The Real Life of Homeschooling

Our weekly trip to Starbucks while waiting for his brother in writing class. One of the perks to Homeschooling. ūüėÄ

Sometimes when one writes about personal thoughts and feelings and then presses the “submit” button, they wonder if perhaps the information they just posted was TMI (Too Much Information.) All sorts of thoughts go through the mind, “if I take it down now, no one would have read it yet, right?” and “I just blew it, oh well, I guess many people will think less of me now.” I felt this way when I pressed the wonderful “Publish” button on my last post.

You see, the goal of my writings are to help other people. Right now, I am focusing on homeschooling since it is a big part of our lives. With almost a dozen years now (wow!) under our belt, I feel that I do have a little bit of information to hand over. Whether one is actively homeschooling and looking for advice, information, or just seeing that one is not alone, to those who are investigating to see if homeschooling is right for them or not, it is good to be able to get “real” information.

I am not talking about what the regulations are in the area one is homeschooling, what curricula there is out there or even how to write a schedule. I am talking about the REAL information. What really can one expect when they homeschool? I don’t know about what others think, but for us, the stereotypical homeschool family has children who are obedient, do all their lessons, who listen to their elders (i.e. Mother or Father), who understand time and who are almost always never late, and are ahead of grade level. ¬†Oh, and they don’t fight, and they get along with their siblings.

Cough

And yes, I have learned that stereotypes are not always accurate. Have I internalized that, that is the question.

In my writings, amidst the wonderful things that I do believe we have done and learned, there is something called the Real Life of Homeschooling that I try to show sometimes, and that is… we are humans, not robots; we are all unique and different, our personalities are across the entire spectrum and we (the parents) have all lived a different life and have different priorities and experiences, and we are all given different obstacles we have to overcome.

This means that like everything else we do in life, and just like everyone else in the world, we all have our ups and downs. We all have different ways of teaching, different preferences, different kinds of children. No two homeschooling families are the same, and most importantly, no matter how picture perfect a homeschool family is, there are always challenges and things that just do not go like we want. And, a little secret, I would not want to be that picture perfect family for that would be boring. I like my boys for who they are, for all that they bring into our family, and for all the different ways they challenge me and mold me and make me a better person. So, to be fair to my readers, yes, I am biased, I do like homeschooling, and so when honestly asked for advice, I may tend to lean towards others homeschooling, however, I also have to relate some of our hardships. I have to open myself up and show my wounds.

My last post was hard. Homeschooling is not always easy, but then again, nothing is. This year, after 11 years of homeschooling, we sent a boy to school. It was a very difficult decision for me to make. I thought I failed. Then, just a few months later, we were faced with another hard obstacle Рwe sent a second boy to school (though he is in town, Baruch Hashem!) Can you say that I thought I failed even more? Not just one, but two gone, within a few months of each other. I am now left with only half. I thought I doubly failed.  When I wrote about all the inside feelings that no one ever sees (except my wonderful husband who has been there for me Рthank you so much!) how were my readers going take it?  What reactions will I receive? I honestly had no clue. I have to say that I was very happily surprised at the responses I received.

Homeschooling is definitely outside the box, and so much so that most homeschooling families find that they are usually pretty much alone, especially in the religious Jewish setting, though I read today that the number of homeschooling children in the United States doubled from an estimated 850,000 to 1.8 million in just three years (as of 2016 I believe.) We do not have a lot of the “in-person” emotional support that other families have, so we have to fill the needs and gaps online. What I learned¬†was that I was not alone. I learned that there are others who understand my feelings. Other have gone through or going through what I am going through. I learned that I did not fail. Failing would be to see a need is not being met and not doing anything about it. Succeeding is seeing something is not going well and doing everything in your power to change things so things are better, even if it is hard to do.

Being a good parent or teacher is knowing your limitations and finding others who can take over when needed. If I do not know anything about biology or math, even as a homeschool parent, I have no issues looking for someone who does know and can help out. Why is it that I don’t have an issue taking a boy to Algebra class outside of home, even when I can teach it (and have taught it) to my boys with no issues, why is it that I have no problems hiring a Gemara Rebbe for my boys for I know that I know nothing about Gemara, but when it comes to understanding that a child has learned all he/she can learn from me and needs to learn the rest outside, I suddenly have an issue? I cannot do it all, and am not supposed to do it all (that is why two people get married, so they can work together to accomplish so much more, but that is for my other passion!) I guess it is a matter of humbling myself and seeing myself for who I really am, and that is not bad. I think we often feel that if we humbled ourselves we would see all the things not good about us, all the places where we failed, etc. Yeah, they are there, but there are a whole lot of good things in us as well. Unless we humble ourselves, we cannot see those amazing things for the light of arrogance covers it all up. Where am I doing good? What amazing things have I done? We can only see who we really are when we can shed our outer clothing.

