A Report Card, of sorts

When I interviewed at the little civil engineering firm where I ended up working during and after college, my would-be boss told me that the company was his "Grand Experiment."  He put all of his eggs in one basket, took a huge step of faith, and decided to go into business for himself.  It was risky, but the potential payoff was worth the risk.  To be on his own terms, working for no one, and doing it because he wanted to not just for a paycheck, motivated by the need to provide for his family and the passion he had for what he did.  It made me respect him, right off the bat, for doing something I was certain I'd never be brave enough to do myself.

And yet...our homeschooling experience has been a close parallel.  I prefer not to think that I'm "experimenting" on our kids, and I choose to think of it, instead, as our "Grand Adventure."  But the fact remains, it took a step of faith.  It feels risky.  I'm motivated by my duty to my family.  Dare I say, it's become my passion?

Friday was the last day of school for our public school system, which means my children will be thrilled to know that the neighborhood will be teeming with friends during the daytime once again.  And while we have plenty of schoolwork left to do, we're taking liberties on when and how to finish, and I'm choosing today to evaluate our second homeschool year.  Consider this our report card - largely in the form of Facebook statuses sorted by "homeschool" tag.

July 22, 2013Fact: Starting homeschooling with a four month old was a whole lot easier than kicking off the school year with a 16-month old.

July 30, 2013 - Tomorrow, I'm surprising the kids with a toga party to celebrate the end of our ancient history studies from last year, you know, 8 days into the new school year. Because this was no small feat. And because we can. Sparkling grape juice and cheesecake for everyone! I don't know how this whole "teaching kids" thing is working out, but "class" parties? I can get behind those.

July 31, 2013 - I really had no idea that this little "Roman" party would be such a hit with the kids, but it was the perfect way to wrap up our last history book and kick off our new one. Togas, laurel leaf crowns, cheese, sparkling grape juice (and a seemingly drunk Sarah in every picture), scepters and new Constantine shields (that actually serve a practical purpose for protection from nerf gun bullets)...I think we can call it a success.

August 12, 2013 - Home Ec Lessons for the 1 year old.

Today was a great day. Watched Ben lose gracefully at Uno with approximately 100 cards in his hand not once but twice. Found Abby, my active, outdoorsy, extrovert quietly reading on the couch without being coerced, and for a moment, felt like we had something in common. Utilized the running app on my phone to track Ben and Abby's runs (Abby did six 0.14 mile intervals around the cul de sac). Watched Sarah's imagination in action as she created an original masterpiece using every.single.piece of her Polly Pocket collection. Enjoyed singing one line of a song at a time to see how many beats it would take Leah to dance along with the tune.

August 25, 2013 - near Gunpowder, MD, Today, I got to travel through the dump truck body capital of the world and saw a sign claiming that I was, indeed, in McDonald's country. I'm happy to have left those in the dust and able to report that I have reached the breakfast meat capital of Maryland (my parents' house). Night everyone...and thanks for the prayers!

September 6, 2013 - near Dorval, Canada, Watching planes take off from the Montreal airport out of our hotel window. Made it through customs without declaring two rogue apples and a bag of grapes...now we're nothing but a family of rebellious produce smugglers. Tomorrow the Sheppards hit French Canada.

September 11, 2013 - near Chippawa, Canada, Spent the day admiring God's amazing power in nature, complete with a gorgeous lightning display out our hotel window over the city as we drift off to sleep. If God can create waterfalls and lightning, He can take care of Leah's burn and forgive me for my error in leaving hot coffee where she could reach it.feeling humbled.

September 24, 2013 - Today's studies included a rousing performance of Mary Poppins' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" by yours truly. Pretty sure the kids would rather be back in "real" school when I pull stunts like that.

September 26, 2013 - We found the "good" in coming home to a backyard that looks like a hayfield. Who needs a cornmaze? We just cut our grass roomba-style. Then run in the paths...while wearing a cape. (Weird homeschooled kids.)

October 22, 2013 - Abby and Sarah go entrepreneur and sell flowers for a penny as practice for the upcoming yard sale.

October 26, 2013 - At 36 weeks gestation, we had a yard sale to raise money for the Samaritan's Purse Christmas gift catalog.  The kids sold cookies and coffee with much gusto.  Pretty sure they profited more than me!  It pays to be cute and enthusiastic.

November 28, 2013 - Christmas came early for the Sheppard household in the form of a giant "turkey." 

January 17 -  This has been a taxing week in the life of our homeschool, and as a result, in the life of our home We encountered some very serious heart issues, and while it broke my heart to have to deal with them, I am counting it a joy. Because I had the opportunity *to* deal with them. I might have missed the chance to help my child learn and grow from the experience if they weren't with me on the day to... day. I don't say this as a condemnation of public school, but rather as a reminder to myself that the reason I do this at all is *for* the hard days, so I can address the heart issues, so I can understand my children, so they can mature, and so that I can be sanctified. We have so much to learn. And I'm glad we can do it together. Even and especially when it feels impossible.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain. - Author Unknown

January 27, 2014:  Homeschool field trip of the awesomest kind - a trip to the urologist.  (Hey, I didn't learn what a urologist was until I needed one.  These kids are ahead of the curve.)

January 30, 2014:  This morning's writing passage about smallpox inoculations prompted a lengthy discussion about epidemiology, inoculations, personal medical history, and modern vaccination practices. I think this is what homeschooling is supposed to look like.

February 1- 12:  Disneyworld!!!

