Friday, September 25, 2020

Famous last words

Pop quiz time!

Kelsie is enjoying homeschooling because __________ .

  1. She didn’t get enough connection with her kids over the summer.

  2. She felt aimless and purposeless all summer and it gives her a job.

  3. The structure of it is amazing.

  4. She is getting to know her kids better. 

  5. All of the above.

Okay, let’s test your Kelsie knowledge. If you guessed answer “e,” you are 100% correct and win the prize of knowing me well (or maybe having talked to me most recently).

Sorry if that was a spoiler alert. Now you know the jist of the rest of this post: I AM FREAKING ENJOYING HOMESCHOOLING!!! ???? !!!! 

These are words I thought would never be spoken. 

When Graham and I had preschool-aged kids, we discussed at length what our schooling selection would be for our offspring. Graham, a nearly exclusively private-schooled man, knew intimately, the benefits and drawbacks of said education style. I, on the other hand, could recite the positives and negatives of homeschooling, and so, as any sane couple might, we opted to go with the third option (that neither one of us fully experienced) that was public school.

As I kids grew older and I became wiser (and definitely more stubborn!), I can be quoted as having said, “I could never, ever homeschool my kids. I’m just not wired for it. We would butt heads and I would hate it. We need time apart from each other.” After unleashing these strong words, I added a small addendum in the tiniest of fonts, “...that is, I could never homeschool, unless me kids really, really needed me to.”

Fast forward half a decade, insert COVID-19, quarantine isolation from family and friends, strained relationships, and a whole lot of famous-last-word laughs, and here I am homeschooling and liking it. Most of the time. The times are strange, y'all. 

I realize I kind of went dead silent on the blog. Constant humanity surrounding one can do that, I suppose. For those who need an update and/or for whom the introduction to this post has not sufficiently clarified, as of August 31st of this year, I became a Homeschooling Mom! We officially withdrew the younger two (Isla continues with remote school - her choice) from our district and enrolled them in a program called Connections Academy in Washington State that is essentially public school homeschool. All the curriculum is pre-arranged and is shipped to our door (for free, I might add), and “all” I have to do is teach it. The program prearranges daily lessons for each kid, but we have the freedom to move them around and stack them to fit our schedule if we want a lighter day or a day off. 

Coming to this decision was not easy but spring made one thing clear in our household: remote school via Zoom calls does not work for a certain individual with whom we’ve been given the privilege of raising. Constant screen use was problematic, distracting, and resulted in undesirable behaviors. For the other young client, it seemed developmentally inappropriate to “do school” remotely, and, when he asked for me to homeschool him all on his own, it felt like a done deal. We realize it is an extreme privilege and luxury that I am home full time right now and able to do this. And let’s be real, if Graham hadn’t agreed to step in and take the Friday schooling shift so I could have a break, I don’t know that I would have been on board. But here we are. 

Please hear me though, our schooling experience has been far from rainbows and butterflies. I have yelled. I have walked out on my students. If you’ve driven by our house on any given day, you’ve likely seen a kid running laps around the house for unsatisfactory behavior. We’ve had lots of tears and most days are excruciatingly frustrating in some way or another. One kid (whose self esteem we were already tending to) failed their first math test and was gifted a literal “F” letter grade flashing on the screen...way to build that confidence, Connections! 

I would go as far as to say the first week of school was mild hell. No one knew what they were doing. We didn’t have all the textbooks (but we didn’t yet know that) so nothing seemed to be matching up. What was touted as being “only 30%” on screens was averaging about 90% on screens (refer back to missing textbook issue above) and we thought we’d made a horribly poor decision because one of the main reasons we chose this option was to be on screens less while at the same time not having to organize our own curriculum. 


In the midst of the extreme challenges, here we are and I am giddy to realize we made the right choice for us. And things are going really well, if you choose to operate under a broader definition of that word. I realize that I often don’t write as much when things are going well. Hardship tends to fuel my typing fingers, I guess. So it felt important that I document right now, in 2020, the things that are going RIGHT for once. 

I knew we’d made the best choice for us when our district sent an email late last week stating they are beginning to work toward implementing a hybrid form of in-person school for certain parties IF the number of COVID-19 cases stays down. I had anticipated an email such as this would send me into a happy dance of elation, but instead, I felt really heavy of heart and borderline sad. 

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!” I thought. And then “Omigosh no! I think it’s happened! I am actually LIKING what we are doing.”

I am still stunned that I feel this way. Let’s get back to the pop quiz that I kicked us off with. Summer was hard. There was so much togetherness yet very little connection with the kids at the same time. I felt so busy supervising, feeding, doling out snacks yet SO BORED. They were frequently occupied playing outside at home (a good thing!) but I felt like I lost a little piece of them that I was longing to reclaim as I brought them back under my wing. I think they would say they lived their best life but their mama did not. While they were much more independent than any season ever before, I was indefinitely “on duty” and rarely able to completely disengage and take a full break. It was challenging to deep dive into any projects or creative ventures because the inevitable interruption was only moments away. It felt like I was living on the surface and couldn’t put down roots.

I knew I wasn’t exactly happy during the Summer of Quarantine, but it wasn’t clear just how purposeless I felt until a new purpose was introduced to me: the role of educating my kids. While I am the first to preach the respectable, essential and important job of parenting, there’s no denying that, with the title of “Teacher,” comes a heap of universal respect that unfortunately is not present when one’s title is “Mother.” I had no idea how much I needed to be needed by someone until, well, I was. And reintroducing wake times and break times and start times and STRUCTURE to our days certainly hasn't been hurting anybody either. Suddenly I went from feeling aimless and bored yet haggard and tired to having a full-time job where the margins only allow for the occasional sweeping under the kitchen table, if even that. The days are taxing and they fly by, but at the same time, are incredibly rewarding.

Upon the encouragement of my seasoned-at-homeschooling sister-in-law, I stashed a small notebook in the drawer of our homeschooling desk where I record “payday” moments in our homeschooling experience. Since the compensation I am being offered is no better than in my prior role (merely the knowledge that I am doing something worthwhile), I am trying to record interactions, cute things the kids say, or “win” moments that act as my “pay” for doing this job. It’s a great lens for me to look at the day through. By default, my Type 1 Enneagram personality has me constantly seeing the world based on how it can be improved. But this view helps me see what is good and cherished about right now. 

Another thing I am enjoying immensely is the intricate challenge of “figuring my kids out.” One of them couldn’t be less like me and the learning curve is steep, trying to make sense of their brain processes. It’s super exciting to try to "crack the code" with new strategies and motivation tactics. If you would have asked me 3 ½ weeks ago whether hoverboards and trapeze bars belonged in the classroom, I would have said a BIG FAT NO. But time, 20 school days to be exact, has taught me that what I think makes a good learning environment doesn’t ring true for everyone. When my kid can recite back to me word for word what I just read while swinging on a trapeze, but can’t do so when seated at the desk, it causes one to become flexible prrrrretty quickly.  

So for the many of you who have asked the question of the month, "How is homeschooling going?", I present you my long-winded answer. And whatever you do, please do not forget the precursor that led to this blessed enjoyment: A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Would I have enjoyed this role without the 6 months of isolation that preceded it? We shall never know. So I'm just gonna celebrate that, at this moment, I am enjoying my crazy hard new job.

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