I was a totally nerve-wracking mix of excited and terrified. At the risk of sounding like a self-righteous, know-it-all, I was completely unafraid of teaching the subject matter to my kids. And, at the risk of sounding like the worst mother ever, I was afraid of simply being with my kids (like I said already, all day, every. single. day.).
On May 23, 2013, we tied a pretty little bow on our core subjects, vowing to see history and astronomy to completion over the summertime, and called it our last day of school. Just for the sake of a clean ending that will give way to a new beginning - that is fourth grade, first grade, and pre-k next year.
People routinely ask me how homeschooling is going. And I routinely reply, "So much better than I anticipated." Maybe it's because I'm the eternal pessimist. Maybe it's because a little part of me sincerely expected some sort of mutinous overthrow midway through the year that would lead to a march of two children back to public school and a defeated Jennie. Or, more realistically, maybe I just thought each and every day would be a drudge...for all of us.
I'm so glad that the scenes I come up with in my overactive imagination are almost always wrong. And I'm further glad that I'm finally starting to realize this.
At the risk of turning this into a never-ending-blog-post (as much as I know you love them), I'm going to default to a list here (you're welcome).
Top 8 Lessons from Our Inaugural Homeschool Year
1. There's nothing to be afraid of. I was born with thin-skin, with a desire to please everyone else, avoid conflict, be comfortable, play it safe. Turns out, making the decision to homeschool and spending a year actually doing it helps to cure some of those things. I'm no longer afraid of what people will think when I'm out at the grocery store with my four kids at 11am on a Tuesday. I'm no longer afraid of telling people that we homeschool and why we decided to take our kids out of the top notch school system here when we didn't have any glaringly obvious reason that would prompt such a move. I'm no longer afraid of coming up with the right answer to the (1,415,130) questions my kids will ask me per day. But most of all, I'm no longer afraid of just being with my kids. Or maybe that's just being with my kids. Either way. I'm not afraid. They're not scary little people. They're my best allies. They're the future. And it's my privilege...and my calling...to be investing in them.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:4-72. It's important to finish what we start. This has always been important to me. Sometimes it's not fun, but it's worth it to say, "I did it!" at the end. I know that not everyone agrees with me on this one. Sometimes things don't work, and you scrap it and move on. That's one super-appealing homeschooling benefit. However, when your teacher's name is Jennie and she has closure issues, you will finish what you started. I want my kids to know the fulfillment of tallying up the remaining number of lessons and the sense of accomplishment that comes with erasing that final tick mark.
I want them to dig deeper and desire to finish even when the race has been long and they're worn out and ready to quit. I want them to find the motivation to work through extra lessons each day because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they cannot wait to get there. In fact, this is how we were able to finish Latin on Wednesday. Ben completed four lessons each day this week. You should have seen the smile on that kid's face. Worth it.
3. Sometimes you have to cry "Uncle!" This means knowing when we have all reached the end of our collective ropes and we need a BREAK. Breaks come in many shapes and sizes...ranging from a trip through the drive-thru, a romp at the playground, a long bike ride, a hike, 30 minutes in the back yard, a stroll around Target with some popcorn, 30 minutes of mind-numbing cartoons. Sometimes is a quick break, sometimes it's the whole day. What's awesome is being able to take a breather when the going gets tough.
4. The hardest lessons have everything to do with character and nothing to do with curriculum. So maybe the Latin book prompted a few meltdowns, arguments, tears, what have you...believe me, the lessons we carried away after those things happened couldn't have had less to do with Latin. Homeschooling is not easy. Let me repeat that. Homeschooling is not easy. I'd be lying straight to your face if I said that. But the hardest parts have nothing to do with academia and everything to do with hearts. We shed so many tears this year...good and bad. But, we grew so many bonds and strengthened others. We had deep discussions we might never have had otherwise. My kids saw my flaws, and I learned to apologize, profusely. When my kids presented obvious heart issues, I attempted, feebly at times, to train them in the way God would have their hearts be molded. This is a lifelong commitment...for all parents. I think it just hit me in the face like a 2x4 this year.
5. There is no substitute for this time we have together. Was it sunshine and roses every day? Not even close. In fact, I'd venture to say we struggled through a lot more and deeper conflicts than we ever would have if they'd have been in school. The best part though is that we did it. We got through them, and we grew from them. And we grew together as a family in a way I never would have guessed. Are my kids best friends with each other? Probably only Sarah would say yes, but in all honesty, I have witnessed them grow closer, and that is something I pray will continue for the rest of their lives. When they are old and gray I want them to have each other to lean on, because they want to out of love for their brother and sisters who are more like best friends and not because they have to because they are family. We are a lot closer than we were a year ago. (Of course they still fight. They are, after all, still brothers and sisters.)
6. Offseason rocks. We rank money savings and the absence of crowds pretty highly in this family. We're a couple of practical introverts, Sam and me. So, when we have the chance to go to the beach at a
fraction of the cost and have the place to ourselves, sign us up.
7. I get to be here for the triumphs and the defeats. I have always been proud of my kids, but I don't really think I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor until I brought them home. Seeing the lightbulb click in Abby's brain as she took off reading, watching Ben challenge himself on time tests and shatter his previous records, witnessing Abby as she taught Sarah everything she knew, consoling Ben when he beat himself up over getting an answer wrong or struggling to understand a concept...these are things I didn't get to personally witness until this year. These are the things I have delegated in the past. I didn't even know what I was missing.
(And to share a random triumph we just had here, Sarah - the fresh four year old - begged us to take the training wheels off her little 12" bike. She nailed it on the first attempt. Evel Knieval, the female version...for real.)
8. It's not about me. I think we all learned this lesson in some capacity. It's not about me because I can't do it myself...some days the only thing that got me through to the next was the promise of renewed mercies in the morning and grace. We have all been receivers and givers of grace this year. And that, perhaps, has been a most unexpected, most important blessing.
Now that we are out of school mode, maybe I'll have some more time for blogging. Maybe not. I just want to shout from the rooftops,
"We all survived our first year of homeschooling!!!!"
Maybe I'll have it made into a t-shirt.
Thanks for bearing with me in this transitional season of life (and all of my other transitional seasons as well). Hope you all have a blessed Memorial Day weekend - take some time to reflect on and remember those who died in service to our country, so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy (and, yes, take for granted) every day.
Freedoms like...the ability to homeschool kids.