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.
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. . . 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.
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.
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??
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. 😉