Yes, yes it is. You haven’t lost a month, so don’t panic.
TKEP Academy is trying out year round schooling for 2016, so that means our six week summer break has officially ended, and the second semester has begun. Before you start thinking how horrible it is that the kids are getting ripped off on their summer, let me lay it out for you. First of all, we don’t really do much over the summer. Our budget is limited as we’re trying to pay off our debt, so we aren’t travelling or exploring or doing anything that would cost extra money. In essence, summer is just like the rest of the year here. At least, for now. Plus, within the next week or two, most kids start hitting the “I’m bored” phase of summer. Many parents begin counting down the days until school starts back up. We’re just nipping that in the bud right now. But mostly, we do this because we need the structure. Ok, ok, I need the structure. The girls had plenty of lazy summer days, spent time outside, read lots of books….. Now it’s time to settle back into a routine and get the house in order, for all of our sanity. Besides, this schedule will seem fabulous when we can take six weeks off between Thanksgiving and New Years!
So, yes, the girls have been easing back into school this week. And you know what? It’s been hard. Really hard. I’m not going to lie – they are quite unmotivated at the moment. I’d even say they are downright lazy about it right now. Unfortunately, they are just doing bare minimums to get the work done, which isn’t what I want our homeschool life to be. I want them to really enjoy learning, not just do what’s needed to get by. The dragging of the feet for every little thing is going to get old really fast.
Of course, then I wonder…. What should I be doing differently? What do we need to change? How can I fix this?
Right now, the answer is “nothing”. We’re midway through our first boxed curriculum for Peanut. This curriculum seems to work well for her, for the most part. The only “problem” is she’s moving into more advanced concepts. It’s not easy anymore, and so she isn’t wanting to do it. (That trait may be from me….. bugger) As for Pumpkin, she would be starting kindergarten this fall. We are doing math worksheets and handwriting practice, plus lots of out loud reading and playtime. We’re going through Hooked on Phonics with her, and she’s nearly half-way through the first grade lessons. We will get her started in first grade level work at the beginning of our next school year in January. Until then, I want her playing more than “schooling”.
We just need to find our groove again. Long breaks almost always lead to rocky restarts, and we are working out our kinks and finding our balance. As long as I can keep my head, and my patience, in check, I have no doubts that this semester will be just fine. Eventually.
Today is the big day! It’s the first day of school for the kids in our area! There will be a collective shout of joy from many moms and maybe a few misty eyes from others. But all in all, starting today, the kids will be busy at school.
Well, except for mine.
By far, the biggest question we get asked when we tell people we’ll be homeschooling this fall is “Why?”, followed by looks of pity that scream why in the world would you want to do that?!?! (Just kidding. Sort of.) And no, there were no issues at school. No bullies, and her grades were great. It has nothing to do with the enrichment program dissolving or the high school closing, although that did build our confidence that this is the right choice for us. And no, we’re not doing it to “stick it to the system”. (Vive la révolution!) We’re not doing it because we think we’re better or because we think we’re smarter. We don’t think your kids will suffer and ours will excel. The short answer is we’re doing it because we believe this path is currently the right one for our family.
I’m the first to admit that this seems to be an odd path for us, mainly because we moved into this area a number of years ago specifically for the schools. (Go figure.) I mean, just about a year and a half ago, I was counting down until Pumpkin would be starting kindergarten full-time. So, what gives? Why in the world have we decided to start this new adventure and take on not only raising (which is exhausting enough), but educating our kids as well?
(I almost did not publish this post. I can’t write it without sounding like my choice is best, because for our family, it is. But by writing about why I believe our choice is best for us and our circumstances, it’s going to be read that any other choices are less than the best. That is not at all what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to tell you that homeschooling is the best for your kids, because it may not be. Remember, this post is not about you and your kids, it’s about me and mine. Ok?)
