I also know there are other long-time readers of my blogs who are smugly smiling to themselves, thinking, "I knew it would end up like this. She was headed for homeschooling from the very first instance when she started ripping on homeschoolers."
And both sentiments would be correct.
So, yeah, we're eight months into homeschooling first grade. Are we straight-up on-track? Of course not. See previous post and consider if you would be right where you needed to be if you had the kind of past year we have lived through. Nonetheless, we persist and press onward. Besides, I don't know a single homeschooler who is totally on-track. Wait, yes I do. Those two people totally annoy me.
In a nutshell: It's a mega-trial that I don't mind and sometimes actually enjoy. I'm assuming this is normal.
I have times when I feel super-excited about homeschooling, but just because I said that, don't look for me to get all happy-clappy about it like some blogs out there; for example, the ones that cleverly don't ever show you the ugly side of life, but then offer commentary getting all upset that people might actually gasp! horror! find something critical to say about your very public outlay. (OK, she has really great ideas and I've used her book lists more than once. But for God's sake, please stop making it look so easy and perfect; it's really off-putting to the rest of us. Oh, and stop making apologies for the 0.0000001% of photos in which your daughters are wearing pants because the modesty squad doesn't care and neither does God.)
Am I being mean? Perhaps. But my thoughts about that homeschooling blog somewhat echo the thoughts I have whenever I am at a homeschool event, which is, thankfully, not that often. I made a personal executive decision when we switched to homeschooling that I would not purposely torture myself with the sorts of homeschooling activities and get-togethers that I know will automatically drive me nuts.
That being said, every other Monday I bring Alan to homeschool gym class and every other Monday I look around and wonder lots of things, like:
-Do I belong here, really?
-Seriously? You're wearing that? Have you looked at a calendar? It's 2014, not 1992.
-Note to self: Alan will never come here in mis-matched, dirty clothes. (Although I admit I don't know what it's like to get seven kids out the door, so don't accuse me of being heartless; I acknowledge there are things I can't possibly understand.)
-Wow, Char, are you like the biggest bitch ever for thinking these thoughts?
-Would anyone here talk to me if they knew we were family singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Edge of Glory" on the drive over?
So, OK, the good news about homeschool gym is that other parents - who also happen to be friends - who were also at Alan's school (the one that closed) - are also in attendance. Which means I have people to talk to who I think are "normal," and thus, I don't feel alone and deserted in a sea of modest piousness. I've decided that these folks, including myself, represent "hope" in homeschooling - a second or third generation of homeschooling parents who have moved beyond the Catholic Ghetto mindset. At least that's what I'm betting on.
So, anyway, why did we do it?
A big part of it was Common Core. The Milwaukee Archdiocese has all but officially adopted Common Core and it's bullshit and I don't mind saying so in such harsh language. The more I read about it the more outraged I become at the idiocracy that is our government and educators - and sadly - many, many bishops and archbishops. When Alan's school closed we were left with, basically, two (2) parish schools in the entire archdiocese that we found acceptable and those two schools, while not having completely jumped on-board with Common Core from the onset, made it clear that they couldn't fight it off forever. Our attitude about this was: Wow! We can pay X amount of tuition to get Common Core at the Catholic school alongside watered down Catholicism or we can pay nothing and get Common Core at the public school. Gee, what a difficult decision! Not.
The next deciding factor was that the remaining independent, authentic Catholic schools in the Milwaukee area represented a number of issues for us. The one that we were seriously considering suddenly experienced a problematic situation that made us uncomfortable, alongside never really fully cutting ties with its Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi beginnings. The other school - also problematic in its administration and also way too far to drive out to.
Oh wait. There is a third school. Everyone who attends there goes to the Latin mass or is SSPX. Yeah, I don't think so.
