I Teach My Girl at Home . . .

I Teach My Girl at Home . . .


Yes, that’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title, it’s more of a coincidence that in our family, our son goes to school while our daughter is educated at home. During Jane Austen’s era, very few women attended schools, especially girls in the country. Most were educated at home with governesses, or in the case of the Bennet sisters, by their mother and what personal pursuits they managed on their own.

The first school reforms began in England during Jane Austen’s time as a continuation of Church on Sunday, hence where we get the term, Sunday School. Much like some of the education reform battles we face today, such a good deed like teaching children age 7-11 would not go unpunished. By the 1780s, the schools that had begun in the middle of the century were no longer permitted to teach writing because Christians may not do any work on the Sabbath.

For children of Jane Austen’s financial status, there were schools available, if you could pay. I am finding in my modern time as mother of a special needs child, many parents fatigued by the fighting with the public school often decide to just place their child in private school. This is not a feasible financial option for us, but homeschooling does have its costs and I think I’m a great Second Grade Teacher. 🙂 Jane and her sister Cassandra attended boarding school until her family could no longer afford it.

The contrast between Jane Austen’s time and my own comes down to a question of rights. In Austen’s time, children were at the mercy of their parents for what was right or wrong for them, even if that resulted in gross negligence and abuse. There was no right to an education like a current plank of the United Nations 17 Goals for Sustainable Global Development. In fact, today, both England and the United States, and many industrialized nations, have compulsory attendence laws. This legislation, at face value, is a huge benefit for society as a whole, for an educated childhood leads to a more productive adulthood. But it also means a subtle erosion of parental rights.

It wasn’t until I needed to pull my daughter out of school last November that my eyes were open to the invisible controls we have on us as parents. It’s not sinister, it’s not even malicious, but in attempting to legislate and regulate for the majority, kids like mine in that gray area are left disserved. The short version of the story is yes, my daughter is diagnosed by multiple doctors in different states even to be on the Autism spectrum. But, because she can test average in a quiet room, 1:1, with multiple redirects to the testing, she is expected to be able to perform to that ability in a chaotic classroom, loud, bright, with seemingly little consistency to her. I know she’ll fail to learn in that environment just as she failed to complete any classwork the 9 weeks she attended public school last year. The school’s team even admitted they know it won’t go well. But it has to go not well long enough first before they give her the supports every adult in that room understood that she needed. It’s a bureaucracy Austen herself would have heartily lampooned in a novel of hers, I am certain.

Jane Austen was homeschooled when she became sick with typhus and nearly died. They almost lost my daughter at recess as she walked away to calm herself down. No the area is not fenced in and they didn’t realize she was missing until they lined the kids up. Not quite the same degree, certainly, but like Mrs. Austen and Rev. Austen, I didn’t wait for things to get worse. After filing my paperwork, my curriculum, and quarterly reports, I feel like I’ve got this. I’m kind looking forward to Second Grade.

And the beauty of it all is that I decide when we start studying Jane Austen. 🙂

Quick update on the book front 🙂 The audio version of A Virtue of Marriage is in final checks as we speak! WOOHOO. Click the cover for a SAMPLE!!! (and anyone who wants a review copy, email me at writer@elizabethannwest.com, I should get some codes).

a virtue of marriage audiobook 400


Jane + Hamilton is almost done, I know delayed. To be honest, going through all that nonsense with the school over evaluating my daughter, listening to their promises of support next year only to have them yank it away at the actual meeting for her 504 Plan, drained me. And I had to suddenly have my letter of intent done and full curriculum for second grade done to submit by July 1 to the state. That’s all done, we are 4 weeks into our new “normal” with 2 days a week I participate in a homeschooling playgroup so I get to write while my daughter plays with other kids. It’s an awesome opportunity. I am this week happy to announce I wrote words! I feel like I’m back climbing my mountain.

