Category Archives: homeschool

A family room refresh

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sign

I made and hung brazen, bold and beautiful family room curtains about five years ago. You can see them in this photo from 2011. They were from Robert Allen’s Kiki Pinata fabric and they set the stage for my family room, which was bold and cozy at the same time. Here are some other pictures of the room as it was, in an old post. I loved it, but I was getting tired of it. For one thing, it’s just  a really bold fabric, and one nice thing about homemade curtains is that it’s okay to change them in five years if you’re a little tired of the print. For another, I thought I would like the coziness that the bright yet dark colors would bring to the room, but instead it was starting to feel too dark. In the winters it gets dark so early; lighting a fire at 3:30 and settling into our family room was so great, but sometimes by 9:00 I just wanted a break. So this summer I gave my family room a lightening-up. I’m not posting pictures of the whole room yet because the final touch is going to be a makeover of our fireplace and that requires my brother’s DIY skills instead of mine, but here’s what I’ve got so far, before he comes and finishes the job for me. I made a sign for our homeschool, complete with our new logo (read more here). I designed the sign on the computer and had it printed on canvas.ornaments

Then I picked out new, white things for my mantle. I spray-painted branches for a tall vase, then crocheted and stiffened medallions out of cotton thread to make colorful ornaments. Instead of making new curtains, I ended up buying some ready-made ones that were such a good deal they were cheaper than sewing new ones myself. The white lets in so much light, and really brightens up this room.dust-covers

My sewing area got a little lift too, with new dust covers for my machines and some new white storage containers for supplies.dog-bed

Of course Belle was not left out; her new bed fits the new scheme!coasters

And new coasters from the dog bed scraps!cart

And I have been using a cart next to our sofa to coral some of the school things we need close at hand. I made it a tablecloth to keep it from getting beat up (it was my Grandma’s) while tying in all the green stuff I’ve added to the room. I’ve also painted some furniture and I’m gathering up the courage (and funds!) to buy a rug, but I’ll save all that for the post after the fireplace is done. I’m really enjoying the room’s new vibe. It’s still cozy and lively, but now the daylight seems to go much farther in here.

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Early snow

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snowWe had our first snow day of the year! We take the day off school if our neighbors do, because it just doesn’t seem fair not to. I think I’m going to like snow days this year because all children old enough to want to play in the snow are old enough to play in the snow by themselves while I sip coffee and watch over the toddler inside the warm house. It seemed a little odd to be hauling out the snow gear in November (this is Kentucky, not Vermont!), but at least last year’s sturdy boots still fit.

car

After my rosy-cheeked big kids finished their snow man and their hot chocolate, they turned a big box into a car. How is that a big box can be more fun than any toy?

10687065_10205313835111208_1337218845321174890_nAnd a little homeschool funny. Dorothy was asked to think about a time she’d been given a chance, or if she couldn’t think of one, to write a note to her teacher about a chance she’d like to be given. Apparently she couldn’t think of an opportunity she’d already had (really?!), so she wrote this to me: “Dear Mommy, I would like to not have so much school work or I want a coupple [sic] days off once in a while. I would also appreciate it if I could do more reading than school work each day. I would totaly [sic] like it if we could do more science and more work-book stuff than curriculum stuff. I love you and hope all of these changes will happen. Sincerely, Dorothy.” She giggled like a fiend while I read it, which meant that it was ok for me to laugh too. Imp! She basically is saying, “I’d like you to leave me alone to read my own books, or for school I’d like to do just the parts where I read, you read to me, or we do review. I don’t want to answer questions about the reading or learn mathematics.” Nice. And if you’re laughing now too, you’re welcome. 🙂

What a mess: One mother’s response to the latest mommy wars

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wipes

I think I need to weigh in on the articles and blog posts that have been circulating in the latest round of the “mommy wars,”–whatever that is. I’m not big on making sweeping judgments about other people’s lifestyle choices. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together working outside the home? Great! You’re a good mom, and you’ve probably got awesome shoes. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together while staying out of the paid workforce and raising your kids? Great! You’re a good mom too, but you’ve probably got less awesome shoes. (Like me.) Send your kid to public or private school? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine, and they leave your house for eight hours a day, which is clearly a good idea. Homeschool your kid? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine too, and I’m sure you have a reason for keeping them there that makes their relentless presence in your house worthwhile.

