Six weeks into the school year and I find myself once again reflecting on what is going well and what needs to change. This is now my eighth year homeschooling, which makes me sort of a veteran. But it’s my first year with a seventh grader which makes me sort of a newbie. I think the biggest thing that has changed for me as a homeschooler over the years is that I spend less time reflecting and worrying about particular curriculum and more time musing on the bigger lessons and issues.
This year I have three main lessons I’ve been musing on:
1)Remember why we are homeschooling.
I‘ve written about this before but this year I’m thinking about it more in terms of what homeschooling offers that school elsewhere doesn’t. There are definitely things that my kids miss out on because they are homeschooled. So I’ve been thinking about what is it that we do better than school elsewhere and maximizing those areas. That might mean that we need to take a day off to hang out with friends who are moving overseas for a year. Because we can. Or it means that we get sidetracked when doing a paper chromatography experiment and never get to the next thing. It means taking more field trips. Doing more art and science. It means letting kids who need it have a little extra free time.
2)Remember that it’s HOMEschool.
We live in an area with a lot of homeschoolers. There are co-ops that vary from a few families getting together to do nature study to places that offer full-day drop off options multiple times a week. There are constant emails about park days and field trips. There is a whole city full of museums that offer free classes (not to mention just the option for field trips on our own). And add to that all the many businesses that offer homeschooling classes or options (parkour, swimming, survival skills, painting, orchestra, botany) and we could easily be booked all day every day outside the house. When I see an offering that one of my kids would enjoy part of me wants to sign up right away. I tell myself “hey, this is why we homeschool”. And a little bit of that is true. But it’s also true that if we are so booked that we are never home or never find time to get to Math that we have lost what is essential about this lifestyle we have chosen. It’s all about picking and choosing. As much as field trips and outside opportunities are great, it’s also essential to have the time to just be.
3)Remember that my primary job is teacher.
Homeschooling can be tough because “school hours” creep into all hours of the day. When we’re reading aloud before bed, am I “teacher” or “Mom”? When we’re talking about something we learned in history during dinner is that “school”? The good thing about homeschooling is that it integrates into the rest of our life. The flip side is that the rest of life can start to creep into homeschooling. “Just one quick email” can turn into 20 minutes on the computer. The laundry does need to get folded and the house does need to be vacuumed but school has to happen first. I’ve also really been reminded this year that my kids like me.They like spending time with me. Sometimes this means that I sit with someone who doesn’t really need me while they practice piano. Or I read a history lesson out loud even though the student can read perfectly well on their own. Two of my kids are extroverts and they especially do better when school is done with more discussion and collaboration and just plain company. And even the introverted seventh grader who lately seems to feel too big to snuggle up in bed for nightly read-alouds uses time on the couch reading a Latin lesson together as an excuse for a little closeness.
My final thought is sort of more about why I still blog. I’ve been blogging for about seven years. I don’t have that many followers and my posts have gotten more and more infrequent. Just like I periodically reexamine my reasons for homeschooling, I periodically reexamine my reasons for blogging. The one that seems the most important right now is to provide myself with a record of these kinds of musings. Every now and then I’ll scroll back through my own old posts and find that I was struggling with the same things four years ago. In some ways that is depressing. In others it’s helpful, because of the most part I find my own advice helpful.
It also reminds me of the passage of time. The seventh grader that is now taller than me wasn’t so long ago just getting his training wheels off his first bike and memorizing The End by A. A. Milne. And his sister who wasn’t even born when I started this blog is now memorizing the same poem in celebration of her sixth birthday.
When I posted six years ago about John turning six I said something to the effect of how it would be nice if he could “stay six forever and ever” (to quote the Milne poem). Now, I’m glad he didn’t. As much as I enjoyed him then, I find who is becoming even more exciting. There is something in us as parents that wants to capture moments in time, perhaps that is why we take so many photos. But really, it’s the journey that is the real joy. More than anything, homeschooling for me has been a wonderful way to be on this journey together. And for that I am very grateful.