My boys are all doing well, where ever they are, at home or school, Baruch Hashem. I am still trying to adjust emotionally and just in general. I am still trying to reorganize my day to make it more efficient for I suddenly found that I have time to do things like think (yes, I can think now!), clean, do laundry, organize, uh, and yes, even take cat naps without worrying about not getting school done (!) however, I just don’t know how to even internalize this fact so it is not really getting done (except for the cat naps, I have NO problems adding them in, not sure why. ūüėČ ) What does it mean to have time to clean the house and do other tasks other than teach? Believe it or not, it is really hard to figure that one out, and I really do want to do them, it is just that it has been many years since I have been able to effectively do these things regularly that it hard to understand that I have some time now for at least some of them regularly. I find myself sitting down, not sure what to do with myself or walking around like a zombie, even though I know there are tasks for me to do. My lovely husband can’t figure out why I can’t figure it out either. ūüôā

I took a chance and showed my pain. This is part of the Real Life of Homeschooling. This is part of what my writings are all about. The good, the bad and the ugly, it is all there. But really, it is all good, it is all meant to be. My goals are shifting and that is fine. Life is a constant change.

To those of you who opened your wounds to help me with mine, my deepest gratitude. Thank you. I hope that some of my writings will help others as well. On and upwards to a new set of days that are as quiet as a house can get with a beautiful Mr. 7 year old! Never old, always changing. Wishing you all your own successes!

Getting Myself Ready – My Chizuk

Yes, I know that experiences cannot be equaled and in case I was not sure about it, after the past few weeks, there is definitely no doubt in my mind.  Over the past week and a half, our boys have spent many, many hours outside, in the water Рponds, creeks, etc. playing in the sand, feeling the seaweed, smelling the different smells, watching lobsters hide, seeing small schools of fish, as well as larger ones.  Not to mention watching out for poison ivy and poison oak as we hike through the neighboring forests and seeing, feeling and smelling all the wonderful things there.  Charlotte Mason definitely knew what she was talking about when she said the only science a child needs for the first 6 years should be nature study.

We have been doing Ambleside Online for 2 years now, and I could never really fit in nature walks like I should, even though I wanted too, and I thought I tried. ¬†I am hoping these wonderful experiences will encourage me to try harder. ¬†Really, it all boils down to having the right schedule. ¬†I find that I can stick to a schedule pretty good if I have one (and I’m the one that makes it, which is good!)

We are told that to raise good and happy children, the relationship between the mother and the father must be a good and happy one as well.  One of the ways to attain this is to make the relationship between husband and wife a priority over the children, that way the children can see how a good relationship should be and how they should act, for seeing has more of an impact than telling.  Homeschooling is not only about the children, it is about us, the teachers as well and therefore we need to nurture ourselves and take care of ourselves first.

We are just a few short weeks from Rosh Hashanah and we have had the most amazing few weeks. We do not get to interact very often with homeschoolers – we do not really have that much in common with the ones we know who are local, and to interact with religious Jewish homeschoolers on top of that is even more of a bonus. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I have an issue being the “different” one, not at all, however, occasionally it is good to meet others who are different like you.

It was good for the children to be able to play with other religious¬†Jewish homeschoolers, and it was good for me to be able to talk to not just one, but two mothers who have similar philosophies as we do. ¬†It was so exciting to talk to mothers who have had at least double the amount of years of homeschooling behind them than I do for it gave me a chance to see where I could be as a homeschool parent – what kinds of ideas I could try to use, from “experts”. ¬† I was also glad I was able to share some of our experiences and see that I could be of some help as well. ¬†And, it was nice just to talk!

I once heard from a rabbi that all the spiritual connection and chizuk that we get from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos is set so that it carries us through the dark times of winter, yes, we have a little bit of light from Chanukah, but there are no Yomim Tovim until Pesach, and our neshamas need the spiritual connection.  So too, I felt that Hashem has given me this boost of the visits of two wonderful mothers (and their children!) to help give me chizuk for the next while. I felt lucky to have such wonderful conversations with one of the mothers that came.  We took the children out in the afternoon and then they still did not have enough time together, so her son came over for a sleepover.  After the mother left, I felt not only spiritual happiness and chizuk, but I found it gave me chizuk in general to do some stuff around the house that I was trying to get done.  I tried to soak up all the chizuk and spiritual connection that I could so that it would carry me over until the next encounter.