middle-schoolers.

And then he will come home.

And we will homeschool.

It’s mostly for concussion recovery. The lights, the noise, the screens all trigger a recurrence of symptoms.

But I’m imagining other kinds of healing that can happen if my son is home.

For far too many kids, school simply isn’t a safe place—and he’s one of those kids. School makes him feel stupid, bad, deeply ashamed. Every day he comes home, and we spend hours putting him back together from the stresses and abuses of the day—just so he can go back the next day and do it all over again.

I always wanted to homeschool but never thought we’d be able to. It wasn’t feasible for a host of reasons. My work schedule. My son’s unwillingness.

But here we are. It was even my son’s idea to homeschool!

I threw myself into research mode and discovered many homeschool systems that appeal to me and my interests. (A classical education in Latin and Greek anyone?)

But I know what my son needs.


This is going to be hard for me. I like schedules and projects and goals and systems. But what I’d like most of all is for my son to find joy and wonder and pleasure in learning. I would like for him to feel curious again. I would like for him to develop interests and have the space to pursue them.

This is what we did with our first afternoon of unschooling.

We drove out to the lake and took photos of a bald eagle sitting at the top of a tree.

He played chess with his dad.

He sanded a bowl he made from modeling clay.

We looked up photos of Alcatraz Island. We’re reading Al Capone Does My Shirts, and I’ve been meaning to show him pictures. We watched a video about the prison, then read an article about Al Capone, and looked up photos of Machine Gun Kelly and famous prison escapee Roy Gardner.

Then we looked at photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombardi Street and wondered if we should take a vacation to San Francisco.

He asked if we could look at pictures of unicycles, and I said yes.

He asked if we could look at pictures of dirt bikes, and I said yes.

I like this, he said. Is every day going to be like this?

And I said yes.





33 responses to “Homeschool: Slice of Life 16/31 #sol16”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    First, I am smiling so big my cheeks hurt. Second, I want to come along. And third, this is a beautiful piece of writing. I love the repetition at the end.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Carrie. Can’t believe this is becoming a reality! He asked today if we had to “do English” and I said we’ll just read and that will count for Language Arts. He was so happy! “We can read? Really? We can read all kinds of books?” YES!

      1. carriegelson Avatar

        I love all of these yes responses! 🙂

  2. monikalovelybookshelf Avatar

    Unschooling has been hard for me, too, for the same reasons as you. But that seems to be what works best for my daughter. It helps me to write in a journal at the end of each day, the things I’ve observed her learning/doing, and kind of “categorize” it – just for me to glance at on those days I’m feeling unsure. Best wishes, I’m really happy for you guys!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      This is such a great idea, Monika, thank you! Keeping a daily journal with observations will also help me follow through on things he expresses interest in. In the course of a day, it’s so easy to forget!

  3. maribethbatcho Avatar

    This make me very happy as well. I could feel the tentativeness at the beginning, but that works it’s way into a beautiful piece of knowing and love and understanding. I am with Carrie. The repetition at the end is perfect, and it makes you smile. Thanks for a lovely read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you! This is one of those “in a rush to write and publish” days, so it’s hard to know if the piece is really fully formed and hatched!

      1. maribethbatcho Avatar

        I get that. But it really doesn’t feel that way. You are a very good writer!

  4. vanessaw2007 Avatar

    I can hear the struggle at the beginning and the joy at the end. This is such a lovely tale of a mother who wants to do what’s best for her son. There is so much research about nature and teaching the whole child and I can tell you’re in for a very fun adventure.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My hope is that he will like this so well, he wants to do it again next year! We’ll see. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. Deb Day Avatar

    A couple of tears here. And I want your son in my classroom. He is one of my kids. I just know he is. And what you will do with homeschooling is my belief what school should be like. Can’t wait to hear more about it

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, he is, Deb. He is TOTALLY one of your kids. Those were always my kids too. Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough teachers who understand and want to work with “those kids”. School is re-traumatizing for him every single day. It’s heartbreaking.

  6. Tara Smith Avatar

    No wonder he wants another today – today sounds perfect!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It has been really good, Tara. I can’t wait to chart the mental health around here when school is out of the equation.

