Updated: Mar 18
Five years ago, an eleven year old boy walked into my library, looked around, and asked
"Where are you going to display my book?"
That question would change my life.
At the time I was a librarian in the largest middle school in the state of Virginia. I LOVED being a librarian, and for the most part still do. But over the course of the year, that child's parents volunteered in my library and watched me teach lessons. They liked the way I taught. They didn't like the way his other teachers taught.
See, that school, like many others in the country, had to follow strict guidelines and curriculum that didn't allow for much creativity. Their son was being stifled, pushed to the back, and silenced. This was something I was seeing often in creative, gifted children.
At the end of the year, his parents said they we were withdrawing him from public education and wanted to hire me as his English teacher. They were going to do one year as an experiment, but if it went well, it would probably last through high school.
I had only ever taught 4th grade. I knew nothing about teaching English.
His parents still wanted to hire me. They saw how creative I was able to be in the library. They saw how much I loved books and my enthusiasm for sharing them. They saw how I could get kids who said they hated to write, to express themselves with beautiful poems.
So I took the chance.
His parents gave me free reign to choose whatever books I wanted, teach whatever skills I felt were important, and in whichever method I felt matched the needs of their son. They gave me the summer to do my research, find best practices that worked, and pick books in genres he would love.
I created a curriculum that was an equal mix of research and creative writing, remembering what he had said to me when we first met. He had a curriculum that was entirely novel-based, with SciFi books he loves (and fantasy that I love), he wrote a 10,000 word novella, and a research paper comparing sharecropping during the Great Depression to farming in feudal societies of England. By the end of the year, his state test score had gone from a 67% at the end of 6th grade to a 95% at the end of 7th grade.
We've now been homeschooling for FOUR years, and we started 11th grade in January. Last year he started taking dual enrollment classes at the local community college. Upon taking the college's admission courses, he was able to test out of English 101 at the age of fourteen.
This has, by far, been the best decision I've ever made.
What's been the best decision you've ever made?