Friday, May 6, 2016

Last Day

It's 10:30 pm on a Friday night and I'm about to clap shut my laptop. Today is my last day as a homeschooling mom.

I have taught anywhere from one to three of my kids at home for the past 12 years. (And none of them have ever been in five-day school.) All three are headed to a regular, brick-and-mortar, five-day-a-week school next year for 8th, 9th, and 12th grade. Radical.

Like all big endings, it has been a little anticlimactic: hassling one child to finish one final test, shuffling through files, last minute grading, an impromptu grocery store run, realizing transcripts will be polished up next week rather than today. Not with a bang but a whimper.

But it feels momentous to me.

Thank you, and goodnight, to homeschooling's curious, wild, busy, funny, angsty, peaceful, "lovely, dark, and deep" ride.

Our family has been viewed as kooky and offbeat.

We been viewed as conservative and authoritarian.

We've been viewed as rebels, madmen, and saints.

Of course we are none of these -- or perhaps all of these. Just like any family trying to creatively "do" life in the way that seems to fit with our lifestyle, resources, values, and needs.

I've been a terrible mom, I've been an amazing mom -- sometimes all in the same hour.

My children are quirky in some ways, brilliant in some ways, regular in most ways. Just like yours.

I have a shrewd, natural test-taker, and one who used to bomb standardized tests.

I have kids with different learning styles, different strengths, and different test scores. I have a math avoider and one who "hates" reading. (Though lately this kid has started talking animatedly about his reading.) One has been in learning therapy pretty regularly (and benefited greatly).

I have a philosopher, an engineer, and a pragmatic businesswoman. I have a child who carefully lines up pencils and ruler in the workspace and keeps a detailed calendar; I have one who can't find homework.

I've taught my kids in China and America, on the east coast and in the southwest. In the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the library, in the car.

I've used material from the internet, from neighbors, from friends, from books.

I've personally seen and experienced the kind of resources and co-ops that spring up in freedom-rich cultural and legal environments (Texas!) -- and the dearth of same in educationally narrow-minded and culturally parochial parts of the country.

Some of my best friends are other homeschooling moms. And some of my other best friends are not. I have gained wisdom from both about parenting.

The kids and I have worked so closely together, with all of our flaws and strengths. I have learned some basic things.

It's counter-intuitive, but start work each day with the youngest before you work with the older kids. Make sure everyone reads aloud each day. Let each do math at the time of day when they are mentally fresh. Take a short break every 30 minutes. Pick the curriculum that appeals to you as much as it appeals to them. Encourage each kid to study in his own way (eg, one kid may study by orally telling you all about what is going to be on the test, one kid may study by making flashcards. Both ways are fine and I only figured that out this year). Three words: Saturday morning chores. Have a short family devotion every morning -- ie, reflect on the forest before you head for the trees. Laughter really is the best medicine. Laugh easily, pray hard.

Most of these things I learned the hard way. And so many other things I still have not figured out. Homeschooling did not come naturally to me.

Somehow, the kids are alright. Not amazing. Not terrible. Like yours.

Gooodnight, homeschooling. I'm going to miss you.

And tomorrow I am finally going to catch up with the laundry.

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace at home." Goethe

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