My oldest has now finished her first week of first grade, which consequently means I have finished my first week as an official, real deal, homeschooling parent. My husband is my back up teacher, and thankfully has a seamless way of incorporating what we are learning in to just about anything he does with our girls. That really, really helps. It also kind of pisses me off how naturally good he is at it, while I’m getting gray hair over the tiniest detail.
But ultimately, I am the teacher. The obsessive curriculum planner, the juggler of six year old meltdowns when it’s time to practice handwriting (not that I blame her. It’s boring), and two year old whims and desires for mommy’s attention while I’m trying to teach. Honestly, baby girl just wants me to get up so she can push buttons on our laptop. I’m on to her game.
While I did spend six year old’s kindergarten year schooling her at home, it was very informal, and far from a scheduled, life altering situation. I pretty much read books, practiced handwriting, and watched my living room turn in to what resembled a craft store after closing, had wolverines been permitted to ravage it beforehand. My daughters love art. They get it from their parents, but our artistic endeavors require much less glue and glitter. Hearing my two year old ask me for the “gicky” (sticky) glue makes the neat freak in me cringe. But that side of me is one of several that has taken a back seat in the face of being a mother. I do it happily, but I may need some type of obsessive cleaners support group before my girls are grown.
The commencement of first grade meant state requirements, home school association memberships, curriculum planning, deliberately getting up early, and new daily schedules for me and my children, all of which I have been planning for over the last year. I stressed and worried and lost sleep, wondering if I was up to the task of educating my own child. Now that the first week is behind us, much of my worry is behind me. Hahahaha…yeah, that’s not true at all. I’m still pretty damn nervous. My days start with coffee and end with wine. That helps.
My desire to home school grew slowly over several years. I honestly do not have one particularly strong, primary reason why I made this decision. I have a deep and passionate love of learning, researching, knowledge, and personal growth. I also have a husband who travels with his job. A lot. All over the place. I love the idea of traveling with him and our girls, once travel doesn’t entail diaper changes, and “are we there yet” questions after ten minutes in the car. I have nightmares imagining taking my two year old on a plane. The other passengers would probably cheer when we got off the flight. But I imagine the airline would love me for the amount of vodka I would require to deal with my typical takeoff anxiety, coupled with the protestations of my eventually bored children being confined to a small enclosed space, when at home they basically never stop moving.
If I had to summarize it best, I would say that I ultimately want to home school to ensure my children live a life of learning, and have a strong desire to do so, all the time, regardless of where they are and what they are doing. I think for our family it is a lifestyle we want to live.
I grew up entirely in the public school system, and am the alumni of a state university. I did very well in school, and in college. I made some pretty good friends, met my husband, and had great experiences. I also had a handful of teachers who inspired me and that I absolutely admired. Some of them are still in my life to this day. For them, teaching was clearly a calling. Public school actually had little to nothing to do with my desire to teach my own children. We are very much open to the idea of our girls going to public school when they are older, if they feel strongly about doing so. For now, I think this way is pretty cool though.
While we have gotten a great deal of support from our families, telling someone that you home school your children inevitably brings a certain number of reactions. Some of them come from others, and some of them actually come from me upon sharing that piece of information. Of course there is the “socializing” question. I can say with certainty that I am not at all concerned with my children’s ability to be social. I am laughing typing this, because they are two of the most outgoing, social, enthusiastic and outreaching people that I know. As a somewhat shy person, I have learned a great deal from their ability to strike up a conversation with literally anyone. I usually dismiss the socialization stigma right out of the gate. It’s just not a big deal to me. They have friends, neighbors, cousins, soccer teams, eventually church if they ever start sitting still…they’re pretty set. I think homeschooling parents sometimes work harder to ensure they have sociable children, because we know that it takes a more deliberate effort on our part.
The reason that I say I react as well to my own statement that we are a homeschooling family, is because I almost instantly want to identify that we are not a home school family for religious reasons. At all. Really, not at all. I feel like especially as a southerner, I can’t rule out that reason fast enough before the assumption sets in. So, anyone who gets told we home school usually hears the “but not for religious reasons” right after. It’s not that I am standing in judgement of those families that do have religious motivations. I just happen to believe that church and family are for education about God and morality, and school is for education of everything else. I trust my children enough to feel confident that they can learn about evolution and Big Bang Theory, and not have their spirituality and faith shaken. I don’t think that scientific and religious realities are mutually exclusive.
The challenge of being a person who does not have religious reasons for schooling at home, is that I have not found many parents who are like me in that respect. It makes finding a group to join a bit tricky, but I’m not done looking. It also makes finding curriculum challenging at times. I about fell out of my chair when the science curriculum I had chosen for my first grader instructed her that she did not need to feel obligated to believe anything scientific she was taught, and that scientific theory isn’t true “because it changes all the time.” The history lessons started with Genesis. Ummm, no. Thankfully I discovered this interesting portion of curriculum two weeks before we started school, which gave me just enough time to find a new text book, and pay ridiculous expedited shipping fees so that I could have everything ready in time. That was a rookie mistake on my part. I imagine I’ll make a few more along the way.
I think now that these first few days are done, I am no less nervous, but far more excited. I’m also really tired. We had more than one crying session this week about not being perfect at something, and how that is okay. Granted, mini me will probably be as convinced that falling short of perfection is alright as I was when my mom said it to me endlessly as a child. We perfectionists are a tough audience at times. I realize I have taken on a huge task, but I am eager to take it on. I watched my child learn this week. She made her own discoveries, read books to me, told her dad about what she had learned from asking questions, and was genuinely proud of herself. I got to see that as it unfolded. I even got to help make it happen. It was fantastic.