While this list isn’t really in any sort of order, family time is by far the most important reason we are choosing to homeschool. Hubby’s schedule is such that, during the school year, he rarely sees the kids. He sees them briefly before the bus takes them away, but he gets home after bedtime. He works all day every Saturday and most holidays. Typically, Sunday is the only day we get to spend as a family, and usually that day gets used up with chores around the house or other outside family parties or gatherings. So, our family time is virtually none during the school year, and that is not ok.
By homeschooling, Hubby will get to see the kids much more often since he leaves for work in the afternoon. He will get to be involved in their lives with what they are learning and doing. He will be teaching them right along with me, every step of the way. We will get to have “family meals” most days instead of just on Sundays. Basically, we will get more quality time together, and that’s huge for us.
Learning about our kids, with our kids
I’ve often said that the little girl that got on the bus in kindergarten is not the same girl that got off the bus last year, and I don’t just mean because she has been growing up. She has changed and forgotten who she used to be. For the past 4 years, she has spent a lot of her waking time at school, changing a little each day and being molded by the school system. I want to get to know her again. I want to know what makes her tick, how she learns best, what inspires her. I want to get to her core and have her learn what it means to be herself – her true self – and not what others expect or want her to be. Fortunately, Pumpkin hasn’t un-learned who she truly is yet, and hopefully we can keep her that way.
Finding their talents and passions, and cultivating them
I believe everyone has a gift, or even multiple gifts. I also believe school can squash those gifts by directing kids to be “successful” instead of “happy”. Do I want my kids to be successful in life? Absolutely! But our idea of successful and society’s idea of successful may be two very different things. I want my kids to recognize their gifts and have the time and opportunity to let those gifts grow and flourish. I want to see my kids’ eyes light up when they figure something out or when they find what brings them joy. Can they find their gifts at school? Maybe. But right now, I’m not willing to chance it. Above all, I want my kids to be kids and not little grown-ups. My kid doesn’t need to be college ready at age 9, thank you very much. I truly believe childhood keeps getting taken away from our kids, and this is one way I can slow it down a bit.
We are a Christian home. Our faith is important, and it’s becoming increasingly more important as the years go by. I want my kids to have a strong faith. I want them to know God. I want them to learn what Christian living is supposed to be through serving others and volunteering and through their own personal quiet times with God. I know Christian values are not taught in school and can even be frowned upon. Political correctness and this whole “easily offended society” we live in makes me crazy. Am I going to brainwash my kids? No. Am I going to teach about other faiths and beliefs and diversity? Of course. Am I going to let my children choose their own path as they grow older? Absolutely. But my job right now is to be sure that I’m bringing my kids up well, and the best way I know to do that is by incorporating our faith into everyday life.
Life lessons, not just random facts
How much do you remember about what you learned in school? If you’re like me, I’m going to say not a whole lot. Sure you remember social engagements, sporting events, teachers….. but I’m sure there’s not a whole lot of the “learned” stuff left in there. Why? Because lots (and lots and lots) of what we learned we do not use. Ever. Nowadays, it’s even worse because the kids are learning what they need to know to pass tests and not learning because the lessons are important in life. Do I have stats to back that up? Nope, this is all purely my opinion and speculation, as well as my own past experiences in school. Could I take the time to research all the stats and such and report it here for you? I guess if I really wanted to I could. But I don’t. I have too much life to live.
I want my kids to know how to be independent adults when the time comes. I want them to know how to grocery shop, how to cook, how to clean, how to change the oil in their cars. I want them to know how to find answers to questions and work through problems. I want them to know how to be responsible for themselves. I want them to know that it’s important to take care of the bodies they were given by eating healthy and being active. I want them to be good stewards of their belongings and realize that money does not equal happiness. I want them to know how to take care of their finances and budget and stay out of debt. I want them to know what it means to be generous – with their money, with their time, and with their gifts.
You know, all the stuff they *don’t* teach in school.