Now moving on to the details. Lately these so-called “wars” seem to have descended from these more obvious issues and into the petty realm of party and event planning, and whether or not you keep your house clean. I think these articles that bash a “culture” of Pinterest-obsessed mothers who plan picturesque birthday parties or set leprechaun traps are meant to make mothers who opt not to do these things feel better, but is that really the way to do it? Why are we giving other mothers a hard time at all? No mother is out there posting cupcakes on Pinterest or scrubbing her kitchen floor to make you feel inadequate, nor should they be asked to stop because of your negative response. What your house looks like is between you and the other people who live in it. It’s not about the articles or the bloggers or the playdate mamas. There is no vast conspiracy of military-industrial anything telling you to plan Pinterest holiday events or keep your mail slots beautiful. You do what feels right at your house, and let’s stop spilling ink on whether or not it’s a contest.

All the articles about how the Pinterest stuff takes it too far, and no one else’s house is really that clean, and every birthday party doesn’t have to be magical, and that’s not even really a holiday, blah, blah, undermine other mothers. Because mothers who plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who don’t plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who use Pinterest ideas to turn small holidays into big moments of wonder love their children. Mothers who would rather eat roadkill than handle glitter love their children. Mothers who are too up to their eyeballs in case work, or shift work, or depression, or a dirty novel to even notice this conversation is going on love their children. Making a plea to other mothers to stop doing whatever they are doing–whether it is icing gorgeous cupcakes, or cleaning their house before a playdate, or having a job, or not having a job–is not an act of sisterhood. It is trying to take another mother’s behavior and make it about you.

Maybe what we need is to stop talking about the behavior of other mothers. Maybe all the moms just need a nice shot in the arm of self-confidence and the space to get a grip on what is important to them and what is not, and then mind their own business. If you know you love your children, and you make your decisions based on what is right for you and for them, then what everyone else is doing is just not relevant.  And housekeeping, for pete’s sake, why is this a conversation in 2014? It’s not a ranked activity–it’s your own private thing. The dirty underwear on your floor is, quite literally, your dirty underwear (or to be perfectly honest it’s probably your toddler’s) and if it bothers you that much go and pick it up. And if it doesn’t then literally shut the front door and no one else will see it. No one on Pinterest or the blog world or uninvited to your house is going to know about it.

By the same token, if looking at photographs of “perfect” birthday parties or Hallmark holiday celebrations on Pinterest or blogs is some sort of trigger for you, why don’t you stay off Pinterest and the blogs? You are a grown-up. Read bodice-rippers or dirty fan-fiction in the time you would have spent “getting ideas” about how everyone else’s life is better than yours. That always puts me in a better mood, and I never end up spending $50 on new art supplies next day. But I’d like to point out that the problem is probably not that other people are posting blogs or Pinterest photos of parties and celebrations, but that you are responding to them by feeling inadequate. I doubt that anyone ever iced cupcakes just to make someone else feel bad. Get a backbone and say “I want to make these cupcakes” and then really do it. Or say, “I am never going to make these cupcakes, and I’m having a negative reaction to seeing other people’s cupcakes, so I need to work on my self-esteem. I’m going to remind myself that I’m a mother who loves her children, that quality mothering and cupcake baking are not actually correlated. Now I’m going to shut down this browser and stay away from cupcake photos. I will not resort to the middle-school coping mechanism of running down the mama who baked the cupcakes (who also loves her children) to make myself feel better.”

I’m a cupcake-baker. I have cute birthday parties for my kids. Sometimes I even have cute half-birthday celebrations for my kids and blog about them. Sometimes we totally forget about the kids’ half-birthdays, and if anyone happens to remember at the last moment we run to the corner gas station and buy packaged cupcakes. Or we don’t even bother. Sometimes my house is beautifully clean and my mail slots are worthy of Pinterest. Sometimes random piles of crap appear all over my house and there is no clean laundry and my mail slots overflow. Sometimes I like to browse ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes I like to read dirty novels and pay no attention to applesauce on the floor or the yogurt being dumped on the dog or the fact that yesterday was a Hallmark holiday I missed. And I LOVE MY KIDS. I don’t judge myself based on anyone else’s criteria because I am comfortable in my own skin. That is a gift, I realize, but it is also a choice. I honor that you are a good mother because you love your kids. I am not going to judge the choices you make about working or schooling or (the biggie!) crafty holiday decorations. I’m not going to ask you to lie about your house, or to lie about lying about it. Because you are your own person, and, like me, you probably keep your house the way it needs to be right now for you. And you love your kids.

