For Diana LoPresti, homeschooling began suddenly — in the middle of a school year. The LoPrestis had started their son Giovanni, now 9, in a private Christian grade school their church had just launched, and the learning environment seemed positive enough. But challenges soon loomed.
“As the year progressed,” Diana recalls, “he started acting up in the class and taking on bad habits of peers. I was receiving telephone calls from the principal weekly or every other week. The following year he started to display more frustrations, and it was recommended he repeat first grade, and my husband and I agreed. My son’s frustrations continued, and while his peers were showing progress, he seemed to be falling behind. He had anxieties to where he would bite down on his pencils to the point of biting and bending off the metal bands.”
After Christmas break, Diana pulled him out of the private school and decided to homeschool. “We started simple and slow,” the Coconut Creek resident says. “I would dictate sentences and started to notice that the words were out of place — not just single letters or numbers, but rather entire words.”
Diana did some “mommy networking” within her homeschool support group and discovered that Giovanni’s symptoms pointed to a condition known as dysgraphia. “His brain and eyes were literally working double-time,” she explains, “because he couldn’t cross midpoint, so entire words would get misplaced.”
Giovanni has thrived under the one-on-one attention of the homeschool environment. “He has come so far,” says Diana, who is in her third year of homeschooling and has two younger sons, Lucas (8) and Joshua (3). “Although reading isn’t his favorite subject, he will volunteer to read at Sunday school, which never would have happened before.”
She also credits the family bond of homeschooling for helping in the process. “Giovanni and Lucas help each other a great deal,” Diana says. “One has strengths the other lacks. There are times I have to work on two subjects at the same time, so they don’t feel inferior if one completes with ease and the other is struggling. This can take more time, of course, but building their self-confidence and feeling of success far outweighs my inconvenience in time.”
Homeschooling has also helped the LoPrestis deal with the challenges of Joshua’s epilepsy, as multiple trips to his therapy sessions has required educational flexibility. “The two older boys would bring their books or binders and we did several lessons at therapy or in the car,” Diana explains. “I would even dictate spelling words for their tests as I was driving.” The educational process has even entailed Joshua’s seizures, as the older boys sometimes have helped Diana care for him. “At first I questioned if I was putting undue responsibility on them,” she admits, “but I saw that they truly were their ‘brother’s keeper.’ If they were in a school setting, they wouldn’t have that understanding of truly helping each other out.”