Twins take diplomas and new confidence|[05/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Joining the many other high school seniors receiving diplomas last week was a set of Vicksburg twins.

Unlike the others, Amy Lynn and Jessica Leanne Goodson, 19-year-old identical daughters of Ricky and Elaine Goodson, finished their last five years of school under the instruction of their parents.

After nine years of “really struggling in the public school system,” the girls and their parents decided to try home-schooling. And Saturday, the girls celebrated completion with a ceremony and reception at Immanuel Baptist Church on U.S. 61 South. As the only two graduates at the ceremony, Amy delivered the speech while Jessica performed the music with her trumpet.

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“It’s so wonderful to see where they are now,” Elaine Goodson said. “I’m very proud of both of them.”

While they chose an alternative path for their daughters, both parents said they have nothing against public schools. Their two older sons, Robbie and Jimmie, both graduated from Vicksburg High.

“Public schools were great for them,” Ricky Goodson said. “But as we learned with Amy and Jessica, it’s just not for everybody.”

The parents said their decision to homeschool their youngest two was made because they thought it was in the girls’ best interest. While the girls were in the public school system, the parents said they would spend the majority of after-school hours relearning material.

“This is what we had done their whole lives,” Mr. Goodson said.

Both girls were later found to have Attention Deficit Disorder, and in addition, Mr. Goodson said, “they were too shy to ask for help from their teachers when they didn’t understand.”

The last year of public education for the girls came in the eighth grade. They repeated the grade under their parent’s instruction and moved on into high school.

“One-on-one teaching is necessary for some children,” Elaine Goodson said. “But more important than that is caring enough to find out what works best for each child.

“There were teachers in the public system who cared a lot,” she said. “But due to the size of classes and responsibilities beyond their control, rearranging their style of teaching based on individual needs is impossible. So we took over.”

As an example of their learning differences, Mrs. Goodson discussed the girls’ driver education test. One had a perfect score the first time, while the other took the test three times and failed. So the parents had the struggling daughter prepare for the exam by listening to tapes of simulated driving situations.

Goodson said that daughter took the test a few days later and aced it.

“Failure was never an option or even discussed,” Elaine Goodson said. “If you didn’t do it right, you tried again and again until you got it right.”

And their daughters couldn’t be more grateful for their parents’ persistence.

“We can’t thank them enough for helping us get to where we are,” said Jessica. “Not a lot of parents would go to so much work for the children’s education.”

And while the girls missed out on a public education, they don’t feel like they missed out on a lot. The family was part of the Vicksburg Christian Home Educators organization, a group of about 60 families.

“Jessica and I have had so many opportunities that we might not otherwise have gotten,” Amy said in her speech Saturday. “Our social gatherings were with all age groups, not just peers our own age. We learned to interact with everyone.”

During their homeschool years, the girls participated in numerous field trips and volunteer activities. Amy also worked parttime at Hawkins United Methodist Church assisting preschool teachers, while Jessica volunteered at the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society.

Those activities seem to be an indicator of the future, they said. Amy plans to attend Hinds Community College to study child care and Jessica is looking into training dogs for people with special needs, such as seeing-eye dogs for the blind.

“But no matter what they do, I know now they will be successful,” Mrs. Goodson said. “They are both better learners now and have more confidence. And I’m confident in them.”