Category Archives: The Women Folk

Homeschooling in the Forest

We’re all familiar with the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

What I’m wondering, is how many other homeschooling families feel like their lives in many ways resemble this remark? I don’t mean that I’m lonely. In fact,  I’m not currently struggling with ‘missing out’ on the hustle and bustle of being in the school parking lot by 7:25 am  (altho’ I’m missing my early-morning peeps something terrible). BUT, I have to admit, it lends a tinge of “unreality” to this whole situation knowing that no one other than my spouse and our young students will notice if I don’t roll out of bed and show up for ‘morning duty’.

The fact is, we DO get up, we finish our work, we take recess, we work some more, we eat lunch, we go to our activities – but by week 2, it’s beginning to feel a little bit like we’re actually homeschooling secret agents leading a mysterious double-life: Relatively normal mom + kids by afternoon/evening . . . Fringy, off-grid mom + unsocialized kids by day!

*GASP*

Agent P probably homeschools - but we'd never know . . .

The irony is, it’s not nearly that secretive! In fact, we are out and about, for errands, hair-cuts, dr. appointments, grocery store runs, trips to the gym etc., more than even I thought we would be, simply because we have the flexibility to do things when they work for US (Woah! Novel! Score one more for homeschooling! Is anyone keeping up with my tally or should I be doing that?!).

We’re also about to jump headlong into our fall activities, which will include an unprecedented line-up of swimming, dance, and soccer . . . because we can. Our afternoons and evenings are free now that we aren’t spending them doing homework. I’m grateful, but the “secret” schooling thing still has me feeling a tad metaphysical.

As it turns out, I’m probably not the best candidate for moving to one of those towns in Alaska where they film amazing documentaries about things like The Iditarod Race. (Altho, I’d say they definitely get more press than homeschooling.)   And maybe it would make a difference if I simply let someone know – “Hey! Yes, we’re here, in the forest, doing our work, I promise!”

I don’t know.

But since I don’t have a ready solution to this quandary, I’ll end by offering to anyone out there feeling the same way, gimme a heads up and I promise to take note of your trees falling!

Because it’s different . . . and that’s NOT (always) bad!

First of all, I need to address a fact that most of us are familiar with.

Kids are amazing!!

Plain and simple.

Their seemingly endless capacity to adapt to any and every new circumstance never ceases to impress me. Maybe this is made even more impressive than it otherwise would be because I’m the type of person that takes weeks to adapt to change. Even small change, like a new toothpaste flavor – and then I’m likely to be secretly planning how to return to the old flavor.

Our inside joke used to be that my motto rejecting all things new (and potentially scary) was “because it’s different . . . and that’s bad.” OK, not very funny – especially when you’re married to someone who loves change and embraces it for all it’s goodness – then again, maybe that’s why I’m like this, because after all, someone has to be the brakes of this operation, right? (I tell myself that. It makes me feel better about the toothpaste situation.)

Awww, don't they even look like they must be learning something?

Back to kids . . . they are adaptable! These past 2 weeks are living proof of that. For 2 weeks,  I have spent time working on breathing deeply, sometimes holding back the tears related to my own feelings of “what if . . .” and “why are we doing this again?” while watching my Facebook and real-life friends/family send their babies back to school. In contrast, for 2 weeks, my kids have spent time embracing our “one-room school house” for all that it is, and somehow glossing-over all that it isn’t. They have taken geography tests in their bedrooms, worked math problems on the computer, they have made nomadic cave paintings on construction paper, read about cell organelles while sitting on beanbags in the living room, and traced maps of the Nile at our kitchen table – all of it (mostly!) without complaint.

So 2 weeks are down (if I were counting, I’d say 34 to go, but I’m not feeling like that just now) . . . and at the end of these first 2 weeks I’m beginning to figure out that this journey is bound and determined to present multiple learning opportunities for me, at least as often as it will for my young “students.”

