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Fun with Dick and Jane


0-11While an October sun shone on her blonde bob and illuminated her gray front tooth—the product of a nasty fall the previous year—my four-year-old daughter Faith proudly sounded out all the words to a Dick and Jane anthology. “Dick runs. Jane Runs. Dick sees a ball.” Every few words, her eyes left the page to glance up at me and make sure she still had my attention. Somehow she had, along the roads back to Texas from New Mexico, learned to read. I’d secretly scoffed at the giant bag of B.O.B. books and early readers that Faith insisted on loading into the car, the weight of which slumped her shoulder to one side, bending her slight frame at an uncomfortable angle. However, somewhere around Big Spring, the pieces snapped into place. Letters became sounds and sounds became words, and words knitted together into a book. As parents, we never forget the elation of these first accomplishments. Moments like these are why we homeschool.

I certainly didn’t set out for my kids to learn at home. My personal school experience was pleasant but mediocre. Labeled gifted, I was bussed to another campus one day per week, where I had the type of divergent learning experiences that I’ve come to believe most public education lacks. The gifted class wrote research papers, made mummies and pyramids, pored over logic puzzles and performed detailed chemistry experiments while the kids back in “regular school” recited spelling words and did times table drills. Even in fourth grade, I puzzled over why only some of us had the opportunity to learn in such a rich environment. It didn’t seem fair that simply because I performed well on a test, I should be given a buffet of enriching learning experiences while other children were served meat and potatoes.

I wanted that gifted classroom experience for my kids, despite their testing abilities, or supposed I.Q. scores. I wanted time to spend an entire day in a museum, or with a book, or mastering complex logic problems. My strongest desire was for my children to meet the world, and all the lessons it has to offer, on their own terms, with a willing heart, propelled by their innate curiosity.

When my oldest was kindergarten age, I started reading everything I could find on homeschooling. The Internet was still young, but there was enough out there for me to piece together a rough idea of what our days might look like. My family and her father, my ex-husband, were resistant to the idea, but I forged ahead anyway, and my stubbornness and tenacity eventually won out. Like so many other parenting decisions I’d made—breastfeeding, homebirth, clean eating—this one felt important and I had the research to back me up. As she grew, and as the other children came along, we bumbled our way through. It took me around five years to feel completely sure footed and capable. The early years were overwhelming with small children coming every few years and toddlers underfoot. Yet, my children were learning, and what I couldn’t teach them, I found experts that could. Tutors, online classes, extra-curricular activities. My oldest son learned volumes about chemistry from an Einstein-haired man on YouTube. Participation in a part time co-op ran by two of my closest friends rekindled his love for history. Trips to the children’s museum taught my youngest daughter all about the anatomy of a tornado, as she stood transfixed in front of an interactive “tornado machine.” My oldest daughter, hungry to finish school, locked herself in our upstairs gameroom for two weeks, emerging with an entire year of Geometry under her belt, due to a DVD course. Years rolled by, and so did countless hours of school. Before I knew it, we had a high schooler, then a graduate. Most of the time, the children were learning and thriving, and we all felt successful, which is what I’d wanted when I set out.

However, what you want as a homeschooling mom isn’t always what you get. It wasn’t always a dream state, our homeschool days. Sometimes we yelled and argued, and my son refused to do math. My teenager complained incessantly that the algebra tutor I hired, while fully capable, smelled of bird seed and baby vomit. This same teen, my oldest daughter, graduated at fifteen, a product of a lot of hard work on both our parts. Seeing us struggle our way to a diploma, my youngest daughter chose to attend public middle school and plans to go onto high school. In fact, all my school age children have attended public school at one time or another. We’ve used it as a tool and a stop gap for what I call “When Nothing Else Works.” “Nothing Else Works” means our school days no longer contain joy, my children see me as an enemy wielding a workbook, and despite all my best tactics, learning ceases. Attending public school for a while seems to restore balance in my relationship with my children. The motivators to learn become grades and the teacher’s expectations, and I can go back to being the provider of cookies and snuggles. Yet for some reason, my children and I often gravitate back to each other, to the rhythm of days we know best as a home learning family. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes a semester, for all of us to remember the lifestyle we lose when choosing to follow the calendar of the local school and not our own.

During the times my children attend public school, I feel a certain freedom from responsibility. I can sit back and relax with relative certainty that my children are meeting state standards. They are interacting with other kids, which is mostly a good thing, as our experiences have been for the most part bully-free and low-stress. I have more time to myself, the ability to structure days free from periodic tables and the battle of Bull Run. My child’s successful future rests less on my tired shoulders when handed over to professionals and principals. But I think something also is lost. Like the moment when Dick and Jane makes sense, or fractions become less of a mystery over a cake recipe you’ve halved. You lose days spent in a pile in the living room, everyone in their pajamas with books in their hands. There is a light that shines in the eyes of a child when an “aha” moment happens. They literally become lit from within as they grasp the concept of a square root, scientific notation, the structure of an atom. I’ve shared so many of my children’s firsts. First steps, first words, first heartbreaks. It only seems natural that we share moments of educational discovery, that they learn, alongside me, even more of how the world works. Homeschooling isn’t about keeping my children next to me out of fear, it is about allowing them the room to blossom at their own pace.

I never know where this road will take me, which educational path we will choose from year to year as my children grow. I do my best to follow my children while still honoring my own needs. It took some time to learn how to be fully present as the teacher of my children without losing myself. This means that I schedule time for regular pedicures and lunches with girlfriends. I hire a sitter often so that I can shop and drink coffee alone with my own thoughts. I’ve also learned over the last eighteen years, and as a mother of four, to trust the natural curiosity of a child. I know without a doubt that my children, having been given so much opportunity to follow their own interests, will find their own passions as adults. Often, my mantra is, “He will learn what he needs—to do what he loves.” They will learn these things under my tutelage or in a brick and mortar building. I know this, as I see it in action every day.

After graduating, my oldest took two years before deciding to go on to college. Freshly enrolled, she plans to get a degree that allows her to work with foster youths in group homes, something at which I know she’ll excel. My youngest daughter is enrolled in the culinary academy at our local high school. My oldest son, eleven years old at the time I write this, plans to go to middle school next year. He’s ready for the social experiences and sports opportunities that middle school provides, and not interested in home-based alternatives. My toddler will likely stay at home with me throughout his early school years. I will, once more, build block towers and roll out countless play dough snakes. He’s my last child, and as challenging as homeschooling can be, I still can’t wait for at least one more Dick and Jane moment.

Sarah Green is a wife and biological mother of three, adoptive mom to one, and a foster mom currently on hiatus. She enjoys crafting, chaos, and baking. Sarah is currently working on books about the realities of foster care and an anthology focused on homeschooling. Read more about her daily life at 

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This entry was written by Sarah Green

About the author: Sarah Green is a wife and biological mother of three, adoptive mom to one, and a foster mom currently on hiatus. She is currently working on a book about the realities of foster care. As an advocate for foster youth, Sarah devotes her spare time to educating others about the system. Read more about her daily life at

Sarah Green

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