She Never Really Began Teaching: Sarah’s Story
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Sarah” is a pseudonym.
We began homeschooling because my mother, who was an nurse at the time, didn’t want to work anymore. Also, my last year of school there was an incident. As I waited for my mom to pick me up after school one day, I sat on the curb. Apparently, that particular place on the curb was a chosen spot of little thuglets. The thuglets crowded around me and the Head Thuglet said that if I ever sat in that place again, she would shove knives down my throat. I told my mom about it, she told the principal, and the next day the principal made the girl apologize to me.
I think that was what finally convinced my dad to let my mom homeschool instead of working. “Us” consisted of 1 older sister and 2 younger brothers.
My sister and I had enough public schooling that we could teach ourselves from the books my mother bought us the first 2 years of homeschooling. (After that she stopped buying textbooks for us, as they were “too expensive.”) My older younger brother (does that make sense?) had lived a rather privileged existence in public school: he was white in a predominately black school, and he had white teachers who always passed him through to the next grade regardless of whether or not he learned something. Yay for white male priviledge, I suppose!
We lived in a state that required the Iowa Test of Basic Skills every year as proof that we were learning. My sister and I, each learning as much as we could with very, very limited resources (this was before the internet was big!), managed to improve our scores nicely every year.
My brothers were a different story. First, it was discovered that (thanks to white male privilege), my brother didn’t even know how to read. He was still in elementary school, yes, but he was almost through. Who lets a kid pass from K-1st, 1st-2nd, 2nd-3rd and onto 4th knowing that he can’t read?
The crappy public system I grew up with.
So, the first few years we took the ITBS my brother needed “help” from my mother to even read the exam. And when she helped, she helped quite a bit — reading comprehension especially. She’d read him the story and ask him the questions. If he answered incorrectly, she’d read over the line in the paragraph again that had the answer. For example, if the story began, “There was a brown bunny who lived in the bushes,” and he had to chose what color the bunny was (White? Black? Grey? Brown?), she would read the line again “There was a BROWN bunny who lived in the bushes,” and, miraculously, he would get the answer correct.
This is no way whatsoever to teach reading comprehension. And this is the way the entire test would go. He’d stumble, and she’d “help.” Most of the ‘”helping” was flat out telling him the answer, like the example above. And this happened for years, even after he learned to read. He was so far behind that she’d make excuses — “Oh, he wasn’t taught this!” — when the reason he wasn’t taught it was because my mom stopped teaching.
She never really began teaching. At first she’d buy the books and tell us to go read them. My sis and I did. My brothers did not. Which meant that, every year that passed, the three of them — my mom and brothers — would dig deeper holes for themselves.
We were from an educated family, on my dad’s side, and it was expected that we’d go to college. My sister and I went to a state college and graduated with honors. One of my brothers took 8 years to graduate, thanks to many, many remedial courses, and the other brother decided college wasn’t for him.
It’s funny to see how expectations for my family just got lower and lower. My father got exasperated with the entire situation and stayed out of it. My mother is happy that she pandered to her sons so much because they are still living at home with her, despite being in their late twenties. I think my youngest brother, who had no public school education at all, gave up on college because he would have to catch up on grades 3-12. I very much do think he has around a 3rd grade education, and to be so far behind and try to go to college would be a nightmare. I know he started to take a class at the local community college, English 101, but I don’t have any idea if he passed or dropped out, as that part of the family is estranged from me, and has been for years.
And if I ever complain about my lack of schooling during my middle school and high school years my mom tells me that it is my fault for not studying enough. She takes no responsiblity for what she did — and is still doing to my brothers.