There was also the reality that when Alan would walk into any first grade classroom, public or parochial, he would automatically be ahead of the curve. Sounds like a good thing, right? My husband and I didn't think so because our own personal experience was that teachers typically teach to the middle. So if you're high-functioning, you tend to get ignored. And we believe that most kids, not knowing any better in a group setting with other kids, will want to go with the herd - performing at a basic, in-the-middle level. We didn't want Alan to lose the great head start he had when he left kindergarten; a kindergarten that had completed Saxon Math Grade 1 and that had him reading at Grade 2 level.
The nail in the coffin was what I experienced and learned last year when Alan attended kindergarten at his now former school. For six months I volunteered to work on re-documenting the school's entire K-8 curriculum, down to each individual textbook, publisher, novel, and workbook. That process opened my eyes to the true nature of a classical, traditional curriculum, especially and including the Catholic part. Once I saw it and started thinking about it, there was no turning back. Alan had been fed caviar, if you will, and there was no way I was going to feed him junk and crap after that.
In many ways, I feel our decision to homeschool smacks of elitism and I occasionally worry about that. Thing is - like all of us, like all of you reading this - we only have one chance with our kids. I'm just not willing to sacrifice Alan as a Common Core guinea pig, even while I feel bad that others have no choice in the matter. Believe me, I have wonderful parent friends who post on Facebook about the horrors of Common Core math assignments that are coming home, but they just don't have the resources or options to do anything about it. I feel for them, but in the end analysis, it doesn't do me any personal good to worry if I'm coming off as elitist to them simply because we decided to get out of the fray.
There are many days where I deeply, deeply regret the decision to homeschool and it has everything to do with the fact that Alan is an only child and nothing to do with academics. Anyone who understands homeschooling and has been around homeschooled children knows that 90% of the time, the anti-homeschool arguments about the kids not being properly socialized are just bunk. However, in our case, it is my number one worry, given that Alan is alone with us almost 100% of the time and he's very aware of it and very lonely. Some days his behavior screams "I need to be with other kids!" and I can't disagree with him. But when I think it through to its logical conclusion, sending him to a school (of any kind) so that he can have approximately 45 to 60 minutes of playtime with other kids in the form of recess seems to miss the mark entirely. More seasoned homeschool mothers have told me it will get easier when Alan is old enough to participate in more activities. Sometimes I think that day can't come soon enough, and then other times I think such advice translates into my endlessly carting him around everywhere and that's something I can wait on.
Right now Alan goes to Tae-Kwon-Do twice a week, and Cub Scouts is on the agenda for next fall. Will hopefully get piano lessons in there sometime soon. We fit in a few "playdates" (gag, I hate that term) with kids from his old school when it works out for everyone involved. Other than that, it's us and Sponge Bob.
When our life is more settled - OK, get ready for this - I want to get to the point where we could go to a morning mass maybe once a week. This possibility has had to cook and evolve for a long time, given that I still cringe at internet goody-goody homeschoolers who gush all over about how they get to mass EVERY DAY! and if you're not doing the same, well then, you're doing something wrong. Turning off what other homeschoolers do, say, and opine is a big struggle for me.
Like when we recently tried - yet again - going to mass at the parish where more than 50% of Milwaukee area Catholic homeschoolers all congregate. Trust me, I'm gonna blog about that someday. Let's just say I walked out - yet again - wondering if I had landed on a foreign planet? Which makes me feel deeply insecure that not only do I decidedly not "fit in" with the rest of these people, but also makes me wonder why I'm so different from them, yet we've all made the same decision to homeschool and we all care deeply about our shared Catholic faith? AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the frumpy modesty memo. AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the missive on the absolute necessity of Latin chant and reciting the St. Michael prayer immediately at the close of mass. (Hey, I'm not saying these things are bad. Hardly. What I'm questioning is why all these folks seem to "get it" and I don't.)
So like most everything else in my life, homeschooling thus far is turning out to be another situation where I'm a loner. Will it stay that way? Probably, since when people ask me what I really think, I respond with what I really think, and then they don't usually have much interest in me. I recently found this to be true when I was asked by more than one person why I don't go to that parish where all the other homeschoolers go? I gather answers that include descriptions like "uber-pious" don't sit well with others. Ha! Ha? It doesn't matter, really - I've never let other people tell me what to do. Yet every so often my inner humanity cries out to be accepted and understood.
