From software engineer to full-time homeschool mom

September 22, 2020 By [email protected]_84 Off

Some people may think that homeschooling is only for celebrities or the reclusively religious, but my family doesn’t fall into either category.

After 10 years of homeschooling, I’ve just graduated high school.

I talked with my mom about why she decided to homeschool me and my brother.

I’ll always be grateful for all my mom has done for my brother and me. She traveled halfway across the world, leaving behind her family and home in Malaysia, to secure her education in computer science in the United States.

She expected a 40-hour workweek as a software engineer when she came here, but she ended up wrangling her two kids at home every day, all day.

“I have to wear many hats,” my mom told me. “I am the counselor, the principal, the teachers for the different subjects. And it’s a lot of work.”

My younger brother Anthony has ADHD and an autism spectrum disorder, which made it hard for him to stay focused and socialize with others. He’s the reason my family began homeschooling. My mom remembers how uncomfortable he felt in his first grade classroom.

“One day he just told me, ‘Mommy, mommy, I was sweating,’ and he said he wanted to go home.”

Anthony’s public school teacher called his behavior in a traditional classroom setting intolerable. So my mom started looking at other options. She’s a real go-getter. She walked into a local homeschool co-op, spoke to the parents there, and decided to give homeschooling a shot.

caption: Every day, Lisa sits down with Anthony to teach him math. Homeschooling allows Lisa to spend extra time on especially confusing topics. Here’s Anthony with his algebra homework.

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Anthony reacted well to personalized teaching in a class of two, so my mom resolved to continue homeschooling through high school. She said it wasn’t difficult to find material for high school students.

“I just searched for a good teaching material that has the video lesson and the textbook that comes with the test package.”

She makes it sound simple, but behind the scenes are hours of researching curriculum, teaching one-on-one, drawing up transcripts, and writing course descriptions, school profiles, and counselor letters. The shelves in our home are crammed full of books, leaving saran-wrapped bundles of test papers stacked on the carpet.

caption: Welcome to the Chuas’ home library. Beware of book-alanches!

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“Homeschooling is not an easy job,” my mom told me, “but it’s a rewarding experience. And it’s going to turn out great, because you are the best teacher for your children. You understand your children’s needs the best.”

Some students might balk at the idea of having their mother as their teacher, but I can’t argue with the results. I got top marks on the SAT and made meaningful social connections through my extracurriculars. As a bonus, I never had to deal with bullies or discrimination. And thanks to homeschooling’s flexible structure, I had the opportunity to pursue my passions: writing novels, arranging music, and self-studying medicine.

caption: The school records that Lisa Chua kept (saran-wrapped, bottom of right stack) got Emily Chua into college. Also pictured are some of the textbooks and notebooks that got Emily through high school.

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This fall I’m starting my freshman year at the University of Washington. I’m a little bummed about missing out on the in-person experience because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But I’m also confident that remote learning will feel, literally, like home.

All audio for this story was collected following CDC safety guidelines during Covid-19.

This story was created in KUOW’s RadioActive Online Radio Journalism Workshop for 15-to-18-year-olds, with production support from Sonya Harris. Edited by Lila Lakehart.

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Support for KUOW’s RadioActive comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center.

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