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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

if you were to come over for coffee...

So, I have this friend I know from college. She messaged me the other day to say, so hey, thinking about homeschooling, would love your opinion, wish I could drop by for coffee so we could chat.

And so. This post.

"If you were to come over for coffee to ask about homeschooling."

First off. I would hug you. I am huggy to people. Especially yoga pant wearing moms thinking about homeschooling.

You would come in, pull boots and coats off your kids, pile them in the tiny front entryway (dream-someday-house has a mudroom entryway!)

Then I would say, wait, brainstorm, lets send them ALL out, so we can talk in peace. HA HA, you say, LOVE IT.

So we pile on the layers, and send them outside. Yes, yes, you can have hot chocolate when you come in, NOW GO, and DON'T LOSE YOUR MITTENS AGAIN. We both breathe a sigh of relief. QUIET.

Then I would flutter around the kitchen. I get like this when people are over. Like, I cant quite focus on talking and making coffee at the same time. So I let the tea kettle sit for too long, the water gets cool again, finally, I remember, there, fresh pot of French press coffee is setting up. AH.

We sit down, I shove aside some paper, some Legos off the table, stray crayons and hair ties and a few gushy Cheerios.

I did not clean for you, you dont expect it. HA.

We grumble about the weather for a minute (a requirement in these parts in late winter) then we grumble about colds and coughs that won't go away. Then you look at me.

So. I say. You want to hear about homeschooling.

Yes. You say. Give it to me. Yes, no, good, bad. All of it.

I say, I need coffee first. So we pour giant mugs of coffee (my French press is HUGE. Ikea, if you are wondering.)

Okay. Now.

On cue, our two littlest ones start banging on the door. They have been outside for precisely 12 minutes so, of course. We pull off their winter clothes "Mama, it is COLD outside for my little nose" says my Little Green. Finally ten minutes later after potty trips and pulling out the giant falling apart box of Duplos ("go build a castle!" we say) and settling a fight about who gets the Sleeping Beauty Duplo figure...finally.

Okay. Coffee sips.

Yes. So. Homeschool.

Be prepared.

I rant for too long, I realize after, about how exhausting it is. You have to be ON THE BALL, ALL THE TIME. And trying to work in household tasks. Good grief. It is neverending. Forget being crafty, ever again. Forget about sitting, sipping coffee in peace. And, if you let them watch TV during the school week, for that peaceful morning, forget about it, they ask all day. NO TV. Only the occasional Youtube video about Yanomami Indians for your jungle unit study. And you will doubt yourself, I say, so much, so get ready for another thing to be insecure about. Why is his spelling so bad, why doesnt she get addition as easily as he brother? And then the preschooler, her older siblings got so much, and you must be neglecting her, somehow. And you will look at your Pinterest boards and LITERALLY want to cry. So many creative lovely things you could do that you cant get done because its just ALL TOO DAMN MUCH.

I take a deep breath and drink more coffee. Like a man chugging beer at a bar.

Your eyes start rolling back into your head. You are sorry you asked. You shift uncomfortably in your chair.


Wait for it.

I lean forward in my chair for emphasis. You ABSOLUTELY SHOULD DO IT. I slam my fist on the table. ABSOLUTELY.

So now you are totally confused.

Why? Crazy lady. Why would I ever want to do this awful thing?

Because. You may feel all that. You might. But. BUT.


How do I even convey it to you?

You know that first step you saw? When your baby was little?

Yes, sure, you say.

Watching them learn to read is like that. Being the one to teach them. To read to them from a great book of literature and watch their eyes light up.

But, you say, I can do that stuff even if they are in school.

Yes. I know, I say. You totally do do that stuff. I know you do.

See, here is the thing. You know your kids, unlike anyone else. How they learn, what they like, when is too much, when they need more. To be the one to teach them, to have that relationship become one of learning, learning together, as a daily pursuit. Well, who better than the one who knows them best. Watching their intellect unfold is amazing. Being a part of that journey.

So, I say, if you can do it, hack it, even for a spell, absolutely, be a part of that journey!

Oh, you say. We sit sipping coffee for a minute. That came out kind of garbled. I try to think of a different way to explain. HA.

And then, I say, there is the practical too.

