Family

So You Think You Want to Homeschool (Advice for Newbies)

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Homeschooling.

I recall the landscape that it arose from. I was a young mom and didn’t know what else I wanted to be. I had never had any career aspirations besides writing and being a Solid Gold dancer; neither of which were coming to fruition. I was an Air Force wife living in Alaska. A woman had invited me to her church to hear someone sing. Since I was to ride with her, I went to her house first. She had several kids, a couple of whom where making crackers on the kitchen counter. I was puzzled. I didn’t know you could make your own Saltines. Another kid came bounding down the stairs with a math worksheet.

“He got all but one.” She handed it to her mother and ran back upstairs.

Something about this household made me feel at home. All the activity, the finches chirping away in their cage, the kids, the smell of things baking, it reminded me of the home I grew up in. It was my first exposure to homeschooling and I knew right away what I could be for the next twenty or thirty years.

Many years before that, I had seen a PBS interview with a homeschooling mom. She had big frizzy hair like a hippie. The camera zoomed in on her face as she spoke with tears in her eyes, “All kids need is love,” she was saying. But it wasn’t just her words. It was the way she said it. Like she was pleading with the whole world to simply stop and love your kids. I made fun of her a little bit. But I never forgot her. And when people would ask me, years later why I homeschooled my kids, I would say, “I just wanted them around. I didn’t want to part with them for six hours a day.”

Today kids are away a lot more than six hours. Up around 6AM to bathe, eat, and get off to a sitter or daycare until the bus comes, then a full day of being directed by teachers and surrounded by other kids. Then the after school programs and sitters, and finally home in time for a quick dinner and a very early bedtime so the poor things aren’t too tired at dawn.

I’ve always felt sorry for the other kids. In Alaska, I would wake mine up and we would look out the window over the back of the couch. It was still dark and all the little kids had their backpacks over their snowsuits and hats and mittens and flashlights waiting at the crosswalk while all the grown ups went by in their cars on their way to work. We drank cocoa and felt warm and glad we didn’t have to join the ranks of the normal folks.

Some people are just cut out for homeschooling. They don’t fit the system. And others would not dream of homeschooling. My advice is this: If you wish you could, you can. And if you feel drawn to it, you probably should give it a try. It was the privilege of a lifetime to spend years with my kids around me. Those years go by in a blink.

 Homeschooling Tips for Beginners:

  1. Before you pull your kids out of school and try to do it yourself, read books about homeschooling. Not books about how to teach, or what to teach, or how to decide on a curriculum. No, read about how children learn. And about homeschooling styles, philosophies, and various methods. See what resonates with you before you start.
  2. Let your kids (and yourself) take some time off. No expectations, no school, no studies; like summer vacation mode. During this time you too can become more accustomed to being with your kids, without the pressure of schooling.
  3. Don’t believe what the local public school tells you.
  4. Do the research on the laws for your state. Find a veteran homeschool group that can put you in touch with lawyers and resources to protect your rights.
  5. Find out what home school groups exist in your area. Homeschooling has grown large enough to encompass lots of different families. Some are very religious, some are secular and wouldn’t go near religion, some are focused on the child, some on the family, some on the faith, some on reporting, some on ways around reporting. But you do not have to reinvent the wheel. The legal battles have already been won in a number of cases, and you just need to get in the loop and find the veteran homeschoolers. They are usually very willing to share resources and advice. But don’t rely on just one.
  6. Don’t believe everything you’re told.
  7. Ignore the nay-sayers. If anything, use them as motivation to prove you CAN do it the way you want.
  8. The only rules are the ones you decide work for you and your family.
  9. Question everything.
  10. Think outside the box.
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Girly Girl Fun

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Since my daughter and I used to spend time creating the perfect setting for tea parties, it seemed fitting that her bridal shower be a tea party on a grand scale.  The preparations were endless, and the day turned out magical! A wonderful turnout of friends and family shared this special day, and now that it’s over, I keep grinning thinking of it: Anne with her apron and “white meat only” chicken salad. (Which was great by the way! Good job Anne.) Linda at the blender mixing some pink divine grapefruit margaritas, and Adrienne filling her pink eggs.  Everything pink and prissy and foo foo galore! I really like being a girl! 

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Tradition?

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With Easter Sunday approaching on the same weekend as Passover Friday, I am once again reminded of my jumble of emotion regarding the holidays.  As the youngest of seven in my Catholic family, we celebrated Easter the “traditional” way.  We had given up something on Ash Wednesday, and were ready for Palm Sunday to arrive so we could indulge again. I was handed my palm frond at mass wearing brand new white tights with a pastel floral dress and purple silk ribbon sash.  Easter represented beauty all around, spring flowers, egg coloring, and a huge chocolate bunny.  It didn’t taste so good by itself. I had to get out the jar of peanut butter to really enjoy it.  Of course there were jellybeans, and marshmallow chicks, and Easter grass to dig through to find the jellybeans that had fallen to the bottom of the basket.  My parents hid the jellybeans all over the house, along the moldings, and on the mantle, behind pictures, on the arms of chairs. The night before Easter was almost as exciting as Christmas Eve, knowing the Easter Bunny would be coming and leaving behind candy everywhere. 