A huge shout out to fellow Austen Author April Floyd is my very best friend in the whole wide world and who without, I wouldn’t be able to still be publishing books. She helps me contain the crazy in my life, in a good way! 🙂

You can stay up to date on A January for Jane on Fanfiction.net : https://www.fanfiction.net/~elizabethannwest7

I also share our adventures in Homeschooling on my Facebook profile, one friend who happens to be an education researcher, wrote up a little blog post about a funny thing that happened in May. You can read if you need a smile today 🙂 A Door Can Be Happy


11 Responses to I Teach My Girl at Home . . .

  1. I would pay good money, and then pay it again, to read what Jane Austen might have written about our current special education bureaucracy! I imagine it would be much like her subtle portrayals of certain members of the aristocracy–a necessary function in society, but frequently bloated and overly-convinced of their own superiority.

  2. I am a High School High Needs teacher in a program that I have heard from parents and staff alike is successful. That being said I graduated two very special students who also had high abilities in a quiet 1 on 1 environment and had great stress in the regular classes which they attended. They did have parents and teachers as well as therapists who helped them with coping strategies along the way – and even with all of that – each of them needed 1 on 1 support in classes – someone who prepared them for each class ahead of time, answered their questions when needed, helped them know what was important in the curriculum and why it was important to them and limited the work to only that which was of actual importance. Still there were times that jokes were not understood and dual meanings for words needed to be taught, and generally each new class experience took 4 weeks or sometimes more in which productivity took hold – so teachers had to be taught to let it go until this level of comfort took hold and then expect and count that productivity. We also had to slowly plan for future after graduation – as both of my students wished to always remain in the same setting with the same classmates and the same staff – and did not want to think about any changes at all (tears and fits!) With all of that said – and after working with them over 4 years – they each graduated last June and walked across the stage to huge applause by a very accepting student body who helped them along the way using strategies only peers can do – love, acceptance, sharing of personal time. One of the students got Most Improved award as voted by his senior class. He was also in the Homecoming Royalty and went to the assembly, the parade, the football game and the senior prom even though he had never been to even an assembly before. When his peers invited him and really wanted him to go, he figured out how to prepare himself to do it.
    I do not at all mean to discourage Home Schooling – but wish to let you think of your child and her future. Perhaps in the future a great school opportunity may open itself up to you both – when she is older. A school which believes in Servant based leadership model of acceptance of all… and shows it. I know those school are out there. I am proud to teach at one. I know that the power of positive peers can do amazing things for students of High School age. It is also amazing to seem the changes which happen with regular education students who come in contact with students in my classroom. We all need each other and when it works, great things happen.
    I am happy you have found a way to make things work for you now. I am sorry I wasn’t around to help you to assist your school to do better. They should have. Public school is for every student. We trained our students to be quieter for our students who needed it. We allowed them to walk to their next class 5 mins ahead so it was quiet regrouping time for them. It is possible for everyone to work together for success for all. OK I am off my soapbox now. All my best to you!

  3. God bless you with your home-schooling. There is a network of such parents in our area. Knowing myself I know that I didn’t have the patience for doing this with my 3 children. They got a good education without me pulling my hair or their’s out! LOL.

  4. You are doing wonderfully with your daughter. The schools can say they will do this and that. But until it is in writing you cannot count on it. I can’t imagine the anger and frustration you felt when you found out they ‘lost’ your daughter. Keep up the good work you are doing wifh her and your writing.

  5. The goals of so many schools now are so low because they curry favour with the lowest-common-denominator. I was a part of the post-Sputnik generation, thank goodness. I can guarantee that you DO NOT need computers in order to teach physics or trigonometry (we did not have them — or calculators, either). We exercised our brains. Music is very good for that, especially Bach and Mozart. Exercise both hands by using nerf balls. It strengthens the connections. Start Latin when she is ready (re: Pepys). Brains are beautiful!

  6. My daughter was born in SC, TeaGuide, we lived there for 3 years. I think just like everything in life, some homeschooling philosophies can ruin it for everyone. I admit I am aghast when someone lives in a very unregulated state and says “Our curriculum is the Bible.” I respect their right to teach religious based topics, but how are the kids doing math? Then I’ve seen parents who do lessons like teaching skip counting with Noah’s Ark because the animals boarded 2 by 2.

    I like states that at least require some kind of statement from the parents of what’s being done, for the child’s protection. I do believe in a universal right to literacy. Every child should have an opportunity to learn.

