Home schooling has a culture all it’s own. It’s a lifestyle that envelopes a mother’s world where space and knowledge is shared under the roof, at the table, out in the forest, and throughout the worm filled garden. At one moment I’ve ran towards a new model of education for my kids when all I could see were little people learning to read unashamedly at their pace and thirsting for knowledge without mockery or the dull lulls of an understaffed classroom. Just as soon as my ideals bring imaginary pictures of children hungry to learn and eager to eat up new words and their meanings, I try to implement a new idea and I’m faced with the reality that home schooling is crushing for the perfectionist and disabling for the most impatient of hearts. Then I close the !@#$%^& home schooling resource guide, throw it across the room and go back to letting children play at parks and ride scooters down the street. That’s about all the schooling I can handle.
In theory I so believe in the beauty of a home schooled child. I’ve known some strange home schooled families where all the girls wear long skirts with white socks and running shoes and seem to know how to bake cookies but don’t know any black or Hispanic people in their community. I’ve had a strange view of the home schooled child but I’m speaking more of a structure that teaches children to love learning and prepare them for living in the world. I think it’s incredibly unfortunate when parents use Christian curriculum with the strict intent of not polluting a child’s mind with propaganda that wreaks of humanism while neglecting the classics like Latin or mythological poetry or black American history. I love the idea of children being introduced to classic education at a young age since they likely won’t receive most of that type of learning in school.
I understand not everyone can or wants to home school. I completely believe that parents can raise incredibly bright, creative, well educated, loving and compassionate children without ever home schooling so I’m not a purist about it. I’m only writing about my life and what I would like to choose for our family. Again, I love the idea of schooling my kids at home but there have been so many impatient and intense moments where I have doubts about my ability to see this through.
The past few days I have been working with Oliver for 10 minutes at a time to sound out letters and write out three letter words. I never ask him if he wants to do it with me. He’ll always say no. I just tell him what we’re going to do. He has put his head down on the table in frustration a few times already (another perfectionist) and I’ve sighed heavily and put my hands up to my eyes when he just isn’t getting something or I can’t find the words to explain it. But we’ve also had a few moments of victory when he gets it right and his eyes light up as I shout, “Yes! You did it, boy!”
The title of an Anne Lamott book has been influential for me as I race through life trying to live it to the fullest, RIGHT NOW! I’m not a slow walker nor do I stroll confidently through the forest, hands linked behind by back without a care in the world. I race up and down my stairs to quickly get the laundry done. I weed while I’m making a phone call because I don’t like to just stand there on the phone for more than a minute or two and I multi task at every possible opportunity. In her book Anne Lemmot recalls a moment when her brother was young and put off a bird report for a class project. He waited untill the last minute to get started so naturally the panic of a sudden due date was looming. As he sat down to write, overwhelmed by the task ahead his father calmed him by saying, “Just take it bird by bird, one thing at a time until you have your report” (my paraphrase).
I realize that if I am going to do this I can’t be too much of a perfectionist about it. I really don’t even like that word, perfectionist. I prefer saying that I like to master a craft or at least do it very well. Perfectionism implies anal and uptight, which I can be at times. I do enjoy life and I see the beauty in my garden, my house, my kids and my friggin’ handsome husband. There are many things that I admire to bring rest and refreshment into my life and walking through the woods is actually one of them. But embarking on a task is a big deal for me because if I’m going to do it I’m going to fully jump in. If it’s not working out I’d like to try something else or work through it until I master it. This is how I’ve taught myself to garden, to sew, cook, bake, play music, sing (most people don’t know that I am actually quite good) and other crafts that I have learned over the years. I read, research, ask questions and I always observe. Then I try and try some more. This is what Matt admires about me. My tenacity and stick to it attitude. But you really have to take home education one step at a time. Rejoice with the small victories, step back and evaluate to make sure you have been able to teach something to your little humans and also have fun with them. It’s not always easy to do when you get stuck or you’re dealing with another little will that sits at your table wanting to make rocket sounds every time you try to ask how many beans are in the cup.
Today the boy understands that C-A-T spells cat and R-A-T spells rat. For me, today, that is good enough. We are taking home schooling bird by bird.