We’ve been on the homeschooling path for nearly five months now. We took our winter break last week and are back at it. I intended to write my first term summary last week. Instead I spent my best blogging hours coughing. So now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts for this evening.
1. Color coded spreadsheets designed to order your entire life as a homeschooling family look really, really great! I made one, put it in a sheet protector in my master binder and referred to it for approximately four days. My littlest rapidly set me straight on this one.
2. Having said this, I would add that a well-defined plan is in fact critical for a person like me. I just have to add a large dose of flexibility to the mix each day as well.
3. As parents our natural inclinations and giftedness lead us in how and what we teach our children. I do best when I lean into this truth and work literature and words into every subject possible. I can also rapidly lose sight of this outlook and panic when I stare down the pages of third grade math and realize that I will be educating myself as I teach my daughter…at least the first one.
4. I have a new love for Friends of the Library bookstores. They are an amazing resource for good quality used books. I’ve procured spotless Usborne titles, some great classics that I’ve identified in my books about books and a good showing of the American Girl series. I’ve never spent more than $2.00 on a single item. This can still add up if you walk off with 18 books. Next time I’ll take a ten-dollar bill and leave my checkbook in the car.
5. Snacks continue to be a very important part of our school day - the fancier the presentation, the happier the child.
6. Like so many aspects of life, the homeschooling crowd can tend to be an internally polarized bunch. It reminds me of my first years of motherhood when I dabbled in the various camps - the natural vs medicated birth folks, breast-feeding verses bottle feeding ladies, stay-at-home vs working mothers – you get the idea. These topics are difficult and can in their worst moments start feeling like a bad religion.
Now, enter the land of the proverbial jean jumper connoisseurs. There are those of us who are fiercely opposed to charter programs and others of us who see great value in them. One group thinks it is close to a crime to teach your child to read before they are at least seven or eight. The other side, encourages early exposure and swears by their results. There are those who live by boxed curriculum and others who abhor it. There are those who lead very traditional and conservative lives and others who seem better suited for life in a VW Vanagon.
I’m still finding my place. Another time I plan to explore the seemingly unrelated topic of being a vegetarian who is coming to terms with the fact that I love bacon. Somehow I think my own journey of living within such paradoxes could help me to forge positive relationships with the various subsets. We’ll see.
6a. I say all of this and would also immediately add that homeschooling families are incredibly creative, gracious and resourceful people. I have been given invaluable counsel, practical tools and even an inside view into several families’ homes as I put my own school house together. There is tremendous opportunity to collaborate and for that I am incredibly grateful.
7. The littlest is very industrious these days! She continually seeks out jobs and wants so much to be a part of things – big girl things, please! As she continues to nudge her way into the school house by way of exploring math manipulatives, coloring and looking at books, I want to welcome her with thought, patience and grace. While eating the crayons she was just moments ago drawing with or tossing the counting beans across the table feels disruptive and annoying, I am trying to remind myself that she is a real, live toddler – not a seven year-old.
8. Outsourcing is a fabulous strategy. Most recently, I signed Hannah up for an art class taught by a woman who is herself an artist with a background in the Social Sciences. She is clearly gifted and passionate about what she does. My talents happen to fall in different areas. How thankful I am for these outside opportunities. I’m keeping my eyes out for a fun and brilliant math-inclined individual. The person I have in mind happens to be out of the country for the next four years.
9. It is okay to turn your kids loose on some school work while you attend other matters – like retrieving your toddler from the kitchen island or even grabbing a cup of tea. In our case independent work has built confidence, creativity and internal drive and oftentimes produces work beyond what would have occurred had I been standing over her.
10. I have fallen in love with children’s chapter books and I’m also pretty sure I could never write one. Recent favorites include Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Tall, Addy: American Girl Series, George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans and Little House on Rocky Ridge.
10. By stepping outside of the norm, I need to accept that I get to explain myself and my daughter a lot. Presently, I’m working on refining my 5 second, 5 minute and more lengthy conversation points for why we decided to do this. On good days I see the encounters with our pastor, the mailman, the Trader Joes clerk, the acupuncturist as opportunities to share one of the many options available to our children. On my not so great days my emotional posture exudes something entirely different.
11. As I look back over the past five months, I’m mostly encouraged and also pretty tired. I’ve learned a bit more about what I can and can’t do. I’d be toast without grandparents. We’ve relaxed into a flexible routine and our plan is to wrap things up by late June. I’ve come to see the value of taking time off through our not-long-enough winter break. I have since revised our schedule and our content so that we can enjoy a traditionally long summer. We all need it and I see this now. I would have never imagined this is where I’d be and yet it somehow feels entirely right for this season.