It was in October of his 7th grade year that my son came home from school and announced that he would like to be homeschooled instead of attending our local public middle school. I thought he was kidding. He was not.
Like many tennis academies in the Atlanta area, my son’s offered a homeschool program where he would do his schoolwork in the early mornings then hit the courts for 4+ hours in the afternoons. I wasn’t even close to convinced that this was a good idea. So, I called the principal of his middle school and scheduled a conference. Much to my dismay, she told me that, if my son was that committed to his tennis, now was the perfect time to try homeschooling. WHAT????? That’s NOT what I expected to hear from a public school principal!
I went to Google to find out what my options were. I absolutely could not teach him myself. First of all, I don’t have the necessary depth of knowledge. Second of all, I don’t have a teaching background. Third of all, I have the patience of . . . well, let’s just say it’s not even in the same universe as Job’s.
I found a great program called K12 that had contracted with our state board of education to offer free homeschool education to state residents. The local version of K12 followed the Georgia Curriculum Standards, so it was the perfect option for us given that my biggest concern was making sure my son could jump right back into his public school on a moment’s notice if necessary. Also, I wanted to be sure that he had direct access to real, live teachers, either via email or online, to guide his learning on a daily basis.
Once I convinced my husband that this was, if not a good idea, at least not a bad one, I got to work composing the Homeschooling Contract, to be signed by my son and me. Included were things like minimum GPA and learning how to string his own racquets. In hindsight, I should have included CONSEQUENCES. We ended up developing consequences on the fly, as needed, but it probably would have been better to incorporate them up front, just so we were all on the same page from Day One.
A few weeks before we were to start the homeschooling, my son had a complete and total emotional meltdown on the way home from drills. “What happens if I spend all this time training but I’m still not good enough? All I ever wanted to be is a tennis player! What if I’m just not good enough?” What a heart-breaking thing to hear from a 13-year-old boy! I assured him that, at 13, he wasn’t making life decisions here. He was simply taking a chance on something that was important to him. If it didn’t work out, he had plenty of other options – his brains and outgoing personality would take him wherever he wanted to go. That seemed to calm him down for the time being. The uncertainty reared its ugly head from time to time over the next 18 months, but, overall, things went pretty smoothly, and my son’s tennis skills did continue to improve.
I homeschooled my son throughout 7th grade and 8th grade with the understanding that he would return to traditional school for high school. That’s where we are now. 9th grade. The transition has been tricky. My son had to re-learn that deadlines are deadlines – you don’t turn in the paper on time, you get a zero. Period. He had to re-learn that if you miss school for a tennis tournament, you alone are responsible for getting any missed assignments done and turned in the day you return, no matter how tired you are from playing 7 matches in 3 days. He had to re-learn how to speak up in class, ask for help when he needs it, advocate for himself with his teachers and counselor.
I won’t lie. This first semester back in the Real World has been rough. On both of us. But, I’m glad we gave the homeschooling thing a shot. It’s not for everyone, for sure, but I am very grateful for the Together Time it gave my son and me. After already watching two of my kids go off to college, I realize how precious that time can be.
NOTE: Before committing to a homeschool program, do your due diligence and make sure it’s certified and recognized by the university system. I have recently heard three (3) horror stories of college freshmen being denied playing status on the tennis team because they had to remediate their high school coursework. Don’t let this happen to your child!