Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the strangest of places.

A huge weight has been lifted as we've started telling people about our decision to bring the girls home next year. I feel free. I feel confident in my decision. And best of all, I feel like it's all going to be ok. As the Grateful Dead once said, "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right." I feel like by facing my fear of making my decision public I've been shown "the light", I've been shown that no matter what happens on this journey everything is going to be alright.

I've found love, support and confidence at every turn, sometimes from the strangest of places. I've encountered love and support from my mom, who I was sure would put up resistance. I've encountered encouragement and confidence from teachers and counselors in the school systems, who I assumed would tout the benefits of attending school and tell me about all of the terrible things that were going to happen to my children if they didn't. And of course my friends have offered their unwavering support.

It at first seemed silly that I needed the approval and support of so many people in order to feel confident and secure in my decision. Then I realized that it makes perfect sense. We can't do things on our own, we need each other. After all, loving, supporting, and holding one another up is what we're here for, right? I'm willing to take a risk, go out on a limb, and say that I can provide my children with a better and more well rounded education than the school system can. Nevertheless, I'm not kidding myself into believing that I can do it all alone. It's going to take help from everyone close to me. Help in the form of encouragement, confidence, ideas to guide me when my brain is fried, an ear to listen on the bad days, and a kind word to lend support on the days when I feel like a failure.

Every day I am presented with the opportunity to tell someone else of our decision. An opportunity to say "We're going to home school next year", and open myself up to a barrage of negativity, misunderstanding, questioning and ridicule. And each day I'm surprised by the love, support and encouragement. Each day I become more empowered as I'm lifted up, sometimes from the strangest of places.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Emotional Roller Coaster.

(photo courtesy WikiCommons)

Ever wonder what it feels like to make the decision to not register you children for the upcoming school year? It feels a lot like you're on a roller coaster traveling warp speed with broken controls. Thrilling, exciting, exhilarating, amazing, sickening, confusing, and scary as hell. One thought about what lies ahead for us and I run the gamut on emotions in a matter of minutes.

I suspect (ok, I KNOW) that the cause of many of these emotions is the unknown. Putting my children in school I knew exactly what to expect, I had after all done it myself for 12 years, and I know countless people that have traveled that route before me. Taking my children out of school, I know nothing about. It's scary. It's like leaping off the edge of the Grand Canyon and free-falling to the bottom. There are days when this free fall has me certain that the ending will be a disaster. On other days I'm quite certain that I'll grow wings and the trip to the bottom will be beautiful and graceful. But the thing is, I just don't know. But then again, do we ever really know anything with certainty? I'm fortunate enough to know others that have blazed the home school trail and are at the ready with comforting and encouraging words. And, although I know that everything is going to be just fine, I'm scared. Sometimes I'm just scared that the police are going to show up at my door and haul me off to jail for messing up my kids lives.

I feel thrilled and excited to take charge of my children's education, and I'm amazed at the overwhelming love and support that have come from some of the least expected places. I am so excited about all of the things I can share with my children, not only lessons, but most importantly, time. The amount of quality time that families spend together decreases year by year and it feels good to be getting that back.

Then there's confusion. I'm confused about how exactly I should go about educating my children. Should I use traditional school at home methods? Should I unschool? Should I use the classical education method? Should I use the Charlotte Mason Method? Should I buy full curriculum packages? Should I use internet courses? The list goes on and on, and as the list of "should I's" continues to grow it's no mystery as to why I feel so confused.

This week I finally made the decision to "go public" with our choice to home school. That brought up it's own set of emotions. Excitement at finally making it "official". Nervousness about what some of my closest friends and relatives would say and think. Fear of the "I told you so" if for some reason it doesn't work out. But the overwhelming emotional flavor of finally saying it out loud, if you will, was contentment. I felt content that I had made a difficult decision. I felt content that I had committed to that decision.

Just as in life, the emotional roller coaster of homeschooling probably never ends. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes loop the loops. Having emotions is just part of the human experience. What I am sure of is this......I'm going to fasten my safety belt, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride of my life.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Where we are.

Welcome to Live. Learn., a chronicle of our homeschooling journey. Here I'll share our challenges (I'm sure there will be many) and our triumphs, our failures and our successes, our tears and our laughter. By sharing our journey I hope to help our family and friends not only understand why we are choosing to home school, but to understand what it means to be a homeschooling family; to live and learn together. Maybe along the way this little chronicle might just help someone else who's struggling with the decision to take on responsibility for their child's education and offer ideas to help those that are already traveling this path.

As when starting down any new path, the best place to start is exactly where you are at. Evaluate where you are, what brought you to the decision to try a new direction, and figure out where you need to go from here. All too often we set out on a new endeavor without knowing exactly where we are in the first place and with no clear idea of where we want to end up. We know we need to do something new, something's got to change, but we don't know why.

Here's where we are. Our 7 year old daughter Mairin is in 2nd grade at our local parochial school. Our 4 year old daughter Stella is in preschool at a local private preschool. We aren't exactly disenchanted with our current school situation, but we aren't exactly in love with it either. Academically both schools are slightly above average for our area, socially both schools offer our children a limited but acceptable peer group, financially we are fortunate enough to be in a position of affording both schools. Both children enjoy school (as much as any non-morning person can enjoy getting up before the sun and rushing out the door) and do well, both children have healthy friendships at school, they get along well with other children and adults, and so far we don't spend hours on end struggling with homework, reading and other lessons (many of the reasons families turn to homeschooling in the first place). Sounds like we're on the right track, doesn't it? So, why exactly do we need to change direction?

I could tell you about the experiences (good and bad) we've had while our children have been attending traditional school, but this post is about where we are, not where we've been. Besides, I'm sure as this blog evolves and you get a glimpse into my thought processes you'll hear those stories anyway. To be completely open, honest, and truthful there isn't really a good explanation for why we feel we need to change direction. In other words, I'm not entirely sure that we've even been heading in the wrong direction to begin with. What I do know, is that while we don't seem to have veered off course yet, I have an inclination that there might just be a better way, that there's a lot more to explore off the beaten path.

Homeschooling the children is something that's been mentioned with only half seriousness since before Mairin started preschool. We've mostly discussed it as an alternative to the parochial school we eventually decided on (we aren't religious and the idea of sending our children to a religious school hasn't always set well with us). In the end, we always laughed it off and went on with the status quo. I mean, going to school in an institution is something you're supposed to do, right? It is after all the only way you can possibly learn what you need to know to be an effective adult isn't it? Maybe, but probably not, and that's where we are. We're ready to explore.

But, Carrie, is your children's future, their education, something you really want to experiment on? Oh be honest, that was the first thought that popped into your head, right? I know because it was my first thought too. Then, I took a step back, I sat down with my husband, and we discussed all of the implications. The conclusion was this......our children are young, we can obviously teach them everything they need to know at this age (I mean, I can do 3rd grade math and science), and if the whole thing doesn't work out what have we got to lose? But, if it's a success, if it's everything we hope it will be, if it's everything every home schooler I know says it is, then what have we lost if we don't give it a try?

We'll have lost an opportunity for our children to grow, learn and explore in a way that best suits them. We'll have lost the opportunity to see our children discover and pursue, on their own, what interests them. We'll have lost an opportunity to spend many fleeting childhood moments with our children. We'll have lost an opportunity to grow and share as a family. We'll have lost an opportunity to live life on our own terms, by our own schedule, and at our own pace. If you ask me, we have a hell of a lot more to lose by NOT trying it.

So that's it. We're trying it. Our children will finish out this school year and next year they won't return. I'm nervous. I'm sad. I'm scared. I'm thrilled. I'm excited. But most importantly, I'm happy with my decision.

Where do we go from here? We're still trying to figure that out, and we'll likely be figuring it out for as long as this journey continues. Follow us as we Live and Learn.