Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where has the time gone?

Wow, it's been more than a year since I have even looked at my blog. I can't even say why that is, other than life is a flowy thing. The kids keep changing and I keep changing and sometimes the things that you are focusing on shift. I shifted away from this bog for a while, I think, because for a while I didn't really know what to say, or had nothing to say, or couldn't figure out what to say... Maybe all of the above.

In the time since my last post, our family has morphed. I now have a high schooler and a middle schooler. Somehow, I find myself parenting a soon-to-be 15 year old and a soon-to-be 13 year old. It doesn't seem real. Where did that first grader go? What happened to dress up and play dough? Long, long gone.

Homeschooling has shifted for us as well. We stopped doing most of the co-op classes that we relied on for so long, and have been stream-lining our schooling to fit in what we have to do so we can still have time for all of the extracurricular activities my kids want to do. Suddenly, I am farming most of the schooling out and the rest is algebra and homework. Not exactly riveting.

The stress of making sure that my daughter gets all of her proper high school credits has also been very much on my mind this past year and a half. One of my goals has always been to make sure that my kids are well positioned to do whatever they decide to do with their lives and it is pretty evident at this point that college will have to be part of the plan. College means going through all the hoops, and so I suppose that means high school is where our family has to start hoop-jumping again. We have always been a bit on the unstructured side and so slowly transitioning to a heavier and more traditional work load has been a bit uncomfortable. They are learning how to better manage their time and do things like take notes and tests. The time management issue is a big one. My kids personalities are also changing and so it's harder to pinpoint how we need to go about things.

My first one has always been uber social. Not a shy bone in her body, she needed to be out of the house and having interactions and input most of the time. The last couple of years, this has been changing. She no longer wants to be in groups learning if she can help it. She likes to study with one or two special friends, but would otherwise prefer to be at home now or pursuing her individual interests. I can't express enough how big of a shift this is for our homeschooling. For the past 8 years we have been out and about, doing all kinds of things largely because a day or two at home and she would be driving me crazy. Now... she doesn't always want to go to class. "Can't you just give me some assignments or find an online course?" Whaaaat? That said, the ages of 12 and 13 were pretty impossible. This (mostly) mature, self possessed person is a very welcome change, if a little scary. I can see the adult forming and pretty soon she'll be off orchestrating her own life. The prospect makes me feel joyful and also puts a gripping pain in my heart.

Meanwhile, child number two is entering those dreaded puberty years with a male child twist. While he is mostly still a sweet and compliant kid, sometimes I'd like to strangle him. Mostly he just does the minimum to get me off his back so he can go back to gaming. The only thing that will get him up happily in the morning is a soccer game. Otherwise, it's sullen floppiness and mumbling before noon. It doesn't get easier with each one does it? He's also not as academically inclined, so the increasing workload as he gets older, has been hard on him.

The other reason for outsourcing our lessons is that, frankly, I'm tired. Eight years, and I just no longer want to teach co-op classes, or anything else for that matter. As long as they continue to want to homeschool, I will do my best, but I really would like to pursue some of my own interests for a change. That's not precisely happening yet, but I can see that in a few years my little chickies will be flying the coop, and where and who will I be at that point? I hardly know. For now, I'm mostly a chauffeur and overall manager and planner. If nothing else, the driving gives me some time to think.

We still do a few lessons at home, but I like to call what we are doing now al la carte schooling. I'm not doing a lot of the teaching myself, but I'm also not stuck to one school or set of classes. It's still very nice to have the option to change things if they are not working well for us. We live in an area where it is easy to find resources. The internet opens up an additional range of options of course. Also, I am aware that I am very lucky to not have to work and have the funds to put them in whatever lessons we need.

I am thankful every day for these things, and I am thankful that we have been able to take this homeschool journey. It has made my kids stronger, and it has made my family stronger. However, if anyone says to you that homeschooling is easy, they are lying. It's like saying parenting is easy. Who would ever say that, right? Homeschooling is an extension of parenting and so with it goes all of the worry, and decisions to make, and trying to know when to push and when to back off, and never knowing if you are doing the right thing. It's just an added facet of that. I don't think that will ever change, whatever their ages. What mom ever stops worrying even when their kids are grown?