Hey look, we do ART at our school! ;)

If I’m being honest, though, the first thought that enters my head when people ask me, “So, how do you like home-schooling?”, is that I’m really not equipped to answer that question! Answering that question, either affirmatively or negatively, would be almost as ridiculous as the parent of a newborn baby answering the question, “So, how do you like being a parent?!” Really? After 48 hours of changing diapers, sleepless nights, and adorable baby spit up (didn’t want it to all sound negative!), there are no words to describe the emotional state of a new mother, and it definitely doesn’t translate to an understanding of “Parenting”! Parenting is so much more and yet it’s all related, isn’t it? The diapers, the feeding, the potty training (can I get an AMEN from anyone who’s made it through the line-up so far?), the tantrums, the finger-painting, the stain removal (there should be a class in this, no?) etc etc etc So how can anyone really discuss “Parenting” (with a capital P!) after 48 hours? I feel much the same way. Yes, I realize it isn’t the same. I can change my mind. I can send them back . . . to school, that is. But I don’t want to – at least not until I’m prepared and equipped  to answer the question. It’s a fair one, after all. I’m just not there yet.

I figure in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the view. It’s pretty good . . . unless of course you’re whatever animal is featured in the cave paintings below – *ouch*!

Yo - these Nomad peeps know how to paint!

Day 1 down . . . 179 to go!

Day 1 is down.

I’m trying to take it all in stride – especially the part where I asked my young students what their favorite part of the day was. Two of them answered with enthusiasm “PIANO!” (which I didn’t teach), and the other one sighed contentedly and said, “The white board crayons.”

I promise they picked out those textbooks on their own too!

My husband assures me that this is not a reflection on my teaching abilities. He was a straight ‘A’ student, and when asked that question as a boy, he always replied with gusto,  “PE and Lunchtime!” (Go figure, my kids used to say “Car Pool line!”)

So rather then being offended at this end to day 1, I suppose I will congratulate myself that apparently my kids are well on their way to normalcy. I must be doing a good job.

Well on their way to genius IQ. Should I tell the tween I posted this?

It’s all about the clothes, anyway!

So the night before our “back-to-school” day, there were some discussions about what outfits the kids would choose for their first day. Everyone knows that school itself is irrelevant, because the outfit is what matters – and given we’ve been in uniforms for as long as any of them can remember, this was cause for conversation (and rejoicing). What I found hilarious was the turn it took when they pondered what their teacher would wear.

Oh, and bear in mind, that for the duration of this conversation I was wearing a dress paired with 3″ heels – rare, but nonetheless . . .

The red-head: “So, Mom, what are you going to wear tomorrow? You know at our old school, all the teachers wore skirts.”

Pause long enough for tumble-weeds to pass through the kitchen while all of them turn and gaze at me uncomfortably.

Me: “Well, I guess at your new school you’ll adapt to your teacher showing up in PJ pants or sweats some days, won’t you?”

Another really, REALLY uncomfortable pause.

The red-head (sounding very concerned now): “Mom, do you even OWN any skirts?”

Is it too early to ask for a raise? Apparently I’m going to need a new wardrobe to go with this new gig.

As you can see, it makes no difference, but I promise I'm dressed in my best 'Day 1 Teacher Chic'!

What I’ve been doing this summer . . .

Are we there yet?

The dog days of summer have arrived and set up camp here in the deep south. It’s hot. Really hot. And at least in this house,  it’s making us all a little grumpy because the humidity and the temperature are about equal now, even at night, and it has been raining every. single. afternoon for almost 2 weeks. Yesterday, in a rare moment of mostly blue sky, I threw the kids’ bathing suits at them and we raced up to the pool for a few moments of enjoyable summer play time. However, now that our swim team season is officially over, the rest of their time has been spent memorizing an inordinate amount of Phineas and Ferb. I could feel guilty about it, but as that would just add to my summer ho-hums, I chose not to. Mostly because I’ve actually been doing something productive this summer. I’ve been turning our house into a classroom while attempting not to make it look like all we do is WORK here.

It’s true, this post should more accurately be titled “I know what I + several of my un-paid, conscripted, email-reading, internet shopping, homeschooling-friends-in-the-know did this summer,” because there is no way this kind of thing happens alone. But while waiting for the planets to finally align, the boxes to be unpacked, and the dust to settle . . . I admit, this is pretty much what I hoped we’d be looking at in our hallway.

