Ready for School

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Edited May 2019: We were a part of a wonderful Classical Conversations community for the first eight years of our home education journey. Now, due to poor state leadership and questionable corporate business practices, our family has elected to “consciously uncouple” from our association with the organization and we cannot recommend any others get involved at this time. 

It’s that time of year when everyone with school-aged children is freaking out just a little. It may come as a surprise to the traditional-school crowd, but all the homeschool parents I know are freaking out too.

It’s not all pajamas until noon and “let’s do our reading out on the trampoline today.”

I’m doing my own little tarantella dance in our house, trying to prepare by choosing items to compliment our Classical Conversations curriculum (which is completely awesome, by the way. Ancient Empires from every continent but Antarctica – that just excites me beyond all belief!).

It’s terrifying to know if things go horribly, bat-crazy wrong, there’s no one to blame but myself.

My fears of homeschooling basically boil down to five themes:

1. Our kids won’t ever fit in. Possibly because they’ll pick their noses, eat their boogers, and use Aquanet while telling strangers about the Songhali population of Africa and how the Russian czars were overthrown. Then I thought really hard and realized they have my gene code so fitting in is always going to be questionable and I’d rather they know a song about the Preamble of the Constitution than the names of all the Bratz dolls.

2. I want “me” time. My friend is, for the first time in a decade, going to have six hours of quiet time, all lined up in a row, because all of her four children are going to school starting tomorrow. She told me she scheduled a nail appointment and my eyes turned wickedly green with envy. I long for me time the way a chocoholic views a triple fudge brownie. Right about the time I decide I’ll never visit the bathroom by myself again, ever, in my entire life… I remember: “the days are long but the years are short.” My personal choice is to sacrifice oodles of free “me” time in this season of my life. No one is forcing me to do it, it’s my choice.

3. I don’t know how to teach. If you asked me to work in a day care or elementary school classroom I would likely combust in angst. Children are very, very scary and unpredictable. They are exhausting. They have small hands with itty-bitty fingers perfectly sized to fit into light sockets. Then I consider every generation of my family has held teachers, I used to teach college classes, and we froze a Ziploc baggie full of baby mice in our freezer before we ever started homeschooling so we could fully understand the life process of a mammal. We teach every day, just not always with worksheets.

4. It’s really hard. I have to admit, I really kind of hate homeschooling because it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s lonely and your daily companions are pint-sized mini-me’s who have full-sized opinions and highly functioning voice boxes. A year ago I couldn’t understand why I would put myself through this torture. And in January something clicked – I realized I love the learning moments I have with the girls. I went to the mall play area and noticed my kids were really considerate in comparison to the other children. And I realized things that are very hard for me to do… they build character and I want to be a better person.

5. Other people will think we’re a family of freaks. Granted, the homeschool movement is becoming more popular, but every time a customer comes into our office I feel I have to explain why our kids aren’t in school. Without fail, unless it’s another homeschooling parent, the customer says, “Oh, homeschool? I could never do that!”

That phrase makes me feel like a three-headed porpoise. (Complete with the “squee” sounds and splashing water.) A friend who is fostering recently posted this response to people’s reaction to her family decision for fostering. It so clearly echoes my feelings about homeschooling I wanted to share it here:

“Instead of … accolades, I’d prefer support. I’d rather you think of what I do as ordinary, thus seeing it as something you could easily do, than view it as an act of sainthood or martyrdom. Instead of asking why I do it, I’d rather you ask why I wouldn’t. Instead of seeing how it has disrupted my life, I’d rather you see the stability it has brought to [theirs]…”

Even though our intent is to homeschool through high school, we are taking this adventure on a year-by-year, child-by-child basis. Having a support community through Classical Conversations is a HUGE part of my courage to even embark on this journey.

What types of things are on your mind as you prepare for the school year?

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