This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter. Sign up here and get access to subscriber exclusive resources.
Valentine's Day can be a breaking point.
We moved frequently while homeschooling our sons, sometimes to rural areas and small towns with few homeschoolers living many miles apart.
And there were my childhood memories taunting me: trading Valentines with kids in my class at school and those middle school “Valentine dances” that were well attended, if awkward.
I wanted my homeschooled boys to have a chance at the strange traditions of Valentine’s Day. I wanted them to fiddle with the candy hearts, puzzle over what “Love, Angela” really means when scrawled on the back of a card, and agonize over whether to give out store bought Pokémon™ cards or homemade doily-and-construction-paper cards.
If I could see we weren’t finding a flock of homeschool friends by February 14, I went into high gear. I’d volunteer to add Valentines to Scouts, Sunday School, or soccer.
I’d invite neighbor kids, homeschooled or not, for hot chocolate and a Valentine card exchange at our house. We’d make and mail silly cards for Granny and Nana, and I’d know in my heart that they would each send cards to the boys, and they never failed.
Yes, there were the years where we were part of established co-ops or homeschool groups, and Valentines parties were easy and fun, with just a few concerned adult conversations about red dye #2 and nut-free candy.
And there were other years, where I began gathering homeschoolers from four counties for twice-a-month park days starting in September—hoping for critical mass in time for Valentine’s Day.
And now, gathering has grown more complicated. There are many more rules for adults to negotiate. Homeschooling parents are themselves struggling with loneliness as so many in-person opportunities have diminished.
There are fewer homeschool conferences and moms’ nights out. Some people feel comfortable getting together with friends; other people feel at risk. This pandemic affects our children, ourselves, and our holidays.
But it’s still almost two weeks to Valentine’s Day.
Perhaps you can track down the doilies and the red construction paper and the white printer paper. Remind yourself how to cut hearts freehand from folded paper; you can show the kids, so they can practice cutting big blobby hearts and wraithlike tall hearts.
Maybe you can arrange a specific Valentine card exchange with neighbor kids or homeschooled kids or cousins. If local conditions allow and you have a homeschool community, you can set up a Valentine exchange at the park or library courtyard.
You could make Valentine sugar cookies for a family celebration. I know there’s a slice and bake kind, if you can stand the red dye #2. If you can’t, make a less dangerous Valentine cookie that I’m sure will taste better, too.
Do your best to plan some Valentine goodness. You don’t have to do all the things, but take a break from worrying about phonics and fractions, so you’ll have time to help kids with tape and glue and copying their names over and over. They will practice manual dexterity and one of the better aspects of cultural conformity.
And you’ll be wishing Valentine’s Day right into existence for your kids, a temporary power you have now—a power to savor.