Musings on Homeschooling

DSCN1575a

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.

IMG_3971a

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.

DSCN0485a

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.

A bump in the road.

Our summer started off with a bang. Or maybe I should use John’s words, a giant “kerplop”. David broke his right arm in two places on May 31st roller-blading. We’re at Day 17 of the awkward, heavy, itchy, hot and very very non-waterproof plaster splint. Breaking your dominant arm anytime is hard. Breaking it when you are eight years old and it’s summer is even harder. Breaking it when you are eight years old and your summer revolves around swim team and being at the pool all day is even harder than that. Breaking your arm when you are the kind of kid who spends most of every day outside climbing trees, roller-blading, skateboarding, biking, and generally running amuck may be the hardest of all. It’s been a tough start to the summer, to say the least.

David is usually not a kid who deals well with frustration or disappointment. All our kids have strengths and things they need to work on. David is generous to a fault; several times I have had to forbid him from buying his sister presents at the store. He is sensitive and empathetic. He is loving and kind. He is quite funny and often wise in a way that surprises me. He is a peace-maker and rarely selfish. But usually he is someone whose day can be undone by a missing Lego piece or a thoughtless word from a sibling. I think this might be because he has such a strong sense of fairness and kindness that he can’t understand when the world isn’t being fair and everyone isn’t being kind.

I said he usually has a hard time dealing with frustration. This has not been one of those times. He has consistently astonished me with how well he is handling this fairly major hurdle in his summer plans. The orthopedist had originally said he could get a waterproof cast last week but when we went in to the appointment felt like he needed one more week in the splint to ensure proper healing. David broke down very briefly and then kind of shook it off (a la Taylor Swift) and moved on.

I realized that, as a parent, I want the best for my kids. I told David that I would have broken my arm for him if I could and I would do anything in my power to have him not have to go through this. However, I see how this experience is molding his character in a way that is good and that I think will bear much fruit in the future. Seeing him go through this has made me see how my natural desire is to smooth over every bump in the road , to solve every puzzle, to ensure that they don’t have to deal with disappointments  big or small, to banish mean kids and unfair coaches and rainy days from their lives. I know of course that I can’t do those things and part of me knows I shouldn’t. But oh, how I want to. I’m learning that my job as a parent isn’t so much to smooth over those bumps but to cheer them on as they navigate their way around them. In reality, the best thing for my kids isn’t always the easy road.

 

I know I’ve got my keys…

I dropped John off at camp on Sunday. This is his fourth summer at this camp, plus he’s been away to Scout camp twice. Not to mention the week long trip to Puerto Rico he went on with his aunt earlier this year. So it’s nothing new having him away go away from home. He doesn’t get homesick at all and although we miss him we’re genuinely happy for him to have these fantastic experiences on his own.

As I walked to my car and drove away, I had that nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. Something I needed to do. Or say. Had I gone through all the parent drop-off stations? Had we packed everything he needed? Had I left my phone behind? My keys? My book? (Yes, I had a book with me. Always. You never know when you might have an emergency need for a book to read.) As I ran through the list in my head I couldn’t think of anything I had forgotten to do or anything I had left behind.

Oh. That was it.

I’d left John behind. My maternal spidey-sense just wouldn’t stop tingling. Something was not right, I was driving away alone and leaving a child behind me. Once I realized what the cause of the nagging feeling was, I laughed at myself.

But here’s the thing. It didn’t really go away. And as I thought about it realized I always have this feeling when one of the kids is away from home. Even if I know they are happy and having fun and doing what they are supposed to be doing it’s a slightly unsettled, all-is-not-quite-right with the world feeling.

A few hours later, I stopped for dinner and a reading break. (See, the book comes in handy.) I was at the end of Julia Glass’s And the Dark Sacred Night. A character has been searching for his biological father but comes to this realization:

What exactly, is a father if not a man who, once you’re grown and gone and out in the world making your own mistakes, all good advice be damned, waits patiently for you to return? And if you don’t, well then, you don’t. He understands that risk. He knows whose choice it is. 

I thought that was as concise summary of parenthood as I’ve seen.