Now I’m a little embarrassed that in a state where slightly more than a third of children live in poverty I have just spend an hour acknowledging any importance in the petty “mommy wars,” in which well-fed mothers argue over things that don’t really matter. Except that niceness always matters. And making some theoretically heroic summons of sisterhood for mothers to stop fussing over Hallmark holidays (if they enjoy it) or planning cutesy birthday parties (if they want to) or having a tidy house (or lying about it?) isn’t nice. It just isn’t about you. Take it or leave it. It didn’t become a contest until someone who felt like they were losing started whining about calling off the contest. You can decide what to look at it and what to avoid. Live you own life. Love your children. Go talk about things that matter. And if you have something to say to another mother let it be positive.

I’ll start. I honor you and the mother that you are. I don’t care what your house looks like, even if it is spectacular. I don’t care if you are baking picture-perfect cupcakes (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is lemon). I don’t care if you are picking up cupcakes from the gas station (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is that waxy orange with the white squiggle on top). I hope you are in an employment situation that feels right to you. I hope your children are in educational situations that feel right to you. I hope you have the self-confidence to look at ideas and tuck away what you like and discard the rest. I hope you realize how beautiful you are. I hope you realize that you are the right parent for your child. And I know you love your children.

Peace, Mama!

Right Start Math bags

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math-bag math-bags

Since last spring I’ve had this niggling feeling that I should better organize our math manipulatives. We use the homeschool math curriculum Right Start Mathematics, which is a good fit for me and my third-grader, and it comes with lots and lots of little bits and pieces and sets of cards. I have a small secretary desk in my living room that is dedicated to holding our math supplies. The problem was that I couldn’t close it anymore because it was so crammed full with our manipulatives, cards, and the various sandwich bags or dog-eared envelopes I was employing to hold them. I bought some white zippers in bulk and used canvas left over from our field trip bags to make 13 zipper bags for our math supplies. I took the time to embroider a label onto each bag, which seemed like “OMG, have I really become a person who embroiders labels on to homemade canvas bags to hold math manipulatives?” but yes, it seems I have. Assuming we stick with this curriculum, I’ll be using these supplies for many more years, and I’d have been mad if my previous disorganized system had caused me to have to re-purchase supplies I could have kept track of better. I am not, under any circumstances, going to follow this project up by crocheting a cozy for our abacus. So here we go. Hopefully these bags and I will have quite a future together, and it’ll be worth the time spent when my current toddler learns her fractions with their help. And if there is just a little voice in the back of my brain that says, “really? You made special bags to hold math supplies?” I’ll just tell it to shut up. In Latin, because that’s all homeschool-y, right?

The continuing evolution of our playroom and studio

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playroom-w-curtains

This room has appeared on my blog a few times in the almost four years since we moved here. There was the time I made the futon and pillow covers, and the time I painted the sun on the floor (now painted over, due to water damage). We don’t use this basement space as our primary homeschool spot anymore. It has evolved and changed, and I work on it periodically–sometimes because I want to and sometimes because it floods (or did? Supposedly that’s fixed now). This summer I made some more changes to it to continue to meet our studio and play space needs. It’s just a basement room with a low ceiling and a concrete floor; it’s never destined for Better Homes and Gardens or to be the room we spend the most time in, but it is good space. It’s a place to put the bulky things that aren’t in the kids’ rooms or our shared living space. It’s the kids’ art spot, the dress-up spot, the home for games and toys. It’s the only spot in our home with a television. It’s the room where my fabric is stored, and is a cool place in summer and made cozy in winter with a fire in the fireplace. Some day it’s going to get a chair that doesn’t have an arm that falls off occasionally, a bigger and better rug, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve in other ways, but here are some scenes from this creative space right now. This summer I bought new storage furniture so the kids can easily access all the treasures.