    Where I lose my cool is when it comes to kids like mine; she cried nearly every single day in First Grade because she was too overwhelmed by her environment. The school’s position is that is not an academic impact because I didn’t let her do a YEAR of that so she could bomb the standardized tests. I mean what parent wants to let their child have a year of misery for any kind of future gain? The harm that could do at such an early age can be monumental to repair later in life.

    I like homeschooling now that I have more experience in it. I follow the Common Core to make sure my child can fulfill those standards, which is 100% open to anyway you want to teach them. For example, one standard from Language Arts this year is 2.RL.2 “I can retell a story and point out the central message, lesson, or moral.”

    That’s not evil. Now, giving her a worksheet with no instructions like what parents show on social media as the “evil” Common Core, yeah, that’s evil because it’s frustrating. But just saying kids aged 6-8 in Second Grade by the end of the year should be able to retell a story and point out the central message, lesson, or moral is a great way to help the wide disparity in education quality across our country (I’ve lived all over, trust me, there are 14-year-olds in 5th grade where we lived in SC, no child left behind my butt!).

    And homeschooling, to accomplish that standard, I can have her do story boards where we read a story, pick 3-5 scenes to retell it, and write the lesson up at the top. She’s drawing pictures, writing a simple sentence underneath, and a fun title up top.

    In science she’s fulfilling information based reading with National Geographic readers and making posters of 5 Facts on a topic she choses and we add pictures, she shares the poster with Daddy. 🙂 Those posters are projects she works on over a span of 2-3 weeks.

    I’m lucky that I stay home and write and can homeschool. I have such huge empathy for parents out there because education these days is very tough to find what’s right for you child and your family. Not everyone can afford private school or homeschool, and it can take advocates and lawyers and resources to fight the public schools when it really should not have to.

    Maybe where we live next public school will be an option again, but I have a feeling by then my daughter will be such an independent learner, it will be too late. Certainly, as she gets older, if she ever says she wants to try school again, we will let her. And I keep up her social skills too, that’s very important. She’s with her peers 2-3 times a week, for between 2-7 hours.

    • We used to take days where we focused on a subject and would go to a museum of something and we had to pick out a subject and make a poster, write a paper, create a slideshow, etc. It was super fun for me in history class to take my little camera and take pictures to make a poster about a historical park. I thought I was big time. We used to go to the Omniplex Science Museum in OKC and my mother would have us pick an exhibit and we would have to explain to her how the science worked. It was more fun than a classroom and I learned SO MUCH.

  7. My sister and I were home schooled from about 5th grade through high school (for me, would’ve been 2nd grade for her). My mother’s thought process was that we didn’t need to learn the “worldly” things that the schools taught (very religious home). Of course, I’ve been out of high school more than twenty years so it was a long time ago. It suited my introverted soul very well. The only thing I lacked was diversity education. I learned as an adult that my diploma was never “certified” so I had to take a GED to be able to attend public University. I guess we would have fit right in back in the 1800’s as I read every single book my parents owned. LOL Trying to broaden my education past the material we were given.

    With a child on the autism spectrum, I can easily see how it would be better for her to be taught at home. I wish you well and send a prayer your way for dealing with the educational system.

  8. Here in SC many families home-school their children — despite the Board of Ed’s attempts to regulate the bejeebers out of these people — to ensure that they not only get a good education (so good that scholarship contests often deny entry to home-schooled children because they always win) but also to keep their children from being exposed to negative influences — things like underwater gender studies, socialism is cool, and no, you cannot mention the word G0d. US, and other civilized countries, as you note, made education mandatory long before the UN put its New World Order communist brain-washing agenda (a.k.a. “education”) into play.

    Most of the home-schooled kids one meets are not only articulate, sensible, accomplished, and can make change for a dollar without looking up at the cash register read-out, they are amongst the politest kids around. Brava to you. Elizabeth Ann, for giving your daughter this important lifelong advantage.

    Re “… personal pursuits they managed on their own,” I am sure it was also a great advantage when they had access to a well-stocked library — and, preferably, at least one parent who encouraged them to make use of it.

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