The Real Life of Homeschooling

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

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 – we 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 – thank 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. 😉 ) 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. 🙂

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!

Learning to Grow and Change

#3 multitasking for his Cooking Merit Badge.

It has been quite a busy several months. Can’t say there has been too much homeschooling wise to talk about, which is one of the reasons why I have not written for so many long months. However, that means there are lots of pictures I can post. 😀

With Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, our latest bar mitzvah, the week later my nephew’s bar mitzvah, a few weeks later our yearly Thanksgiving trip, the boys’ camping trip to Big Bend, Chanukah… When did we have time for school? Or, as I am typing, I am thinking that perhaps I can rephrase that: That WAS our schooling, so perhaps there really is something to write about.

I do have stuff to write about, and all those amazing trips really are one of the wonderful

Happy 16th Birthday Mr. Big!

reasons why I love homeschooling for I don’t have to answer to anyone and we really can and do make our lives as much learning as we can. However, that is not the main reason for writing. We will get that those, but there are other things.

Life changes, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes. The past two years have been very challenging for us. Our move down south was definitely not what we had in mind and that is the hard part. I am slowly, very slowly, starting to realize that what I have in mind is irrelevant. I used to think that I was very flexible. If my husband wanted a break and asked me if I wanted to go out with the family for a night to a hotel, I used to be able to pack and be ready in 45 minutes for a wonderful adventure. I am learning though, that yes, I am flexible in some areas, but in others I am not. That is the challenge.

We started the school year with one less boy at home. One boy, who actually hates change, needed so badly to have a change and go off to Yeshiva. Normally I do not believe that children should go away from home for school, however,  I understand that there are exceptions. Our one child is an exception. It took me a long time to get there. I felt I was not trying hard enough, and with a little bit more work, a little bit more proper advice, I could make things work. Yes, I did get some help, and yes, the help really worked, however, it still took me many months to realize that no, I was not a terrible mother, not a terrible teacher, it is just my child is ready for something else. I am happy to report that our child is doing well. He is happy and he is learning. What more can I ask for? He still has a ways to go, but one step at a time and with G-d’s help, he will get there.

I started the year very quiet. The whole house dynamics was so different. It was a good

Saba and Mr. Little.

thing. The other boys started opening up. I now had the ability to see what else was needed in the house. Mr. Little, who is not so little, got to have more of my attention. We are doing pretty much what we did last year – I have my Charlotte Mason for the secular and Melamed Academy for the Judaics. I have to say that the Melamed Academy has come a long way from last year. The older boys have a Rebbe for Gemara and Mishnayos and they have weekly live shiurim they attend. I have added  private tutoring with Rabbi Resnick from Room613.net. The boys have learned with Rabbi Resnick for several years, many years ago, and were really excited when I asked if they would like to have him for their Gemara now. With all that set up, school didn’t seem so bad – until you start adding in all the wonderful Yomim Tovim.

It is hard to keep up with school with all the holidays! But, I cannot complain. Amidst all the spiritual highs, Mr. Boy #3 became a Man. 🙂 Motzei Yom Kippur he had his birthday. Such

Bar Mitzvah Cousins!

a lucky boy he was this year. He was told to eat all day on Yom Kippur until the last 72 minutes and then he had to fast.  We teased him about that. We waited until a few weeks later, Parshas Beraishis, before celebrating for he cousin had his bar mitzvah the next week, Parshas Noach, and we wanted my parents to be able to easily attend both simchas. It definitely was a whirlwind of several weeks. Sukkos, Boy Scout campout again in our sukkah, two bar mitzvahs and lots of wonderful time with family. My parents were excited. I made Saba (Grandpa) learn Chumash with Mr. Little every day. It gave them something wonderful to do. Saba and Mr. Little have a special bond. They love to Skype with each other regularly and read stories to each other. My parents took my boys with them to my sister’s house, leaving my DH and I two days to ourselves!  Thanks to my parents and my sister for babysitting!