craft-area

I set up a desk area dedicated to their crafty needs. Colored paper, art books, clay, melt beads, yarn and assorted other supplies are organized and at the ready. The labels are serving the dual purpose of reminding my little artists to clean up after themselves and helping Worth learn to read.

paint-bottles

I saved coffee syrup bottles, washed them out, and filled them with tempera paints. A color-mixing chart hung over the supply table helps the small artists mix their choice of hues. There is a bin under the table with clean, empty yogurt and applesauce containers we save. The older kids know how to wash the brushes out themselves so they are able to paint independently, without me dragging out supplies or cleaning up their messes. I hope to fill two more bottles with black and white paint, but first I have to drink more vanilla lattes.

easel

This is the easel, a half-turn from the paint-mixing spot. Bright oilcloth protects the floor, the canvas aprons protect the kids, and just out of the scope of the photo is a cord with clips for the kids to hang their masterpieces when they are done.

ribbons

My crafty storage area got a few upgrades too. I’m not very handy with tools but I knew just enough to drill holes in an old scrap board, insert some dowels, apply some paint, and enjoy my much-needed new ribbon organizer. For several years I’ve been buying ribbon every time I see it on sale because I can never find it when I need it. Now I see clearly that the problem was my storage method–not my lack of ribbon!

jars

And I used a Pinterest idea to transform some recycled glass jars into cute, quirky storage with the addition of one tube of little plastic animals and some spray paint. The work table beneath this supply counter is covered with the same apple oilcloth that is under the easel for an easy-clean, cheerful work surface. I sew upstairs in our living room, but this table houses all projects involving glue, paper, glitter, or general happy mess. (It is also housing me at my laptop right now, while my kids play in the room behind me!)

Some thoughts on homeschooling

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A scene from our homeschooling life, spring 2013

A scene from our homeschooling life, spring 2013

I’m going to deviate a little from my usual blog topics in this post. I mostly use it as a public scrapbook of my crafty projects, but I’m going to use this post as a bit of a platform.

I feel like I have a certain conversation over and over again with other parents at this time of year when school applications and first payments (in private school cases) are due and people are thinking hard about educational choices for their kids. I don’t mind explaining my choice over and over, and it seems normal to me that parents looking at education options would talk directly to homeschooling parents when exploring that possibility, much as they would schedule a tour at a school. I thought while I’m in the midst of explaining my opinion to those in my “real life” circle, I’d also lay out my feelings here. Maybe this post will be useful to someone, and it’ll help me organize my own thoughts as well.

Why we homeschool

The education of our children (specifically our oldest daughter, since our son is still only 3) has been a complicated decision for me and my husband, just like it has been for others. I don’t hate the public schools; I’m not trying to avoid anyone, anything or any idea in particular; I don’t think my child is smarter than yours; and I am religious but not in a way that would make me avoid schools. For us, homeschooling was something we decided to do on a trial basis in kindergarten because we couldn’t figure out what else to do. Our neighborhood public school isn’t very good (though let me reiterate that we aren’t against public education in general), and the magnet program we’d chosen would have required a commute. Other, closer magnet schools offer special interest areas such as science or performing arts that do not suit the interests of my child. Fancy private schools were impressive but expensive and across town. I toured and loved the sweet, nurturing, and very positive Catholic school in my area but it begins at 7:30, two hours before my kids and I generally wake up. In order to send her there (or commute to the public magnet) we’d have had to move our bedtime up by at least three hours, which would then place it at approximately the same time my husband gets home from work. Having our kids see and eat dinner with their father every day seemed like a priority to us, so our short quip when people ask is that we homeschool so we can sleep late in the morning.

