What I am Learning About Homeschooling (& Myself)

We are one month into homeschooling officially.  Unofficially we’ve been doing it since June, but those first three months were mainly focused on language and literacy, with a small amount of math.  Now we are into Science and Social Studies, fully into Math and continuing along with Language Arts.  Phys Ed is less a ‘class’ and more a daily survival method.  And a teaching strategy.  Art is… well, Art is something that Berrik gets quite a bit of in his classes at Phoenix as so much of what they learn is through creating.  So we don’t focus on art too much at home.  Thirty days in and this is what I have learned:

  1. I am competitive. I want to win at everything.  (I don’t… but I’d like to).  Homeschooling is not a competition.  And ‘winning’ is not the same in this context.  This has been something that I have had to really spend time with, inside my head.  Winning in this context is many things.  A productive, grounded, confident adult (it’s important to have long range goals, right?).  Literacy. Numeracy.  As Berrik develops skills in both of these areas, we continue to win.  There is no end goal in these skills…. my literacy continues to develop still.  I hope his does throughout his life as well.  Last Monday, winning was getting through the afternoon without resorting to threats or bribes (ok, so I didn’t officially win that one…  Next time.  Maybe.  Probably not.  Sigh).  Because of the humanness of good days and bad days and good hours and bad hours, and unexpected interruptions to our day due to a sick or injured sister (both on the same day!), winning is sometimes just still being functional at the end of the day.  Or maybe even just still breathing.  I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday who I love.  She gets me.  She works with kids like Berrik so she knows what’s what.  I don’t have to explain things like that to her.  And she’s a killer mom too.  She told me that I was good at homeschooling and that I needed to cut myself some slack.  She’s right, but it’s so much easier said than done.  I’m riding that roller coaster and learning to brace myself through the downhills and spirals, but darn it, if Berrik has a good ‘learning’ day, and I feel like we’ve made progress, then I feel like I’m winning.  When everything goes to hell and I feel lucky that everyone’s been fed that day (and let’s be clear, they are usually fed on those days because I’ve ordered in), then I start to doubt myself and feel like I am ruining Berrik’s life.  Dramatic, I know.  Ask my mom – I have an incredible flair for the dramatic.  And lucky me, I passed this trait on to 2 of my 3 children.  I guess I should feel more for Kevin on that.  Sorry dude.  Genetics are funny that way.  Ha ha.  Joke’s on you. 😉  But I digress.  My point in all this rambling is that I’m beginning to realize that the wins are not the higher level of reading that Berrik has moved to, or the new math concept that he has mastered.  It’s the time I’m spending with my boy, and my whole family.  It’s the ability to eat dinner together at the table and talk about our days (even if we’re eating take out and I look like I’ve been through the ringer).  It’s the deeper understanding of what makes all my kids tick.  It’s learning to cut myself (and my kids) some slack.  I read yesterday a quote that said, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.”  This is something I need to remember.  And with humans, failure is relative.  We may fail at one thing on one day, but in the big picture it’s all success because we are happy, healthy, learning new things, and moving forward.
  2. Learning happens all the time, not just 9-3.  This is something that I really love about homeschooling.  I feel like there is significantly more ability to foster creative curiosity about the world around us when we are homeschooling.  And not just in Berrik.  I am constantly looking around now, looking for opportunities to show Berrik something that might help him understand a concept.  I’m noticing things more.  And now Berrik is too.  The more I try to show him things, the more questions he asks.  This is such a significant life skill, and one that I am re-developing right alongside Berrik.  This realization helps me somewhat with my issues in point #1.  Even if we get through exactly zero ‘official’ school work, Berrik is always learning.  Sometimes he’s learning patience as we wait in Dr. office with sister, or get in the car, AGAIN, to get sister to her acro class, or pick up sick sister from school.  I have purposely refused to allow him technology in these circumstances because patience is a virtue (which means we are BOTH working on this in these moments), and knowing how to entertain yourself is a critical life skill.  In this age of technology, most of us have lost the ability.  And if you’re bored in the car, there is nothing else to do but look around you and see what’s going on in the world.  Berrik fires questions at me like an interrogator in the CIA in the car (and don’t think it doesn’t occur to me that if I just gave him the Nintendo DS, I could have a little peace and quiet while we drive!), and I like that (In theory.  I like it in theory because it means he’s curious about his world.  In reality I’d like to listen to Alt Nation and pretend I’m on a fun road trip back to Kelowna to hangout with Dorrie and Jon in their VIP house with their VIP food and visit beautiful wineries…)
  3. Every homeschooler approaches homeschooling differently.  For different reasons.  At Phoenix I have talked to a few parents. And I have a few friends who homeschool.  Their reasons and approaches are all different.  I’ve come to realize that’s a good thing.  The competitor in me tends to want to compare what I’m doing to what others are doing and see if I measure up.  I’ve had to consciously decide to stop this. More than once. Everyone is different because everyone is different.  Duh.  The only question to ask myself is whether our approach and reasons are working for us as a family.  So far, I would say yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  And if I ask the kids what they think about how things are going this year, they all tell me they like it.  Kevin is 100% behind me on this too.  Not that it hasn’t taken some adjustments….  “Oh, you’re not working this year?  Super, I’ll just stop doing all of the things I used to do to help out…”  Um, no.  I’m actually working quite a bit more this year….  just different work (and super crappy paycheque).  We’re adjusting and figuring things out.  Kevin knows now that if I appear that I’ve been through the ringer that day, I likely have, and he should tread carefully.  “Hi honey… um….how was your day?…  Thanks for ordering dinner in tonight…Great idea.  Why don’t I take Berrik outside to play ball for a bit?”  Hahaha.  He’s so smart and catches on so quickly.  (For the record, this only happened one day this month, but I foresee more opportunities for Kevin to apply his learning in this area….).

It is early days for us when it comes to homeschooling.  I feel like I will learn more from this experience than anyone.  And I am pretty sure the ‘wins’ for the year will be much more significant than literacy or numeracy.

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