It’s June and that means we are getting close to finishing our homeschool year. Our days look a bit more unschool-y, the weather is consistently good, and I feel the deep desire to purge ALL the books and crafts and call it a day. I also need to muster up just enough energy to order and proctor end-of-year testing for all three of my kids. Quick! Where are the Ticonderoga Number 2 pencils?
(I am not sure. I know we had them. Let me check the bathroom and the Lego bins)
This year feels a bit different. My oldest, nearly 14, will be closing out his middle school years and be a high schooler come fall. It feels strange and crazy to type the words homeschooling and high school because I really don’t know how this could be possible.
The homeschooling bug bit me 10 years ago completely out of the blue. It was never our intention to homeschool our gaggle of kids. That said, I always wanted to be a mama and a teacher and a writer. So, here I am juggling all three roles and then some.
It’s nothing like I imagined but I am thankful we took the leap.
My oldest was a precocious tot right from the get-go. Sleeping was the last thing he wanted to do and he always wanted to be in the center of the action. He was intensely curious, hands-on, constantly moving and walking by 9.5 months. The kid was pure energy with a sly grin and the biggest brown eyes imaginable.
We added twins to the mix 22 months after he was born, creating our own little preschool. We sang and read ALL day. We took lots of trips to the park and made crafts and played outside. Sesame Street, Fireman Sam, The Wiggles and The Laurie Berkner Band provided a bit of downtime for me and brought so many giggles and lessons for our small children.
Were we homeschooling? I don't know. I didn’t call it that. We followed a routine that revolved around naptimes, meals, playtime, and 7:00 pm bedtimes. When my oldest went to a local preschool, he was already well versed in numbers, colors, his alphabet and more. Not because I didn’t think the preschool could teach him, but because I didn’t want to miss out learning with him.
We spent a few years mixing traditional school and homeschooling preschool and by the time my kids were in third and first grades, everyone was home full time. Having done a mixture of various schooling models really helped pave the way for having everyone at home full time. I am not saying it was always blowing bubbles and reading aloud, but my kids were still young and generally happy to work together on almost everything.
When people would ask me why we homeschooled, I generally felt like I had to defend our choices. We lived in an area with well-renowned schools, including one five minutes from our home. I often awkwardly smiled and stumbled over my words. Why did we choose to homeschool? It felt like the right choice for us at the time. Also, I didn’t want to get up early, make lunches or go to PTA meetings. That is my truth.
What would I tell younger, new-homeschooling mama Vanessa?
... Maybe I would tell her 101 things that she should or shouldn’t do. Things that would make her feel at ease and give her all the answers.
... I would tell her she's doing enough and that her kids are too.
... I would also just make her a hot cup of herbal tea, hand her some delicious dark chocolate, roll out a yoga mat and tell her to take care of herself.
... I would tell her she can’t run on empty.
... I would tell her she deserved to rest and that she can and should ask for help when she needs it.
... I would tell her to stop comparing and that it’s okay that she’s not into the Classical education model, that Charlotte Mason sounds good in theory, and that her kids will be fine and will have challenges all at the same time.
I sit here now in the quiet on a calm spring night, surrounded by candles, a full moon, and the buzzing of crickets and, if I am being honest, my younger son peppering me with 1,000 questions from his bedroom window. He’s supposed to be sleeping. He’s not. It feels normal.
When you’re a homeschooling mama you make concessions. Or maybe you just lean into the fact that while you do love being with your kids nearly day in and day out, it’s okay to have boundaries and to need time alone to think, to read, to write, to do yoga, to walk or to pee without someone asking you where the snacks are.
When we close our books on this homeschool year, it will feel good and bittersweet. I’ve been asked for the past three years if we’ll homeschool through high school. I always said yes, even though I wasn’t quite sure. We have all grown and changed drastically these past few years and it takes my breath away. Just like when we started down our paths into elementary and middle school years, I need to take some time to just sit with the idea that we are getting closer and closer to launching our teen into the world beyond my reach.
The good news is that our homeschooling journey has allowed my kids to be IN the real world every day of their lives.
They interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. They are learning about their own passions while also balancing being part of a family AND being with each other nearly all the time. This summer, my teen will (hopefully) be volunteering at camp and possibly sleeping over there too (something we've never done), he continues to explore his passion for emergency medicine and fire fighting and even police work. He will is learning how to use the audio-visual equipment at church and still helps out at the library at least once a week.
Do I have his high school years all planned out right now? No. Not even a little. I have a general idea of the first semester and that is about it. It's all good and we will figure it out as we always do.
I don't know where you are on your homeschool journey, friend. Maybe you're just starting out with little ones. Maybe you've just pulled your 10-year-old out of school or perhaps your teen is heading to a local community college for the first time. All I know is that you're stronger than you think. What you're doing and what your kids are doing is enough and that you deserve to live in your life right now. Laugh over laundry, dance over dirty dishes, light candles, sit alone in the bathroom and text your friend, or simply just be.
Just be you.
Take time to pause and reflect on your school year or on the season you're in right now. Don't be so quick to rush to the next thing. Once we ship off our standardized tests, I can assure you I will be kicking back for a bit and getting myself into summer mode. Well, I still might purge all the things, but I'll be doing it while sipping a tall glass iced tea.
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