 As the years passed and it was time to raise my own kids, we hid a whole basket of candy for them to find.  But we didn’t tell them about an Easter Bunny.  I wouldn’t allow it.  As a teen, death came knocking and took big chunk out of my large family.  And so for me, the God of the Bible became a fairy tale, just like Santa Clause, the tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.  They were all make-believe.  And that made perfect sense.  Thankfully, I had a wonderful conversion back to faith when I was in my late twenties.  I decided it was not right to tell little kids things that aren’t true.  Because they believe you!  And then, if you try to tell them something IS true, like Jesus coming back to life and floating up to heaven like an angel, well, it just sounds like those other stories.

I wanted to celebrate the Resurrection with my kids.  I wondered how to do some kind of honor or justice to the best news I’ve ever heard and believed!  I looked to Jesus, and discovered that He celebrated Passover.  His last supper was a big Jewish holiday.  And Passover was all about death “passing over” the believers, or the chosen ones.  And on the third day, when we celebrate with bunnies and eggs, and a ham dinner, it is his victory over death that we are really glorying in! 

I got so interested in Passover, that we began having a Passover Seder for Easter dinner, or sometime that weekend.  My daughter loves to cook, and she prepared dish after wonderful dish of things we had never eaten before.  And we have celebrated Passover for the last twelve years or so.  We usually get the day wrong, and we often improvise on all the rules, but for teenagers, it was a great way to celebrate Easter.  There are prayers, and good food, and several wine toasts that made them more than happy to participate!  One year we actually had a “real Jew” come to our dinner.  He was a friend of my daughters and he told us that Passover is how he learned the effects of alcohol, and what he could handle.  He explained the general gist of the evening, “They tried to kill us.  We survived.  Now let’s eat!”

 This year, there will be little ones around again.  My husband’s little grand guys will be excited to find eggs and candy I’m sure.  And I find myself drawn to bunnies, and flowers, and jellybeans, as well as Easter candles, the Seder Plate, white linen, and pastel eggs.  Oh, and the wine. 

Something about Michael

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There is something about my Michael; something that emanates from him the way a little cloud of dirt encircles Pigpen.  But with Michael, it isn’t stinky, or dirty or even visible.  It is an attractive reassuring calm that draws the anxious like a magnet.  I have felt this calm in others, but it’s usually fleeing, or mood based.  It doesn’t seem to be a part of them.  But Michael ‘s very essence says,  “Don’t worry.” 
It needs no explanation. It just is. Like the air you breathe. Or the sun in the sky. It just is. A calm confident assurance that all is well.
I don’t know how he got it, or where he got it. But I told him that someday he might have to disappear so the crowds don’t press him too much, the way they did with Jesus.

Love the One You’re With

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November 28, 2011

Walking around in Denmark with my camera and my thoughts, I noticed a woman walking ahead of me with a child of about six years old. The woman I assumed was the mother was chatting away on her phone while the child be- bopped happily alongside her, not saying a word, but making little happy humming noises. I think of all the times I was on the phone when my kids were little. I think,

“Hey lady. You should talk on the phone when she’s not with you, or when she’s down for a nap or something. That happy hearted little kid will soon be a teenager who thinks you are an idiot and you don’t know what you’re talking about, and she will prefer her friends to you, any day of the week! Then she will be off and moved out altogether, and you will have plenty of time to be on the phone, but you will not want that.  You will wish you were back in the days of having a little happy hearted daughter who adores you to spend your day with.”

How is it that we always manage to waste time with the people we have wishing for someone else?  All the time the babies are little, we hold them and sigh, wishing for love, attention, and romance…(the adult version). And then they are grown and not needing us so very much. I am surrounded with attention and affection and love and romance and I find myself secretly wishing I had my kids around me.

So maybe, when you have a good love, a good friend, a loveable child, a sweet neighbor, a favorite aunt, or cousin, or sweetheart, you could give them all of your attention and appreciation. Knowing that it is unlikely that you will always have them. They may remain in your heart, but people are always moving around, or moving on, or breaking up, or dying. And then you wish for things that used to be. And once again find yourself wasting the now. Who is in your now? Who indeed?

The Call to Comfort

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Bring on the hot chocolate, the plush blankets, and the toasty crackling fire.  Light the lantern, pull out the candles and thank God for the season of rest.  There is something so wonderful about a quiet room with no TV. Gather around and read aloud or work on a puzzle. Or sit alone with a big mug of hot tea and breathe in the aroma. Be still and drink in the rest. Sweet Winter.