Monday, May 4, 2015

Year 3/Week 34: A Bittersweet Aloha

This is my last homeschool blog post for Midlife Homeschool Mom...I think. Since I am tearing down the classroom to make it into a dining room again for my oldest daughter's wedding shower this weekend (we have four more weeks of school but it can all be done without the classroom), I thought it would be the right time to give an appropriate send-off to my first/best/only attempt at homeschool in this lifetime.

The first thing that I realized when I started packing up the classroom was how much STUFF I have accumulated! A lifelong bookworm and pack rat, this adventure in homeschooling was a total magnet for every book, notebook, game or other shiny doodad that I ever wanted to find its way into my home. I know now that I probably love learning more than either of my boys because the neat stuff I found for every subject was definitely more interesting to me than they turned out to be for them!

That's also the sad part - I wanted to give them my true love for learning, but I don't think I accomplished that miracle. I think I did break down the barriers between home and school so that they will always carry the idea that learning can be anywhere, but I don't think they'll ever read or research for fun the way I did (for goodness sake, I read the ENCYCLOPEDIA for fun when I was a kid - who does that?!?!) But at least I got to do a lot of that with them and we had a ton of good times along the way.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I restarted my own education two years into our schooling and at this writing, I'm three weeks away from completing an entire course in Medical Coding that should start me on a brand new journey in my life - one that requires lifelong learning to keep up my skills - so that should take care of my curiosity these days!

Anyway, it's been a privilege, a joy, a relief and a blessing to have had these three years with my boys every day and teach and learn with them. Since my husband has been working from home this whole time as well, we have had a rare opportunity that many families in our country no longer have - 24 hour a day family time combined with work and school. Sometimes it's been very hard to be together so much all the time, but mostly it has been the most amazing experience that I know we all will remember and cherish the rest of our lives.

So, to these last three years and all the magical (and NOT so magical) moments we've had...I've decided to say "aloha". Since it means "hello"and "goodbye" to us as well as the original Hawaiian meanings of "peace", "affection", "compassion" and "mercy", it seems the perfect word to sum up our experience. And since it doesn't mean a definite goodbye, it also means that we - and life - are always ready to embrace this experience again if it is meant for us in the future.

Thank You, Lord, Thank You, Homeschooling, Thank You OLPH school for taking care of my boys after this....and Aloha.

Midlife Homeschool Mom

Monday, January 5, 2015

Year 3/Week 16: Homeschool Halftime and our Hail Mary pass to the end zone...

Happy New Year 2015! This last year has been a completely full, tumultuous, difficult year that we are happy to see behind us. Besides losing two deeply beloved family members, getting really kicked in the tail by income taxes and having our rusted water heater flood our basement, we had a rough time in home school. Ever since last year, I've felt like our school was a car with a tire getting ready to go flat - bumpy, unsure and scary. It wasn't feeling right and I was realizing I needed help. I had looked for different curricula and tutors, but nothing seemed to come up. Homeschool was getting harder and harder for all of us. These blog posts became fewer and fewer because it was hard to talk about.

This time last year, my husband and I had a real "Come to Jesus" talk with the boys about the reality of homeschool if their attitude didn't change (and by "they", I mean my oldest son). While we continued on as best we could, each week that passed left me feeling  more and more worried that I wouldn't be able to meet my oldest son's specials needs as well as the harder high school requirements that are looming ahead in another year. I didn't have anywhere else to turn - and we weren't ready to go back to public school - so I just dug my trenches deeper and kept fighting.

Fast forward to this fall. We started school a little late with a newly painted schoolroom, but I have to admit, with no enthusiasm at all on my part. One particularly lazy Sunday, hubby and I had a chance phone conversation with a neighbor while drinking coffee and were struck with the revelation that our new church's parochial school might be an excellent option for the boys. Since I was already enrolled in a college program to certify me to work as a medical coder next year which would cover the expenses, we started investigating the possibility and after many meetings, tours, and prayer, I can finally say:

This is our last year of homeschool!

For now. Our original plan was never for me to homeschool permanently, but only to get us out of an environment that wasn't good for our family, which we did. Starting in the fall, we'll be dealing with all new schools, whether private or public, which is a plus no matter how you look at it. Although I do feel like a failure for not continuing our lovely homeschool for another seven years (yikes!), I know that is not what God intended for me or the family. We are still taking it one year at a time (because once Danny finishes 8th grade next year, we'll still have to make the decision of which high school he attends). The one part that is NOT scary is that we now know that homeschool is always here for us as an option and we definitely know we can do it! Also, after some work experience under my belt, I will be qualified to work from home as a medical coder in a year or two, so I even have the option to homeschool later AND work, if need be.

But until the end of this school year, we homeschool. Today was our first day back after winter break and I think it was physically painful for all of us to adjust. We had some nice family reading time, some great math review together and laughs, but we also had our first tears when Danny's science assignment required some math that we hadn't quite covered yet. So, it continues. I am trying to treasure each and every day of homeschool now, the same way that I treasure their growing years after losing the girls to adulthood already. We are blessed to have this. And we are blessed to have the option to leave it as well.

Happy New Year and God Bless you all!

Year 3/Week 7: Homeschool is the easy way out...and the hard way

We backed into homeschooling. We had never even thought of homeschooling until the public school system completely failed us. We worked for over two years with our school administrators and teachers, attended countless meetings, drove our son into Baltimore for extensive and expensive evaluations and cried countless tears..all for nothing.
Because we had no choice for our sons education and mental health, we dove into homeschooling. In some ways, and I'm sure to some people, it looked like we took the easy way out. We didn't stay and fight, because I didn't want anyone we had to FORCE to do the right thing teaching my children. And because it was such a relief and Godsend, it did feel easy at first. But I now know all the reasons that homeschooling is the harder least for me and my children.

1. Homeschool owns my life. At one time, I sent my sons to "professional teachers" and I did my own mommy things. These "things" included cleaning, grocery shopping, and a part time job,  which quickly fell by the wayside and were replaced by class preparation, grading papers, driving the boys to homeschool classes in art, music and PE..oh, and teaching various subjects from English to ancient Egyptian history. At the exact moment in my life when I thought I was going to escape these four walls and return to "my" life after a wonderful decade of being a  stay at home mom, I was sucked right back in without even a preschool class reprieve. This one hit me the hardest.

2. I..and I responsible for my sons' education. That one thought has kept me awake countless nights. I can no longer just drop my child at the big brick building and assume all his education needs will be taken care of. If I forget to cover health this week...they don't learn it. Period. I can't blame anyone else, which leads me to...

3. There is no one to blame but me. This is the hardest one. As much as I hated arguing with the school, at least I was the"good guy" and they were the "bad guy". I had righteous reasons to complain and somewhere to aim. Now, the only person I can blame when my son doesn't know in the mirror.

All these things are humbling and terrifying and I often wish they were not my life...but when I try to think of myself on the sidelines of my sons' education again, I really can't picture myself being meek and mild again and so...

4. I've become very choosy about whom I will let teach my children. Now that I know what they need and how they work, I will need to trust a new teacher an awful lot before I will feel comfortable leaving them in charge. They are no longer just glorified babysitters who educate my boys in some strange, indecipherable method which I could never do...I am doing that job and I have expectations now. This one didn't hit me until this year and surprised me.

So don't let anyone fool you that homeschoolers sit around all day and make cookies in our pajamas...

Because actually we DO do that .....but we do much more. :)