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Friends who don’t homeschool, 10 things I want you to know.

Dear friends, there are some things I want you to know.  I’m putting it here so I can catch you all in one sweep (unless you don’t read my blog.  Hey, why aren’t you reading my blog??).  This post is not a reaction to anything.  I just know that school choices can be polarizing.  I also know I had misconceptions about homeschooling before I started.

1)  I have zero opinion or judgement about where your kids go to school.  Really.  Ok, I take that back.  Some days, I may judge you to be smarter than me for sending your kids to school.  See my side note in #2.

2) I don’t homeschool because I’m anti-public school.  I am a product of public school and I loved it.  I met the guy I married, had some amazing teachers, and earned college credit from AP classes.  It is likely my kids will be in public school one of these days.  *Side-note:  I had a mini-meltdown two weeks ago and it almost happened.  If that school bus had only gone a little bit slower…

3) I don’t homeschool for religious reasons.  I’m happy that I can talk to my kids about my spiritual beliefs but I would do that regardless of where they went to school.

Source: homeschoolerproblems

Source: homeschoolerproblems

4) We don’t replicate traditional school at home.  There are no white boards or desks.  We don’t say the pledge of allegiance and there is no bell.  What we learn is different than what your child might be learning.  Different; not better or worse.  We do school year-round so that we can be flexible and play.  We play a lot.  I have a list of what I’d like to cover in a week and we squeeze it in as we do life.  I like lists; particularly checking them off.  We usually finish everything but life comes first.  And life has plenty of its own important lessons.

Source: fatjealouscatlady

Source: fatjealouscatlady

5) A word about my excessive prolific facebook activity.  Confession:  I may have judged some women before I was a homeschool mom.  It may have gone something like this, “She says she homeschools but she’s always on facebook.  That’s one of my issues with homeschoolers–they can be such slackers!”  Ugly, right?  What can I say?  I’ve eaten so many words since I became a mom.  (Like, “I’ll NEVER homeschool.”)  What is the deal with some homeschool moms and facebook?  I get it now.  It goes like this:  when your child needs supervision while they’re working on a task–say, practicing their reading–you will slowly lose your mind.  It starts oozing out your ears and your foot begins to bounce as irritation creeps up your body.  I survive the mundane sounding-out of words by surreptitiously checking facebook on my phone under the table.  It is for sanity’s sake, people.  I also secretly eat girl scout cookies under the table.

6)  Socialization:  The top question I get from people is “how do your socialize them?”  My question is how do we fit in school with all the socializing?  Norah learns some valuable skills in her daily relations with her sister:  patience, persuasion, conflict resolution, and physical defense skills.  Our calendar is packed with science labs, zoo school, co-ops, field trips, classes, and playdates.  I drop her off every Monday to spend 7 hours with other kids her age.  My husband gently pointed out that I over-scheduled this month.  I did.  It got ugly.

source:  atorahlife.com

source: atorahlife.com

7) It’s challenging for me to hang out kid-free.  Each week, I need to carve out kid-free time for my work:  prenatals, postpartums, births, and classes.  I can’t take a child to those.  That leaves little other time I can ask my child-watchers to help.  If you want to hang out, you’ll get the whole clan.

8) As in most situations, it’s not helpful for you to say, “I could never do that.”  You probably could do it.  Not that you SHOULD but you could homeschool if the situation called for it.  When I hear someone say that, it makes me feel a little isolated and crazy for trying.

9) I’ve found that sometimes homeschool parents can be boastful snotty about their kids.  Do you know why?  Because they’re in the minority.  Whenever anyone does something that isn’t mainstream (ahem, homebirth, attachment parenting, not vaccinating), we tend to focus only on the positives and sometimes sound preachy.  I’ve read homeschool articles that ooze with superiority.  This makes it difficult for me to talk about the areas I worry about when I’m surrounded by “all the homeschool kids test above grade-level, yada yada”.  And it sometimes makes it difficult to talk about it with you.  I want to be transparent about my kids.  Call me on it if I’m sounding too “my kid is a unique snowflake.”  I’m probably really insecure about screwing up my child.  To keep it real, some days are horrible.  Horrible.  Here is a facetime image my husband captured when he called in one morning:

IMG_0627

10)  “But how are you going to teach every subject to your kids?”  First off, my kid is in 1st grade.  I can handle that material.  I don’t know how long I’ll homeschool so this question might be irrelevant to us.  However, my goal–and the goal of most homeschool families–is to teach kids to teach themselves.  When they reach material that presents a challenge, there are online classes/lectures, local college classes, mentors, the library, and more.  I hope I can help my girls work beyond what I can teach them.

Why do I do it?  It feels right.  For now.  I like the flexibility of it.  It works well with being on call as a doula.  I like that when Norah gets excited about something, we can drop everything and dig into a subject.  I don’t have to get up early in the morning and I don’t have to do carpool lines.  I really like what I’m learning.  I’m digging up memories from Mr. Wilson’s 8th grade Latin class.  I’ve memorized a 13 minute history timeline song.  This week, I’m learning about the Songhai empire.  I love the old and often obscure texts we read.  Redeeming my own education.