And that is part of it. My kids enjoy a sit-down meal with Daddy in the evening, even if it doesn’t occur until 8:00. We might open up Candy Land at 8:45, walk the family dog at 9 (the neighbors must be certain we’re Those Crazy Homeschoolers), or fold laundry together at 9:30. It works for us. Since we are home, Daddy gets to come home sometimes for lunch as well, which also helps us maximize our family time, or take mid-week vacations on the cheap when everyone else is tied to their school schedule. And then at 10:15 or so when I realize my kid is lying in bed reading on her Kindle instead of sleeping, I never have to say “for Pete’s sake, stop reading and go to bed so you can get up and go to school!” Because since we homeschool (ostensibly) for late-waking reasons, she can read as late as she wants. We’re such anarchists, you see.

Homeschooling also works out well for us because I believe children need the space and time to be creative, both in play and in craftiness or art, and we’re a family that is apt to overdo it on the extracurricular activities. We don’t mean to be signed up for seventeen things at once (that’s a slight exaggeration though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it), but before we even realize it soccer season is in swing but ballet lessons are still continuing and then–whoops!-even though we’d quit our last Girl Scout troop because of over-commitment, we just couldn’t resist signing her up for a new one just forming with several dear friends already in it and suddenly we’re up to our ears in cookie forms, soccer snacks and kids’ taxi service all afternoon. Opting out of the traditional full-day school experience allows us to overcommit (even though we’re still trying to cut back, we swear) but still give our kids the time and space to just sit and be kids–building towers and making bottle cap ornaments, sewing costumes for the poor dog, and executing elaborate plots with the dollhouse people. Because they are actually going to learn a lot more doing that than they are in my homeschool books or at “away” school lessons. Homeschool lessons take a lot less time than traditional school, and it deletes a commute or bus ride, packing lunch, and doing homework, so our arrangement gains time for our kids to just be kids as well as participate in a full lineup of extracurricular activities.

Finally, we homeschool because we like it. We tried it for kindergarten thinking it was just a one-year thing, a postponement on a more permanent decision, but then when decision time rolled around again I didn’t want to give up what we had. It’s not that homeschooling is a bed of roses all the time, but it works pretty well for us. The other school options will still be there in the future if things shift and we decide that a different set of calculations make another scenario work better for us, but for now we’ve got a good thing going on for us, and we’re going to stick with it. And hang the alarm clock!

Now I want to address reasons some people seem to think negatively about homeschooling. I can’t tell you how many people want to be passive-aggressive nice/snarky to me, so they’ll say something like “oh, you’re homeschooling. That’s nice. I might do that, except for the socialization.” What am I actually supposed to say to that? Like “oh! The socialization! Damn, I never thought of that! And here I’ve been keeping my kid under a rock all the time, and she has no idea how to talk to other children. Crap!” Not to be snarky myself, but seriously, if you think about saying that to a homeschooling parent, know that they might “forget” that they socialize with you next time they are baking cookies to share or addressing party invitations, ok?

So here we go:

Naysayers say: Socialization

Children don’t actually need to be with other children all day in order to be socialized. Children learned how to be fully-functioning humans with a range of healthy emotional experiences long before someone came up with the efficient (but not necessarily best) educational strategy of sticking all kids of approximately the same age into one group and teaching them letters and numbers all together in a group. Most children are socialized by their parents. In sad situations, where parents don’t have the support they need to adequately parent (socialize) their own children, schools do try to step in and teach values, manners, and behavior to children. It doesn’t actually work as well as parents teaching the same thing, and the parents in that situation are not likely to decide to homeschool their children. This is not a post about poverty or lack of opportunity or plain old poor parenting. If you are reading this, you probably socialize your own children, even though you may also send them to school to be hooligans with and learn dirty jokes from other children their age. That’s fine, and I’m not knocking it, but please don’t confuse it with socialization.

I do think it’s helpful for children to be with other children, although children living in remote situations with loving families certainly can turn out fine too. My kids are with other children a lot (see our tendency to overcommit, above), and learn all the dirty jokes they need from the small people at Girl Scouts and soccer without having to set the alarm every morning. They attend the birthday parties of children from church and eat blue, artificially-flavored icing on cupcakes. They hold hands and giggle with other homeschoolers on field trips. They don’t live under a rock.

Naysayers say: But I meant the kind of “socialization” that means when weird kids get made fun of and it “cures” them from being weird.