Aahhhh. Order, how do I love thee?

Order.

Well-planned curriculum. (aka: ‘shiny new textbooks’ YAY!)

Variety.

Knowledge, waiting to happen! 🙂

Oh and the dreamy avocado green hanging pockets are just the cherry on my sundae, thanks to a bestie who hooked me up with the Container Store! LOVE!!

Yes, I do realize that it will probably never look this pretty again, but for right now, as far as I’m concerned (and surprisingly, the kids too), this is almost as lovely a sight as full stockings on Christmas Morning! And I spent probably as much time shopping for it’s contents – maybe more? LOL The girls have big plans for these pockets. I believe bedazzling was discussed. The boy asked if we could put a giant Mario on his. Maybe I’ll work on that. I’ve googled pretty much everything else this summer, I’m sure it can be done! 😉

If I’m feeling brave, later on in the week I might post some pictures of our other work areas, but tonight this hallway is my happy place because it means I’m done! The planning is over. The books are here, the kids are here, all we need is a deep breath, copious amounts of prayer,  and a whole lot of ‘ready, set, go!’

Welcome to August, people. The Homeschool Adventure awaits . . .

Homeschooling 101 – unless there’s a 99 level class instead?

apple-for-teacher

I have decided that homeschooling is like childbirth. If anyone could accurately describe the path a mother will take to bring these precious bundles of joy into the world, I wonder how many of us would back out before even taking the plunge into pregnancy? In much the same way, I’m not convinced that had I fully realized what this first foray into homeschooling would look like,  I would have thrown myself headlong into it without a backward glance. Well, ok, so those who know me realize there were many, MANY backward glances in the early days following our decision – and yes, probably some yesterday and the day before too. But, now that we’ve made this epic commitment to educate our children at home for one year, I’m torn between the feelings of sweet relief that I don’t need to “send them back” in 3 weeks and the panic that I won’t be “sending them back” in 3 weeks. I also wonder daily how we even arrived at this decision in the first place (a question many of my friends are asking themselves too)? Hopefully, once we begin this adventure for real (as in, more than just the all-consuming curriculum research, budget spreadsheets and anxious phone calls) that it will all come together and make sense. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my musings from this initial part of the process.

Word on the street . . .1. Setting up Shop (or, in this case, school) – Homeschooling newbies should really be given an instruction manual. On the first page of this manual, it should say “STOP. Unless you are ready to reorganize your entire home, including but not limited to every cabinet, cupboard, shelf and set of drawers . . . do NOT proceed with homeschooling. For real. I’m not even kidding.” Mostly because attempting to find room to home school 3 children in a house that has previously served NO homeschooling function at ALL requires a serious re-commitment of space and slightly ridiculous levels of organization.  Oh, and make friends with the people who will be delivering your stuff from Amazon and The Container Store. I should probably find out their birthdays and begin baking for them – I see them often enough.

2. Options. . Mmmmm, choices.. they’re not just for frozen yogurt any more – If anyone has visited one of these new frozen yogurt places lately, you’ll be better able to appreciate what it feels like to choose a homeschool course of study for your kids. These places have something insane like 84 toppings to choose from and 16 flavors of yogurt. It’s quite ridiculous and unless you are a fast decision-maker by nature, I would venture to guess lots of people end up not being entirely thrilled with the yogurt and topping combos they choose while they begin to panic about the wildly long line forming directly behind them. Curriculum is the same way. The best counsel I’ve received is not to treat it like my marriage, and feel free to actually ditch a book if it isn’t working! Imagine! Score one more for home school – I’ve never had this option before so I’m finding it somewhat liberating and terrifying all at once.

It's all about the Bejamins  - or in our case, the Lincolns!

