“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” M.Scott Peck

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In the past few weeks, I have spoken with several different moms who have chosen to school their children at home. A couple are new to homeschooling-even newer than I and a few who are experienced. Through my conversations, I have noticed a few trends. We all start out trying to have a school at home including a school room, lots of books, specific curriculums, a schedule and grand ideas. Very quickly, everyone has found that school at home is not reality. In reality, kids and parents get sick; appointments happen; the laundry and the housework still has to get done; and as much as you want to stick to a schedule, life happens. So what are the common attributes among these women and families that I have witnessed?

Courage. Courage is the ability to overcome a fear or an uncertainty in my mind. I have yet to meet a homeschooling mom or family who has not questioned her/their ability to teach their children. However, somehow they find it within themselves to go against the current of society and stick with it. Is it tough? Definitely. It is not only the first few months that require courage but throughout the process. Daily, we are questioned by everyone about how we like homeschooing, how do we know what to teach, and many more items interrogating our process and way of life.

Vulnerability: Obviously, we do not know everything. We are teachers just like teachers in school. I have to allow myself to be vulnerable to my kids. They need to know that I do not know everything. However, I do know how to learn and this is what I teach. If there is something that I do not know the answer to (which happens quite often), then I have to seek the answer. It also requires vulnerability to take the first leap into homeschooling. There is a huge feeling that we might screw up or completely hate it in the beginning. I am sure everyone who homeschools felt this way at one point in the process.

Respect: One of the goals of most of the families whom I have met is for their children to respect others and the world around them. You see this in the parents’ interactions with their children.

Risk-takers: Schools create logs of their test scores, teacher retention percentages and graduation rates. Schools do this to give parents a piece of mind that “yes, this school is good enough for my child.” Each homeschool family is different. I have yet to meet any two homeschool families who do everything exactly the same. There are no scores or graduation rates. There is no guarantee that your kids will graduate with honors. My children are my world right now. My goal is for them to be happy, healthy and to know how to learn. Taking them out of a formal school was one of the biggest decisions I(we) have ever made. Most of the decisions that I have made in my life only effected me. This decision affects three innocent people. This is a risk.

Humor: When the day goes awry, what else can you do?

Resilience: Everyone melts down. Everyone has the day that they think to themselves, “I can’t do this anymore,” or “they are driving me nuts!” The amazing thing about the families that I have met is that they go through this, and then they pick themselves up and say, “I can do this.” Typically, they bounce back even stronger and more amazing than before. Each meltdown is an opportunity to learn and grown.

Love: The most important one. I have met some amazing men, women and children in this journey. They all homeschool for different reasons but they all resonate love for their children and their families. They love to see the smile on their kids’ faces when they discover something new. They love to be with each other and to have fun together. They love to love.

Whether you are new to the journey or an old pro-do you see these attributes in yourself or your friends?

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“It’s not a race;it’s an adventure”

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I just returned from my first homeschool conference.  Of course, I now feel empowered, conflicted and somewhat overwhelmed (in a good way).  If you ever consider homeschooling or know you are interested in it but need more information, take the time to go to a conference and learn!   You will leave empowered that you can teach your children and that you will succeed.   You know your child best and the tools are there to help you through.  Confliction.  The thought of what have I been doing the past few months?  The conference also gave me time to self reflect on how and what I want to teach my children.  We chose to send our children to Montessori school initially because we truly believe in the philosophy of Montessori. Dr.Montessori used the scientific method and research to develop and academic program that fosters a child to reach his or her fullest potential (spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually) as a member of his or her family, the community and the world.  The Montessori method encourages children to love to learn and to enjoy the process of learning.  Amazingly, after only 3 months in public/traditional schooling and I lost all of this.  When I began homeschooling Sims, I started thinking “I have to get him caught up otherwise what will happen.”  Then I started homeschooling Sawyer and I tried to find all of the “things she did not know that she should.”  How quickly I fell into the trap of our world.  As I reflected on my teaching, I realized how quickly I changed.  Learning is a process and the art of learning is what I want my children to love as they did when they were in Montessori school.   So as wonderful as self-reflection is, wow can it overwhelm you!  Once I realized how off track I have become, I then realized that most of the work I have been having the kids do is because it is what they would have been doing in traditional school.  I was focused on the output and not the process of learning.  So how do you come home and teach again knowing that you are not doing what you feel in your heart in the best way?  I have not figured that one out yet, so I will have to get back to you on that one.  At least, I have realized my mistake.  One of my favorite quotes I heard this week was from Carol Burton.  She said,
“It is not a race; it’s an adventure.”  What a terrific way to think about homeschooling!

