This homeschooling thing that we're doing--I love it. I love getting to be with my children and I love getting to witness their lives unfolding right in front of me instead of wondering what they're up to at school. I like the conversations we have at lunchtime together and I love updating my Facebook status with random funny things that they've said to me throughout the day. I love it that Bluebird is affectionately referred to as "Einstein" by people at church. I love it that my children are learning about things that I think are important to learn about, rather than things that some group of people decided they needed to know about.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--I don't love it one hundred percent of the time. I don't like feeling like we're slogging through the work with one eye on the clock until our scheduled snack break. I don't like how I feel like I'm having to ignore my younger children in order to attend the older children's educational needs. I don't like feeling like I'm kind of being left behind while my adults friends send their children off to public school and suddenly get to pursue interests of their own while I'm playing slave-driver in our basement, trying to coax Bluebird to remember how to add nine to a number or convincing Penguin to read more than one page of her phonics curriculum.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it's fun. It's fun to play with glue and glitter and construction paper. It's fun to cook up ethnic meals and learn about how other cultures celebrate their important holidays. It's fun to go on nature hikes and make my kids think I'm a freakin' genius when I can tell them what kind of tree that is and what animal made that pawprint in the mud. It's fun to act out historical events in the backyard and to have inside jokes that most adults don't understand. It's fun to go at our own pace on field trips and to do what we want to do on Fridays.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it's not fun. It's not fun to clean up glue and glitter and little tiny pieces of glue-and-glitter-covered pieces of construction paper that are stuck to the carpet. It's not fun to wash the cat to get the glue and glitter out of her fur after someone forgot (yet again) to put away the glue and glitter. It's not fun to yell for the girls to come back and stay with me on nature hikes while I carry Monkeyboy in one arm and tug on Baxter's leash with the other. It's not fun to feel like the only place we can go is our backyard after four hours of summoning my last drops of patience in order to get through our lessons on a bad day. It's not fun when people quiz my kids instead of having a conversation with them. It's not fun to pack up four young children and take them anywhere by myself.
This homeschooling thing we're doing--I really look forward to it. I really look forward to starting a new read aloud book with the kids and I look forward to hearing about the books they've read from the library. I look forward to doing art projects and going on field trips. I look forward to listening to them tell Michael about what they learned during the day. I look forward to picking out curriculum and I love to dream about all the fun things we're going to do in a new school year. I look forward to working on Girl Scout badges and the feeling of pride I feel when all four of them are quietly working around the table during schooltime. I feel like such a great mother during those times.
This homeschooling thing we're doing--I don't look forward to it sometimes. I don't look forward to trying to be a good example of work ethic, cheerfulness and patience on the days that I wake up feeling like I would be better suited to pursuing some sort of violent vocation. I don't look forward to teaching my kids while knowing there is a sink of dirty dishes, carpets that need vacuuming and clothes that need folding...and that if I wasn't doing this homeschooling thing, those chores would be completed before lunch instead of trying to simultaneously complete them while cooking dinner and supervising baths later in the evening. I don't look forward to the feeling that I'm somehow not doing enough, ever. I don't feel like I'm a good mother on the days I yell at my children or the days when I have to back out of other commitments because I don't have time for them because I homeschool my children.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it makes me feel empty sometimes. It makes me feel empty when I've given all my energy to making the day go well and have nothing left over in the evening for me or my husband. It makes me feel empty when I'm sitting with friends and all they can talk about is their children's teachers or classmates; when the realization that I homeschool lights up in their eyes, but then they shrug it off and continue in the comfort zone of their conversation despite its isolating effect upon me. I feel empty when I have to be honest with myself and cancel yet another awesome field trip because it just won't work at this time in our lives. It makes me feel empty when I feel proud about the things I'm doing and someone else points out that those same things could have happened if my kids went to public school...but that then I would have had time to work on something for myself. It makes me feel empty when people think I'm "wasting" my college degree by staying home and educating my children. It makes me feel empty when I try to explain why I love homeschooling and parents who send their children to public school go on the attack to prove why I've made a bad choice for my children.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it fills my soul. I taught my children to read, which is one of the biggest and most life-affecting skills a person can have. I know my children and we are such a team. I love knowing that I am crafting personal educational experiences that cater to my children's strength, weaknesses and interest. I'm proud of myself for doing the best thing for my children despite how difficult it is. It fills my soul to have conversations with my children throughout the entire day about things we are both familiar with, instead of me trying to glean information about their day spent somewhere else. It fills my soul to watch the four of them help each other learn a new thing or explain a difficult concept in a way the younger sibling can understand. It fills my soul to hear my daughters answer that their sisters are their best friends. It fills my soul to hear them ask for "just one more story" from the children's scriptures or that we sing "just one more song" during our morning devotional. It fills my soul when I ask what they learned in Sunday School and they tell me it just review of "something we'd already learned in school."
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it's not black and white, but a rainbow of things. It's love and apprehension, guilt and euphoric success. It's life. It doesn't fit into neat little homework folders and it can't be displayed solely upon the mantle and the refrigerator. It's messy and spewed throughout the house with no regard for order and school hours. It's maddening that my superwoman organization skills are maxed out to the extreme and not able to keep it all contained. It's a full-fledged job at home with no pay.
This homeschooling thing that we're doing--it's a lifestyle, not a hobby that can simply be abandoned or shelved when it's not interesting for a while. Homeschooling is a choice; a conviction if you will...you don't give up on it when the going gets tough. People who would never suggest someone abandon their faith during a time of personal struggle need to realize that homeschooling falls into the same territory for many homeschoolers. It's more than "Do-It-Yourself Education." It's a matter of heart and soul; so incredibly personal that it can't be explained by any blanket statement because every family's reasons for choosing homeschooing are completely unique and driven by an expansive collection of motivations.