A Salute to One Year

Sunday, March 31, 2019

I should be at the grocery store, stockpiling food to get my four wild and free homeschoolers through the week. We have at least three daily breakfasts, you know. But instead I have perched on my office chair with an afternoon cup of joe, a mind full of jumbled thoughts, and a quiet home in which to write. My husband did this. 
A lot of times, people ask me what his role is in all of this and initially I thought it was very minimal. I take care of the schooling, the character building, the socializing, and everything else that makes a well-rounded home-educated child (Stop laughing). It's a heavy responsibility at times and I could just let the weight of that crumble me, but I don't (for the moment anyway) and it's due in part to Jordan's help. Truth be told, he was very leery when I first broached the subject of learning at home. Now, he's more of an advocate for it than I consider myself to be. He sees the benefits it has afforded our family and he is my biggest encourager. Besides, none of this would be possible without his efforts at work. The kids and I recognize daily that we are truly blessed with the gift of togetherness that we have because I'm able to stay home with them. What does Jordan do in our homeschool? He keeps the teacher afloat!
We are coming off of back-to-back vacations and while that sounds quite glamorous, it is also a challenge to take kids off of their routines and expect them to be the darling children they're accoustomed to being. That's not to say you shouldn't do it! By all means, travel with your children if you can. We've had a great last ten days, but my husband knows me well and when we returned home he blessed my introverted soul with alone time by leaving with the children and giving me the house to myself to relax. I have napped, bathed, cleaned, and read in silence and it was the greatest gift.
It has given me time to reflect on this past year. For the first weekend trip, we went to a family favorite- a house nestled in the mountains of Turtletown, Tennessee where my grandfather's people grew up. It's a place to unplug. It's a place to build a fire and stare at it for hours on end if you choose. The light pollution is so much lower there because there are no large cities around and so the majesty of the night sky is striking outside the farmhouse doors. You are free to visit the chickens and grab breakfast eggs each morning. The creek that meanders down the mountain across the property attracts the kids as soon as we arrive there each time. It's a special place. It's also the place that I remember first thinking about homeschooling my kids and started to purpose a certain rhythm for our lives that continues today. I remember the feeling well. It struck me almost exactly a year ago and I felt it revive me when I was there last weekend, reminding me that I'm living a life I want to live, that God purposed for us to live. What a wonderful feeling!

The spirit of our homeschool was born in that house. I remember being influenced by the wild and free community while I had my kids in public school. I listened to the podcasts, followed the hashtags, and was inspired by the many wonderful authors that I read during this time in my life. Still, the decision to pull my kids from something so normal was scary for me and it wouldn't come to fruition for four more months. It was there, though, that I started to teach my children gently, trying to school them while they were home from public school and throughout the summer when I still hadn't decided to officially do this thing. In that house or outside that house- I should say- we began our rhythms. It was valuing being outside instead of in front of a t.v. It was slow mornings with everyone pitching in with breakfast and keeping the house tidy. It was finding something neat in nature and drawing it, researching it, and recognizing it next time. It was reading aloud with my children gathered around. It was spending hours talking to each other, not staring at a device. When you go there, you just naturally want to do those things. This last weekend was no different and we had the freedom to leave to do it in the middle of the week without having to plan around a Spring Break schedule.

This post is sort of a salute to our one year of learning together. We've felt calmer with this style of school, less rushed. A year has gone by and I still feel like I'm not totally sure what I'm doing, but I do know that what we're doing right now is working. We're creating a family culture here that is quite different than a lot of folks, but that's okay! I'm happy with our rogue decision and what we're building together at home. 
The shrieks of my kids just rang through the house so it's back to mothering for me! Thanks for checking in with us in this space. I'll share more of our travels soon.

The Marathon of Education

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A little over a week ago, I was in Napa, California working on a personal goal of mine that had very little to do with homeschooling. I set off without the children or my husband for something for me. At first glance, it seems selfish to the world to leave my children, spend money on a trip, and create memories that don't include them. Like all parents, my life is woven so intricately with theirs. Every day, I'm with them- fretting over long and short vowel lessons, kissing and bandaging boo boos, keeping track of the expensive cochlear implant that allows my six year old to hear, preparing food twenty million times a day, and creating a home that is a safe place from the rest of the world in hopes that they can grow up a bit slower and sturdier. The pressure is often so heavy, yet I know I'm up for the task. I look down and see these hands that accomplish very much. The tasks don't seem grand and certainly aren't valued by many, but they're of utmost importance to some and I consider it a great honor to be able to do what I do.

So when I hear the comments about homeschooling, about children as a secondary goal, or anything along those lines, the words grate on my heart. It's insulting. Most don't support our decision to learn at home and that's okay. I make a mental note to address those topics directly when my kids wonder why people quiz them on various topics or they overhear someone asking why they can't read yet, why they aren't in school during the day, or joking that we're hardly providing them with an education. While it may be hurtful to hear, these remarks are reminders to fold in on my family of six and to remember what we are building here in our home and "school." Their education is not what they can do, what facts they can rattle off, or how successful they are at some standard set by someone who doesn't know them. They are people. Already. They have vast interests and talents and dislikes. It's not up to me to force likes upon them. It's obvious because math is Chinese to me, but I would never let my kids know it. They ask to do math every day. Children are eager to learn when you find out what they're interested in and what they're ready to learn in their own time. These hands of mine place a feast in front of them daily. We are surrounded by classical art, music, and nature study. We use games, baking, and unmatched socks to practice math concepts. They learn conflict resolution by being with their siblings all day and our togetherness is building conversation skills and so much love. We sit down and read aloud together every single day. We are not building children, but an atmosphere of a love of learning that I hope lasts their whole lives long. My hope for them is not to go out into the world and blend into it. I want them to live in the world, set apart through their identity in Christ- to be the people that God created them to be. Part of my job is to learn who my kids are and aim to teach them individually and accordingly. Yes, it's a huge undertaking and these hands do very much.

I've got to believe that when my mom held me as baby she didn't look down at me and think, "Yes, this child will have such a clean home when she grows up. My hope for her is that she makes a lot of money. She'll know fractions better than any fourth grader there is and she'll grow up to know the periodic table of elements in her sleep." No, I'd be willing to bet that what she wanted for me was so much more than that and so much less at the very same time.
These hands, which are sorely lacking some attention to them with their outgrown nail polish and their sticky jelly smudges, are working all the time. I'm spending time with my children and they're learning through love and experience. My thoughts drift back to the hands that helped to shape me in the same ways- my step-dad teaching me to read, my dad helping me learn to drive, my mother endlessly modeling selflessness, the quality time, strategy, and math aid I got when my Mimi played Yahtzee with me as a child gathered around the table my great grandfather made, the delight my Papaw displays when he tells stories of me as a child reminding me that time together has been the greatest blessing. I see my Nen at my slumber parties passing down the incredible gift of storytelling. I see long conversations with my Aunt Karmen and Aunt Alyson about raising children, special needs, and education and I'm reminded how much other people love my little people and me, too. There are countless others.
There are more important things than knowing all the vowels by three years old. When these children are grown, I want them to be able to feel all the hands that held them. I want them to look back on our time here learning at home and know that their mother cared to show them the beauty in poetry and laundry, in routine and freedom, in school and home. While I was in Napa, I ran a marathon. I feel like learning at home is a marathon, too. I can't set my kids off on a sprint with that distance and expect them to finish strong. We must find a pace that's steady for each of them and not worry about what anyone else is doing. 
Our end goals are likely different than everyone else, too.