Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Journey to Homeschooling

We have spent the last month, still floating along in newborn land. Eleanor keeps growing. She has stolen my heart. We have all been sick on and off. The littles and I attended my grandfather's surprise 80th birthday party in Memphis. David started his Ph.D. We are handling some major house repairs. And now we are "starting homeschooling". And here is the story of how that came to be...

As Dmitri could officially start Pre-K, I've been soul-searching, researching, and grappling with all of our educational options as the time for school draws nearer. My thoughts have chased each other into circles and down rabbit trails as I've tried to figure out the best option for all of us.

We aren't in a "good" public school district (actually quite terrible, really), but some people have had good experiences with it. And yet, the more public school teachers I meet and talk to that won't put their children in the public schools here, the more uncomfortable I feel putting my own child in. I worry about what he might learn, especially socially and emotionally. And educationally, I worry about taking away my child's "childhood" - the pressure that comes from testing and homework, the waking up at 6:30 AM to get to school on time, the 8 hours away from home. I just didn't feel at peace about it.

I have hoped that we could send him to Montessori school. I like the Montessori educational philosophy, and I think Dmitri would thrive in that environment. I would not have to worry quite as much about the negative socialization (not that it is non-existent), and there would be smaller class sizes and lower student/teacher ratios. Considering how reserved Dmitri is, I think these things are important. The day starts at 9 AM instead of 7:30 AM, which seems to just make more sense for young children. But, financially, a graduate student income was not intended for a family of five, and especially does not allow for Montessori school tuition. While I think it's worth every single penny, it does not change the fact that we do not have those pennies.

And so I've felt disappointed and frustrated by my lack of options.

There is always homeschooling.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten to graduation. It's not a foreign concept to me. I've been to curriculum fairs. I've worked at curriculum fairs. I've read Charlotte Mason. I've read John Holt. I've known hundreds of homeschoolers. I've seen unschooling, relaxed schooling, textbook homeschooling, classical homeschooling, literature-based homeschooling, Waldorf homeschooling, homeschool co-ops, homeschool "schools," etc. I know what HSLDA stands for.

But the older my children have gotten, the less I've been interested in homeschooling. I think I ultimately have felt that I cannot be the mom that I want to be - a patient, calm, loving, playful, interactive mom, if I am with my children all day long, every single day. Especially since Eleanor's arrival has thrown me for a loop and my house is in varying states of chaos, and for the first time in my adult life I have not bathed daily (sorry, friends). I dream of having a half-clean house, dinner waiting in the crock-pot, having clean clothes folded and put away, and being able to ENJOY my children when I am with them without stressing about mundane things that don't really matter in the long-term (but I just can't help it that they bother me!)

I felt like homeschooling would poop on my dream, and then stomp it into dust. And laugh. And say, "Poo, poo!" in a Madeline-voice.

I've felt inadequate. And I am terribly afraid of becoming "one of those homeschool moms". I can name at least 15 homeschool moms that seem literally crazy. Were they always that way or did their children make them that way? Nobody knows...I could go on about my fears of homeschooling and homeschoolers and homeschool moms. But what they really are are just fears about myself.

And that very realization led me to think, "Maybe I should give homeschooling a try." Because I believe in pushing the boundaries of oneself, growing, and being scared to death of it all. (Or maybe I'm just as crazy as I fear).

So, I started doing a little more research - delving into the world of homeschooling philosophies and curriculum. Re-familiarizing myself with all that is out there. And I became just a little bit excited. And when I found the perfect curriculum, I became just a bit more excited. And when I started planning projects and field trips and ordering books, I became pee-my-pants excited.

It's taken time. Over the course of severals months, I've been metamorphosing. Acknowledging who I am, embracing that "I am enough" (which I have had hanging on my fridge), re-centering myself with what's important, and letting go.

But a conversation with Dmitri took away any smidgen of doubt that may have remained.