3. Can we talk about the money? – I’m sure it isn’t really ‘proper’, but after having 3 kids in private school for 6 years and church preschool before that, suddenly the price of everything from horseback riding lessons to group origami with the masters doesn’t seem as intimidating. I’m betting that by next year I’ll be in the same boat as the other families who are complaining about the price of this or that curriculum and how everything is a`la carte (think Ruth’s Chris’ menu as a bookstore!!). For now, though, I’m rather enjoying the perks of not sending both arms and a leg to our private school this month.

I thought I ordered the EASY button?

4. Prepare to panic – I had one very helpful homeschooling friend who told me if I wasn’t panicking on almost a daily basis, that I probably wasn’t doing this right. Very, VERY helpful! I just assumed that all these people must have a clear reason for making this choice, and that said reason led directly to their zen-like parenting state! Not so! Sweet relief to know I’m not alone in my cold-sweat phobias that my children will somehow end up less smart at the end of this year than when we started. (This is especially painful because as everyone knows, our children are very, VERY smart. 😉

5. Obedience does NOT necessarily = Happiness and Peace – this revelation was a biggie for me and we can thank my smarty husband for it. During one of my many panic-stricken moments (see #4) I commented that I thought I would feel more peaceful about this if it was reeeeally the obedient thing to do. To which he laughed and said with irony (as he does most things), “Really? Let’s discuss some of the obedient people from the Bible and how they felt – starting with Noah? Umm, nope. Abraham? Not really!” OK, yes, I get it. I really do. Moving past my expectations has definitely led to a measure of peace with this whole decision, but it was really my own undoing in the beginning. Who knew??

Nothing reminds me of the fall like a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.So now I am here – staring down the calendar, and daring it to be August so that we can open up our shiny new text books and start the new school year. I’ll just be honest and say – does anyone else feel like maybe there should be a Beginner BEGINNER class for us homeschooling newbies? Thank goodness for friends. You all know who you are and how you have helped us in this process. My children thank you too – they don’t know it but thanks to you guys, we will have structure and good literature in addition to bouquets of newly sharpened pencils next month! Stay tuned – just as there were many initial details I never expected, I’m fairly confident there will be more to this “year of homeschooling” than any of us can predict. I’ll go on record and say that I’m believing for good things – at least when I’m not hung up on #4. 😉

Language Lessons

Recently the girls were lamenting the fact that they could not stay and watch a movie at a swim club party.

Firefly fans will be so proud...

“Mom, why can’t we stay and watch?”

“Well, there’s just some language in the movie that we feel is inappropriate for your age group” mom so eloquently replied.

“What kind of language?” asked the red head.

“Just inappropriate language.”

“Like Chinese?”

US History – small boy edition

Yesterday the kids were apparently Seriously? Sack-of-what did you call me? acting out some mutated version of what Hanna has been learning about in US History. Working in the kitchen, I tried to listen in but all I could discern was that it involved pilgrims and Indians – which seemed odd considering that since we’ve passed Thanksgiving most of their skits currently revolve around taking turns performing their own (often lyrically-challenged)  versions of Christmas classics. As I gave up and walked out of the kitchen all I could hear was the small boy exclaiming indignantly to one of his sisters –

“Stop telling me what to do, Sackadoodle!!”

“Buddy, it’s Sacagawea.”

Goodness only knows what his 4th grade history teacher will have to un-teach him by the time he makes it to US History.

Questions, questions

5 minutes.  3 kids.  Infinite question possibilities.   Take for example the following questions, asked by the redhead.  The format was:

1.)  Ask question.  2.)  Pause ever so briefly for the answer.  When the answer is given, immediately follow it up with a question from a completely unrelated category.  3.)  Repeat.

“Mom, did you know the word ‘soup’ is a sight word?”

“How did you guys get engaged?”

“Can you eat a slug?”

Career Day just doesn’t get any better than this. . .

“Dad, do you know what I want to be when I grow up?” the red-headed girl asked me during the pool-side chat.

“What’s that dear?”

“A vulcanologist!” she replied.

“You want to study volcanoes?” I asked… ” I thought you wanted to be a singer.”

“Oh yeah!  Well, I can do both!” she exclaimed.

“So you want to be a singing vulcanologist?”

“Yes!”

I have no doubt she will be able to pull it off famously.