No getting up at the crack of dawn to pack kids off on the bus. No driving 45 minutes each way to the decent private school you can afford. You can be flexible, do trips, go to the zoo when its empty, not on Saturdays when its packed. You can avoid flu season. Icy roads. Snow storms.

And then there is also the reason for school. To learn. Not to pass a test, not to hang out with friends. To help them learn to love learning. That life is learning. Sure, there are times that means sitting down with a book, making them re-copy spelling words, correcting book reports and math problems and slogging through a "Frog and Toad" story with your child who can barely read.

There are all those things.

But. There is also the luxury of delight in learning. A leisurely pace. A savoring of new information. Dwelling on things that fascinate. For weeks.

And also. YOU GET TO ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR KID. Not just here and there. But EVERY DAY. Like, ITS YOUR JOB.

Revel in watching a butterfly unfold its wings in the sunshine. Go for a hike on the first nice day of spring. Bring your nature guide and sketch book. Watch videos on drawing, and spend the morning making cartoon strips. Stay up late to watch a meteor shower. Push their natural interests a step further. "Hey," I might say to my girl as she paints, "I saw this artist online the other day, I thought you might want to try and copy a picture?" Or. "Did you know in the Middle Ages they used bread like a plate? Ooooh, lets have a Medieval feast for dinner tonight!"


Unfettered learning.

You get all starry eyed as you listen. SOUNDS LOVELY. You say.

Yes. Lovely. Hard. As life is. You know.

And then, all the negative things you can avoid. I don't like delving into this, I say, I mean, why be negative, and because there are so many generalizations that aren't fair. Some of my favorite people are amazing teachers, creating great learning environments for their students. But. In general. I like to avoid tests. And pressure, in these early years. Its unnecessary. The whole "institutionalization of learning environments these days..." and "politicians making decisions about my kids and their learning", and "corporations making money off of tests." I might say something like this...but not for long.

But, this too. The social thing. (No, not THAT social thing. "Lack of social interaction" is not at all a reason to not homeschool. Its a non issue. Because its not true. But, in any case...) No, I mean, the quick growing up thing. I like to give my kids the chance to be kids, longer. To let my 8 year old boy love fairies without getting teased. To shield my girl from the concept of "having a boyfriend" and being fashion obsessed and etc. To not run into the teacher experience that includes being ridiculed for day dreaming in Math class (MY own experience, back in the 2nd grade). To give "gifted" experiences and opportunities for my kids without having them labeled as such (MY experience as well...) To avoid labels in general. Let them be who they are. And figure that out before peers and teachers try to put them in boxes.

All of this. Unfettered, relaxed, joyful, sometimes tear inducing (BUT MOM, I just don't GET IT) but still and yet... loving, wondering, learning goodness.

You sigh.

Its a big choice, you say. Will you do it forever?

Eh, I shrug. I dont know. Maybe? Maybe not? Depends on the kid. Right now, we are good. So. That is enough.

How did you start? you say. I mean, how should I start, if I wanted to?

Well. That is probably another coffee date, I laugh. Next week? On cue, the kids bust through the door panting, hot chocolate time.

Full disclosure: The kids just played all morning so I could write this post, instead of school. Ironic, no??? HA HA HA. Uh. Come on kids. TIME FOR SCHOOL.

ETA: It took hours to get this post ready as we decided to make a diorama of a jungle for "jungle school" today and I am now covered in green paint, as are the children, as is the kitchen, and actually, the cat...don't ask...and the house is literally a DISASTER..but my 3 yr old is now playing with the lovely little rainforest in a box and is talking to the animals about "our home in the Amazon" and the kids said this was "the best jungle school so far" so. VICTORY. HA. See??? Yes. This.

And yes, you could totally do it.

copying a Kandinsky

toddler decided to circle all the beautiful plants for the farm we are going to buy ;)

looks simple but this is the worlds most complicated Lego maze, once he explains the rules


old oatmeal box=fairy house, of course


  1. Yaaaaaa I love this post so much my boy officially de reg on Monday but hadn't been to school since a week before christmas, home schooling both of them now 8 and 4. Thankyou so much wish i had been able to pop round for that coffee you mentioned lol

    1. Emma!! yay so excited for you!! wish you could come by for a cuppa too. maybe someday!!

  2. Thanks Sara!! Carry on Mama~love me( with tears of gratefulness and joy)

    1. aw. my mama everyone. homeschooler extraordinaire. love you too :)


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