This is a true story about how homeschooling approaches are helping three children in Northern California who began their lives as crack babies. All the names in the story except the author's have been changed, because she is very optimistic about the future of these boys and doesn't want to label them further. Because "homeschooling" is the only successful solution she knows for educating these children, Gretchen wants to share with others what is happening.
I had finally found the Mason Street group home. It was located in an old neighborhood, down a wooded gully, next to the freeway. After checking the address for a second time, I gathered my bag and started down the driveway.
Eight-year-old Andrew was the first to see me. "It's the tutor," he shouted, dropping his bike and running up the long driveway. John, also age eight, and Matthew, age seven, followed.
"Are you going to work with us?"
"Did you bring stickers?"
"Can I see them?"
"After we work."
"Can I be first?"
"No, me! Andrew's always first."
"I haven't decided who will be first yet."
A clean-cut looking young man with a "Jesus" T-shirt was watching us from the top of the steps. He was Mr. James Taylor, the boys' daytime care provider. "Looks like you haven't forgotten us," he said, smiling warmly.
"I thought the boys would all be in school."
"Well, they are supposed to be in school, but after their school closed, my boss, Mrs. Darlin, gave the order that they were not to go to school until the school could provide an appropriate classroom for them."
"Are they getting any education at all?" I asked.
"I've been teaching them a little math and I was hoping that you would show me how to teach reading."
"I'd be glad to. Just watch me work and afterwards I can answer your questions and leave my materials with you. By the way, do you feel imposed upon, having the boys left with you, rather than having them in school?"
"No, Mrs. Gretchen, I'm glad to help out when I can and they don't make any trouble for me."
I had to laugh. Last spring their school had consulted with me because they were interested in my reading program, which works particularly well with immature children. I enjoyed the children so much that I volunteered to come in every Monday and work with them. While the school seemed ideal, with only four pupils per class and reasonable expectations for their students, one or the other of the boys seemed to always be causing problems of such magnitude that classroom activity came to a halt.
"They don't make any trouble." Indeed!
After the boys had all read to me and received their stickers, I watched them perform stunts on their bicycles. Since that day, I have been coming back twice a week to work with the boys and provide materials for Mr. Taylor. The boys have changed remarkably since they have been studying at "home." They are learning to read (which is almost impossible for such children in a classroom) as well as write and do math. They run, climb, play ball and ride their bikes every day. Their bodies are much less tense. Their behavior is so normal that a visitor might not pick up on there being anything wrong with these children.
While this program does not have the blessings of the school district, it certainly has the blessings of the boys' future teachers, whoever they may be. I think that I can speak for the children when I say that they are very grateful for Mr. Taylor's help.