The following was written by Philip’s Dad–
It had never occurred to me to homeschool my son. I always thought that was an option reserved for odd people. Between my wife, my mother, my brothers and sisters and my in-laws, there’s more than a dozen teachers or former teachers in our family, so of course we would send Philip to school. So we did. But I noticed that he got uncomfortable when I’d ask what he learned in Kindergarten today. After being asked to volunteer in the class I realized why Philip had problems answering that question. He wasn’t really learning anything because he arrived in Kindergarten already knowing how to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, and divide. He could draw a map of the world freehand that his pre-K teachers marveled at. He could give directions in the car better than my wife, could read a street map, and tell time. We’d made a game out of scientific notation. We had a game for learning everything. Even at stop signs I couldn’t resume driving until he translated a number I gave him into Roman numerals. Didn’t everybody do that sort of thing with their kids? Apparently not.
He was enjoying the novelty of the school bus and the half-day routine of Kindergarten, but we started asking the school district about the future. What do they do with kids so far ahead of the curve to keep them from getting completely bored and eventually acting up? The short answer is not much. There’s no mandatory gifted education laws in our state so the school district had no legal obligation to give him a challenging education, and they knew it. They wouldn’t even tell us if there was anyone in the district with any background or experience with the gifted. We had him tested privately, and the psychologist strongly urged us: no matter what, don’t leave him in a regular classroom, to be taught by a teacher who doesn’t “get him”.
But the district said their plan next year was to put him in with the first graders and pull him out for math with the second graders, and they could give him extra assignments and maybe the school librarian could work with him, “schedule permitting.” I said “…but he already knows second grade math, and he already knows everything you’re planning to teach him in first grade. Making him sit there all year without learning anything would be torture for him.” This was the best school district in the county. After all of the thousands of kids that passed through their doors over the years, they still had no plan for the gifted? The district backed us off by saying that’s what we’re getting and any further discussion about it would be through their attorneys. We thought about it. We could fight the district, but then, even if we won, would they take it out on Philip? He deserved an education that didn’t insult his intelligence, we decided.
Meanwhile I was reading all of the research I could find on gifted education. “A Nation Deceived” by the John Templeton Foundation cited all of the known research on gifted education, and then clarified for me what the research was saying. Jan and Bob Davidson’s “Genius Denied” gave me the pep talk I needed to attempt to try educating Philip at home. They said that there may not be a perfect solution available, and that we didn’t have to have it all figured out years in advance. I worked second shift, so I could do it, but would Philip let me? Would it work? We set a simple goal of keeping Philip as enthused about learning by the end of the year as he was at the beginning. He was already learning at a phenomenal pace, so something we were doing already was working pretty well. We just had to make sure that no one turned him off to learning, because that was what we considered the eventual outcome if we left him in public school.
Local homeschool groups that we found online provided us with strategies for complying with the state’s homeschool requirements. And then …poof, we were on our own. The school bus would come around the circle, but we stopped noticing. Fast forward two years, and Philip is thriving. The only real difficulty was trying to decide what grade to call him when people asked. Hmmm…that depends; what subject? We quickly decided that details about his education were on a need to know basis. It seemed that saying we homeschooled put the institutionalized families on the defensive, trying to justify their decision by criticizing ours. To each his own.
Philip’s appetite for knowledge continues unabated, thank goodness! He wants to know how everything works, from the tiniest molecules to distant galaxies. Geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, DNA, anything science. We quickly reviewed K-8 math and then we started high school geometry. We asked the district if Philip could sit for the end of the year state Regents exam, thinking a state high school diploma was important. No. He’s too young (he was eight), and it would make the other kids uncomfortable to have him in the exam room. So we appealed that decision, but rather than waste all of that studying with nothing to show for it, Philip enrolled online for an intro University math course. He aced it. Then he aced college level geometry in 3 weeks time. The Appeal is still pending, but Philip has enrolled in his 3rd college math course. We eventually realized that he can easily get his first college degree online at home without a diploma. In homage to the school uniform, he named his home school Pajama Prep. “Where we get something done, and still have fun!” That’s our deal. We make sure we take time every day to enjoy. I’ve appointed Philip my personal trainer, and he gets us up hiking or biking or tossing the frisbee, or some kind of fun just about every day. His friends think he’s in 4th grade, and they don’t know about the 4.0 in college yet. It’s not relevant. But he framed his first transcript for his classroom wall.
His favorite subject remains science. He’s found factual mistakes in 2 science books so far, emailed the publishers, and gotten acknowledgements. He found a discrepancy on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab website, and emailed them too. He won a talent search from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, and was named a Davidson Institute Young Scholar. He owns a copywrite. He’s gotten a Roald Dahl reading medal. He loves birds, and participates in Cornell’s Project FeederWatch. He’s a brown belt in Karate, and a great gymnast. He seems to have perfect pitch and can play music by ear, yet hates to practice. He has a poster of Rosa Parks on his classroom wall (a converted bedroom), and he knows that just as Rosa had a right to a seat on the bus, Philip had a right to that seat in that geometry exam. If we win that case, Philip will be making it easier for the next gifted kid that shows up at a school district, and says “I love to learn. What can you do for me?”. Hopefully, that next kid will have better choices than we did. But we’re happy with the choice we made, and we wouldn’t change it.
Amazing, isn’t it? Inspirational too. Longer than most of our posts, but I didn’t want to shorten it.
And yes, fun learning is forever learning.