I realize that posting about homeschooling puts me at risk of being labeled a sanctimommy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough passive-aggressive Facebook mockery of organic eating, homeschooling, and home birthing to last me the rest of forever. But, since I’m not too terribly bothered by anyone else sharing their particular passions, I will happily post this hopefully non-judgy, yet super-enthusiastic series about the joys of homeschool- or at least, our joys of homeschool 🙂
It’s official! We are actually approaching the one-year mark in our homeschool adventure. No, I haven’t embraced long denim skirts and waist-length braids, but I have totally fallen in love with this lifestyle and, mark my words, I am never going back. I’m so excited to kick off a series of posts to show what we do, what I’ve learned so far on this road, what I wish someone had told me, and my own list of most memorable (albeit sometimes forgettable/regrettable) moments. And to kick things off properly, I’ll give you a little insight into why we homeschool. I hope you enjoy!
You should know that I started homeschooling in basically the worst way possible, (although, the longer I do this, and the more moms I talk to, the more I realize this is a pretty common thing). I was desperate. We were burning out with the status quo. Celia’s behavior was becoming an issue at school, and the more I dug in to try and solve her problems, the more I realized the system wasn’t set up for us. I learned something really valuable- it wasn’t just us. Teachers are burning out. Good teachers and not-so-good teachers. The current state of things is exhausting for them. A special ed teacher explained to me that when she started teaching (20 years ago), special ed meant learning disabilities. She spent her days helping kids who were a bit slow in reading, or who struggled with math. Now, she has 11 students in her class with autism. She wasn’t prepared for that. And yes, special ed students have to take the same standardized tests, and often those “adapted” tests that make things easier for the students actually require significantly more work from the teachers, in addition to the IEPs and adapted course work. Not to mention the challenge of just helping multiple kids with autism get through the day. It’s exhausting to hear that your kid is struggling. It’s exhausting to hear that they are a handful, or incapable of meeting expectations. But it’s excruciating to hear that your child is the reason someone wants to quit their job. (Yep, true story.)
I thought that if I just worked with her, did more practice sheets and flashcards, helped with homework, and really emphasized behavior modification, things would get better. But they didn’t. The hubs and I wound up doing her homework (I know, I know), because we couldn’t keep her focused long enough to get through it. We were both working, both staying up till all hours of the night helping both girls with projects and doing online assignments. And when the emails came from all directions about things being incomplete and not timely, and behavior being less than stellar, I freaked out. Like, epic freakout.
Three days after giving birth to baby #4, I drove to the school and withdrew both girls from school. And so the homeschool journey began.
I’ll spare you a lot of the details and say the first few months were hell.
I mean, it’s hard to imagine that giving birth and suddenly having all 4 of your children with you 100% of the time isn’t exactly sunshine and daffodils, yeah? Anyway we really struggled. I bought a great curriculum and attempted to use it, creating intense lesson plans and a rigorous schedule for us to follow. We basically ended every day with some combination of us in tears (usually me more than anyone else), and we were still in that same paralysis of not getting through all the work. I felt like such a failure. Then I got some amazing advice that has totally guided my homeschool ever since: “If you’re homeschooling because the school environment didn’t work for you, stop trying to recreate it at home.“
I took that advice to heart, and I did what I do best: I improvised. If I ever follow through with anything in its original form it will shock the hell out of me. I’ve always been a “rules? Honey let’s be clear- they’re guidelines,” kinda girl. Somehow implementing a program that was developed by someone else, who doesn’t know me or my children or my lifestyle, just doesn’t ever sit well with me. So I threw that plan out the window and started over. Of course, by the time I realized all of this, it was summer break and I had spent three months crying like a lunatic over the fact that I’d abandoned a promising career to permanently destroy my children. Luckily, summer break meant I also had months to pull myself together and come up with a better plan that worked for us. And what works best for us? A plan that evolves with us.
In the midst of all my freakouts, my hubs was his typical amazing-self, reminding me that I have no boss to please here. He also reminded me that the career-Lauren would have operated with a vision. A “why are we doing this” mantra that guided me each day. So here’s what I came up with:
We homeschool to cultivate a lifelong love of learning in our children. To create a sense of independence and self-determined worth and value. And to develop them into compassionate adults who pursue knowledge and experiences that better themselves and the world in which they live.
With that statement as a guide, I developed some pretty killer plans for our first school year. And of course we abandoned a lot of those as the year went by, and created new ones. And then did the same with the new plans. We are still evolving, and we continue to evolve as we follow the needs and interests of our brood. One part of that evolution was recognizing that Celia needed more help than I could give her, and placing her in a school for kids like her. It crushed my spirit a little to admit I couldn’t do it. But of course, the hubs had an answer for that too. He reminded me that at the end of the day, these guys are just kids, and the most important demonstration of my performance as their teacher is that they are loved and encouraged. I’m not sure how successful I am on a day-to-day basis, but on the whole, I can say with a high degree of certainty that they know they are loved, and they are mostly encouraged in their endeavors.
Supermom? Eh. Not so much. But definitely not superbad. That time is behind us.
Coming soon: I’ll tell you how I’ve come to embrace an eclectic mix of the classical method and unschooling, two complete extremes that have come to meet in perfect harmony for us (for now)!
Until next time,