24 September 2017

10 Things I've Been Surprised About Regarding Homeschooling

I've been quiet on the blog lately for several reasons... 

The first reason is because Brian is working really hard.  His new job is taking up a tremendous amount of his time right now, which has laid much of the home care and parenting responsibilities on my shoulders.  We hope for a better work-family balance soon.  But, for the short term, I am having to be very present in our family's life right now.  The second reason is because I am homeschooling the boys, which has enveloped a good portion of my free time.  How's that's workin' out for me, you might ask?  Well, it's hard.  At times, it's lonely.  But, ultimately, I think it's very good.

It took that entire first year after Bennett was born before I could fully grasp this new CF journey I had just been placed on.  I think this first year of homeschooling might be the same way.  We've been homeschooling since May so we're 6 months in to it and while I don't quite feel like I've hit my baseline mastery mark, I continue to feel increasingly confident of where we are and what we are doing.  I have much to learn but I also feel like I've learned a lot.  In fact, I thought it might make sense for me to list some of the new things I've learned so far in our homeschooling journey for me to read again at some point down the road.  

Here's my list of "Ten Thing I've Been Surprised About Regarding Homeschooling":

1.) What I've lost in kid-free time, I've gained in quality time with my kids.
Now that the boys are at home all day (Avonlea goes to Pre-K in the mornings), I have less time to myself and less time to do work that I need to do.  This is definitely challenging.  I am having to be very creative in creating "me" space.  But, I have been pleasantly surprised with homeschooling that what I've lost in kid-free time, I have actually gained back in quality time with the kids.  Our family is having more downtime together, more conversation together and more natural connection than we've ever had before.  That's a pretty neat trade-off.

2.) There's no wrong way to homeschool.
I've yet to find two people who homeschool for the same reasons and use all of the same educational/pedagogical methods.  Homeschooling is as individual as the child being taught and the parent teaching it.  I've been pleased to have learned along the way that: as long as the child is being taught in a way that meets the child's needs, there is simply no wrong way to homeschool.  As Maria Montessori advocated: trust the child.

3.) Homeschooling has made me even prouder of my children and has made me even more confident they are ok.
Like any mother should be, I'm very proud of the little people God has entrusted me to care for.  But, as I have worked with them on schoolwork more intensely, I've gained an even greater sense of pride in them.  Dyslexia is difficult to overcome.  I see them working really hard.  I see them get very frustrated.  I see them persevere.  I see them fail.  I see them succeed.  I see them incorporate what they have learned on one day to a totally different situation the next.  And I am even more in awe of who they are as potential adults.  In this same vein, I've become even more reassured that they are going to be ok.  Sometimes, when a child doesn't fit into a system's way of doing things, it can be anxiety producing for the parent.  Am I doing everything I can for my child?  Are they behind in an area?  Will they catch up?  Is something wrong with him/her?  Is there something wrong with me??  Homeschooling has allowed me to step away from blanket expectations and instead embrace the totality of my child's strengths and weaknesses.

Learning about aquaponics

4.) In homeschooling, the whole world becomes the classroom.
This is probably my single most personally surprising moment I've had so far when it comes to homeschooling.  It was when I accepted the sole responsibility of being my child's educator that I suddenly recognized the wealth of resources our community provides.  The library, the grocery store, an Army base museum an hour away, the public works office, our neighbor, our friend who is a lawyer - all of them suddenly became experts and field trips and rich learning opportunities.  This is probably also the single most fun part of homeschooling, as well.  I get to learn and explore our community along with the children.  The whole world has become our classroom.  It has always been this way. But I think, having the kids at school, I've just never really saw the same value in these resources like I do now.  So, that's pretty cool.

Meeting other kids at Yoga

5.) "Socialization" is a non-issue.
I began our homeschool journey fearing the same stereotype of the disconnected disengaged homeschool child that many people have. Thankfully, as I've met homeschooling families and learned everything I can get my hands on regarding homeschooling, I've come to see this stereotype isn't true.  We live in a very transmigritive super connected technologically-enhanced world.  Socialization happens in almost every part of our living experience.  Families move in and move out of their communities.  Activities are joined and dropped regularly.  Children make friends at church, at the playground, at the library, in sports leagues, in after-school art classes.  Potential friendships lurk everywhere.  Oliver and Bennett are in more self-chosen activities now than they were in while they were at school because we've been able to organize our time around them easier. 

6.) Texas is referred to as "homeschool heaven."
There are no rules for homeschoolers in Texas.  State law treats homeschools like private schools.  In Texas, private schools have no oversight by the state.  Therefore, homeschoolers can learn what they want...when they they want.  This is not the same in every state.  I have loved not having to deal with bureaucracy when it comes to teaching my kiddos so I am grateful to be a Texan.

Learning about baby kittens

7.) If it's important to learn at all. it's part of our curriculum.
I've been pleasantly surprised to find homeschooling has allowed me more time to teach the children to be independent at home, how to be kind, how to cook, how to care for neighbors, how to make their beds and care for their things, how to manage time, etc.  These are things I was already doing while the children were in school but I constantly felt I never had enough time to teach them well.  I've been pleasantly surprised that what I want to teach my children at home no longer feels like it conflicts or is in any way at odds with what they are learning at school.  Generous open-ended playtime isn't at risk by rigid homework expectations.  And difficulty with mastering educational concepts now have the opportunity to be taught and reinforced in many different ways throughout the day, well beyond the designated school time.  This makes my job as a parent and as a teacher significantly easier.

8.)  Normal people do homeschool (awkward people do too).
I'm not gonna lie.  When I first seriously began considering the idea of homeschooling last year, I told my therapist through tears one of my greatest personal hesitations, "...but I don't want to be friends with the homeschool moms."  She smiled and reassured me, "you don't have to be friends with the homeschool moms."  I knew it was a silly statement even when I said it.  But it was true.  One of the biggest fears I've had about educating my children at home has been finding mama friends that I like who do the same.  So many of my friends have come from meeting during activities involving my children, particularly at school.  So, early on, I was a bit fearful that I might not find my tribe.  To my therapist's point, friendships aren't limited to where/how a child is educated.  And I have found this is to be true.  I may have to be a bit more intentional about my friendships but they continue.  In addition, I've met some really sweet mamas who homeschool - some are like me, some are not - but all who have been good people whom I'm ultimately glad to know.  This process has forced me to be more open to making mama friendships beyond the schoolyard.

Multi-sensor writing lesson

9.) There are no long-term commitments in homeschooling.

Another fear of mine regarding homeschooling was making the decision on how long to homeschool. The great thing I learned from books and speaking to friends, administrators and educators is that there is no long-term commitment with homeschooling. How long we homeschool is completely up to us.  It can start in the middle of the year and we can end in the middle of the year. I can put my kids back in school at any time.  I can homeschool for a year...or for 8 years.  I can homeschool one child...or all three.  I can homeschool rigidly...or loosely...with this curriculum or that one...whatever make sense for the child.  The only commitment I make is that which I am doing in the present.

Homeschool Mechanical Engineering class
10.) I like sending my kids to school.  I also like homeschooling. 
I really like sending my kids to school.  I like the idea of school.  I like buying new school backpacks.  I like the handmade projects.  I like the classroom parties.  I like school pictures.  I have also been surprised to learn that I also really like homeschooling.  I like the freedom it gives.  I like the seamless connection between home and school.  I like the good relationships I'm building with my kids.  I like the confidence I have that their educational and emotional growth.  I like visiting empty parks and museums during the school day!  I really like sending my kids to school.  But I also really like homeschooling.

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