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It's Never Too Late to Homeschool (Even If You've Never Done It Before)

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

sisters bonding together

My younger sister had undiagnosed ADHD, and during COVID, online classes aggravated an already difficult situation, which made it impossible for my sister to keep up. Previously, she managed to get C’s and B’s, but when all the classes transitioned online, she was failing all of her classes. She was constantly missing class, cried frequently, lashed out often, and in short, lacked confidence in her ability to see a way through the hole that she dug. After a year of watching my sister struggle, and another semester of a 0.7 GPA, I suggested that my parents let me homeschool my younger sister. My parents are first generation Korean-Americans, so the language barrier kept them from teaching my sister directly. Even though I had no formal education experience, I did tutor and teach classes here and there, but more importantly, my gut instinct told me that I knew my sister best, and because of that, I was best equipped to teach her the way that works for her. I also struggled in the traditional school context, and it wasn’t until over 30 years later that I realized why. Even though I was “successful,” (I had just graduated law school), it wasn’t without its trials. Knowing that I wanted a different school experience for my sister where she felt like she could thrive, I decided home school was the best solution. Even though she was in high school, I believed it is never too late to homeschool.

My sister thrived in English and Grammar but struggled with discipline, confidence, and consistently implementing study skills. My years in school taught me that excelling in tests and knowing information are completely different, and I needed her to understand that. She thought that because she had bad grades, she was incompetent. I needed to retrain her thinking to understand that taking an exam is more about practicing test questions than knowledge. To help with discipline, she practiced piano and Spencerian calligraphy every morning before we got started. We memorized catechism questions, did a timed math test every morning, memorized chapters of the letter of James, and eventually memorized the first 40 digits of Pi to help her understand that she could do what she set her mind to. I meticulously went over why she got certain Algebra questions wrong, and eventually she was even frustrated when she got less than a 100% on her math tests. We studied the industrial revolution through source texts by reading Communist Manifesto, Democracy in America, and others, and talked about the ideas that contributed to western thought. Eventually, I watched her become more and more independent, and she looked forward to showing off what she knew rather than hiding and running from her school work. Months later, when she was 16 years old, she passed the CHSPE, a California exit exam similar to the GED. With that, she decided she wanted to enroll in community college classes and started taking General Ed classes.

While I am incredibly proud of what my sister and I have accomplished together, she is still in need of home school/personal accountability. She is often struggling to stay on top of her work because she thinks it’s “useless” and is struggling to use her time well in between classes. I am considering schooling her again to help her stay on top of her classwork, and to learn time management skills.

What we are both learning is that the skills learned through homeschooling, that empowered her and reawakened her confidence, are still needed. My sister benefitted from an educational experience that catered to her needs, rather than the convenience of the masses. And we saw that her attitude and academic outcomes could be completely turned around, not in years, but in months. We both learned a lot from this experience and are only just realizing how pivotal that homeschool experience was for us both. While I see that my sister still needs the strengths that the homeschool environment has, I also wonder how differently my sister would have turned out if homeschooling was her only educational experience rather than the conclusion of it, or ultimately, if I had never embarked to homeschool her in the first place.

Bio for Sunny Willard, the head of growth at Homeschool Mastery Group

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