Really, you think that homeschooled children should go to school to be made fun of so they will act more like other kids? Maybe you need to take a step back and examine your own feelings on the subject. Do you think personality differences among children or adults is a problem? Were you bullied, and you think that you become stronger through the experience, and that other kids should have the same experience? Do you think bullying is useful? Let’s talk.

1. Personality differences. This one isn’t even about my own kids, but I feel like it comes up a lot in conversations. My kids (at least the two oldest enough to have social lives) are hopeless extroverts and my daughter generally gravitates toward leadership positions in group situations. People who have actually met my kids don’t tend to worry too much about their “socialization,” but I want to address this because I think it’s a real thing that homeschoolers in general have to defend.

We all know people who are socially awkward or who have poor social skills. This really bothers some people. Children, in particular, who are still laying out their own internal maps of how people should behave, might be very bothered by children or adults who are socially awkward because they aren’t sure how to handle them. I’m not personally very troubled by people who struggle with (or simply don’t bother with) social convention. I’ve watched feelings get hurt as a result of poor handling of social situations and I’ve been in situations with socially-awkward people where I’m not sure what to say or do, but I also know and love people who are socially awkward but are awesome people. They have other talents and skills that shine, and get jobs they are great at that don’t involve, say, working at a bank counter, being a flight attendant, or a hotel concierge. And most of them went to traditional school, where perhaps unkind things were said to them or they were made to feel bad about themselves in ways that left a lasting impact on their self-esteem.

Being stuck in a classroom full of judgmental kids is not a cure for social awkwardness. Many socially awkward people are (surprise!) the result of socially awkward parents. Because socialization happens at home, and because personality traits can be genetic. Parents who struggle with social interaction may gravitate toward homeschooling as an option for their own children because they had so many negative experiences in school themselves. But guess what? They still found a partner and had kids and now they may choose to homeschool their children to spare them the same negative experience of trying to deal with an all-day, every-day cocktail party with 26 other children who don’t get them at all. These people are unfortunately the ones some people think of if they have a negative view of homeschoolers and socialization, but let me assure you, it’s not about the homeschooling. And if you think about it for a minute, you might decide it’s not even a problem, but just one more way that people can be different and make this wide and diverse world a little more varied and interesting.

2. Bullying. Now you’re thinking, ok, maybe you have a point about the quirky person who is inherently a little socially awkward. But what about the nerdy boy or the girl who dressed weird? They need to go to school so they can learn to fit in, because I remember kids I went to school with who were nerdy or dressed weird, and yeah, they got made fun of on the playground some, but it just made them toughen up and they turned into “normal” adults. Um, ok. First, back off and think about it—you’re still internally defending the bullying of children, and that’s not ok. Second, I can speak to that with authority because I was totally that kid. That kid wasn’t awkward and you bullied it out of them; that kid was a late bloomer and/or a kid who is busy using their time to think about things other than how to fit in with the crowd, but will get around to it later. I was a little bit of both. At 11 my peers were starting to think about boys and bras and clothes. I was still stuck on dolls and books and calico jumpers. And when I was 12 or 13 I got bullied, and was miserable, and tried to fit in, but just wished I could play with my dolls and read my books in peace. By the time I was 15 I was totally over my dolls and most of my books and was into boys and bras and clothes. This wasn’t because people were mean to me when I was 13—it was because I got older, and I’m a person who operates within a normal parameter of interests and behavior, and that’s what happens. The difference between my experience and the experience of a late-bloomer who is homeschooled is that the homeschooled kid can skip over the bullying, play with their dolls until they are thoroughly done with them, and then be into boys, bras, and clothes. Those interests don’t happen because of “away” school—they happen because a child turns 15 (or 13, or whatever). I probably learned things from the bullying, maybe about empathy or humor or something, but those are lessons that can be taught in other ways; they do not require bullying to be learned.

I have no idea if I will still be homeschooling my children when they reach the middle-school years because our set of reasons for doing it may have shifted before then in ways I don’t foresee, but if I do, I will not worry about what my kids are missing something by not being put through the middle-school ringer.

Naysayers say: What about friends?

You don’t have to be stuck in a room for 7 hours every day with a person to be friends with them. My kids make friends in our neighborhood, in their extracurricular activities, at church, and with the children they meet at homeschool activities.

