A decision to temporarily homeschool her son turned into a way of life for Gwen L. of East Tennessee.
“I’m an accidental homeschooler,” Gwen L. said. “I had no intention of pulling my son Trenton out of public school until I noticed how truly unhappy he was.”
The East Tennessee native (by way of Maine) challenged the public academic system when her son’s utter discontent persisted beyond one or two bad days in the classroom. She wrote to politicians in hopes of having adjustments made to the state’s curriculum. It was not conducive to Trenton’s learning style because as a student with ADHD, he needs to get up and move around frequently. It was only a few weeks into homeschooling when Gwen noticed a change in her son. He was improving academically, spiritually, and socially.
“I laugh looking back,” Gwen said recently. “Because the day that huge box of homeschool materials arrived, I called my sister crying, overwhelmed. That was until I realized that Abeka walks you through the entire curriculum step by step.”
And when they made the decision that Trenton would begin homeschooling full time, they dove headlong into it. “We had a bonfire one night,” Gwen laughed, “and tossed all of Trenton’s school work from the past year in.”
A Day in the Life
Most days are pretty routine: up at 8:00, breakfast, Bible study at 10:00, then reading and English followed by math, science and social studies. In between lessons they take long lunches in order to enjoy the summer sun. If you’ve ever been to the east side of the Volunteer State, then you know the Appalachian Mountains provide just enough altitude to stay cool when the rest of the South is running for air conditioning.
“Trenton really loves to be outside,” Gwen said. “Part of having ADHD is the urge to move around. Unfortunately, in public school, the kid that can’t sit still all day is the bad kid. Homeschooling has allowed us to nurture his high energy and redirect his focus on education in an environment suitable for him.”
At home, he gets the one-on-one time he needs. There’s time to grow spiritually. And he’s able to devote energy toward helping others. Wednesday is “Volunteer Day.” They travel to a facility in nearby Kingsport, Tennessee, where Trenton spends hours working with at-risk youths and veterans suffering from PTSD. “He has such a good heart,” his mom said. “And he’s great with people, which has only gotten better in recent months.”
Making the Leap
“When the time comes to make the transition, you just have to jump,” Gwen said. “You’re never going to feel fully ready, but once you see the reward you’ll know it was the right decision.”
A traditional approach to homeschooling is a full-time job, something that Gwen found out quickly. She still finds time to manage her own blog, forfeiting a little sleep to keep it running. But she’ll also tell you that Abeka does a lot of work for the teacher/mom so that she’s not constantly planning lessons. “You feel prepared with Abeka because you are prepared,” she said. “You don’t have to relearn everything, it’s all right there in the material they provide you.”
Abeka is not the first curriculum that Gwen tried. In fact, she used to be a self-proclaimed “curriculum hopper.” “Oh, I’ve tried a lot of curriculums with the sole purpose of trying to figure out what would help Trenton learn best,” she said. “But I always came back to Abeka, and Abeka is where we plan to stay.”
Gwen’s favorite aspect of homeschooling, by far, is the freedom to include their family’s faith. Faith is so strongly instilled in Trenton; Gwen sees in him traits not found in a lot of kids his age. He sees the good in people, recognizes that the most important thing we can do as humans is take care of each other. Faith is essential to doing just that. “The character development and moral compass you are allowed to instill in your child as a homeschool parent is unparalleled,” Gwen said. “Things like Bible study and community service allow us to live according to God’s will.”
It’s the positive effects on her son that keeps Gwen going in their homeschool journey; the “yay” moments she calls them, which are the little instances of growth that she’d otherwise miss if Trenton was still in public school. “This is why God made families,” she said. “We are able to give our son the love and attention he needs to help him succeed in life.”