When Kristin Jackson first thought about homeschooling her son Jalen, she thought of dozens of reasons why she was hesitant to start the process. Among the reasons: she hadn’t been homeschooled herself, she came from a family of educators who were dedicated to traditional public schooling, and she wasn’t sure where to start.
But Jalen faced health challenges and struggled in school. Despite countless meetings at her son’s school, she kept hitting brick walls of frustration with his education. Meanwhile, he grew less happy by the day. Kristin knew that her son was bright and talented. And when faced with the opportunity to give her son a better chance to succeed, even if it meant educating him herself in the home, her hesitation with homeschooling was replaced by determination and enthusiasm.
Kristin remembers the date she started homeschooling: November 1st of Jalen’s fifth grade year. She jokes that her attempt to mimic a traditional school environment at home “worked for about one day.”
My son was like, ‘What? This is not how my teacher does it, this is not how this… this is not how that…’ Finally I had to say, ‘Okay, look, we’re just going to have to figure out how we do it.’ – Kristin Jackson
She began customizing one-on-one instruction for Jalen, learning what worked for him, going on field trips, and watching as Jalen not only become healthier, but also made huge academic gains. Jalen made so much progress and enjoyed homeschooling so much, in fact, that his older brother Christopher started asking to be homeschooled too, as long as he could still play sports.
So the next school year, Kristin began homeschooling all three of her children: Christopher, Jalen, and their younger sister Gianna.
As Kristin discovered ways to feed their natural hunger for learning, Christopher’s PSAT scores dramatically increased, and Jalen went from performing below grade level in reading comprehension to performing well above grade level. Any lingering hesitations about homeschooling dissolved as Kristin and her children connected with the hundreds of other homeschoolers in the Charlotte area and began to participate in co-ops.
“In talking with my kids and trying to be as active in the community as I possibly could, I came to realize that not only were they not missing [their old schools] but they were getting so much more out of homeschooling than they ever would have gotten in public or private school where they were,” she says.
She thinks of how deeply Christopher, who recently earned his Eagle Scout rank and hopes to be an architect, was able to delve into the topics he loved. For his Eagle project, he trained mentors on how to teach and implement socio-emotional learning skills and also made books and donated equipment they’d need to play games with their mentees.
“He worked long hours on his project, and there’s no way he would have been able to put that kind of time in it if he had been in regular school,” says Kristin. “That was an amazing, amazing accomplishment. He just really rocked it.”
For Kristin, the biggest reward of her family’s education decision is the lifestyle it has allowed them to cultivate.
“It’s a lifestyle — the time that I get to spend with my children, getting to know them on a deeper level, seeing how their minds really work and how they approach a problem and what they even consider a problem, watching them be able to explore what they’re really interested in,” she says. “And also just the time with them together, seeing their relationship grow stronger.”
While she’s still homeschooling, now she has an additional mission in mind: making homeschooling more approachable to other families, especially families of color, who might not know about the diverse shapes and sizes that homeschooling can come in.
She hopes that spreading the word will empower more parents to find the best fit for their child and experience the renewed excitement about learning she’s seen in her kids.
“School choice for us has meant that my children have been able to flourish and expand their knowledge base and learn to love learning again,” says Kristin. “So for us it’s been the best thing ever and I’m so thankful that we live in a country and in a state that allows us to do so.”
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