Kristen LeGeyt, a former high school mathematics teacher, had always assumed her children would go to public school. And that is how they started out.
Their oldest child, Bryce, now nine years old, began his pre-school experience in their local public school at the age of three in the developmental preschool program due to his special needs. By the time Bryce reached Kindergarten, it became apparent to Kristen and her husband, Craig, that this was not going to be a healthy environment for him to meet his educational needs.
“At the elementary school they were going to, I witnessed bullying and violence all over the place. The community they are fostering at the school is really disheartening. Teachers and staff were ‘nice,’ but that wasn’t going to help our student reach his educational goals,” Kristen said. “His Kindergarten year, his teacher left on maternity leave and he had a non-state certified substitute that spiraled into him having night terrors about school until the day we pulled him out. Attending the public school was causing our son a lot of anxiety mostly due to not providing an appropriate individualized education plan and high aide turnover. He was not meeting his educational goals. Also, he has an immune system problem, and missed 40% of school due to things like the common cold. They were going to push him through the system, even though he didn’t say his first words until he was four years old.”
The LeGeyts plan to homeschool Bryce through his remaining K-12 years. “They don’t teach reading well at the school. We had to restart in first grade with pre-school level phonics, reteaching the sounds, such as the letter B. Within a year of being home, Bryce was reading better. He should be above grade level in reading by the time he reaches 6th grade.”
The idea of education freedom allowed the LeGeyts to break out of the system that says “every child does this at this age” and allowed them to do what they needed to do for their son.
“I had pulled him out before we knew we had the money available to do it. CSF Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarships and Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) opened up huge doors for what his possibilities are and what we can accomplish in a school year. We went with more of a Montessori approach, which we would not have been able to afford otherwise. I’ve seen great things. He’s now excited about learning. He has a curious mind and enjoys life.”
Because of the resources available to them now, Bryce is doing college-level biology work. “A lot of the materials that would be cost-prohibitive without the scholarship money have been really helpful. To have access to technology has been really huge, especially now that everything is online. Also, I was surprised by our lack of books. We had always gone to the library before, but with the pandemic, the library was closed. Through the EFA funds, I could order any books we needed for curriculum. He is also benefitting from therapeutic riding that otherwise would have been beyond our reach financially.”
Kristen now homeschools all three children during the day and tutors at night with students across the world.
“Our lifestyle in general is better. My children are always happy. They don’t have that negativity in their lives, and they are polite and respectful. Also, our sons are excelling academically at the same time. They are able to do core academics at home, then explore higher level sciences online. They write about what interests them. School goes faster for them because they’re doing things they’re interested in. We have gained two to three hours per day not driving around. We do school from eight to noon, and by noon they’re done. The kids help plan activities, and we build the syllabus based on their interests.”
Homeschooling also allows for bad days, explains Kristen. “For example, Bryce has been building an aquarium since he was four years old. The angel fish just passed away. That was a bad day. He was very sad and needed time to overcome and make sense of it.”
Outside of school hours, the learning continues. The whole family helps in the community garden where they grow almost all their food for the year. The children have a good social group that they hang out with, going on field trips together, and participating in recreational sports.
Over the next few weeks, many families with children in traditional K-12 schools are gearing up to head back to the classroom. Back-to-school looks very similar for homeschooling families like the LeGeyts, with some distinct differences. Their situation is a little different because they operate on a trimester (rather than semester) system, with a total of four weeks off per year. Repetition and consistency is needed every day.
As Kristen explains, “It’s all about setting the standard of the routine (like any other classroom). Every September we gear up in the same way. We create habits. Everyone gets out of bed at the same time, this is when we do school, this is free time, etc. Every year that gets adjusted. For example, this will be our last year of an elementary schedule, so we gear up for having more work to do. Extra blocks are built in for them reading on their own or writing something later in the day and not just when we’re doing things together. We need to add the structure in.”
Like most parents, Kristen’s hope for her children in the future is mainly that they grow up to be happy adults. “People can be happy in a multitude of ways. Trade school can be just as great as Harvard. I want to provide them with the most options. If you take calculus, you have more options than those that don’t. Let them focus on what is best for them and their personalities. We try to keep a holistic perspective going forward.”
Kristen is incredibly grateful for the truly individualized education made available to her children through CSF scholarships and EFAs. “Everything CSF does for our family is amazing. I am always cognizant of the sacrifice to provide this funding. I want to give the most bang for the buck. So I make list of wants, then narrow it down into what’s going to be best for my three learners.”