Friday, September 30, 2016

Reality Check

Can I be completely honest with you? 

  I may have to whisper it to you, because I feel like it isn't something I should admit, but

I have not enjoyed homeschooling in years.

  You know, it's almost a relief to be able to admit that on a semi-public platform.  I have felt so much anger and shame when it comes to my frustration with homeschooling, that I completely lost sight of the goals and ideas that initially drew us to it in the first place.  

Where was the girl who almost begged her husband to allow her to homeschool?  She was filling out public school enrollment forms and dreaming of yellow busses.

  I created this fantasy world in my head where the children would go to public school, where they wouldn't struggle with math, grammar, or writing.  They would make all kinds of friends and not be bullied.  Their teachers would be able to give them plenty of one-on-one instruction, and they would come home telling me how inspired they are by what they learned.  While some of that is likely to happen in the public school setting, it isn't completely realistic.  I had to realize that whether they were home or elsewhere for their schooling, they would struggle.  No matter where they were educated, they would have frustrations, lack focus from time to time, and have rough days.   The areas they were weak in may not change in a different setting.  Pulling a child out of school, or putting them back in isn't a magic solution.  There are never instant results when people are involved, and convincing myself that every option but what we were doing was the answer wasn't helping anyone.  The real problem with our homeschool lay with the person in charge of it.  Ouch!  

This is a trip we took to Mt. Saint Helens.  This is supposed to be the most amazing place to see the volcano.... if you go on a day where there isn't complete cloud cover at 2,000 feet.  We saw nothing, and most of it didn't go the way that we planned, but we had a lot of fun!  I thought this was a good picture to represent the last few years of homeschooling.  BUT... See those faces?  See the children laughing about how ridiculous it is to stand in front of a volcano no-one can see in the freezing rain?  That is hope, and the reason we will be okay.  They are the reason I can't give up.

  This year, I have been working on changing how I think.  This has affected my marriage, parenting, my spiritual life, friendships, and finally has started to trickle down into my homeschooling life.  I love research, and have spent at least 12 years researching homeschooling methods, curricula, and following some of the leaders of the homeschooling movement.  For the 2016-2017 school year, I decided to focus on learning from only a couple of homeschooling mentors, taking the time to find people who really seem to be heading in the same direction (only way more successfully), and learn from their experiences and wisdom.  I'm not saying one has to do what others do and say.  That's part of the amazing freedom in homeschooling.  I am just one of those people who need to see a method modeled before I can take whatever bits would be useful, and customize it to be my own.

  We have broken away from a lot of the methods we have used for the last 10 years, and have embraced a new plan.  In the past, I have embraced Charlotte Mason ideals, been inspired by the beauty and methodology of Waldorf education, and occasionally focused on classical elements.  I always tried to make all of that work while using a curriculum that didn't quite mesh with my children's learning styles or my teaching style.  We were all so frustrated by heading in a direction that none of us enjoyed.  I have no idea why I felt so compelled to continue pushing everyone to continue doing something that made us fairly miserable.  I wasn't fostering a love of learning, and my bad attitude was mirrored in their attitudes.  It was bad.   It wasn't necessary.  We needed to change everything.  6 weeks into our 11th year of homeschooling, I think I finally figured out what we have been missing all along.  I realized that all of the things that I consider curriculum, are just tools.  They have no power to bully me, or make me feel guilty for not sticking to the schedule.  There is no reason to feel like a failure if a hands-on project is ignored because it wouldn't really make an impact, requires too many items we don't have, or is more messy than I'm willing to deal with.  Here's the big one.. all of my children don't have to do the same activities to learn the same things!  What?  One of my children will do artwork, one will hand-write a report, one will create a model out of Legos, and the other will do an oral presentation, and all of them will cover the same subject thoroughly.  If I have brought them home so they can have an education that caters to their individual needs, why am I not treating them as individuals.  FREEDOM.  That is what I have found.  I'm getting to know my children better by the methods they are choosing to express themselves.  As I learned in my class with Julie Bogart (the amazing woman behind the Bravewriter lifestyle movement), I am working in a partnership with my children.  Yes, I am their teacher, but I am also their partner in this process.  They need to know that this is a safe place to make mistakes, and to figure things out, and I am the one to walk alongside encouraging them.  It is really a completely different way of thinking, and even though I am just starting to implement things, I have really seen positive results.  We might actually get through this year and all be better students.

  Homeschooling is not an easy thing.  We are so emotionally invested that each success and failure feels deeply personal.  The stakes are so very high, but the grace is deep.


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