A few months ago Last year I wrote a post on my (sadly neglected) Tumblr called “How I Became a Homeschooler.” It was intended to be a three-part post, (like my ill-fated Tree of Life rumination series). I’m finally picking up where I left off, but because it’s been so long – and because I’m back over here on a bloggy blog instead of a tumblr format, I’ll repost the first part. Part Two will be posted in a day or two. No, really! It’s already in the can, blowing spit bubbles at Part Three. Or whatever it is posts do when they are waiting in the queue.
The below was originally posted here.
I could write far more about homeschooling/unschooling than tumblr was intended to display in a single entry, so I will start with a bit of personal history. Later I’ll write posts about different aspects of it and respond to online materials I see about education and homeschooling.
I’ll preface this by saying that, as a child, I experienced public school, private school, Islamic school, homeschooling (Calvert curriculum), and unschooling. All of these had their good points and all had their trade-offs. Despite attending no less than seven different schools between the ages of 5 and 8, I always did well, and always liked school.
My favorite time period was when we lived in one house for nearly four years and I was able to attend the same school from 3rd through 6th grades. I was an active and engaged student – orchestra, student council, school spelling bee, math club, yearbook, lots of friends, endured PE, and survived the typical schoolyard teasing while participating in my share of gossip and drama. Due to my religious upbringing, I was an anomaly, but it didn’t interfere with me making friends or fully participating in school life. I was very excited about going to middle school when my family very abruptly had to move – to another town.
Now, when you are 11 years old and live on Long Island, 15 miles might as well be 1500 miles. So I started 7th grade at a middle school 5 towns over where I knew absolutely no one, and everything changed. I went from being confident and excited about school to being wide-eyed and overwhelmed. I’d spent the last four years at a 450-student school where the student population was 99% black and/or Latino, much of the staff were people of color, and everyone understand that I was Muslim and had some concept of what that meant … and I was now suddenly in a school with a population of over a thousand students, most of them of Irish or Italian descent. I often recount the story of seeing my classmates wearing leather “Guns N Roses” jackets, and thinking they were in some sort of gang where the boys were the Guns and the girls were the Roses.
I felt invisible. I rotated through my six or seven classes a day where my name was butchered and puzzled over. I was one of maybe a dozen black children, and all the ones I saw were boys who played sports. While there were many Jewish kids at the school, I didn’t recognize any Muslims.
So when my parents suggested homeschooling two months into the school year (because of issues they were having with my younger brother’s teacher and the district administration), I thought, “Sure, why not?” I literally had nothing to lose. The only thing I would miss at the junior high was its large library. My last day there, there was no one to tell it was my last day there.
In retrospect I realize I was still grieving the sudden loss of my friends, my home, and my plans for the foreseeable future. The move had transpired over the summer, so the only classmates I was able to say goodbye to were the ones who lived on my street. It was also a tumultuous and difficult time for my entire family, so boohooing and trying to garner pity for myself would have been selfish, not to mention tacky; it was time to get on with life.
And that is how my homeschooling journey began!