February 14, 2014:  This morning while I folded some clothes, Ben held Noah and followed Leah around. After about 3 minutes Ben looked at me and said, "This is hard. I don't know how you take care of 5 kids."

February 24, 2014:  Some days, we practiced being weird, unsocialized homeschoolers by going to a playground as often as possible.  When everyone is crawling up the walls, feeling irritable and frustrated, the best remedy is  to go to the park.  And pick weeds flowers.

February 27, 2014:  There is no shortage of conversations like this one -

Ben: (reading from his grammar book) "Edward Lear was a book illustrator. He wrote nonsense poetry in his spare time." (Contemplative pause) Did he like grilled leeks?
Me: Who?
Ben: Edward Lear
Me: What's a leek?
Ben: I don't know.
Me: I didn't think so. How would I know if he liked grilled leeks?
Ben: I don't know. What's a leek?
Me: This is the weirdest conversation I've ever had.

March 14, 2014: I just got legitimately schooled in My Little Pony Memory by a four year old who then gloated with, "I'm the BOMB!" That brought me down a few notches. #usedtobesmart

March 28, 2014:  It is 7:09pm on Friday night. I'm sorry to report that this is the time when my ears can no longer stand to hear one more word or stray noise. I cannot answer any more questions. And my body cannot tolerate being leaned on, pushed, thrown up on, or stepped on one more time today. I love my kids, even on days like this, but sometimes bedtime feels a little bit too far off.

April 3, 2014: The day we finished Ben's fourth grade grammar text. And the day I was WAY more excited than he was to realize that we were able to *complete* something in the same year we missed a month of school for an epic travel adventure, welcomed a newborn, and reared a two-year-old. The story isn't over yet. Phew.

April 10, 2014:  People frequently wonder what I do with the babies while we're schooling.  I don't know.  We just do what we can when we can.  And sometimes they go out to the playground with their big sister, take off all of their clothes, and run around the backyard.  Standard stuff, you know.

April 24, 2014-  We practiced cultural refinement at high tea with Grandmom.  It was a success - nothing broke.  But they may need to re-stock the sugar cubes.

April 30, 2014:  I never cease to be impressed by my girls' ability to make messes, but I think what's even more impressive is their ability to play with even the messes that they make. This morning after dumping out the contents of the hole-punch, they used the holes as bubbles for their doll bathtub and confetti for their My Little Pony party. What imaginations!

May 1, 2014:  They are either so excited to read their library books, they couldn't even wait until they got in the van, or I was THAT slow at loading Noah up. Maybe a little of both.

May 13, 2014:  I was all proud of my kids when they encountered a pint-sized bully on the playground today. One stepped in to help the victim and another stood up for herself when the bully tried to push her. Then I got off my high-horse and remembered they are just one mistake away from being the bully. Every one of us needs grace. Because we can never be good enough.

May 16, 2014:  It's 9:45pm on a Friday night. Ben just completed Lesson 120 in his math book. 5 lessons in 3 days because he was ready to be done with it for the year. There's not enough time or space in a FB status to convey how big a deal this is other than to say I almost cried real tears of joy for him. Math was his albatross. And he conquered it. He's celebrating the way any 10 year old boy would - with a cup of decaf hot tea and a good book. Wait...

(Seriously, this one warrants its own blog post.  Eventually, maybe.)

May 19 - Finally broke down and signed up for a free trial of abcmouse.com for Sarah.  Tell me why I didn't do this months ago.

May 20 - Some days, you just have to do some hardcore, physical labor in the form of mulch.  You may or may not do this in public school (I mean, I hauled mulch in high school to build our nature trail, but I'm not sure that's the "norm").  I do know that school doesn't get cancelled for everyone when a shovel comes down on one student's foot.

And there's today.  And tomorrow.  And whatever they might bring.  I'll tell you this.  I am not the person I was two years ago before we dove into this thing.  In a good way, I think.  I hope my kids are able to say the same. 

Better go - summer awaits. 


Sharon said...

What a thoroughly delightful post! I am giving you a big fat "A++" for the tremendous work you are doing! Sounds like the kids aren't the only ones learning! I wish I could be in your *classroom*!!

Keep your spirits up - for yes, the Lord is doing sanctifying work in you. And I venture to say, He's doing some mighty stuff in your kids' hearts, too.


(Is that your mom or Sam's? I see such a resemblance to her in Abby's face!)

Carrie said...

Hi, Superhero it's your long lost blogger-lurker-friend Carrie! :) You always amazed me and you still do. I'm barely getting my feet wet again blogging. I took a couple years off while being completely overwhelmed with life after my 2nd child arrived. It's been 3 years! My 3rd just turned 1 and I'm still this big heap of a dumbfounded mess! I am homeschooling my 2 preschoolers, getting my feet wet for 5K this fall for my oldest. *hangs head in total shame and utter amazement reading this awesome post of a homeschooling mother of FIVE* How you still blog and maintain your sanity is beyond me! Like I said, I fell off my blogging train after baby #2! Like I said... you cease to amaze! Kudos to you for what you are doing for your kids and for your readers. Your family has grown into such a beautiful example of authenticity. I posted a shameful stock image today because I just couldn't choose which messy-haired pajama pose to include. One of these days I'm gonna actually do it. What I started the blog for in the first place. Confess. To the mess. ;) Drafts a mile long. Courage. A little on the empty side. Life is messy. And hard. You're doing awesome! (So sorry for the lengthy comment! Next time we'll have gotten this pesky-awkward reacquainting thing out of the way.) Blessings to you!

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