I’m the youngest of 10 – yes 10! – kids. My mom and 7 of my siblings have all taught in some capacity. So you could say I come from a teaching family. Much of my childhood was spend “teaching” my wide array of stuffed animals in my “classroom”, a small storage room in our basement that had been converted into every budding teacher’s dream. It contained, besides shelves upon shelves of storage, a desk for me and a long bench for all the stuffies. I even had a wall-mounted chalkboard. I was living the dream!
I adored my teachers in those first few years of school, and I emulated them in my own classroom. I talked like them, walked like them, read like them, even dressed like them! I had a few too-large pairs of heels that I loved to wear; hearing that clack-clack-clack as I walked around on the concrete floor filled me with such joy. I know that I had a vivid imagination, and maybe since I had no younger siblings, I turned to my inanimate friends for play.
But in spite of all that, I didn’t dream of becoming a teacher. I had lofty dreams, sure – I aspired to become a cashier at a grocery store – but my dreams didn’t include teaching at a brick-and-mortar school. As was the custom in our Mennonite culture and private schools, I finished my schooling at grade 9 and never made plans to pursue higher education or careers. After “graduating” from 9th grade, I got a job babysitting 3 adorable girls and then later, worked at a local small-town grocery store. At 18, I found a tall, blonde, and handsome prince, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to the summer of 2014. My oldest 2 are in a small local school, and we are loving it! Our kids have tons of friends, their academics are at the top, and we couldn’t be happier. But slowly we realize our 8-year-old is struggling. Really struggling. We get multiple calls from school that we need to come and pick him up. When we arrive, he is crying inconsolably, curled up in the fetal position on the sofa in the secretary’s office. Something is wrong. He is a bright 8-year-old, but he is not flourishing in the classroom. He is constantly beating himself up for what he perceives to be a complete failure…
We take him for testing to an amazing psychology & education centre in the city, the Eckert Centre. It is there, after hours and hours of testing, and thousands of dollars later, that we discover our son is gifted and has ADHD, a combination that is know as “twice exceptional“. My world tilted for a while. I would discover later that you can, in fact, go through the stages of grief even if your child hasn’t died or been diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer. It sounds a bit foolish, but I had only ever imagined perfectly “normal” well-adjusted kids. ADHD was not in my plans and it shook me to my core.
We made plans to move to the city and get our son into a great school with excellent support for ADHD kids. It was now June. We quickly listed our house and began the rollercoaster of real estate showings and lowball offers. We found a house in the city that we adored, put a conditional offer in, and waited for our house to sell. By the end of August, we were feeling frantic about our kids’ school options. One day my husband looked at me and commented, “Maybe we should homeschool.”
And that is how I became a teacher, 4 years ago. From the beginning, we made a decision to remove the words always and never from our collective vocabularies. We take it one year, one week, one day at a time. We know that no decision is permanent. We will homeschool as long as it is beneficial to our kids and works for us as a family.
(Spoiler alert: we never did move!)