Although, to continue to laugh at myself, we’re not really waiting patiently for John to return. Since he’s only 10, we have to go back to camp to get him. Still, there’s some kind of synchronicity there in the feeling and the reading. Which, if you can bear with one last observation, is one of the best reasons to read.

 

The elephant in the room.

David has always been exceptionally empathetic and sensitive. He doesn’t like other people to feel sad or upset and he often tries in his own way to make people feel better if he thinks they are sad. It’s a trait of his that I feel is very much God-given and not due to any of our parenting.

John left for Boy Scout camp this morning. We had to take him to the bus and it was a bit of a crazy rushed morning. H. is away at a church men’s retreat, I needed to walk the new puppy, get everyone dressed and ready and help him get all his stuff together. Not to mention that somehow on the way to the drop-off site I got lost twice. I don’t like being late for things and even though we weren’t truly late, we were cutting it close. So I felt kind of frazzled. Even more so when we got out of the car and I realized we had forgotten the fishing rod John was supposed to bring to complete one of his merit badges.

John, like me, tends to worry too much about things like being late or breaking the rules or forgetting things. I downplayed the missing fishing rod so he wouldn’t be upset and in fact the leader said it should be fine, there were ones at camp he could borrow.

Still, I felt bad. Like I’d failed somehow. When we got back home I saw the fishing rod sitting by the door where I’d put it so we wouldn’t forget it. I remarked on how I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten it.

David looked at me sideways and said, “Well, it’s not like it was a giant hippo.”

I laughed, “Yes, that would have been really stupid to forget a giant hippo.”

David smiled and said “Yeah Mom, you would never have forgotten a giant hippo sitting by the door. You’re really good at stuff like that.”

And just like that I realized the absurdity of still feeling bad about something so small. And John? He loves camp so much he’d probably be find if we’d forgotten half of what he was supposed to bring.

IMG_0829

All Joy and No Fun

I admit that I expected to dislike this new book by Jennifer Senior. I’m not sure why; all the reviews I had read were good but something about the title or what I thought it was about rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it was going to be a “woe is me” essay on how parenting is so hard and how we just all need more me-time. However, I wanted to read it because I kept seeing it mentioned and it felt like the new parenting book that everyone was talking about.

In the end, I quite liked it. It’s honest and funny but also much more insightful than I expected it to be. It turned out to be one of those books that I kept feeling compelled to read parts of out-loud to H. Since it’s been more than two weeks since I finished it, I’ll abandon any attempt at a further “review” on my part and instead share some of those parts with you:

Today women have abandoned this form of domestic science, spending almost half as much time on housework as they did in {Betty} Friedan’s day (17.5 hours per week, to be precise, versus nearly 32 hours a week in 1965). But they  have become domestic scientists in another way: they’re now parenting experts….It was a woman in Minnesota who clarified this shift for me. She pointed out that her mother called herself a housewife. She, on the other hand, called herself a stay-at-home mom. The change in nomenclature reflects the shift in cultural empasis: the pressures on women have gone from keeping and immaculate house to being an irreproachable mom. (p. 154)

 

She said the evening ritual of guiding her sons through their {homework} assignments was her “gift of service.” No doubt it is. But this particular form of service is directed inside the home, rather than toward the community and for the commonweal, and those kinds of volunteer efforts and public involvements have also steadily declined over the last few decades, at least in terms of the number of hours of sweat equity we put into them. Our gifts of service are now more likely to be for the sake of our kids. And so our world becomes smaller, and the internal pressure we feel to parent well, whatever that may mean, only increases: how one raises a child, as Jerome Kagan notes, is now one of the few remaining ways in public life that we can prove our moral worth. In other cultures and in other eras, this could be done by caring for one’s elders, participating in social movements, providing civic leadership and volunteering. Now, in the United States, child-rearing has largely taken their place. Parenting books have become, literally, our bibles. (p. 180)

 