If this post sounds disjointed, I broke up 15 fights between my children, lost my temper three times, got side-tracked by google image, and attended a birth while attempting to write it.  So, I’ve meandered.  What I want to say is I love my friends who don’t homeschool and very much need you in my life.  You give me balance and perspective.  And you keep me from being a HOMESCHOOL MOM instead of a mom who happens to homeschool.  

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Small Space Homeschooling

Space is a hot commodity in our house.  Some of our poor hall closets have been repurposed five times in as many years.   One was Cedar’s “nursery” since we knew she’d sleep in our room for at least the first year.  And one even got absorbed into a recent room remodel.  So when it came time to commit to a homeschool space, of course, I was scoping out the weary closets.  I imagined a rolling cart of some sort that would appear during the day and disappear when we were finished. 

Then I remember a time when Scott and I were first married and had the tiniest kitchen space ever.  It was when we lived in the haunted farmhouse.  Have I ever mentioned that place?  No matter.  We needed a place for two to eat.  And we needed compact storage.  On a crazy impulse, I bought a china hutch that had a murphy-bed-ish table.  It seemed the perfect solution.  And it was.  Only it turned into our first REALLY awful, REALLY big marital argument.  Something about making big purchases without talking to the other person first.  Yada, yada. 

It would not be our last argument.

As time passed, the table was removed from the hutch, the chairs went to other rooms, and the hutch became merely a hutch. 

Until. 

I repurposed as my homeschool hideaway.

I think it will suit.  I can fold the table up when we’re not using the space to keep the destructive curious two-year old out.

Don’t think I don’t hear you veteran homeschool moms laughing.  Of course, I realize that soon my hideaway will spill out into the house and yard.  I know my house will reek of homeschool when guests come over for dinner.  But a girl can try, right?

I need to hear

If you have a High-Needs, Super Spirited child, I would love to hear how you balance time with your Not-So-High-Needs, Not-So-Super-Spirited child. 

High-Needs:  Cedar (17 months)

I-only-THOUGHT-she-was-high-needs:  Norah (5 yrs)

I’m really struggling to help Norah with learning activities.  Honestly, I’m struggling to simply feed, snuggle, and talk with Norah.  Cedar takes a measly one hour nap.  When can I create space for art or literacy? 

Cedar is so very large.  Her spirit, that is.  She does everything loudly.  Her scream could break glass.  She is delightful.  And incredibly draining and demanding. 

I’ve tried putting Cedar in her highchair with playdoh, paints, crayons while Norah and I work.  She cannot tolerate restraint and screams until she wiggles her way out or I take her out.  When I put Norah at our dining room table to do a project, Cedar climbs Norah’s chair and becomes a destructive force. 

I’m discouraged.  I’m frankly deflated about the prospect of homeschool.  The idea seems impossible to me. 

Cedar is 17 months.  I know it is a tough phase.  Tell me what to expect, experienced mamas and papas of high-needs kids.  I need to know.  Or give me ideas to survive.

Transparent thoughts on homeschool

I imagine homeschool as a new country.  I don’t speak the language.  I don’t know the customs.  I’m a tad fearful of the natives. 

For this reason, I’ve reserved the right to change my flight plans at any point. 

Here are a few thoughts on my itinerary.

It seems many people I encounter homeschool because of their Christian faith.  That is not why I want to homeschool.  I am not afraid of public schools in that sense.  I am not afraid of my child learning different philosophies or even being steeped in them.  Secular classrooms did more to shape my faith than Sunday school.  They caused me to question, dig in, find reasons for why I believed, and learn that Jesus is bigger than I thought. 

So why am I homeschooling?  I want to preserve a strong love of learning.  I want my kids to have all the flexibility in the world to explore subjects they love.  I’m not a fan of testing and grading.  I’m not a fan of rewards as motivators. 

**I do not think there is anything WRONG with public school.  I had a public school education and loved it.  And, again, I reserve the right to change my mind at any point and enroll my kids in public school.   🙂

Now what kind of homeschool do I want to do?  I imagine that will change and morph as we acclimate to the culture.  I feel comfortable in saying we won’t do a traditional method.  I started out certain I would do Waldorf.  After I put away my pentatonic recorder and dropped out of Waldorf school…I thought unschool.  Unschooling fits me.  But does it fit my kids?  Hmmm.  And then I also think Charlotte Mason is dreamy.  And I absolutely did not plan on doing anything formal until first grade. 

Then Norah changed my plan.  She told me she wanted to go to school.  She pointed to all her friends who go to school.  She begged me to let her join a classroom.  She even asked to watch youtube videos of kindergarten classes.  In a search for compromise, I looked into a co-op that offered one class a week but they were full.  And then I was reminded of a brilliant woman in my community who homeschools.  I emailed her and asked her she would hold my hand.  She immediately invited me over for coffee. 

She uses the classical model with her children and enrolls them in Classical Conversations.  I’d heard of CC before and dismissed it as not a good fit.  But I gave it a second look now that I know Norah a bit better.  The classical model is one of the more rigorous of methods.  A far cry from my “nothing formal until first grade” plan. 

I took a deep breath and bought the ticket.  I can always change my mind. 

Norah is super excited.  At the very least, CC will give us a structure for our trial run year.  And that will give my husband peace of mind.  He knows my lack of discipline and tendency to jump from one idea to another with astonishing speed.  I’m boarding the plane!