Naysayers say: If I homeschooled my kid we’d kill each other

A surprising number of people tell me this when I talk about homeschooling. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be an excuse for them not doing it (I don’t care if they do or not, so excuses aren’t necessary) or a question as to how I handle it. If it’s the first, that’s fine. Please, don’t homeschool your children; I’m not trying to talk you into it. If it’s the second, well, my kids and I do butt heads sometimes of course. We don’t get along all the time when we’re doing school, nor does my daughter tackle every assignment with a cheerful heart. I do, however, think that homeschool is a net positive for us. If I had to drag my tired butt out of bed every morning to drag her tired butt out of bed to get ready for school, we’d really be in trouble. We did that the year she went to preschool and it was awful. We tried to put her to bed early enough but it was just never enough sleep. Like me, my kids seem to have internal clocks that push the morning back a bit further than most people’s. As homeschoolers we get to start the morning at our own pace, with our body’s natural wake-up times indulged, and a leisurely breakfast (and full cup of coffee for Mom!) in pajamas if we wish before we tackle our real day and academic work. Then before we’ve even cracked a book we’re off to a good start. We also don’t have to fight over homework when evening rolls around and we’re tired again; we get the best of each other at the best point in our mutual day.

When we do our school work things also usually go pretty well. Taking on a task jointly with your child (like a pile of school work) is not the same thing as supervising their play. The attitude is different. You know that moment when your kid wants to know something and you get to explain it, and they understand, and you get a warm and fuzzy feeling like you’re a good mom? I get to have that feeling a lot when we do school. I’m the one that helps her have her eureka moments, and I’m the one who realizes when she doesn’t get something so I can help her understand. I’m not saying we’re like some mother/daughter pair in a painting, all holding hands in white dresses with daisy chains in our hair or anything, but I’m saying that I think our daily work together helps our relationship instead of hurts it. Yes, she’ll sometimes throw screaming fits about things and I sometimes lose my cool, but that happens to everyone, regardless of their school choice. We also have weeks where I feel disorganized and scattered and like all we did was bicker and lose paper instead of learn, but again, in balance and at this point I feel like we’re coming out ahead.

The first year we homeschooled we would go to a designated part of the house we only used for school, and we’d light a candle and sing a song to signify the end of our regular morning, and the beginning of our parent/teacher time. I think that helped us set a tone for interaction that tends to be outside our usual relationship. Our starting ritual has gone by the wayside in the meantime, but its intent was established. Again, it’s not always perfect, but for the most part I enjoy the extra time with her, and if we ever reach a point where it seems the negatives outweigh the positives, we’ll revisit our schooling decisions.

It’s also worth saying that most people need a break from their kids (or their spouses, or anyone else they spend a lot of time with) sometimes. My husband and I are fortunate in having two sets of helpful parents nearby who help with our kids and are great about giving me breaks when I need them, which allows us in turn to have a better experience when we’re together.

Naysayers say: If I homeschooled I’d never get anything else done

Yup, time can be an issue. But if you add up the time that parents of traditional schoolers spend driving children to and from school (or preparing for a bus ride), packing lunch, supervising homework, signing forms, and attending PTA meetings you might be surprised at how little time one has to spend homeschooling. We typically spend 2 to 2.5 hours a day on school, but not all of it involves my active participation. There is no ramp-up time, commute, or homework after our lesson time is over. I do lesson prep while she’s working on subjects she does herself, like handwriting, and we do grading together. We also have a rhythm to the day that involves cleaning up before we transition, so at least the mess we make during our morning lessons and activities get cleaned up before we move on to other parts of our day.

I have had a lot of people ask how I cope with homeschooling and having an infant, but I find that (once again) being able to sleep in starts our day off right, and then being able to cozy up on the sofa to nurse is compatible with both her happiness and a math lesson, whereas dragging everyone out the door in coats and car seats and with a rigid timetable would be much more difficult.

