After the twins were born in late March, and our homeschooling year was brought to an abrupt end, I fielded a lot of questions about whether or not we would continue to homeschool the next year. Looking back, it’s interesting to note that not one of those questions came from my homeschooling friends.
For people who’ve always participated in traditional education, I think there is a very distinct line between “schooling” and “living”. Speaking for myself, before I became a homeschooling parent, I always thought homeschooling was okay for those people that were educated enough, and had enough time and resources to take on a whole other job on top of the requisite
exhausting joyful job of parenting.
For the most part, homeschoolers don’t see it that way. Learning is part of living. Sometimes there will be lots of time and space for hands on projects and deep study. Sometimes a workbook and a video will have to do. It all comes out in the wash. Occasionally, there will be longish periods of workbooks and videos. It’s okay, say veteran homeschoolers, assuming you’re trying, it will all balance out in the long run. Homeschoolers are long term investors. They don’t cash out just because the market is in a slump.
But I was NOT a veteran homeschooler. I was a little apprehensive about how well I’d do educating my children while caring for three babies under two. So I decided on the wait-and-see approach. I’d wait until we got close to the August 1 start date of public school and see how well I was doing as a mama of five. In the meantime, I’d plan and prepare as though we were going to homeschool.
As the summer ended, things were looking pretty good. I started schooling my kids the second week of August. I was beginning a week later than our local school, but I didn’t feel behind. I’d thrown out Latin, and Saxon Phonics, and most of the historical literature program. I signed the kids up for a tutorial where they took art, choir, history, and knitting, of all things. Our daily docket now fit on one page: A history read aloud, that I could do while feeding babies, math, which was still a chore, a computerized reading program for Grey, a daily grammar worksheet for Zoë, and weekly science lessons. Zoë was still a voracious reader, so I just selected books I wanted her to read and discuss with me, and she did this as well as Rosetta Stone on her own time.
The babies were occasionally distracting, especially during math lessons, but most of the time they did this:
After, or between, our admittedly pared down lessons, there was plenty of time for this:
Most of the other homeschool mamas, more experienced and therefore less anxious, hadn’t even begun lessons yet. Many were waiting for the YMCA pool to close for the summer. Our homeschool group felt we owned the Y during those few weeks between the start of the Metro school calendar and Labor Day.
On August 21st, there was a homeschool kickoff meet and greet at the home of one of my friends. We talked and laughed and drank wine and exchanged info on upcoming programs. My phone kept going off – I had this really obnoxious alert when I got a text or voicemail. It was this tinny little kid’s voice saying, “You have a tiny text message. A very tiny one. Please read it.” Everyone thought it was hysterical. They kept reminding me how at last year’s kick-off, after listening to a dozen people say they had four or more kids, I’d introduced myself, by saying, “Hi my name is Jen, and I feel reproductively challenged.” I, of course, had no idea I was pregnant with twins at the time.
“You should’ve been careful what you wished for,” everyone said.
Even though these mothers had spent the last four months bringing us meals, and cleaning my house, and doing our laundry, each one still wanted to be sure I knew I could call on her for help if I needed it.
“No, really, we’re doing great,” I repeated again and again.
An hour later, 15 minutes after getting home, I called for help.
“Anna,” I sobbed, “I can’t get anyone on the phone. No one is answering. I just got home and Mike told me and I can’t get anyone to tell me if he’s right and he told me they called and he said they said my mother died.”
And there they were again, these warrior women. They came and they cooked and they watched my children and they cleaned my house. They brought me lattes because they were driving down my street, they sent emails 20 times a day to check on me. And they weren’t the only ones. People from church brought meals. Mothers of a couple of Mike’s students, students that had graduated years before, swooped in too. Jamie and Colleen came and whisked my kids off to the zoo and the botanical gardens to give me some space for my grief.
But, in the end, my grief was just too big. I couldn’t read the math text through my tears. I couldn’t get through a chapter of The Story of the World without getting a catch in my throat. The only thing I was teaching my children was that sorrow was deep and vast and wide. So I did what I had to do. A week before Thanksgiving, I put them back in school.