…happiness is an unfair thing to ask of a child. The expectation casts children as “antidepressants,” he notes, and renders parents “more dependent on their children than their children are on them.”
   Just as important…producing happy children may not be fair to ask of parents. It’s a beautiful goal- one I’ve readily admitted to having myself- but as Dr. Spock points out, raising happy children is an elusive aim compared to the more concrete aims of parenting in the past: creating competent children in certain kinds of work; and creating morally responsible citizens who will fulfill a prescribed set of community obligations. 
    The fact is, those bygone goals are probably more constructive- and achievable. Not all children will grow up to be happy, in spite of their parents’ most valiant efforts, and all children are unhappy somewhere along the way, no matter how warmly they’re nurtured or how stoutly they’re protected.
(p. 234)

 

Kids may complicate our lives. But they also make them simpler. Children’s needs are so overwhelming and their dependence on us so absolute, that it’s impossible to misread our moral obligation to them. It’s for life…But it also is our lives. There’s something deeply satisfying about that…..I suspect that parenthood helped reduce the number of existential questions she had…She knew what she had to do each day, and why she was here. (p. 264-265)

Scenes from a Birthday

IMG_0089IMG_0097 IMG_0101 IMG_0107 IMG_0112

 

IMG_0114

IMG_0116In what has now become an annual tradition, I spent the weekend of my birthday alone. It was heavenly. I went downtown to spend a night in a hotel and to do some things in DC that I don’t normally have the time to do. Saturday I spent time browsing in a new-to-me independently owned bookstore nearby. I went to two museums (National Geographic Society and National Museum of Women in the Arts) and saw exhibits on women photographers and quilts. Both were wonderful. I was able to sit and listen to fairly long videos in both exhibits without feeling hurried. I took a ridiculously large stack of books with me to read. (Some not pictured above.) I took two (!!) hot baths and painted my toenails. (On a side note, I’ll just say it’s unbelievably hard to take a normal appearing photo of your own feet. I took about six photos before I decided I was being silly. But I still feel compelled to mention that I don’t think my feet look that weird in real life.)  I ate room service for dinner AND breakfast. I slept in a huge king sized bed with 5000 soft fluffy pillows.

The first year I did this I wrote the following:

At some point in the day I thought about all the things I could have done with my 24 hours. Go to a play. Write on my blog. Go to one of the many other museums in our city. Go for a swim or a hike. Go out to lunch with friends. Read and read some more. There are a lot of things I don’t get to do a lot or as much as I want that I could think of to fill the gift of time. I also thought about what I’d do if I knew somehow that it was my last 24 hours. Those things would be very different. I’d snuggle my kids. I’d read to them. I’d make them laugh as much as I could just to hear the sound. I’d listen to H. tell me about his day. I’d tell them all how much I love them. And I’d read some. I was struck that the things I’d do if it was my last 24 hours are what I do every day.

That’s still true. I came home Sunday to an empty house. Which was also heavenly in its own way, I like the chance to be alone at home too. I did school prep for the week and was lying on the bed reading when the door to the house flew open, I heard “MOMMY!” and three kids came running down the hall to tackle me. I heard about their weekend adventures and we snuggled. We read books together.

As much as the weekend alone was wonderful, what made it even more wonderful was knowing who was waiting for me at home.

 

 

Scenes from a Wetlands Walk

IMG_6263 IMG_6295 IMG_6293 IMG_6288IMG_6340  IMG_6335And one thing leads to another…

IMG_6345They were all having fun breaking the ice with sticks. Ruth leaned a little too far out and over the edge of the boardwalk she went.  Besides being cold and a little scared she was fine. I think eventually she’ll be proud of the fact that she’s the only one of our kids who has managed this particular feat, although I’ve worried about it happening for ten years. A brother’s warm coat, Dad’s shirt, a new stuffed beaver purchased at the Nature Center and all was well. And it doesn’t hurt to have two brother Sherpas to carry the wet clothes back to the car.

Hope springs eternal.

Being a parent can be exhausting. Sometimes the job seems equivalent to beating your head against a wall or some other equally pointless pursuit.

Because, really…

How many times can you tell a child to clean up his room and then walk into the room only to have your foot impaled by multiple tiny Lego pieces before you begin to wonder WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE CHILD AND WHY CAN’T HE CLEAN UP HIS STUFF FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!?!?

