DSM: New to homeschooling and SVS

Sat, 31 Mar 2001 06:08:22 -0500

Hello Everyone!

I have an (almost :-) 10 year old daughter that I just pulled out of
public school at the beginning of February. Her teachers, since
preschool, had been reporting her difficulty "staying on task". This
really didn't cause a problem until 3rd grade although getting through
the homework has been a problem right from the start. It would take
hours! Starting in 3rd grade we started testing her for 'learning
disabilities'. Of course the results came back that she was at or beyond
where she should be in all areas. So then we went to a tutor who
specialized in kids who have difficulties and the tutor found only a few
minor gaps in her basic skills and after 4 months said we really didn't
need her any more. However, 4th grade didn't get any better. My
daughter was grumpy and forgetful and homework dragged on for hours. The
school was very cooperative and 'meetings' were held and 'concessions'
made.... So much so that she made A/B Honor Roll both quarters before I
took her out. It was the Honor Roll thing that was the straw that did
it. My daughter had no love of learning. She was only doing the work to
get the answers right because she _had_ learned that A's were good and
F's were bad. But she had no interest in what they were teaching her.
By this time I had long ago rearranged my work schedule so that I could
be home with her during the week because just getting the homework done
took so long and wouldn't get done without my being there. I could
easily envision her getting pushed through the system even though she
would have learned very little.

Finally it dawned on me that I should just homeschool her. And even now,
2 months later, I'm still stunned at how quickly it all happened once I
decided that's what I wanted to do. (Sharlyn wanted it as well!) ( Quick
background information: I am divorced from Shar's father and, although we
parent Shar together quite well, he often refuses to make changes.
However, in this one instance he readily agreed.....I still haven't
picked my jaw up off the floor from the shock! :-) I had never heard the
term 'unschooling' until I started researching homeschooling and during
that research I did not run across any references to SVS. (I heard of SVS
in the Abraham-Hicks catalog.) I confess that while unschooling sounded
like paradise, all the typical objections ran through my mind and I
ultimately settled on the Calvert School curriculum to use for our

We've been "officially" homeschooling for only a month now - using the
Calvert curriculum. Boy, what an odyssey it's been. The first two weeks
I spent making sure we crossed every 'I' and dotted every 'T'. Then, 2
weeks ago, while I was waiting for Shar to get through an assignment, I
decided to check out the SVS web site. NOTHING has been the same
since!!! I have devoured every word about the Sudbury Model that I can
find on the Internet , listened in on these listserve discussions and
ordered books that I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of. All of my
ideas have been turned on their head and most are getting tossed out the
window. I started making changes immediately. I hadn't really realized
prior to this how dictatorial I was with her. How frequently I gave
orders instead of discussing an issue. With SVS's philosophy in my head,
I began to make changes in how we went about the homeschooling, but
basically it doesn't boil down much more than forgetting some 'I's' and
foregoing some 'T's'. I would have to fight a major war with her father
and all the relatives to go to an unschooling or SVS method. However,
right now, she and I are totally left alone. No one suspects that these
sort of ideas even exist in my head so no one (i.e. her father) is
checking to see what we are doing. This gives me the leeway to make
gradual changes. I even asked Shar if she wanted to be able to decide
for herself what she wanted to do, but she said (and I'm paraphrasing
here) that it would be too much for her right now. Which makes total
sense because she has been told what to do all her life and is basically
just asking me to make the changes slowly.

I'm writing all this here because there is not one other person that I
know personally that knows these ideas so that we could discuss them.
I'm a group of one at the moment although I intend to change that as
quickly as possible. (There is no Sudbury Model school near me to turn
to either.) Which finally brings me to the reason that caused me to
write in the first place. I'm looking for reassurance on one topic in
particular - namely Composition. Shar hates it. I hate it. If I never
have to write another report as long as I live, I'll still never get over
how much I hate it. (Oh, I know how to write them. I went through the
public school system and I have two degrees, but it was the thing I most
hated about school.) I want very much just to drop it out of the
curriculum altogether. Thus the reason for me turning to you guys.
Obviously democratic school students learn how to write well. My concern
is that I still have to have her evaluated once a year by a teacher 'for
appropriate progress'. I'm worried that if I drop composition that we
won't get that 'stamp of approval' and that I'll start getting
I'm in Florida and the state is really big on writing skills. All public
school kids have to pass a 'Florida Writes' standardized test and there
is a very specific format that they are expected to learn. I'm worried
that if she doesn't learn to jump through this hoop then we might come
under scrutiny and whatever level of freedom I've managed to give to her
will start being monitored.

So that's it in a nutshell. I gave so much additional information
because all of you who have devoted yourselves to these ideas ought to be
told when you have had a profound effect - for the better! - on someone's
life. My relationship with my daughter is improving daily. That is such
a precious gift to me. Thank you all for all your time and effort in
documenting the results and making them available. Words really can't
express what this means to my daughter and I.

Thank you again!

Julie Burns
Jacksonville, Florida

P.S. As an example, just yesterday I told Shar that all these years that
she's been hearing that she has problems at school and can't focus and
can't stay on task were all because she didn't want to do what she was
being told to do. I told her that it wasn't because she had difficullty
with focusing. It was because she was bored. She wisely nodded her head
and said she knew that, but I know that her hearing me say the words out
loud went a long way towards healing the hurt done by all those years of
negative messages. I wish I could have learned all this sooner, for her
sake, but I'm glad I now have the opportunity to make the changes while
she is still young.

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