So, here we were, educating all 3 children at home, our first time, with one in 7th grade, one in 4th grade, and the last, starting kindergarten…whew, quite the spread! I knew this would be a big challenge, but by that time, I was eager to tackle it!

We were very fortunate that Tallahassee had a strong home-schooling support network that met regularly and hosted group activities for children, such as a homeschooling band (Josh loved playing the trombone), science groups for labs, and a weekly sports and games afternoon where after a picnic lunch, kids could participate in group activities, while parents looked after the little children and played games with them. There were several support seminars where parents could learn about curriculums, attend sessions on topics of interest, such as how to work with a special needs child or how to be both Mom & Teacher, and enjoy meeting other home educating parents, from the rank beginners to the ‘pros’ who had been doing this for years. This was the golden year of teaching our children at home, as we experimented together, laughed together at mistakes, worked out the bugs, and also enjoyed fun field trips (like going to a kids’ hands-on marine museum together).

After just over a year of this wonderfully supported educational bliss, we returned to Kenya, armed with our home schooling books and teaching aids. And then, it was just us…all alone. No home-schooling support group. No band for the kids. No sports and games days with others who were like you. No one to ask questions of when you felt stuck. No way of gauging whether this was succeeding or not. Just…us. We were now living in Nairobi, the big city, but may as well have been way out in the bush as far as education at home was concerned because in those days no one taught their kids at home, especially in the city! Now there is a sizeable home educating community in Nairobi and a decent support group. But at that time, we were pioneers. We plunged ahead.

I had been noticing before leaving Tallahassee, that Amanda seemed to struggle a lot with learning to read. I was quite puzzled as to how to go about systematically teaching something, I had done for as long as I could remember, to another who had never done it in her young life. Add to that the differing theories of teaching reading, and I was becoming truly flummoxed. This girl had now been in kindergarten for a year, and she still could not read even 3 letter words. Was she absorbing anything?

Now, here we were in Kenya, traversing these unknown waters alone, with no help. What to do? This daughter of ours was not learning! I would have easily simply assumed I was not cut out to be a teacher, and would have given up, if it weren’t for both boys excelling in their studies. Were they succeeding in spite of me? Or perhaps was something else going on with Amanda?

I had heard of such things as learning and developmental disabilities and now was beginning to wonder if we might be facing something like this. We did our research, found some specialists, took our by then, 7 year old girl for interviews and tests, and to make a long story short, discovered Amanda had classic mixed ADHD, suffering from both serious challenges in attentiveness and hyperactivity. No wonder she was not reading (math, by the way, was worse)! Did I mention, that there was no support for learning challenged children? In those days, even schools did not offer anything for children with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, or other developmental and learning challenges. What were we to do? On one day, Amanda would do so well with her lessons and I would think “at last!”, then the very next day, she would act like she had never seen the very same material in her entire life! Life (especially, school) was getting very frustrating – for us both!

About that time, someone recommended a book to me called Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons. We got a copy, and I devoured it…more than once. I was desperate for help, any help! And help was exactly what this book offered me – more a life saver, actually. This is not really a plug for the book, and I even read parts of it with considerable skepticism. Nevertheless, there were many practical suggestions for helping children with ADHD learn. I tried one tentatively, and it was like magic! Amanda began to gain a few victories in education. I tried some more…more miracles! I was beginning to understand my daughter’s mind and how it worked. Within a relatively short time we discovered our daughter was actually very bright. We just had to learn how her brain learned, work with it, and watch her bloom. And once she learned something…I mean truly learned it, not simply memorized facts…she retained it for good.

We educated our children at home for several years, now not because we had to, but because we wanted to, including our kids! Josh was the first to go back to traditional schooling, mainly because he missed sports and games with other kids. Amanda was the next to go, simply because she wanted and needed friends. Sam was the last to hold out. He turned out to also have a milder form of ADHD, and we suspected he was afraid he couldn’t make it academically in school, nor was he the social butterfly Amanda was. But by that time, I was working in ministry full time and could no longer do justice to educating our kids properly at home. Sam went reluctantly, but happily, soon discovered he could hold his own both academically and socially.

When I look back on those years of teaching our kids at home, I have become convinced that the education was really for me! Oh, the children may have learned their A B C’s, basic Algebra, history and geography of various parts of the world, true, but I learned so much about how learning is done, and especially that everyone learns at their own pace and in their own unique way. I learned patience (at least I hope!). I discovered creativity. I even was taught many lessons about myself. We discovered that home schooling is education for everyone, perhaps most of all for the parents! I will always cherish those days spent hovering over books with the children, talking about how the world works, making discoveries, taking time for field trips, seeing life through the eyes of a child discovering such treasures for the first time! I actually miss those days. But I’m also glad and proud of the wonderful adults they have become. Are they so because of those years learning at home? I’d like to think we had a hand in that, but even if that turns out not to be the case, I will always count those as among the best years with our kids. For those of you out there who are teaching your children at home, cherish every moment. These will be some of the best years you can have. Happy learning!

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