Does that mean my kids won’t learn about explorers and science and history and math…? Of course not. But my kids will learn a little differently than yours, at a different pace than yours, and in a different time frame than yours. Is one way right and one way wrong? Nope. Just different.
And different is good.
Nurture a love of learning, not a love of “good grades”
This one hits home for me because I was good at school. I had the good grades and the competitive nature to want to be one of the best in academics. So, I learned at school how to take tests and to anticipate the areas I would need to focus on to get the grades. After the test, the information was gone. I rarely retained anything after midterms. I didn’t learn because I wanted the knowledge. I just did what I needed to do to get the grades. I lost my love of learning in the competitiveness of academic success.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think healthy competition is good. I just don’t believe that learning to get the good grade is as effective as learning because you want to know more. I want my kids to be passionate about learning and to realize that learning isn’t just confined to within the walls of a school.
You know what I’d love to do someday? Travel. Once of my dreams is to travel the world with my family. You know what doesn’t work with that? Rigid schedules. With my kids getting older, it’s harder and harder to pull them out of school for something “fun”. Vacations need to planned around school breaks, when the rest of the world takes vacations and prices skyrocket. Spur of the moment opportunities need to be rejected because there’s a big test that week or there will be too much homework to make up.
You know what? It’s our life. I want us to be able to enjoy it while the kids are young and want to hang out with us. If we decide we want to go camping on a Sunday-Tuesday (because that is what would work best with Hubby’s schedule), then I want to be able to do it without having to worry about too many days missed at school. If the weather is gorgeous and it’s a perfect day for the zoo, I want to just go to the zoo without having to call the school and make up a story about why my kid won’t be there (or risk the dreaded “unexcused absence”, since quality family time doesn’t count as an excusable reason). When my sister comes to town to visit, I don’t want the kids missing out on quality time with her because of school schedules. Peanut is getting old enough to go hunting with Hubby. I want her to be able to go a few mornings with him – even on school days – to experience one of his favorite things with him.
I want to let me kids sleep in after a rough night of storms instead of dragging them out of bed before they’re ready. I want to be able to finish that movie with them even though it’s getting late on a school night. I want them to be able to enjoy breakfast instead of rushing through it to make it to the bus. (And for those of you that are thinking “well, they have to get ready for work in the morning someday so you’re doing them a disservice”….. Remember college? How early did you get up then? Exactly.)
Will we travel or camp during the week? I don’t know. But if the opportunities arise, I want to be able to just pick up and go without having to clear it with an outside entity.
I loved learning about mythology when I was younger, and Greek mythology was my favorite. You know what we didn’t spend much time on in school? Yep, Greek mythology. I mean, we did spend some time over the years, but I would have loved to go so much deeper into it. I even took a class or two in college, when I could fit it in my schedule.
Is Greek mythology something important in life? Not necessarily. But it was an interest. Who knows where it would have taken me. It may have opened up other opportunities through museums, travel, in the art world, literature…. But I’ll never know because in school you have only a limited amount of time to get through each topic. And in school, kids don’t have the same interests in the same topics. It’s basically a one-size-fits-all system. And yes, they can always explore the topics on their own outside of school, but with all the homework eating away their precious minutes, when would they find the time?
But what if you could have studied deeper into that one thing that interested you to see where it took you? (Some of you may have and are working your dream jobs – kudos to you! That’s a rarity, so you are a lucky one!) What if you were able to spend weeks on volcanoes, instead of just a few days? What if those math equations spoke to you (I know, that’s a stretch) and you were able to grasp even more than you thought possible? What if that study on plants would have turned into a career in botany where you could have traveled the world to discover new species? What if….
I want to give my kids those chances, without the “what ifs”. I want them to explore until they’ve learned their fill and decide to move on to something else. I want them to learn about what excites them and triggers their natural curiosity.
