* Column of the Week:
I am a second-generation homeschool mom.
This means that not only did my mother homeschool me growing up (from the second grade onward), but I am also preparing to homeschool my children as well. At the time when my mother first decided to homeschool me, my four older siblings thought she was completely insane and had no problem telling her so.Â They voiced the usual complaints: â€œSheâ€™s going to have no social lifeâ€ or â€œShe wonâ€™t know how to interact with other kids!â€ Itâ€™s as if they thought that by removing me from a school, Iâ€™d end up with the psychological stability of Joaquin Phoenix on a good day, or moving to some strange, abandoned island a la Johnny Depp.
And even though itâ€™s clear that homeschooling didnâ€™t take away my odd preference for useless celebrity factoids, my family still thought it was just another one of my motherâ€™s â€œphasesâ€ (like when she decided to become a vegetarian or started talking to the flowers in her garden). But just like she hasnâ€™t touched meat in 30 years and still has the most emotionally secure petunias Iâ€™ve ever seen, this phase stuck too. In fact, I took so well to homeschooling (becoming the outgoing, happy, drama-free antithesis to my older siblings fears) that my eldest sister eventually went on to homeschool her three children as well.
Now that I am a mother of two daughters myself, I understand the value of homeschooling on a first hand basis. But thatâ€™s not to say that there arenâ€™t some serious drawbacks to being a Homeschooling Mom 2.0. This latest model comes with an economic downfall (making Calvert school literature look like the Gucci of curriculum), more social awareness (which means more negative comments on my Facebook wall), and yes, more expectations placed on mothers in general.
My husband lost his job 6 months ago because of the economy, and it took a devastating effect on our finances. I went from being a penny pinching, frugal, stingy mom, to being a distracted, disenchanted mother all together. Instead of worrying about my youngest daughterâ€™s special needs, I found myself freelancing faster than you can say â€œcarpel tunnelâ€. While we used to go on field trips to local museums or discuss the concept of addition over dinner, I now fixated on bills, bank accounts and boring mathematics (just donâ€™t tell my kids I think math is boring).
Suddenly I wasnâ€™t being the homeschooling mother I wanted to be, but exactly what my siblings used to dread. We werenâ€™t visiting local co-ops, joining tons of clubs and learning from a variety of friends and family. We didnâ€™t jump into different activities or let our life do the teaching. My daughter not only wasnâ€™t benefitting from being trapped at home with her stressed out momâ€¦she was actually losing out on the experience she so deserved.Â In the end, I decided to place my daughter in a lovely, church-run preschool nearby for a few days a week. We needed time to work ourselves out of this financial hole so that I could give homeschooling the focus it deserves. Luckily, the closer we get to the new school year, the closer I am to rejoining my daughter in her educational expedition once again.
Recently she came home from her morning at school and exclaimed, â€œMommy, my teacher taught me how to write my name!â€ I rejoiced and congratulated her on this amazing news, but secretly felt one emotion that only homeschooling moms could understand: sadness. My daughterâ€™s educational triumphs shouldnâ€™t be attributed to my good choice of school or lucky assignment of teacherâ€¦I want it to be because I shared that experience with her. If she needs to take some extra time on a difficult problem, I want to be the person cheering her on. Letâ€™s face it: when push comes to shove, homeschooling isnâ€™t just about teaching your child to read or learning how to multiply.
Homeschooling is about being present for the moment when your child finally understands something to which theyâ€™ve always struggled. Itâ€™s about climbing mountains together (both metaphorically and on the token nature hike), instead of giving them a sticker for their efforts later. Itâ€™s about being present in the most important journey your child will ever take (as messy, chaotic and stressful as that sometimes might be), and not given the usual â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€ when asked what they learned that day.
So even though I might not be achieving my own goals as a mom right now, Iâ€™m trying to do what homeschooling has taught meâ€¦. to roll with the punches. Times get tough, problems get trickier and projects get stickier, but itâ€™s about the steps along the way that really count. Plus, even if Iâ€™m more of a part-timer at the moment, there is no doubt about the fact that my heart belongs to homeschool.
If youâ€™ve ever been stared at like a leper after announcing your plan to homeschool while visiting that pearl-clad Moms Clubâ€¦you know youâ€™re a homeschool mom. If youâ€™ve ever literally jumped with glee when finding a way to connect the subplot of Glee with sociological problems in Rwandaâ€¦. youâ€™re a homeschool mom. And if youâ€™ve ever gone to the grocery store with a six year old, calculator and coupons, whilst pitching the term â€œlearning experienceâ€â€¦you sure as heck are a homeschool mom.
There is no perfect way to homeschool, just like there are no perfect moms. The best that we can do is make an effort, get involved, and try to enjoy ourselves every step of the way.
Donâ€™t worryâ€¦our kids will thank us later.
* For More On Teaching Your Child To Read, visit this link!
*Â Bailey Vincent Clark is the Editor-in-chief, author and founder of Makeover Momma. She hosts Makeover Momma TV on Tuesday (7 PM/EST & 4 PM/PT), and writes this column whenever she has time (i.e. never!)
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