The other quote that made me laugh was by Andrew Pudewa.  He said, “It’s not homeschooling; it’s car schooling.”  Well, that is exactly what I have felt like the past two weeks.  One thing the kids have learned is how to work everywhere and in every situation.  Before we get in the car to drop off Parks at school, Sims and Sawyer get their binders together with the work that they can do in the car and at the place we are going next.  They work in the hallway at Parks’ school, outside of the Mint Museum, at Latta Plantation, in the car, on the floor at home, and at the doctor’s office.  Thank goodness, the kids are willing to work in these situations and they are able to adapt to different situations.

Due to the distance between Parks school and home, they are in the car a lot.  We have found that books on tape are a wonderful way to fill this time.  We recently finished the book Kit Kittridge about the Great Depression.  They loved the book.  One of the fun parts of the book was learning how life in America has changed over the years.  In the book, Kit loved to type newspapers on her typewriter.  Of course, the kids had no idea what a type writer was, so we called Grand-dad.  He still has his typewriter from college.  The kids have been typing non-stop on the type writer.  The most difficult part it that there is no delete button on the type writer.  🙂

Since Kit Kittridge, they have listened to Rules and Addy.  All of these books have brought out wonderful discussions and opportunities to learn so many things that I can never teach out of a book.  The books are told from the view of a child which allows Sims and Sawyer and Parks to relate to the situation in a way that I can not teach.  Reading was the BIGGEST emphasis at the homeschool conference.  Everyone speaker there spoke about the importance of books and reading.  Especially reading aloud and audiobooks.  Since we just recently started the audiobooks and we have had some of our best discussions since then, I can truly affirm the speaker’s words.  Reading aloud can not be substituted even after your children can read silently to themselves.  Reading aloud and together not only brings you together but also brings out discussion.

So I guess the next months and year will attest to whether or not I truly learned from the conference.  I hope I do not fall back into the trap of feeling that we are “behind.”  Please, feel free to set me straight if you see or read about me falling back into my old ways.   I am amazed at how quickly I forgot what I had tried so hard to instill in my kids early on which is to love learning and to love the process of learning.

What a wonderful wealth of knowledge I gained over the past three days!

Week One

Nick and I recently made the decision to begin homeschooling Sims in January after the holiday break.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the change occurred a little sooner than planned.

As adults, we understand how much stress we have when we do not feel confident in our situation.  Imagine that you are doing a new job-one that you know that you can do but you are unable to keep up with because you have recently broken your arm.  You keep trying to finish your job each day but each day you are unable to completely finish your project.  Then you go to work and you are told that your job location is changing and you have to move to a new city.  Now you have to continue to figure out how to complete your work with your broken arm, catch up/finish your work that you have not completed in the past few weeks due to your slower performance with the broken arm, and learn a whole new area including new people, new bosses and new schedules.  Would this overwhelm you?  I think it would completely overwhelm me as an adult.  Luckily as an adult, I have the tools to deal with these stresses and some control over my situation.

However, a child does not have all of the tools to deal with stress nor does he have the ability to control his situation.  This is where Sims was.  He had a huge change in school this year.  He had to learn a new way to learn (he went from a hands on Montessori school to a mainly auditory learning traditional school).  He was very motivated to make it work and he did all he could in school.  In the end, it took all of his energy to complete his work and he was melting down at home.  The stress was too much.  Then he was told that he had to change classrooms.  This put him over the edge and the decision was made.

Homeschooling began a little sooner than planned.  So far, I think homeschooling will be an exciting journey-yes, I realize we are only in week one so everything is looking blissful.  Sims is a very inquisitive kid.  He is also very self-motivated.  On our first day, we sat down and got to work.  We are doing a good bit of review now, since I am not exactly sure what he has and has not gone over up to this point in third grade.  After two hours, we both looked at each other and said, “what do we do now?”  We literally had gone through everything I had planned on in 2 hours.  I thought it would take all day.

Since the first day, we are starting to figure out a rhythm.  I understand how homeschoolers are always ahead of the game (at least that is what I typically hear).  There is so much time to learn beyond the books.  We get to explore and discover and question which opens up so many doors to learning.  I am looking forward to this next week.  Hopefully, we will be able to keep you posted.  I am hoping, Sims will be willing to blog some also.

We will also have to keep you updated on how the rest of the family is doing with it.  So far, Parks is ok with Sims homeschooling.  He in some ways wishes Sawyer was doing it too so that he does not have to sit in carpool as much (he spends a lot of time in the car waiting in carpool).  However, I think if Sawyer homeschooled too then Parks may be a little sad.  Sawyer keeps asking when she will get to home school.  She is even coming up with her own work in the home school room.  As for Nick, he is supportive and skeptical in a good way that will keep us on our toes!

Week 1 in learning:

1. A and An usage, vocabulary, comprehension strategies, math facts review, multiplication board, learning about the white house, abraham lincoln, slavery and the civil war.