I understand that not everyone can homeschool. I know that everyone has different circumstances. We all want what’s best for our kids. For most, school is the best (and sometimes only) option. This post is not a “mom shaming” post, by any means. I didn’t write this to seem like my way is the better way. Heck, I could very well be back on the “yay for school” team next fall. It’s just insight as to why we are choosing this path. It is a choice, and it’s a big one. And right now, it’s the best choice for our family.
Questions have been gnawing at me for quite some time now that I’m an adult with kids of my own. What is my passion? What am I here to do? What talents do I have? What is God’s calling for me? I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it, whatever “it” is.
I remember as a kid loving to read and to draw. I would say those two activities took up most of my free time. I would sit for hours and read books cover-to-cover without even noticing the time flying by. I would grab my pencils and a sketchbook and sit to draw the trees or a doll or a picture from a video cover. I didn’t usually come up with original ideas to draw, but I loved to sketch what I saw. I wanted to write and illustrate my own children’s books. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to learn to paint and sculpt. I wanted to create.
So, when did things change?
My “easy” answer? School. Don’t get my wrong, I loved school. I was smart. Book-smart. I was the kind of smart that made for excellent test-taking, so I excelled in school. I was the teacher’s pet, the one who volunteered, the one looking for accolades on what I accomplished. I was great at school, so that’s what I focused on. I didn’t have to work very hard at it, so it was my “comfort zone”, of sorts. The problem? The better and better I became at school, the further and further I drifted from my creative side. In fact, because I was so good at school and on the college-bound path, I never took a single art class in high school. Not one creative writing class. Not one. Why? Because it wasn’t an “honors” or “AP” class, so it would bring down my GPA. It would make my status as a top student drop, so I was steered from that path.
In college, I was on the law-school path. I took all the “right” classes, and while I didn’t excel like I did in high school, I still did really well. One year on a whim, I decided I wanted to be an art major. So I switched from the Liberal Arts path of Criminal Justice/Psychology to Studio Art. I took drawing classes that I loved, and a photography class that changed me. The funny thing is I did not excel in these classes. In fact, I was definitely not one of the “top” students – I had missed out on years of practicing my talents so I was behind. At the end of that year, I transferred back to my “safe” majors. I would never get a job as an Art major, I reasoned, so it would be silly to continue down that road. But now, looking back, I took the easy path by making that decision. I took the classes that I was good at without having to work too hard. I took the classes that were “smart”, but not my passion.
I did work in the legal field in my pre-kid life, but never went to law school. (Thankfully that was one expense I managed to escape.) Now as a SAHM, I joke that I only went to college to meet Hubby, and he was awfully expensive.
So, where does all this internal rhetoric get me? So far, nowhere productive because it just leads me to more questions.
Some of those questions are leading me towards homeschooling.
I considered it years ago when Peanut was very young, but then we moved into a house with great schools and the idea never really crossed my mind again. That is, until about a year ago. The idea came back to me, and I shrugged it off. After all, we are in a great school district, Peanut is an excellent student, and we’ve had no problems. Plus, I would have only about 2.5 years til FREEDOM with both kids in school full-time! The countdown was on! So, I ignored the “what ifs” of homeschooling. And then, about six months later, the nagging thoughts became more persistent. And more frequent. And more annoying, quite honestly. I mentioned the thought to Hubby, and he didn’t automatically reject it like he did when Peanut was small. So we started talking more and more…. and it’s looking like it may become a reality next fall. The “final” decision has yet to be made because committing just scares me to death, but everything is pointing us in that direction.
I still have no idea why we are being lead down that path, especially since part of me is kicking and screaming about it. I mean, I’ll be going from FREEDOM to more time at home with both kids and even less time for me. That doesn’t sound like a fabulous plan. But the thoughts are still there, leading me in a direction I never thought I would actually go.
Who knows? Maybe this direction will steer me closer to my elusive passion and purpose. Maybe it will create lasting memories. Maybe it will help us grow closer as a family.
Or it could cause me to question my mental state frequently and drink more. Guess we’ll have to wait and see!