Saw a link on Facebook from a homeschool mom who shared what she would do differently now as a homeschool mom. I could relate to some of it. It was posted by a homeschool mom I rarely see, but care about very much. I often read the comments on blog posts, but decided this time to write about my own list first.
First of all, I didn't know then what I know now. Part of the journey of homeschooling is the learning that the parent does. So, maybe this is all just a moot point. But, let's see ...
1. I would de-emphasize intelligence and strongly emphasize character. Thing is, I actually thought I was doing this. Truth is, my "students" were all above average. I was constantly amazed by their grasp of concepts, their precociousness, and the joy I felt at just watching them learn. I didn't realize I was reinforcing intelligence as much as I did. There were multiple times when something they did or said just BLEW ME AWAY. Like Valerie just up and reading the back cover of the Billy Graham autobiography I was reading. What was she, three? Four, at the most. I hadn't even tried to teach her to read. I didn't know that kids could learn to read just be being read to.
2. I would understand that no one else was going to be as thrilled about my children as I, and instead of rueing that, I would be affirming and encouraging to every other mother I came into contact with, realizing that she was as excited about her kids as I was about mine. At the time, my hands (and mind!) were full. The kids were born in 93, 94, and 95, and then 98. Kepler came along years after the first four, but I wasn't just homeschooling one -- I had a class!
3. I would be so much kinder to myself. Nothing ever felt like it was enough, and I know MANY homeschool mothers who experience this. Probably just about everyone who homeschools feels this at some point.
4. I would recognize a kid "come-apart" as an opportunity, not a sign that I was failing at my job. This might be the biggest one for me. I had a misunderstanding about my own role and responsibility in the feelings of my children. I needed them to be happy, and that was probably the biggest disservice I did them in my zeal.
5. I would remember that every type of school situation is good for someone, and every type of situation is also less-than-ideal for someone. Now that I'm on this side of things, where the educational methods of our kids include(d) some homeschooling, a bit of public school, years of a two-day-a-week homeschool set-up, an exhausting early grades online school, a poorly-administered online high school online, and the learn-while-you-sleep method we practiced for a few weeks months, I've discovered that there are PROS and CONS to every method.
(As an aside, big-time homeschooler mother, Mary Hood, wrote a book (June 1995) called "Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell." Back when I started homeschooling, there were only a few voices writing about it. Although I never bought into Mary's philosophy, the title comes to me often when I put my little Kepler on the school bus and send him to school where he is absolutely loved and cherished by his team. From the bus driver, to the school secretary, to the librarian, to the other students, I hear all the time how much joy he brings them. And they, as a group, give him things I simply cannot provide at home. )
6. I would find a balance between the heavy peer pressure of the school setting, and the freedom we had as homeschoolers. Without adequate preparation, going into public school can be (and was) traumatic. Happy-go-lucky kids who were unself-conscious became very self-conscious when they entered the public school system, not because they were deficient, not because the school system was evil, but because there are developmental phases that happen.
7. I would never, ever, ever compare my insides to anyone else's outsides. Because, you know what? My insides ALWAYS came up lacking, when I looked at someone else and thought I knew ANYTHING about them based on what I saw.
8. I would find a balance between my very laid-back teaching style, and a more directive style. Both styles work in different situations, but some work better than others with young learners.
9. I would get up earlier and get us going and have a routine that we stuck to for more that a few days or weeks. Yes, back then, I was exhausted, dealt with depression, and had several "owies" on my heart. But that would have been a great example to my children, and one less thing to chastise myself about.
10. I would get professional photos taken every year. Well, I think I would. No, this one is that I would take a similarly posed photo in a similar place every year. I still have extra copies of the professional school photos I got of every child from every year. They're so hard to let go of, even if we have enough for every person in our family! My photos would be all about the heart of the learning, the heart of the family, the heart of the giving, the heart of the love.
Things I am extremely glad I (we) did?
1. Read out loud, nearly every day and evening.
2. Do as much experiential learning as we could.
3. Practiced as best I could, a lifestyle of learning.
4. Enjoyed our children.
5. Made it through.
I guess you can't see all the blog posts that are in my mind, because they never got written down.
Remember? I started working at the grocery store in June. Twotimes I crept home from the store and wrote about my experience. Most other days, I collapsed on the couch and pondered the state of my aching knees, hips, feet, shoulders, arms, and hands. Even with that, it took me four months to quit the job, in tears, and begin to heal.
At first, I dreamed about the store. I missed it and had to clothespin my lips closed when I went in to shop lest I blurt out my desire to come back to the familiar pain.
A month of recovery later, my knees could bend without constant pain; my hips went back to their normally schedule programming; and the knot in my back had loosened.
Two months of recovery later, I can walk in the store, buy my pomegranates and cereal and grass-fed beef, and have but a distant memory of stuffing product on shelves, cleaning up after customers (such messy people), and rushing, rushing, rushing to get the unending and unreasonable to-do list a little smaller.
I do miss T., one of the store co-managers, and L., my remarkable boss, and N., a co-worker.
In the quiet of my home, the memory of the non-stop sensory stimulation continues to become more distant. No longer does the advertisement for Forever Stamps echo in my head. The ache in my hands from baling the cardboard has faded. Straightening hundreds of bottles of shampoo and body wash no longer takes up any space in my life.
Retail is kind of brutal, when all is said and done. Local store personnel, dedicated and committed, are constantly dealing with choices made by distant corporate types. Distant corporate types who occasionally come by, unannounced, and see that their minions are doing it all right. The pay is low, the hours are long, the work is hard, and the workers are faithful. Not all of them, of course, but the core group at my store were committed to providing the customer with a great shopping experience. And they did, as great as it can be when the shelves are mostly full of highly processed products, all crying out for attention -- Buy me! Extra roll enclosed! See my colorful packaging! New! For a limited time!
Plenty of other women my age, in my season of life, don't have the luxury of deciding the job is too physically demanding. If nothing else, that brief foray into working in the retail grocery business opened my eyes to what many people have to do to earn minimum wage.