I had borrowed some books from my aunt that were a part of our school curriculum. As I was tucking Dmitri into bed, I said, "Aren't you excited about the books that we got from Aunt Stacy for school?" Since Dmitri loves to read, I expected an enthusiastic response. But instead, in a belligerent tone, he nearly yelled back, "NO! I don't want to do school." Taken aback, I cautiously said, "Oh, well I thought that you would be excited about reading the books." He again yelled, more flustered, "NO! I'm not doing it." I questioned him, trying to figure out what triggered this outburst. And what he meant became clear when he threw his arms around my neck and said, "I'm not going to school! You can't leave me, because I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH."

And that little misunderstanding brought tears to my eyes, and solidified my decision. Because I love him too much too.

And here we are. Today, we attended a homeschoolers beginning-of-the-school-year bash. Dmitri was trying to understand which of his friends would be there and which would not. I explained to him that "...homeschoolers will be there." And he exclaimed, "HEY! I'M A HOMESCHOOLER!"

Yes, Dmitri, yes you are.

I don't really know where we are going, what this journey will hold, or how long this will last, but right now, we are homeschooling. I'm scared, but I am enough.


Jackie P said...

Just remember that no one is perfect. I've read your blog for some time and admire you. Just know you're doing what is best for your kids and it won't be perfectly smooth going but that's life. You'll do awesome!!!

Corinne said...

My fellow former homeschooler,

I appreciate that you know homeschooling is one word. I also appreciated reading your journey from homeschooling and back again when planning for your kiddos.

I've just started teaching music at a Montessori school. So far, I'm very much a fan of the Montessori method over pretty much every other daily schooling institution, and the kids I teach who have been in Montessori for a while are generally more creative, intelligent, and well-behaved than most public and private school kids I encounter. But when I think about my youngest class (which is grades 1-3, so not even that young), I still feel that many of them would just be better off at home with Mama for a couple more years. I firmly believe that kids should be kids as long as possible, and that doesn't mean they can't learn (kid's lives are pretty much constant learning anyway). Your intelligence (I know you're smart!!) and your love for your kids will probably provide them the best foundation they can have for a life of learning. (Also I'm pretty sure you won't be one of those "homeschool moms".;) )

barbie said...

From a fellow homeschoolers yes you can do this! Both my husband and I graduated from homeschooling and will homeschool out children!! You can do it!

Becoming Maman said...

What a great post! My little one is only 15 months, but in true Western fashion (some days I really wish I lived in Europe...), I worry almost daily about the educational and social decisions we will have to make for her soon, schooling being chief among them. Good for you for facing your fears and working your way through them to find the best solution for your family. I can't wait to hear about this new role you've taken on!

Unknown said...

I think you're incredibly brave to challenge your fears for the benefit of your children :)
Good luck on your adventures in homeschooling!!

Abby said...

Congratulations, Caroline! I totally admire your decision, and I imagine I will go through the same feelings of indecision and uncertainty when/if the time comes for me (having also been homeschooled and knowing all of the pros and cons very well, as you do). I think you will be a superb homeschool mom. Go forth and conquer!

Unknown said...

This post kind of makes me sad.

I'm sad for the public school system. We are preparing to sell our house next year, for many reasons, one of which is a better school district.

I'm sad that I never knew much about homeschooling. Where I came from homeschooling was for a bunch of crazy religious nuts and it was terrible. I felt sad for those kids, including the one who ended up pregnant because she wasn't told what sex was. I wish I was joking.

I'm sad because homeschooling just isn't an option for us. We need both salaries just to pay for the student loans we were forced to take. It's the modern indentured service. I'm hoping I can find a good Montessori school, though. Wish me luck!

And good luck with homeschooling. I'm sure you will do very well at it.

Mama Gone Green said...

Good luck with your new adventures. I am excited to hear about your journey!

Christy said...

There are so many tough decisions with parenting varying from many extremes and in-betweens. Go you for going with what is best for you & your family.

Harmony said...

Do you mind sharing which curriculum you chose? Tell us more about it!