Better Late Than Never
Linda Wooldridge began homeschooling in part because of what someone was unable to do. “We had friends who could not attend the 1998 FPEA Florida Homeschool Convention and gave us their room,” the St. Petersburg resident explains. That summer, as Linda’s son was about to start sixth grade, her daughter had just been accepted into a nursery school program. “As it turned out,” Linda recalls, “that was a blessing because it gave us three mornings a week to devote to middle school.
Like many homeschool families, the Wooldridges started homeschooling with the idea that, in Linda’s words, “we’d try it for a year.” But one year turned into two, as her daughter began homeschooling the following year kindergarten, and two years has become nearly 15. The Wooldridges’ homeschool journey will end at this year’s Convention, as their daughter will participate in the FPEA Statewide Graduation Ceremony.
That journey has had its inevitable peaks and valleys. “Both of our kids started reading late,” notes Linda, adding for effect, “Really, really late. Like, Thomas Edison late.” Though her son was reading by the time they started homeschooling him in sixth grade, their daughter didn’t read fluently until that same grade level. Linda says, though, that her daughter’s reading comprehension grew by leaps and bounds each year after that, adding that today she carries a 4.0 grade point average in dual enrollment at the local community college. “Now I tell people in homeschool orientations that children walk when they walk, potty train when they potty train and read when they read,” Linda says.
The Wooldridges have maintained a traditional approach to homeschooling, usually choosing textbooks and lesson plans. “A friend told me years ago that if you have a more freewheeling teaching style,” Linda explains, “you will do better with a more structured curriculum. That has certainly been true for me. I also do better with a complete curriculum so I don’t have to go searching for a cork on Sunday night.”
She and her family have received support for their homeschooling efforts not only through attending the Convention every year since 1998 except for three (by her count), but also as members of the Pinellas Parent Educators Association support group. A PPEA board member since 2005, Linda has facilitated homeschool orientations as well as high school activities such as student government, homecoming and proms. She also gives back to the statewide homeschool community through her involvement in the FPEA Ambassador Program.
Linda confesses, though, that the annual Convention has played a huge role in her homeschooling sanity. “Each year,” she observes, “by the time I get to the end of the school year, I’m drained. There are several speakers I love to hear for the inspiration and that all-important ‘You can do this!’ feeling.”