The Forest

As I mentioned in my last post, the first couple weeks of our homeschooling experience has had its ups and downs. Part of the challenge is like any other beginning to the school year — to know what the expectations are, to learn and understand how a normal day unfolds, and just in general settling into a routine takes time. At our home school we learned quickly that the schedule we meticulously set this summer for our average day needed a major overhaul and by day 2 we were re-writing it. It’s ok, though, we half-expected that – even the best, most carefully laid plans rarely survive contact with reality without requiring major changes. This is especially true when your reality includes 2 very bright children: one a slow, methodical, perfectionist  9year-old learner and one a very speedy, impatient nearly 7year-old learner who has very little attention to or interest in details unless she is specifically interested in said details.

Oy.

Suffice to say by the middle of week two, I was starting to come undone a bit. It wasn’t concern about my kids’ education. Really that part is pretty clear — we’ve researched and worked hard to make sure that is all laid out to set our children up for success. No, my concerns were based more in questions like ‘will my children would still like me at all when they are grown after this or just see me as a crazy schoolmarm’ and ‘will I survive this exercise?’ The best way I can describe how those first two weeks felt are if you imagine not working out of the house for 10years and then not only starting a full-time career again, but make it a running new company with headquarters in your home and you spend 24hours a day and 7 days a week with your coworkers. The return to work alone is a shock to the system and — especially for an introvert like myself — the 24/7 of it is just draining and exhausting. There were evenings when I mostly just wanted to cry or at the very least not speak or think for a couple hours once our school day ended. Those were the ‘down’ moments — although difficult in the moment, I knew they were things I’d get used to in time.

The ‘up’ moments included how my son sat down very maturely with me to discuss changes to his schedule, asking for very reasonable alterations like math in the afternoon instead of the morning and time for creative writing. It was pretty nice to be able to fast-forward my daughter through the first couple units of math because she really didn’t need to spend multiple days practicing counting to 10 since she counts to 110+ with ease and accuracy. It has been awesome to see my son relax and really thrive without the anxiety he had in his public school. I loved finding inspiration for my daughter to improve her handwriting with the promise of being able to be pen-pals with my mom. It was really amazing to have a lesson in plants that allowed us to spend time in the garden and to have the freedom to take field trips for hands-on learning. And it was pretty cool how it just worked out that the local art center is offering art classes for home schoolers once a week that works with our schedule. The ‘ups’ were pretty significant.

I’m thankful for my husband who despite working long hours at his job does his best to provide me with those important quiet moments. When I was at my wits end because when my daughter gets bored or tired a lot of the negative stuff she witnessed last year in school comes out in a torrent, it’s my husband who could easily see the forest for the trees and helped me set up some accountability and incentive for her to leave that behavior behind her.  I’m thankful that his field days with the kids are optional for me — so that I can write or clean or do all the things that are no longer happening during the daytime.

I’m also thankful for our sweet dog, Moose.

https://i1.wp.com/photos-f.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10691622_1519527824950925_396905110_n.jpg

Not only providing extra snuggles in the evenings, whenever my daughter is having a moment he comes over to try to calm everyone down. As ridiculous as it is, it works! It’s hard not to laugh when this big crazy dog is thwacking into everything with his wild tail or when he inadvertently picks the kitchen table up with his back and moves it 2″ this way and 4″ that way. It’s hard for my daughter to remember whatever random thing she doesn’t feel like doing when the 85lb dog is burrowing his head into her lap, too. He is such a huge help.

And I’m thankful for knitting which gives me a form of meditation, something to quiet my mind, and a sense of accomplishment no matter what the day brings. This weekend, I took advantage of some time in the car and some real weekend time and got some real knitting done. I’m very happy to share that I not only finished my Pussywillow Mitts

FO hand-inBut I also wrapped up my String Theory Colorworks AfterThought Heel Socks

IMG_6421They are drying now, so a better photo will be coming in a couple days. Don’t forget — this is the String Theory Colorworks yarn for which we have a 15% off coupon code through Sept 19th!

And I also finally got those pockets on my Little Wave sweater with what I’m dubbing the ‘Green Mountain Spinnery Miracle Skeins’…

IMG_6430You might remember I came up short on yarn for this sweater.  So one year later I went to the same annual fiber festival where I purchased the original skeins and picked up the last two skeins in the yarn & color of the sweater. And they just happened to be the same dye lot.

After the ups and downs of beginning the school year, it felt really good to wrap-up some projects. While it always feels good to click away on something, that satisfying tick from WIP to FO was even more monumental this weekend after a somewhat emotional week. I know our weeks and months and years as homeschooling parents — and as parents in general — will always be full of ups and downs. I think it is simply the nature of the beast. While in the moment it can be really hard to see the forest for the trees, I know that overall we are getting closer every day to having all the daily routine wrinkles ironed-out. I know that the kids are working hard and are very happy. I know that I will most likely survive this exercise and my kids will probably still like me when they’re grown. I know that the kids will have a great education and we will have bonds that are — according to my son — indestructible. These sentiments are the forest that is sometimes obscured in the moment, the thoughts I need to keep in mind when the dog is knocking the table all over the kitchen.

