The Challenges of Homeschooling Someone Else’s Kid

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Technically, I’m a tutor, but for one student, I’m his only teacher.

Full disclosure: I am not a teacher. I started tutoring when I was 16. Through the Air Cadet program, I had experience in teaching, and I was academically strong. Combining these things to make some extra cash seemed like a pretty obvious conclusion. Once I started post-secondary, tutoring became a way to supplement my grocery budget. I trained as a commercial pilot and started teaching groundschool at various flight schools around the airport. At one point, teaching was a substantial part of my income.

Life eventually took me down a different path, and I stopped tutoring for two years or so. Divorce and the accompanying crippling debt caused me to post new advertisements and start looking for new students last fall. In February, I started working with a teenage boy who we’ll call Dave. Dave hates school. He has ADD and some learning difficulties but is not unintelligent by any stretch of the imagination.

We started just with math. Dave was sitting around a Grade 5 level and, within six months, he was at a passable Grade 9 level. So this year, we are doing his entire Grade 10 together. The system is working well. Everything moves at his pace, we spend more time on things when he gets stuck, and he can text me a photo of a question and ask for help. Our relationship is based on mutual respect. Dave knows that I’m working with him because I want to and I know that he’s not dumb, just stubborn.

As a former homeschooler myself, I’d like to dispel some of the myths that children who are homeschooled have no social skills and fail to thrive later on in life. I didn’t go to school until Grade 11 and 12 and manage to comport myself acceptably in most social situations. Some may describe me as a little quirky but I definitely don’t fit the stereotype of isolated loner living in a basement. Dave is far more social than I ever was. He plays hockey, hangs out with friends and is an outgoing and friendly teenage boy. His social skills don’t worry me at all.

The challenges are mostly focused on the fact that we meet three times a week. We don’t have the daily interactions that are common in a school setting and it’s easy for him to fall behind. I am trying to figure out a system where he does keeps practising his math every day instead of waiting until the afternoon before I come over to give him more homework. A great learning opportunity popped up a few weeks ago. As soon as I reached for his book, I could tell that he hadn’t even tried any of the questions that I left behind. I didn’t scold him, we worked through the problems, I gave him some more to practice and then pointed out that we were now a week behind because he didn’t do his homework. He’s been much better about asking for help now.

This was a kid who had given up on the school system. Public schools don’t necessarily have the resources to deal with someone who requires such a specific approach and his needs are not pronounced enough to warrant a full-time aide. There’s a fine line between being able and not quite disabled enough. We started out trying to get enough into his brain that he could write his GED and get into a trade school. As of a few weeks ago, Dave wants to graduate with his friends and is actively working towards getting enough credits to get a diploma. That alone makes all the frustrating moments worth it.

Crazy dog mom, mental health advocate, project manager and writer

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