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on my first year of he-who-must-not-be-named

Monday, May 12, 2014

Homeschooling is one of those things.  Like breastfeeding and co-sleeping, the topic of homeschooling inevitably kills a vibe in the room.  Everyone has a story, and everyone is ready to defend their choice.  

I breastfed two and bottle-fed two.  I co-slept over a year with one baby and put another 6-week-old infant in his own room.  And my kids left a great classroom experience to come home and learn with me. I hope it goes without saying that I am not a soldier in the mommy wars.  

Having said that, I wanted to share what I've learned from my first year of teaching my children at home.  Only we won't call it homeschooling, because that word is divisive and specific to a certain crowd, a crowd where everyone else often feels excluded.  And I wonder if I'm reflecting more on another year of parenting than I am the ways my children learned to add?  Because what I didn't realize when I made educational decisions for my family is that the teaching part of homeschooling isn't that big of a deal.  Teaching your kids just isn't as hard as it sounds.  The real challenge of homeschooling is that you never stop parenting.  You don't have to/ get to drop your children off in the morning.  Whether that feels like a burden or a privilege, honestly, depends on when you ask.


Anyway, here are the things I've learned this past year, and I believe they are true whether your kids are in a classroom or at home during the day.  

1.  The day is not the measure of success.  I love having my kids home, hate having my kids home, question my sanity when I made this decision, and revel in the beauty of having so much time with them - and usually I feel it all in the same day.  Some days I roll gently over the tide of chaos, and some days I stand in the playroom and yell until everyone is shocked into submission.  But no matter how well or poorly any one day goes, it's just the day I've had.  A single day is never the measure of my worth or success.

2.  For us, learning is incidental.  Homeschooling bloggers often refer to seeing a lightbulb go on over their children's heads, and how rewarding that moment is.  Can I tell you the truth?  I've never had that moment.  At least, I've never had it at the table, during the "school" section of our day.  Most of the time, "school" looks like chaos around here.  A couple of kids writing grudgingly in their folders while a naked toddler tries to pick up her also naked younger brother by the neck, just as the landlord walks in the front door unexpectedly and the dog escapes down the road.  Every. single. time.  Table time is synonymous with the total breakdown of order in my house, and I feel as though I survive it more than I foster learning.  

Our "aha" moments have always occurred when nobody was looking - when my kindergartener read a sign on the side of the road for the first time, or my first grader realized he knew how to count the coins in his hand.  When someone yells the Japanese word for flower from behind the bathroom door and I realize they've been reading a library book for fun.  Real learning for us has occurred not during grind-it-out time, but naturally, unconsciously, as we live our lives together.  

3.  I am not passionate about my kids' education.  The gods of homeschooling will surely strike me dead for making that statement, but it's true.  My heart is not stirred by the thought of teaching my children to read, or add, or write legibly.  Instead, I care deeply about who my kids are.  I care about giving them a context for their lives, and I care enormously about the relationship I am building with them.  I am passionate about my children, not about their education.  And it's that passion that fuels how I decide to teach them to add.

Having said that - 

4.  My kids' performance is not about me.  It's that simple.  It's not about me.  Whether they finish their work or not, whether they understand a concept or not, whether they listen to the chapter I'm reading or not - it's not about me.  They are their own people, able to make their own decisions based on their levels of maturity and interest. Their academic performance is not a reflection of who I am as a mom, teacher, or human being.  Also, time and maturity are enormously important when we're talking about kids and school.  Maybe he doesn't get it because he's not ready for it.  Maybe he doesn't finish his work because he's not mature enough to recognize the benefit of doing so.  All I can do is create opportunities. What they do with the opportunity is up to them.

5.  There is room.  I can still write and teach my children at home.  They can still have plenty of time to play and cover the material we need to in a day.  We can still join enrichment classes and playgroups without spending all of our days in the car.  There is room for what is important to all of us.

But nobody can do it all.

There is room ... as long as we make choices along the way.  For me, in this season I can either write or train for a race.  I cannot do both.  They can either play with friends after school or play sports - but not both.  We can join a playgroup or join a mom's group.  Either is fine.  Both won't work.

For my family, our goal is to create a cohesive team.  I want my kids to enter their second decade knowing in their gut we are all in this together.  Everything we do works toward that end - the way we learn, the time we spend together, the way I parse squabbles, the way we handle chores.  We are a team.  Each person has their own passions, maturity level, and struggles.  But none of us is alone.  We support one another, we work together, we care what's going on in one another's lives.  There is room for all of us to be who we are, even as we make priorities and decisions as a team.  This is what it means to be a family.

Homeschooling is one of those hot button issues, but it has been an asset to my family's goal of building a team this year.  What about you?  What have you learned from this school year with your kids? 

1 comment:

  1. "Parse squabbles" that nails my job description down to a "T." Your children will grow up loved and secure and able to teach themselves, which is the aim of a classic education.

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