This week is another week and while it probably won’t be perfect, we’ll all do our best, we’ll all keep working those wrinkles out, we’ll remain thankful that we have this awesome opportunity to be a homeschooling family, and hopefully we’ll manage to keep the kitchen table upright. I’ll keep my knitting close and the forest in my sights.

11 responses to “The Forest

  1. I don’t know if this helps, but the home school thing does smooth out after a bit. I know mine and Grace’s first few weeks were nearly maddening, but now (4 years later), it’s all pretty peaceful most of the time. 🙂

    • It does, thanks! I know both kids have had similar ‘growing pains’ at the start of every school year, so it’s not that the process is new. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page as far as working together and as well as independently. For me, it’s also just getting used to finding time for all the house ‘stuff’ that needs to get done when everyone is used to that all just magically happening when they aren’t around. And to still find time for my own outlets. It’ll all be fine. Like I said, I’ll keep the knitting (aka stress relief) nearby and try to keep the big picture in mind.

  2. A really interesting post. Home schooling is not something you come across much in the UK but it does happen. It is also viewed as bit a bit ‘geeky’ or ‘self indulgent’ whilst I’m very sure it is not. Is it viewed differently in Wisconsin? Just interested.

    • I would say if there is any stereotype here it would be that homeschooling is for either the very ‘hippie/granola’ or it’s for the very religious. That actually freaked me out in the early days of this decision because we are neither. The truth is though that everyone comes to it for very different reasons and it’s actually becoming much more mainstream here. I have had a number of teachers in the kids’ old school actually encourage us just because they say that based on our children, our family, and how the system is set up, the kids would have better opportunities to learn through a homeschool.

  3. So glad you are finding success, Sarah. My son, Merritt, has been begging me for a pen pal, someone who likes nature and the outdoors….he’s in 4th grade, but maybe we could work something out if you think she might be interested?

  4. A lot to take in in your post. I want that dog!! or one just like it, please… Home schooling? woo hoo, that’s scary. I had three boys and I would not have contemplated it – not for the school-work itself but for the rough and tumble, which they need to get used to. I also wanted to protect them from the bad things about school, but I would not have taken that giant step which you have taken. It will be interesting to read how it goes on for you all. I really wish you well. I think you are brave. One thought – when I was considering having my mother to live with us when she became too ill and frail to live alone anymore, we considered everything about having her here to live. E.g. where she would live without having to go upstairs, bathroom requirements – living in the same house as her daughter and her husband and three teenage sons! We thought we’d considered everything. I went to the doctor to discuss it with him and he asked me lots of questions. One of the questions he asked was ‘what provisions are you making for her to see other members of her peer group’ i.e. other old ladies? I hadn’t even given it a thought. I had imagined her living with us as part of the family, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I might have a whole stream of little old ladies popping in and out at all times of the day and all the cups of tea and pieces of cake that would entail.
    In the end, my mother didn’t come here to live for a different reason entirely but yes, they do need their peers and it is worth considering. They need the challenges.

    • It is a lot to take in and a big adjustment for us, to be sure. For us, it wasn’t really about protecting the kids from bad things at school – we aren’t really the sheltering types – but more about both kids (for very different reasons) falling through the cracks in the system. And we, as parents, were in a position to homeschool. I actually think the kids have more opportunity to form those important social bonds now than in the public school system, too. It’s a lot and it’s something we don’t take lightly, but we’re very open to what’s best for the kids – whether it’s homeschooling for one year or many – and I’m just thankful it’s an option for us.

  5. The Pussywillow mitts are gorgeous! That’s the 1st photo on my screen where I’ve been able to see the color variation. Congratulations on surviving your first few weeks of homeschooling. Sounds like you’ve got good sense about picking your battles & knowing when to change what’s not working & when to keep plugging away at the unwanted work. That’s the biggest hurdle to homeschooling I think. You may want to look into the Flat Stanley program. You make a (or multiple) Flat Stanley, ship him off to some other host family while you host someone else’s. The kids can write about your guest’s adventures, learn a little geography, & sometimes, if you are lucky, the family hosting your Stanley learns you are a knitter & sends you yarn from far away places. It’s a fantastic program & our whole family enjoyed it. Just Google if you aren’t familiar. Another suggestion – start or find a creative writing group for the kids. Creating your own is no where near as hard as it sounds & you can contact me privately if you want. It’s a great way for the kids not only to make new friends but to learn that writing can be fun & that they do have important things to say and that they don’t always have to be said perfectly. One last thing, & it sounds like you are already aware, finding “me time” is SO important to a successful homeschool lifestyle. You’ll burn out in about 20 minutes if you don’t. Just like the airlines tell you, put your own O2 mask on 1st. You have to help yourself before you help someone else. Now, I’m off to figure out what to do with my time. This is the first year in 13 years I have not been a homeschooling mom. I feel a major case of knitter’s carpal tunnel coming on. 🙂

    • Thanks for all the info – I appreciate it! One thing I really love about the homeschooling community is how helpful everyone is! Thankfully, we have a very active arts center in our town where the kids are currently in art classes and they also do creative writing groups among other things. We also have a really good YMCA that has classes for homeschool families and where we swim regularly and the kids always run into friends. Lots of great outlets & resources! Our main concern for the first few months is to not overbook while we get our ‘sea legs’ – lol!

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