“We were not going be those people” was how Tracy Craig summed up her thoughts on homeschooling when her oldest child first entered school.
The Craigs weren’t sure what school or schools their children would attend, they just knew homeschooling was off the table. But as it often does, life has a way of interfering with the best laid plans.
Their two oldest children, Leona and Launa, began attending private school when the family lived in McComb. But with two more children not yet in school and another on the way, the Craigs knew they needed another option.
Private school would become financially impossible, and they did not have confidence in the local district school. So the Craigs moved in search of better options.
Moving to the Coast
With Kenny Craig, Tracey’s husband, in the National Guard they were able to relocate to the Coast. They were hopeful the well-regarded local schools would be able to provide their five children with the education they needed.
Tracey quickly learned that would not be the case.
Leona, the oldest child, is someone that Tracey says can thrive wherever she is and will make any situation work. She was doing fine. The same could not be said for Launa, their second daughter.
Early on Tracey noticed something was not right: school was a constant battle for Launa. She began to receive bad grades after spending hours studying at night, and the school just brushed this aside. They offered reasons like “This is fairly common” and “She’s still passing.”
But this was not okay, as far as Tracey was concerned.
Launa began to experience high levels of anxiety and she would cry herself to sleep at night.
“She’s my happy-go-lucky child,” Tracey said. “And when this would happen we are like, ‘what happened to our girl?’ She used to be the life of the party but when people would come over, she’d just go into her room.”
Tracey had her tested and they learned she had dyslexia, something that was not really discussed seven years ago.
Launa would finish out the year in her district school, but the family would soon make a major change.
Whatever it takes
After receiving the dyslexia diagnosis, Tracey began to feel guilty as a parent. She had this instinct that something was not right, but was not able to help her daughter.
“Launa couldn’t learn the way they were teaching her, yet no one was listening to her, not even me,” Tracey explained.
Tracey’s new plan simply became ‘whatever it takes.’ Whatever it took, she was going to do it for her daughter. This meant private tutoring, private therapy, and a lot of research to determine how she could best communicate with and teach Launa.
Tracey admits homeschooling was terrifying at first.
“In public school you use a calendar and you are turning your back on it to do it your own way when you homeschool,” Tracey said. “We had to try not to compare what we were doing to a system that didn’t work for our kids. And it took awhile to get comfortable – to know it was working.”
That moment happened two months in. While at ballet, Launa’s teacher pulled Tracey aside to say, “I don’t know what you are doing differently with this child but whatever it is, keep doing it.”
For Tracey, this affirmed everything.
An education customized for each child
For the Craigs, the ability to individualize an education to each of their children’s needs has made all the difference. Each child is different: they learn differently, they excel in different areas, and they have different challenges. If a curriculum is not working, they can try a new one. If a child hasn’t mastered a subject, they take it again the next year. If they are learning quickly, they can move forward.
“Launa had been destroyed,” Tracey said. “But she is coming back to figure out who she was and who she is supposed to be. This means more than any standardized test score.”
Today, Launa, who is now in tenth grade, is on the right path. The other four children are doing well too: Leona made a 31 on her ACT and she is now at Ole Miss. Trey, Cecilia, and Jesse are in 7th, 5th, and 4th grade. They are also being homeschooled, each learning in the environment that is best for their individual learning styles.
“God forced us to do something we said we weren’t going to do because it was the right thing for our family,” Tracey added. “If I would have just ignored the problem and stuck my head in the ground, I would have had a hard time getting Launa to finish school.”
Fortunately, that is not the case.
For the Craigs, homeschooling is their school choice.