Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm Not Screwing Up My Kids for Life... I Think...

Every parent worries at some point if they are screwing up their kids for life.

When you start homeschooling, that fear and worry seems to triple.

Two and a half months now, the kids and I have been trying to find our place in the homeschooling world. At this point, I feel like Goldilocks:

We started out with an online school-at-home program "porridge"- Too Strict
We moved to unschooling- Too Relaxed (according to Hubby)
We started a more relaxed daily online curriculum program- Too Easy & Boring

At this point, I've thrown the homeschool porridge against the wall and am currently pouting in the corner, wondering if there's any porridge out there that's "just right" for my kids and I.

Two months now the consistency has been rather spotty. They do math at Khan Academy everyday, we've found literature and grammar curriculum that we've stuck with, and they write posts for their blog each week, but as far as science and history are concerned, we're just bouncing around.

I'm totally screwing up my kids' lives, aren't I? Why did I start homeschooling in the first place? Why did I think I was qualified to do this?

These thoughts stay in the back of my head like poison, seeping forward every once in a while to drive me bat shit crazy.

Needless to say, I've been stressed beyond belief lately.

My readers and my friends tell me that we'll figure it out. They say homeschooling takes adjustment
time. They say everything will fall into place when it's meant to. They say my decision was a good one.

I'm glad they have so much confidence in me, because most days, I feel super lost.

I fight with myself constantly, it seems. My brain is still in my-kids-need-to-be-on-or-above-grade-level mode that's hammered into us through the public school system. So, I looked up the standard curriculum for each of their grades, and they aren't covering it, in history and science. The Ginger hasn't started the solar system yet, and The Girl is supposed to be working her way through genetics and heredity (one of my FAVORITE subjects, by the way), and moving on to evolution soon. The Ginger is supposed to be up to his eyeballs in explorers and world history, and The Girl is supposed to be somewhere in the 1970s with American history.

Nope, nope, nope and nope. Is there an option E- None of the Above? Because that's where my kids are right now.

Now, when my inner Negative Nancy starts to scream at me, she totally overpowers the small voice saying, "Hey- your kids learned about the events leading up to the Revolutionary War since they started homeschooling. They learned about the European Renaissance prior to going to the Renaissance Festival a few weeks ago. You've started the different types of ecosystems with them and watched documentaries- and all of this, the kids still remember, instead of memorizing for a test and then forgetting, like in public school." 

Nope, that voice is drowned out by "Could my kids pass a standardized test right now, if they were tested?"

And let me tell you- I HATE standardized tests. It's because of the over-emphasis on standardized tests that I pulled my kids from public schools in the first place (well, one of the reasons). So why in the world they pop into my head like that is beyond me- unless I just like to beat myself up when I'm already down. How masochistic of me.

I thought the de-brainwashing would be easy for me. I thought I'd shed the philosophy preached by public schools, and standardized tests, and the US education system as a whole, of grade-levels and teach-test-retest and pass-fail pretty easily. I mean, I'm pretty Damn the Man on my own as it is, so I thought this would be easy for me, tough for the kids, because public school is all they've ever known.

But damn, it's sure throwing me for a loop, that's for sure.

When I started homeschooling my kids, I wanted our days to be filled with fun and learning. The things I still remember from school fall into 3 categories for me:
  1. Topics I was actually interested in.
  2. Topics that I use in everyday life, so I have to remember them.
  3. Topics that maybe didn't interest me at first, but were taught in a fun way that stuck with me.
This is how I wanted every day to be for my kids. I know subjects like math and literature/grammar are crucial to function in everyday life, so these would probably be met with some grumbling from the kids because they have to do them, but I wanted them to get done with the core subjects early in the day, so the rest of our day could be fun. I envisioned science experiments at our kitchen island, and teaching the kids yoga and meditation; Learning about the Roman Empire and then watching "Gladiator;" Field trips to the zoo after spending a week or two learning zoology; The Girl making money with her bow business and understanding business money basics and how to run a business; The Ginger making successful stop-motion videos and learning the history of animation. THIS is what I wanted homeschooling to be for us. 

