My mom asked my dad for a Mercedes Benz for her birthday. And thus began our homeschooling journey. She really said it as a kind of joke. He asked her what she wanted and she said a Mercedes, never thinking that he might take her seriously. But he did and they ended up at the home of a couple who were selling their used luxury car. While there, the couple shared with my parents that they were planning to homeschool their young daughter. As my mom drove away in her new-to-her car, she told my dad how sorry she felt for that poor young girl. How would the girl ever make any friends? Wasn’t she pretty unlikely to get a quality education at home? And that was the end of that discussion for a while.
It just so happened that I began reading at the age of three. My mom was really surprised by this and so she decided that I needed to be in school as soon as possible. At the age of four, my parents placed me in a private school kindergarten class. That didn’t go so well. My mom was disturbed by a number of things that happened there. She wasn’t thrilled when I told her that we girls chased down boys in the school yard to kiss them (I WAS FOUR!) And she was none too happy when I came home and explained to her that she was going to hell because she wore jeans. Yikes.
So, off to the public school I went the next year. That year didn’t turn out so well either. The laws of our state would not allow a five year old to attend a first grade class, so mom went ahead and registered me for kindergarten again. In the first week, I came home and told my mom that I had been sent to the principal’s office with a note. Concerned, my mom asked me if I knew what the note said. Yes, of course I knew what it said – I read it. And? It said, “Tonya can read well above her grade level. She is working above kindergarten level.” So, the principal made some arrangements. In the mornings I would check into my kindergarten class, then walk down to the first grade room and work with them for half a day and then go back to the kindergarten class to pick up my things before heading home. My mom found this idea to be somewhat laughable, but the laws were the laws. The major incident that really disturbed my mom about that year of my schooling wasn’t something that happened in either of my classrooms. In the 5th grade classroom at the same school the teacher was arrested for molesting one of her female students. When my mom went to a good friend of ours who taught in the 6th grade room and asked him if there were no signs, he admitted that there were some, but “what can you do?”
That really was the final straw. My mom remembered the encounter in the driveway by the Mercedes from several years ago and finally decided that maybe this homeschooling idea wasn’t so far-fetched after all. So, she contacted the local superintendent of school’s office and informed them of her intentions. The woman who answered the phone told my mom that she would not be able to homeschool because it was illegal. A very small amount of research by my mom proved that to be completely untrue. Soon, the proper paperwork was filed and my mom and I were sitting across from each other in her office ready to do this homeschooling thing. Now to figure out how.
At this point, my mom had some decisions to make: What materials would she use to teach? What would be the proper method? And so she began to read. And read. And read. And read. And read. She read aloud to my dad out of books like Child Abuse in the Classroom and Like Lambs to the Slaughter. She owned the first edition of Mary Pride’s Big Book of Home Learning and we took many, many trips to the local library.
As we began that first year of homeschooling, I often told my mom that whatever method she was using was incorrect because “that’s not how my teacher would do it.” She had to remind me countless times that she was indeed my teacher now and this was how she was doing it.
Sometime around the start of that first year, my parents got a phone call from the trucking company where they had first met. (Yep, my parents are both truck drivers who met when they went to work for the same trucking company, but that is a different, albeit fun, story.) The owner of the company spoke to my dad and told him they were in need of good drivers and wanted to know if Mom and Dad would be interested in returning to his employ. Dad said the would indeed be very interested, except they just had one small problem and she was six years old. Well then, the owner said, we’ll just have to add a new rider to our insurance policy, won’t we? Our cross-country adventure was about to begin!
Stay tuned for more of the story!