I find planning out curriculum easy, interesting, and something I care deeply about. I have loosely stuck with what the first grade curriculum would have been at Alan's former school. But various Facebook Catholic homeschool discussion groups I belong to have intrigued me in terms of exploring more curriculum options. I'm !gag! excited about an upcoming Catholic homeschool conference, though I admit I could care less about the speakers and just want to go so as to examine curriculum and shop. I was recently in a used book store and got all ecstatic about a large selection of kids' dictionaries and it was at that moment that I knew homeschooling may be for me.
But whether it's really for Alan, I don't know.
He is academically way, way beyond where he needs to be. Example - right now he's a first grader reading at a third grade level. We recently caught him in bed reading FOR HIMSELF the first book in the Narnia series! We were bowled over. But......the socialization thing. He is still so much a young, immature six-year-old boy. One minute he's asking us deep, beyond-his-age questions and the next he's talking baby talk and asking me to play mama/baby cat with him.
And also - I hope someone can talk me through this - I'm really excited to be teaching him about his authentic Catholic faith, but feel I am a lousy example, and thus failing at it. You know, the whole do what I say and not what I do thing. I mean, Lent around here is a joke, as usual. My husband routinely tells me to chill out and just give God what little crumbs I can and be satisfied with that until I am able to do better, but then I do things like go hunting for Lent ideas at blogs like the one I highlighted above, and well, you leave those blogs feeling like a lump of crap. Which begs the question, can a family homeschool in a vacuum?
Again, I assume the fears and joys I'm expressing here are normal for a first-year homeschooler. Especially since I have pretty much went at this alone. I didn't join some moms' discussion/prayer group and blubber out all my little insecurities or post a million insecure questions on some forum. I bought the curriculum and just went at it. Well, I did read a little of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy - which I think(?) I'm totally buying into - but given what's going on in our lives right now, I don't have time to read and learn more. So much for nature walks and narration - the two things I cared the most about are the two things we've done the least.
For now, I look at homeschooling as an experiment. Because that's all it could be at this time. But it's an experiment under OUR control, not under the control of the state, the Federal government, or the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
I plan on continuing next year. (Might as well, since we'll be homeschooling into the summer months and I KNOW I'm not alone on that one,)
I have no plan B if homeschooling doesn't end up being the best choice for our son. Then again, since there's no perfect school and no perfect homeschool, maybe I don't need a plan B. I don't see people with their kids in public school formulating any plan B, so why should I?
Homeschooling is hyper-magnifying our weaknesses as parents and as Catholics. There are times when I feel those are reasons alone to quit. Other times I see these weaknesses as an invitation to change, and can see that homeschooling is so, so much more than academics. Needless to say, the stress of the last year is something that needs to be overcome before I can work on "me." So Alan is being schooled by sinners who, at minimum, are aware of their status as mega-sinners. Tune in next year for a status update.
We do not feel we are superior to anyone who has made any other educational choice for their kids. I mean that sincerely. Although once in awhile I would appreciate an honest assessment by secular types of the obvious problems with educational
Family members, as of yet, haven't given us any flack so far, and we don't expect any. Neither, for the most part, have our friends, even while I know some of them have likely talked about our decision behind our backs. The worst we've had to deal with is our new neighbors who are effusive in their support for our town's public schools and who keep reminding us that the grade school Alan would be attending is only three blocks away and it is soo sooo great! We find it amusing that proximity is being used as an argument for attending a school. People know so little about what an education really is. I get in arguments on Facebook about Common Core and many times people just want to defend it because they really, really like the school their kid goes to or the teacher their kid has, and well, then, Common Core must be great! GROAN.
This blog post has been quite self-indulgent, and for this I apologize. My only defense is that I've been offline for so long, it takes awhile to catch up.
I expect some flack for what I've written here and that's OK. I am open to questions, of course.