I have to say, Hashem heard my prayers and saw my tears this summer. He just decided that my time alone would be better off at a different time when I did not have to worry about making a school schedule. DH took ALL boys (well, all three) to Big Bend to camp for a

Big Bend National Park

week in December. That meant… you guessed it… I was home, All. By. Myself. Just me. 🙂 It gave me that so much needed break. I spent time on the computer the first day. I did not know what to do with myself. It did get cold here that morning, the cold front come through, though Big Bend was one of two spots in the country that was warm. On Monday, I tidied up some of the rooms and started on a deep clean of the coat closet. I had small goals, I knew better. I spent all day Tuesday cleaning the coat closet. I tossed as much as I could out – I still am working on minimalizing my house. It is a slow process. It felt so good to not feel rushed that someone is coming home, and I could just leave things if I was finished for the day and go to bed! Wednesday was my spiritual day. I did make sure I did some reading every day, but Wednesday was my big day. I decided that after the cleaning was done, this was my opportunity to reconnect. With being busy with beautiful boys, it is not usually easy for me to find time, so I made sure I made time. By the time everyone

Big Bend National Park

came home on Thursday, I was ready. I was calm, happy, and felt recharged. And I did not have to leave home, which was the best!

The big thing this year is that we finally got to see what each of the other boys were needing. Mr. Big was not doing well. Our city is big, and there are many religious family here, there are several areas in town. However, the big thing is that it is still a “young” community. There are so many children here. However, the kicker is that they stop at about 13 years of age. After that, there just are not very many kids. Our oldest is now 16 and we asked someone in the know and he could only come up with 3 boys that age. Two are out of town and the other is in a different area of town. There are basically no boys here for him. That is a big problem. That along with other things that have happened created a situation that needed our immediate attention.

This is where I got stuck. We knew what we needed to do though I had a hard time accepting things. I had my head stuck in one direction and could not shift into another

His First Day of Yeshiva!

gear. Our son needed to go to Yeshiva. He did not need to go away from home, but he needed friends. The Yeshiva here has mainly out of town boys with a few in town boys from the other side of town. It was a hard few months for me as I struggled with me and who I was. I was not a failure. From 4 down to 2. It was a hard thing to swallow. I had to swallow my ego and that was not easy. Afterall, I was “That Homeschool Mom,” for the good and not so good. I had to live up to that title, didn’t I?

No.

That is not who I am. I am a mother of 4 beautiful boys and wife to an amazing husband. As a Mother, all I want is the best for my children. If teaching them at home is the best for them, or, at least, the same as sending to them to school, and I want and can teach them, then I will. If there comes a time when something is better, then, as a Mother, I will do my best to make sure they get it. Up until now, homeschooling really was the best for them.

Chanukah with all my boys 😀

Now, after 16 years, my oldest is ready to move on. Baruch Hashem, he has a had a good first week of school and is finishing the week off with a Shabbaton. I would like to think that he appreciates at least some of what I taught him and gave him over the last 16 years,( though, that just might be my ego getting to me again. 😉 ) In many ways, he has a huge advantage over other boys, and he knows it, and in other ways he will catch up really fast. DH and I are very happy with how and what we taught them in their Judaics (as well as secular). They have learned stuff that most boys do not learn and it is stuff that puts them ahead in a big way. Mr. Big is good at perception and I do believe that he understands this. We listened to part of a shiur several weeks ago that stated that he believes that boys should be learning the material that we taught and why.

As we head on over to the second half of the school year, I am finally really excited. I have one boy who insists that he wants to remain learning at home (yeah! I can think that I

Freezing maple syrup on snow!

really am doing at least a little good,) and one boy whom I can give a lot more attention with his learning that he needs over the next few years. OH! And I can’t forget to mention that Mr. Boy #3 passed his Amateur Radio test! Another Kosher Ham in the house! 😀

Things are good. It just depends on if we can train our minds to understand that. Things are slowing down in some ways, which is helpful, so that I can focus my attention on things that need me. I am optimistic that the three of us who are home are going to have lots of fun. 🙂