We always knew that our son was bright. As an infant, he showed an awareness and sensitivity that neither of us had seen before in a baby. He was able to recognize and point out all the letters of the alphabet before age 2 and had memorized his favorite book and could sound out letters soon afterward.
We were also aware that there were differences between our son and other children. Transitions were always challenging whether they were going from a waking state to a sleeping one, or going from playing with his trucks in the house to going out for ice cream. He also always seemed to have a need to perfect everything in his mind before attempting it in the real world. This early perfectionism led to him walking without ever holding onto anything including our hands, and watching other children go down the slide for about a year before trying it for himself.
None of these characteristics ever went away; they just began to manifest themselves in different ways as he got older. As his parents, we always accepted these traits as the things that made our son unique. It soon became obvious however that these characteristics were not always compatible with learning in a traditional school environment.
In preschool, we were asked to come to school to “help out” any time there was a change in the schedule such as picture day or a celebration. These unfamiliar changes were always a challenge for our son who would require our encouragement and patience to get him through the experience. In kindergarten and 1st grade our son was bullied and had difficulty navigating the social jungle at recess. He was forbidden from reading the books that he wanted to because they were not the right “level” for him. Our son who had shown such a remarkable ability with words and books at a young age was stalled in his reading progress because of the arbitrary rules of his public school classroom. In class he was bored by the additional worksheets he was given when he finished his work before other students. At home we were all tortured by the monotonous and rote homework that served to do nothing more than frustrate him and add stress to our home lives.
At a small Montessori school that initially seemed like a better fit, things only got worse. Within the first week of school our son’s teacher felt a need to speak to us because he was asking too many questions. She began limiting the number of questions he could ask because it was too disruptive to her teaching. He started having playtime taken away for things like rolling his pencil on his desk or asking why the class had to sit in a circle rather than move on to a scheduled activity. He was able to hold it all together while in school but as soon as he got home, the stress of a long emotional day at school would lead to outbursts.
With yet another school situation that was unsustainable, we began to look for more appropriate options for our son. After months of research and school tours, all that we turned up with was a dearth of appropriate options. That was when we decided to start our own school. It seemed crazy at first but the more we thought about it and researched it, the more realistic the idea became. We found a few microschools online that seemed like they would work well for children like our son, and we got to work planning what our microschool would look like.
We spent a lot of time meeting and consulting with Karyn Slutsky and Francis Mechner who founded the Queens Paideia School in LIC, Queens. Their model made a lot of sense to us and seemed like something that would work well and could easily be adapted for the needs of 2e students. We continue to be grateful for their help and support in the early stages of our journey.
We have been homeschooling our son this past year and the experience has been enlightening. Seeing the way he learns, understanding his strengths and challenges in a new way, and getting his feedback about his own learning have been invaluable tools to help guide us as we progress in our microschool planning. Just as it has been in our homeschool, our goal for our microschool is to provide an engaging and challenging environment that will meet the needs of each individual student. We want all children to feel understood and appreciated for who they are, and have the freedom and ability to use their strengths and interests to help propel them forward in their learning. All children should feel safe to question, without there being negative consequences. We want children’s curiosity and questioning to guide them in their learning and attainment of knowledge. If you want that too, we hope that you will join us.