How many times can you ask a child to sit up at dinner (not requiring perfect posture, just not lying with his feet on the table), to please stay seated during dinner, to not sing loudly about body parts at dinner, to please stop whining about what dinner is before you finally just say  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SIT DOWN AND PUT YOUR BOTTOM IN THE CHAIR AND JUST EAT YOUR DINNER QUIETLY AND LET ME FINISH JUST ONE SENTENCE THAT I AM TRYING TO SAY TO YOUR FATHER BEFORE YOU INTERRUPT ME AGAIN!!!!!?

How many times can you tell a child that you must capitalize the first letter in a sentence, that “too” is not spelled “to”, that 7 +8 is still 15 as it was yesterday and still will be tomorrow before you begin to seriously wonder if a) your child was seriously brain-damaged in an accident you were unaware of or b) you are a really terrible homeschool teacher and your kids are doomed because you foolishly thought you could teach them?

How many times do a group of siblings have to fight in one day over issues as crucial as: *whose tiny red Lego is the one that was just picked up off the floor AND
*whose turn it is to go first to practice the piano/sit in the front seat/clean whatever it is you just asked to be cleaned AND
*whether or not the person who just hit/bit/kicked/pinched/farted on/licked/sneezed on the other person did it on purpose or it was “just an accident”
before you threaten to LOCK THE TWO OF YOU IN A ROOM TOGETHER AND NOT LET YOU OUT UNTIL YOU LEARN HOW TO GET ALONG BECAUSE YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY AND I DON’T REALLY CARE WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG ANYMORE?

But then there are the other times.

John went to a Scout den meeting this week and had to give a short speech to his den, impromptu. I asked him what he talked about, expecting something like baseball or swimming or maybe a book he had read recently. “The Cold War,” was his answer. Excuse me? I quizzed him on what he had actually said and it was all pretty accurate. “How did you know about the Cold War?” I inquired. He looked at me like I was dense and said, “Remember, we studied it last year.” Well. Yes, we did study it, son. Yes, we did.

Today as I was washing windows I looked outside to see David helping Ruth up a ladder. She is usually very good at climbing but she was wearing a princess dress so he was holding it out of the way for her so she wouldn’t trip. He has always been a boy with a big heart. Lately he’s been going through a bit of a tough phase so it was a great reminder of who he is and what his heart is like to see him helping at a time when he didn’t know I was watching.

Ruth came into bed with us one morning recently. She was so small and cuddly that it reminded me that four is still a baby, really. And then she and I had a long conversation about warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals. So four can also be a big girl. It’s a good age.

All small, fairly ordinary moments. Easy to miss.

In the day to day of parenting I sometimes get so caught up in the sit up straights and the pick up your stuffs and the please just finish the spelling assignment alreadys that I forget to stop and see how this pursuit is bearing fruit. The fruit is there all around me. It’s in those small moments. I just have to remember to look for it.

Homeschool Update

 

IMG_3336John is having a good 5th grade year. We’ve given him some significant increased independence this year, and I think knowing that we trust him and consider him more “grown-up” has caused him to act that way.

For the most part, we’ve found a good balance between subjects where he is becoming more independent and subjects where I’m more directly involved with his learning. Some subjects, like Latin I am learning with him.  We had fun last week translating a longish Latin passage together. He could have done it alone but I think he enjoyed the back and forth of doing it together. For other subjects, like piano, he’s light-years ahead of me and I call on him to assist his brother when needed. He reads voraciously. I can’t even begin to read everything he reads but I do read any assigned reading for school so we can discuss it together.

In addition to our studies at home he attends a co-op one morning a week. At the co-op he takes an acting class, a class on Sherlock Holmes and a Lego Mechanics class. He is also participating in Odyssey of the Mind for the first time this year. (And I think I finally am beginning to understand what Odyssey is. I’d heard of it for years but it seemed a mystery until we got involved.) His OM team is seven boys, all 4th or 5th grade. It’s providing some needed time working with other kids, learning the skills of teamwork and negotiation.