And what's wrong with my vision? 


(Blink. Double blink. Smack myself in the forehead.)

NOTHING! That's what! It's time for me to kick Negative Nancy in the ass and send her on her way. It's time for me to stop doubting myself as a mom, and as a homeschooling mom. 

It's time to make my vision a reality.

And it's definitely time for me to stop thinking I'm screwing up my kids for life. Hell, I'm not off smoking crack, leaving my kids to fend for themselves, exposing them to the horrors of the world. I'm trying to find our place in the homeschooling world. Major difference there.

Homeschooling is a hell of an adjustment- one that apparently doesn't take less than 2 months like my over-achieving mind aimed for. I need to relax more. I need to meditate. Take a dose of my own medicine of free-flowing, hippie tree-hugging, stress-free beliefs. But when it comes to my kids, I just want to know that I'm making the right choices; that I'm not screwing up their lives forever.

That's what every Mom wants to know.

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  1. Aww honey... You KNOW what I'm going to say, so I won't repeat all the encouragement I've already said in other comments.

    I will say a couple things tho- 1) Hubby only gets a vote in your day-to-day schooling activities if he's actively involved. I'm serious about this one. I know that's counter-intuitive, because of COURSE he needs to be on board and involved with your kids' schooling- that's the whole point of home school! But- he needs to recognize that, unless he's able to be involved on a day-to-day basis, what he's doing is micro-managing, and not trusting you to do this thing. His vague idea that home school should be "like real school" denies the fact that what you're doing IS school. You're educating your children. Not following the public-school model, which has more in common with factory farming than with effective education, does not mean that you're "doing it wrong."

    He needs to respect and support you through this process, and if he wants to put his hat in the ring, he needs to pick a topic and explore it with the kids himself. And/or, he needs to do some reading on what effective homeschooling looks like. There's plenty of great information out there. I understand his schedule is a bit nuts, but as I said, if he wants to have a say, he needs to put some skin in the game.

    Secondly, you need a tribe, a network, a support group, of like-minded homeschoolers. You need to connect with other parents who are doing it, too. Trust me when I say, no homeschooling parent has it all together, just like no parent has it all together. Those who say they do are full of it up to their eyeballs. If you're NOT wondering if you're doing it right, you're not doing it right.

    Don't let the "religious" reputation of homeschool scare you, either. Yes, a LOT of people homeschool for religious reasons. More power to them. But a lot (even us religious folks) homeschool for other reasons, too. And not everyone is religious. In fact, there are dozens, and probably hundreds, of secular homeschool groups popping up, both "in real life" all over the country, and online.

    You'll probably have to "shop around" a bit to find a community that's a good fit for you, but it's worth it. Having that support and feedback is priceless.

    (((big squishing hugs)) Mama. You've got this. And you are doing good things for your kiddos. I know, because I did it for 3 years after a crappy public school experience, and have just this week returned to homeschool with my newly-minted highschooler. Talk about fear of screwing up his life!! "Doesn't he NEED a diploma??"
    "How will he ever go to college?"
    "How will he get a job?"
    "What about socialziation..."


    Hang in there. You've got this.

    1. Your comment is amazing! Thank you so much! I called a family meeting, sans Hubby, and the kids and I talked about everything, and came to some great decisions. I told Hubby about the meeting when he got home from work, and how I didn't wait for him because it didn't really affect him, lol. He actually agreed, which shocked me a little. I think the kids and I *might* be closer to finding our groove now. You know I'll let you know, lol. ;) Good luck with your high school homeschooling adventure!

  2. The fact that you are stressing means that you are doing a god job...because you care! Will you do a perfect job no, but what school does?! Being flexible and touching base with yourself, your kids, and keeping an eye on what the public school is doing (its a good basic guide) means you will be always moving forward in the right direction. Keep on keeping on mama!

    1. "Moving forward"- I like that! I told the kids that yesterday- as long as they felt like they were moving forward, we were doing good, lol. ;)