the truth about homeschooling

October 21, 2020

i return to the blog! it’s been six years and five months, which happens to be the age of my firstborn, but who’s counting? i enjoy writing and am happy to have my fingers dance across the keyboard once again. the last time i wrote something other than an instagram caption, my audience consisted of family and close friends. today, it looks a bit different, a bit broader, and while i feel a slight hesitance about being vulnerable with a larger audience, i am reminded of two things: 1. no one reads blogs anymore and 2. comments can be turned off.

these writings will hopefully be uplifting, informative, honest, and will focus on art, art processes, ideas, and, of course, family matters. these words are simply a reflection of my experiences and observations, and, depending on the chaos around me, i may write once a week or once a year. i cannot put these pressures and demands on myself when my number one job is to raise kind humans with my husband while making art along the way. so no expectations, k? here we go:

this year has been ____ (fill in the blank)___. we each have our own versions of how two thousand and twenty has unfolded in our lives. it’s been quite the year! like most of you, i have found myself in a new season, a new chapter, a little disoriented, sometimes frightened, usually annoyed, and a lot of times sad (mostly when i’m on my phone). but let’s go back to the chapter, specifically, chapter 32: homeschooling.

while za and i have considered it in the past, homeschooling has never really been an option until this year. the tipping point, or the nudge, rather, was that we couldn’t get enough of each other. we loved being crammed into a 1200 sf cottage where everyone was glued to a screen in attempts to learn, teach, or maintain a business. think: algebra 2 lessons at the kitchen table, abc mouse on the couch, kindergarten schoology conference on the floor, and painting time lapses at the counter. and somehow, in the midst of this odd, futuristic scene, we forgot about those things that were invented, what were they called?—headphones.

the true nudge was za’s and my desire for our children to have an uninterrupted, engaging, and screen-less education during a year of unknowns. we are especially grateful to have my career bend and shape around this plan, as we know it’s not an option for many.

so at some point over the pandemic, we got a six foot tall, cream-color carpeted cat tower. you should have seen how many comments rolled in about us becoming ‘those people’. well, let me tell you, the homeschool stigma is like that except 100 x worse. unless you’re homeschooling, don’t deny it, you think it’s a little bit weird, right? i’ve even been that skeptic in my adulthood, and i was homeschooled (there’s a reason you didn’t know that). luckily, the global pandemic has given us a one-year pass to try out the homeschool lifestyle without losing our social status.

so, the truth about homeschooling. it’s seriously incredible. and incredibly hard. in six weeks i’ve seen my two kin babies become more confident, brave, kind, and generally content.

most importantly, they have my full, uninterrupted attention. we’ve gone from the go-go-go mentality, to the stop, look, and listen mentality–and not just when we cross the street. my mind isn’t drifting off thinking about chores or paintings (ok, sometimes..i’m human!), but mostly, i’m focused and engaged. observing is my new full-time job.

the second thing that has changed drastically is the amount of time we spend outside. we’re working on our ‘1000 hours outside challenge’. slowly, i’ve noticed the kids have stopped asking to watch tv and demanding new toys because they’re bored, but instead, without prompting, they’re playing outside. usually on their own, with no direction or instruction. free play. it took 100 hours of being outside (which took us about 3 weeks) to form that habit.

the amount of time we spend reading is the third shift in our lives. every day, my first grader reads five short books aloud, and i read a chapter book (with minimal pictures) to them for at least thirty minutes a day—yes, my three year old listens, too. we’re working on increasing their reading stamina and imagination, and i’ve found that the most engaging, silly stories work best to hold their attention.

so that’s the incredible part—seeing our children transform in front of us, for the better. their vision is clearer and the more they learn, the more they want to know. and the best part is, i know exactly what they’re learning and can make those connections throughout the day, even after “school” lets out.

the incredibly hard part is adjusting to the new norm. our day to day looks very different these days. i’ve redirected my attention from my career onto my children’s education, which, if i’m going to be honest, is intimidating! many doubts fill my mind: will they actually learn anything? am i teaching this correctly? do they need more socialization? is this the right decision?

but then…

i am reminded of my calling to be a mother, and when i compare the most beautiful painting i’ve made to the shaping and molding of the minds and hearts of my kin, i am at ease, as they are incomparable. i may not move as many paintings this season, but this investment of time in my children, although some days are just plain exhausting and very sweaty (thanks, florida), feels purposeful. and knowing that brings me great joy and confidence for my family’s future.

resources:

1000 hours outside challenge

books supporting outdoor play in childhood development:
last child in the woods
balanced and barefoot

books jensen is reading right now to gain confidence
bob books
the good and the beautiful beginner books

books i’ve read to the kids:
winnie the pooh
mrs. piggle wiggle
paddington bear
my father’s dragon

sometimes before bed we listen to:
the good and the beautiful story time (audio)