The thing I was most proud of John for doing this week was making himself fried rice one day for lunch. Both he and H. thought it was weird that I was so excited by this. Apparently he’s made it before on days when I’m at work. I think what impressed me was that I asked him what he wanted for lunch and he looked in the fridge, saw the leftover rice and came up with the idea of making fried rice on his own. And then he did it. For a Cub Scout badge recently he also learned to do the laundry and did all of it for the family one day on his own.

IMG_3339David, age 7, is having a bit of a tougher year in 2nd grade. As appropriate for his age he just wants to get school DONE and move on to play. He hasn’t quite gotten to the place where he accepts that there are just things he has to do that he might not like. He’ll get there but there are definitely days when it’s a bumpy ride.

The one subject that David loves is art. We’ve gotten away from it a bit. One reason is that he takes art at co-op so I knew he was doing it somewhere. Another reason is that we’re busy and it just too often gets pushed to the back burner. Still, he told me recently that he missed art with Daddy (it’s usually on H.’s day home that they do art) so I suggested to H. that they try a pumpkin painting lesson from Deep Space Sparkle. David loved it so much he made two paintings.

David continues to be a emerging reader. He’s a very good reader but hasn’t quite gotten to the point where he loves reading like John and I do. And he may never get there, which is ok. He’s more of a physical kid and loves to be outside or moving around. If he is reading it’s usually something about animals or one of the Flat Stanley books. He’s also becoming an Encyclopedia Brown fan.

David is more of a free spirit than John, who is a joiner and rule follower (like his mother). He’s very athletic but has shown little interest in team sports. Partially this is because he really values free time. He asked to play basketball this winter, however, so we’ll see how that goes. He also continues to be a vegetarian. He hasn’t eaten any meat in months and is quite firm about his desire not to eat the animals that he loves.

IMG_3333

Ruth is probably the child that I feel the most unsure about this year. She’s four and the amount of time and attention I give her is so much less than what I gave to the boys. I worry about whether it’s enough for her. I read to her less, I do less projects with her and she’s more likely to have to spend her days waiting for one boy or another at some lesson or activity.

It’s hard. I try and remind myself that for the most part she’s a very happy girl. She’s thriving. She has a fantastic vocabulary, a new addition is omnivore. She and I are slowly working on learning to read together. She could do more than she is willing to do but I don’t see any reason to make her sit down and work at the tender age of 4. We’re having fun with the Read Around the World but took a break this week to read about pumpkins.

Ruth is super social, probably the most social of our kids. She LOVES her once a week ballet class and enjoys her co-op class and Sunday school class. She has been asking for awhile to go to someone’s house “like a big girl” (ie: on her own like the boys do). A good friend graciously invited her over to play with her girls (who are several years older) next week and she is really excited.

She also wants to do anything and everything that her brothers do. John working on a typing lesson on the computer? She got out her “computer” along with an old mouse and “worked on typing too”.

IMG_2622

And me? I’m having a good year. I’m reading a lot of really good non-fiction books for the Cybils award. That’s a fun “job”. I’m reading other stuff too, that’s a post for another day.

I’m continuing to train for a 5K on Thanksgiving. I sprained my ankle this morning while jogging, and I hope that doesn’t slow me down too much. I got to go to a pediatric conference this week. I got my haricut today. It’s shorter and different than I’ve had it in awhile. I think I like it, but it’s only hair anyway.

It’s been a busy fall, in particular evenings have been been busier than usual due to John’s baseball. I enjoyed having more time to cook than I’d had in a long time. David’s vegetarianism has made the rest of our family eat better and we’ve had black bean burgers and lentil tacos and a white chicken chili (ok, not vegetarian but fairly easily modified for David) that I always crave this time of year. I took off an extra day this week to recover from our NYC vacation and was able to clean out Ruth’s closet and weed out many of her too-small clothes.

As always, I have an ongoing to-do list that never seems to get completely clear. I feel like  I’m getting better at focusing on what I need to do each day, each hour, each moment and not let myself get overwhelmed by all that is left undone.

 

 

Say what?

