"'And you've quite given [writing] up?' asked Christine.
'Not altogether...but I'm writing living epistles now,' said Anne, thinking of Jem and Co."
- Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery


Reason #2 - