The Real Reason I Homeschool

IMG_00011Look, there are a lot of reasons people have for teaching their own kids.  Many of them are good and compelling.  But, for me, most have faded over time.  I see my kids growing up and I think, They were always going to be OK. 

And, anyway, homeschooling is hard and can suck the life out of a person, especially a person who used to carry a planner.  Our warm educational fuzzies have grown a little threadbare during these middle years, and the tender platitudes that used to spur me on now find me with my fingers in my ears and, you know, maybe rocking in my bathroom.

But, so help me, there is one thing that hasn’t changed–and that is my need to go slow through this life.  It turns out that a poet crawled into my head and, having rattled around there, came back and wrote a poem that exactly describes my Actual Real Reason for doing this life the way I do.

To wit:

Leisure

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

That’s my reason, folks.  What’s yours?

Not With a Bang

The summer whizzed past us, compressed like never before by travel to distant continents, house hunting, and, er, fewer weeks.  [The previous winter’s shenanigans made for lots of snow days for Daddy, who’s a teacher.  If Daddy has snow days, so do we.  But snow days, as cozy as they are for three seconds, make for lots of make-up days in the spring.  This, in turn, means a shorter summer break for Daddy.  We take summer break when Daddy does. Hence, our teeny summer.]

I knew we’d be starting school before I was ready for it.  I told the kids that we were going to start up our activities a week after Daddy did because I needed to practice incrementalism in our homeschool this time around or I would surely die.  They were down with it.

Daddy went to school on a Monday.  We went to jujitsu and the library.  We read some and did chores.  The kids bickered with one another.  We went to Sonic.  So far, so good.

Tuesday offered more of the same but with loud thudding noises where the boys slammed one another into walls and hit each other with pillows.  I felt a low grade fever coming on, but, no I didn’t.  That was actually a touch of rage.

Wednesday came and I heard a ginormous crash from upstairs.  Then I heard yelling and a smidge of crying.  I called the kids downstairs and discussed with them the many ways they could practice conflict resolution if they would only try.  We laughed and cried together.

No.

We started school.  I rage-started school.

Now, I’m no fool.  I’ve been homeschooling for going on nine years.  We’ve had our share of joys and sorrows, successes and let’s-not-talk-about-that’s.  I knew better than to think that springing math on the kids instead of taking away the X-Box was going to launch the year the way I’d hoped. I didn’t exactly think it would be like this.

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I didn’t mean to start our academic year as a direct result of sibling fighting.  (“Officer, I don’t know what happened.  There was all this noise and when I opened my eyes, the kids were doing math.”)

But the Lord is gracious and compassionate.

So while the kids were dull-eyed when I first announced that our summer was stone-dead, the day unfolded much better than I expected.  So did the next day.  And the next.

I’m telling you this so that you can take heart if you A). homeschool, or B). ever mess up your own plans, and/or C). have ever turned math into a punishment when you told yourself you would never, ever do that because you have math issues yourself and wouldn’t dream of causing your kids to have them, too, because preventing those issues is one of the big reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.

Life is messy and people are crazy (and by people I mean kids and dogs).  But God is good.  He cares about the little things.  You can trust him with your best laid plans–and their possible demise.

So if your summer ended not with a bang but a whimper, I just wanted to say:  Me too.  It’s still OK.  It’s going to be a great year anyway.

Speaking Life

They say the world is divided into two kinds of people, those who see a glass of water and call it half-empty and those who say it’s half-full.  I’ll admit that I’m in the first group.  Part of it’s personality, I suspect, and part of it’s due to the fact that as a classically trained cellist I was brought up with an artist’s mindset.  In order to improve my intonation, phrasing, or bowing, I had to see and hear what was wrong with the way I was executing those elements.  Over the years I developed a sensitive musical ear, an almost sixth sense when something in my playing wasn’t right.  It allowed me to correct mistakes and to improve my performance.  It was incredibly useful.

And it made me kind-of miserable.

Because, the truth is, I had a hard time turning off my inner critic—even when I wanted to–and she followed me everywhere.  I noticed her when my penmanship was imperfect or my writing was dull and awkward.  I heard her whisper when other people used incorrect grammar (though I never dreamed of calling their attention to it), and I judged them quietly.  When I performed a piece of music and a high note came out wobbly, she was there, hissing her disapproval.

As I grew up and experienced more of the world, I wanted to shed this critic—sort-of.  I was afraid to let her go 100% as I wasn’t sure if I’d still be able to judge what was good or bad about my art, if I’d be able to improve without her nagging.  Still, our relationship with one another had grown decidedly strained and I wanted to take a break from her quiet, knife-like voice in my head.

What I didn’t realize is that she didn’t want to go—that she wouldn’t go—without a fight.

And now?  I realize that I’ve brought this unwelcome friend along for the homeschool ride, and it has resulted in my neglecting to encourage my kids like I ought to.  It’s not that I’m not proud of them or that I don’t value their achievements and character growth.  I do.  It’s just that, like an assembly line worker in front of a conveyor belt, I’m so used to seeing what needs fixing or removing or repairing in a situation (or a person or myself) that I neglect to point out, and praise, what is right and good. 

When my daughter brings me a fanciful story she’s written and I love it, truly, but instead of complimenting it find myself saying, “Remember that you need an apostrophe there, and, is that how we spell that word?” she gets discouraged.  There’s no other way to spin it.

These days I am making a concerted effort to praise the things my kids do right—whether these things take the form of kindnesses to one another, crisply made beds, or stories with amazingly apt character development.  I may see the negative in their work or actions.  (No.  I will see it.)  But I’m praying that the Lord helps me practice praising what is right and good in my kids because this kind of communication edifies instead of tearing down.  We all need encouragement in our work, don’t we?  We all need to know that someone appreciates the good they see in us.

And I want to become that kind of person for my kids, someone who speaks life into their days and helps them do the same for others.