  7. nickybanz Avatar

    This is so exciting! Finally, a teacher who will love him unconditionally. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Beautiful comment, Nicky. Thank you! I am not quite sure how all this is going to go, but hey, no more word searches! Though I think I totally have to print one out and bring it home to surprise him one of these days….

      1. nickybanz Avatar

        Hopefully this means he’ll be on more CSC visits. 🙂

  8. Cathy M Avatar

    First of all, I have to admit that your post makes me a little sad. Not for you. Definitely not for your son. It makes me sad for this place we call school. As a public educator, it hurts my heart to hear stories like these. School should be a place kids feel valued and safe. It should be a place where cultures of learning thrive. Most of all, it should be a place where children come first.

    I must say, however, there is a peacefulness to your decision and to this post. The writing is absolutely beautiful: the gentle flow between quick and slow, the change in structure from long to short, the placement of words with white space. Let the unschooling begin.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It makes me sad too. I know there are schools that work, that are humane places of care, learning, and love. Even more than entire schools, I know there are individual teachers who create those classrooms. My son has three of them right now (out of 8). But on the whole, I find myself incredibly disillusioned with education. I have watched my son go from being a kid who couldn’t wait for Monday so he could get back to school to being a kid who says several times a week that “School is evil” or “School is a bad, bad place.” And he has legitimate reasons for saying that. He is not wrong. His trust in adults has been lost. His confidence in himself as a learner has wavered. Even more, his belief in himself as a good, valuable person has been compromised. And that’s really unforgivable.

  9. margaretsmn Avatar

    What a wonderful, loving solution. I am happy to hear that this is even a possibility. Thanks for letting us into your life.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Margaret! It’s an exciting new adventure, for sure.

  10. Mindi Rench Avatar

    It sounds like your son is one of those kids who I always seemed to connect with, ones who were fragile in one way or another, and needed some structure, some freedom, and some personal connection with a teacher who cares. It sounds as if you are doing what your son needs right now. Keep strong!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You’ve nailed it, Mindi: structure, freedom, personal connection. And yes, fragile. Though on the surface, he doesn’t seem like it so it’s hard to get teachers to understand that his behaviors are a mask for fragility. A few minutes ago, he told me he had a really good day and he thinks this break from school is just what he needs. Yay!

  11. Lynn Avatar

    No child should have to be “put back together” after a day at school. Best of luck to you and your son!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Agreed! And far too many kids from traumatic backgrounds experience school in just this way.

  12. jarhartz Avatar

    I’m so glad for him and you. So much love here.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Julieanne. All days won’t be good, but our first one certainly was!

  13. kellerdustin Avatar

    This could be a fun adventure, and a start of some great family field trips.
    If he is doing any art projects and would like some feed back, he is welcome to talk with me.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’ve definitely got my eye on some different trips and adventures! The only structured event I’m signing him up for is a homeschoolers art class in Rapid City that meets once a week. Not sure how it’s going to go, but I hope it will rekindle his love of art. I’m sure I will blog about it!

  14. Carol Avatar

    My sons were those kids too. Especially my older ones. How I wish I would have figured out how to unschool them. I’d love for them to be curious or excited or interested in anything right now. And they aren’t. I’d love to hear more about how you are going to do it logistically.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We have a luxury you didn’t, Carol: flexible schedules and one parent who is home all the time. My work schedule has been a big roadblock to homeschooling (needing some respite is another! It’s INTENSE to think about 24/7 together with no breaks). Still, I am really lucky to be able to work from home about half the week. I am not quite sure how it’s all going to get done, of course, but I’m excited to experiment and figure it out!

  15. Vasilly Avatar

    Welcome to homeschooling! Monika’s right, keep a journal of your homeschooling day. You’ll be amazed at how much you two get done.

    Public school isn’t for everyone. Kids who are really fragile need more than a one-size-fits-all kind of education. The fact that you’re willing to make this huge leap says so much. You’re such a good mom. I’m wishing the two of you many happy and healing days.

  16. […] A slice about an unexpected new venture, homeschooling […]

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