Recently I asked a friend how her summer was going. Her response was that is was ok but she was looking forward to school starting because she “had forgotten how hard it is to get anything done with the kids home all day.” As a homeschooler I have to say I found that a bit amusing to hear.

I do get that it’s hard to get things done with small children. If you have toddlers or infants and you’re doing anything beyond getting everyone fed, safe and happy: more power to you. But this friend’s kids are 10 and 12, so not exactly at that tearing-the-house apart stage. My first thought was “What things are you possibly trying to do that you can’t do with the kids home?” (I also know that this friend doesn’t work at home nor is she in the middle of something like moving or caring for a sick parent or other unusual life situation.)

On further thought I realized that I hear this sentiment or something similar quite often. It’s what’s behind the “I don’t know how you do it” homeschoolers hear a lot. Or the “Mommy can’t wait for school to start” type of commercials. I think it’s primarily a reflection of two attitudes in our culture.

1) The “everything is important” attitude. I used to frequent a message board where there was a daily thread where people would post their to-do lists and then up-date as the day went on and they accomplished things. This greatly appealed to the list checking part of me and I participated for awhile. It was strangely gratifying to have somewhere to report that I’d finally cleaned the fridge and have people saying “Yay! Good job!”. That’s not the kind of affirmation that you hear when you are home doing the every day mundane kind of tasks we all have to do.

However, while I appreciated the women on the thread and the virtual social aspect it added to my day, I started to notice that a lot of people would complain about being busy and post a long list of things to do. These lists would include things like making phone calls, sending emails, ordering items online, scrapbooking, organizing photos, putting out holiday decorations, etc. None of those things are bad but really most could not get done and it would be ok. I then found that I seemed to be making my own long lists of questionably necessary items. This both left me feeling stressed and “busy” and also gave me great satisfaction at the end of the day when I’d checked off everything on my list. So I stopped participating in the thread.

I think this applies in real life too. Modern suburban life is filled with things we NEED to do. Except we don’t. It’s ok if the scrapbooks are empty. It’s ok if the school fundraiser items don’t get sold. It’s ok if the house isn’t decorated seasonally. Really. It is.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that a lot of the things my friend was moaning about not being able to get done fall into this category. Things that seem more essential and important than they are.

I’m also not suggesting that homeschoolers are immune from this attitude. Add in all the school things (nature study anyone?) that we think we need to do and sometimes we end up with even longer not-really-essential but must-do items. However, I do think that much of the time by default or by choice we have learned to separate the essential from the not-essential. Teaching math? Essential. Updating your blog? Not essential.

We also do find it easier to avoid the next attitude:

2) The compartmentalized life attitude. This is the idea that kids do kid things and adults do adult things. That school happens from 9a-3p, M-F, Sept-June. That school is one box and work is in another and home is in another and play is in yet another. So if the kids are home from school and it’s vacation time we must do x and y and z but not a and b and c. So therefore, it’s really hard to get a and b and c done, even if they are things that need to get done.

In ruminating on this blog post and my friend’s statement, I realized that living an integrated life is really one of the blessings of homeschooling and one of the reasons we do it. If we want to exercise, we can do it together. If the peeling trim needs scraping in preparation for painting, they all help. They don’t so much have household chores as they do what we do: they do what needs to be done. (John recently joked that for a required chore chart he needs to make for a Scouting requirement that he should just write “Whatever Mommy wants” for every day of the week.) They help with vacuuming and yard work and laundry. They make lunch. They garden. The bigger ones take care of the littler ones. And they have to learn how to do these things together and in between doing their daily work.

I don’t mean to suggest that there is no room for time alone. (Heavens no! As an introvert I’d go nuts without some time alone.) But kids can also learn that. “Mommy needs to lie down and read for a bit. Go play with your brother.” They can learn that there are things that Mommy likes to do that aren’t essential but that are important to me and that sometimes those things are going to come before their own preferred activities.

Public school starts here in about a month. It probably starts here around the same time. (Opening day TBA because we can be all flexible like that.) Some people are counting down the days until school starts and the kids get out of the house. Here, we’re glad that we’ll all still be home all day.