Naysayers say: Aren’t you worried about “The Test”

What test? In Kentucky, homeschoolers don’t have to take tests–that’s part of the fun of homeschooling. I don’t mean to go into curriculum or types of homeschooling questions here, but I do want to say that fretting about whether a child will learn one specific set of things over another isn’t a great reason to discount homeschooling. If a homeschooling parent wants their kid to learn all the exact same stuff the local children learn in public school, they can certainly teach it to them. But guess what? God didn’t choose the textbooks for your local private or public school. There is no law of nature or academia that says all 7-year-olds have to learn the same things in the same order. There are some obvious things—the good old reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic—that you probably want to hit, but homeschooling is a great opportunity for a parent and kid to learn things of their own choosing. Again, I’m not meaning to talk curriculum or homeschooling philosophy here, but I internally cringe when non-homeschooling friends ask me how I can make sure my kid is learning all the same stuff as her public-schooled peers. Because sometimes she’s not, nor does she need to. If we do decide to homeschool all the way through I promise I won’t be up all night fretting the night before college entrance exams, because there is more than one way and one order to cram information into a kid’s head.

Naysayers say: But your kids will never learn how to set their alarm to get up early and hold down a job

I actually heard an interview on public radio where a call-in listener identified herself as a public school principal and complained that homeschooled children would never learn how to set their alarm clocks. Really? As I said before, it’s not that my kids are smarter than other kids, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take more than one lesson to teach them how to operate an alarm clock. “Hold this button down here. Now rotate this dial until your chosen waking time comes up. Now press this button until the red light comes on. Great! Now tomorrow morning while it is still dark out and you’d rather be asleep, a loud obnoxious noise will rouse you from slumber.” That was pretty easy. Seriously. Kids who are given responsibility and held accountable to for age-appropriate tasks will be able to set the alarm clock and hold down jobs. Kids who are not given responsibility and not held accountable for age-appropriate tasks may have some trouble, but those kids are just as likely to be found in public or private school classrooms as they are at home. That principal was probably bullied as a kid and never got over it, and now she’s negative and on the offense all the time. Maybe she should have been homeschooled.

Naysayers say: I’m not sure I know enough to teach my kid

There seem to be two different types of people who make this response about homeschooling. First, there are people who maybe are not college-educated or are for some whatever reason just concerned about their own lack of elementary knowledge. In these cases, I’d say the parent should go with their gut feeling. If they feel like they are able to guide a student through with the help of a curriculum, then they probably can. If they feel like they cannot, then they probably shouldn’t, because even if they would get along much better than they think their lack of confidence may prevent them from enjoying it. And there is no reason a person should take on a job that pays no money if they’re not going to enjoy it.

The second kind of person is usually a person who is comfortable with their own pool of basic knowledge, but is concerned that educating a seven-year-old requires special skills that their own branch of graduate school (or whatever) didn’t cover. I really don’t think this is true. I spent some time in education programs myself, though my degrees are in other areas. Education programs don’t prepare a parent to teach their own seven-year-old nearly as well as parenting their child for the first six years of his or her life did. I don’t mean to knock teachers, or the value of training in pedagogy in particular for upper grades, and I am incredibly grateful for the support and advise I get from my mother, who is a retired elementary school teacher. But I don’t think my homeschooling friends who don’t have my mother or specialized education training are ill-equipped to teach their own children. There is a great array of materials and advice available to homeschooling parents, and it can be sufficient. There isn’t any special kind of magic that gets sprinkled on schools so that learning can only happen In That Designated Space, and only by Licensed Teachers. People get so used to our culture of licensure, specialization, and lack of do-it-yourselfness (is that a thing?) that they believe it’s countercultural or scary to teach their own child when people did it with no training or second thoughts for a zillion years before our current educational system became standard.

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So there you have it. I’m not trying to talk anyone into homeschooling, but I’d like to talk people out of the reasons they think other people are a little wacky for doing it. Educating a child is just as personal a decision as other parenting choices, and I believe each parent should have the confidence and the ability to mess their own kid up the way they see fit. (Just kidding.) If homeschooling seems like it might be for you, don’t let the haters talk you out of it for reasons that don’t make sense. Choose not to homeschool because you want to wear grown-up clothes and go to an office where there are grown-ups and someone else empties the trash can and makes the coffee, not because you are worried that your kid has to be “socialized” by a herd of seven-year-olds. And definitely don’t snark to me about what I’ve chosen for my own or assume that something like “socialization” has never occurred to me. 😉