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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Homebound Instruction 101

Published: April 28, 2006
Section: Opinions

(Part II of my previous article)
In the mid-1990s, my mom was called to teach a fifteen-year-old quadriplegic girl who had become paralyzed in an automobile accident. While also working as a substitute teacher, my mom taught this girl as she recovered at the local rehab center. Little did my mother know that this encounter would be the start of her newfound career as a homebound instructor, teaching students who cannot attend school for some period of time. Ive told my mom she could write a book about all the homebound experiences she has had. She keeps pretty busy these days, however, with homebound instruction during the day and private tutoring after school, so for the time-being this article will suffice.

Over the past ten years, my mom has taught over fifty students one-on-one, ranging from elementary to high school, students who are homebound with reasons ranging from illness to pregnancy to felony. She treats all of them respectfully, teaches all of them to the best of her ability.

It is challenging enough to teach a first-grader to read for one hour and then teach high school math the next hour. Throw in the things that these students are experiencing, and my mom is an emotional support, a counselor if you will, on top of a teacher. Consider the wages of the job and it is almost as though she does all of her work pro bono. Without getting into the numbers, lets just say that some Brandeis students charge twice as much for tutoring as my mom receives from the school district for her homebound work. (She charges even less for private tutoring, as she understands that many families cannot afford the mega-buck rates of many less compassionateand less qualifiedtutors.)

Every now and again a pregnant student comes into my moms schedule. Seventh grader? Check. Eighth grader? Check. Twelfth grader? Yep. Shes had the whole range, from thirteen to eighteen-year-olds. And yes, in case youre wondering, teenage mothers can graduate from high school (the seventh-grade mother did, indeed, graduate).

Another group of her students are injured or chronically ill. There was the seventh-grader who was brutally stabbed in his sleep. Weeks after being in the news, my mom got the call to teach him while he was in rehab. Theres the little girl who survived leukemia, who fell behind in school while battling the illness and required catch-up tutoring.

And there are the child cancer patients. One little boy had cancer in second grade. My mom tutored him throughout his illness, and he is now a ninth grade football player. There was Jon, the family friend and teenage cancer victim who had excelled in school and played sports (in a wheelchair as necessary) in his four-year struggle with cancer. The cancer tragically took Jons legs, and then his life, in his sophomore year of high school.

Occasionally, my mom has a student with an illness, the student goes back to school, and later he or she gets sick again and returns to my mother for homebound instruction. Take Noah, a passionate musician who was born with weak lungs and heart. My mom had him in seventh grade, when he got his first heart and lung transplant. His body ultimately rejected the new organs, and he became my mothers student again in tenth grade. He passed away the following summer, but not without leaving a lasting impact on my mother (who had become good friends with his mother) and the rest of the Gateway community.

Then theres the sad case of an autistic student with a complex of problems that led him to throw knives at his motherwhile my mother was present. And the junior high kid classified as a threat to the community. She never found out what he had done, yet somehow she ended up teaching him while he was home alone.

Other students require homebound instruction after being removed from school for disciplinary reasons. Some of my moms most intriguing stories come from her students with some behavioral problem. Have you ever heard stories of high schoolers who beat up a teacher or principal? (He really liked my motherI mean, he never beat her up. And when he returned to school and beat up another faculty member, he requested my mom to tutor him again.) How about teens who joy-ride cars and then return them, damaged? He was a fan of my mother, too;

heck, he even tried to help her when she had car troubles. There was also the guy who had been in trouble hacking school computers. The year after my mother tutored him, he showed up at our house one day with his mother, showing her his straight-A report card.

Just goes to show you that even so-called delinquents can help or teach you something, if you treat them kindly, as you would (or should) anyone else.