In looking back at what I had written before, I came across a post that still rings so true to me. In this Valentines day season, it also seems very apropos. I personally need constant reminding that I am not just a homeschool mom, but also just a "mom", so I am going to re-post my entry here.



Sharing the Love - Some Homeschool Perspective

Wow, I just realized that I have been posting my book since November. In a way, I think I'll miss the Katz', but I'm also ready to get back to posting about goings on in our area and homeschooling in general.

I think I'd like to start by letting you in to some of my ruminations of late. There has been a lot of ruminating, and stewing on my part.  It's been a frustrating year so far and I've been feeling very dissatisfied with many things... the way my kids behave, the kinds of work we are doing, the amount of work that is getting done, my inability to get them to help much around the house... and yet I realize that a lot of this is just my own focus and perceptions gone awry. I see other parents do this and see how often it leads to the kids going back to school, and yet here I am doing it too. I should know better.

Our kids are often amazing, thoughtful, unique and wonderful people, and yet all we can see are the faults and deficiencies. It's a matter of being able to acknowledge and celebrate the strengths too.

I think I'll come out of this year seeing it as very transformative. By August, I'll find myself in the custody of two "middle schoolers" and I feel like we are in transition. The kids are growing and changing slowly into adults and I am needing to change my own thinking and viewpoints as a result. 

I probably should take my own advice and "practice an attitude of gratitude". Even if the academic work isn't exactly what I had hoped for this year, it helps to get a reality check. What is most important? What is my most important role here? So many things vie for our attention as homeschoolers and there is never enough time in the day. It's so easy to get lost in the details. I feel like I've fallen prey to loosing the forest for the trees.

Here is an example. My daughter was required to take the ACT (or SAT) in order to get into a program sponsored by Duke University for "gifted" students. She is only a "7th grader", and so taking this test right now is very early. I spent a great deal of time worrying about this. I wanted her to study so she could do well. She didn't want to study it. A great deal of frustration ensued. What I forgot is that she shouldn't have to study for this, not yet. The intent at this point is only to give these kids experience. The test is made for high school kids getting ready to enter college, not middle schoolers. The scores won't matter. She'll take it later and do better. She's taken it, and made some serious mistakes on it (timing, direction reading, etc.), but it doesn't matter, she got the experience she needed, and I shouldn't have spent all that time worrying and pestering her about it. Just the fact that she was selected to have the opportunity to take it this early was an honor.

Foolish to waste so much time and energy worrying and fussing. Worry is a foolish thing, and yet we all do it.

Never mind the academics. My most important job here is still to be THE MOM. What I mean by that is to be PRESENT, ready to listen to the emotional ups and downs, to give a hug when it is needed, to be witness and supportive to what is important to our kids. Now, more than any other time since we have started this homeschool journey, my kids need me to be listening.  A child who doesn't feel emotionally and physically supported doesn't have the will and confidence to go out into the world and reach for their dreams.

I don't think adolescence is a time to back off and away from our kids. Their world is changing as they change and they need their parents to be present and on their side. There will be lessons about self-responsibilty and time management and the like. Those lessons are going to be hard. I may have to back off on the militant schedule mongering, but not on the support.

Even if we did nothing academic this year, it would be a successful year if both my kids were to learn to take personal responsibility for their own schedules and learning. This will probably require some serious falling on their faces, but I truly believe that a student who is present and doing the work for THEMSELVES is a successful student. A student who is present and doing for others (parents, teachers, etc.) is just going through the motions. I've seen too many middle school kids with this attitude. It's makes me very sad. They don't care and don't feel any responsibility for themselves. They don't have choice. How can they learn to make good choices if they never have the opportunity to choose for themselves when they are young? Education is something forced on them and they don't want to have any part of it if they can help it.

Things aren't this bad for us, thank goodness. The work hasn't been as bad as I often perceive it to be. At the end of the year, I'm sure I'll look back and marvel at all of the emotional, physical and academic growth that occurred.

This Valentines Day give yourself and your kids a hug. Share respect for each other. Be there to listen and hear what they are trying to say to you and listen to your own needs and wants. Find a balance that works for all of you. This is the secret to successful homeschooling at any age.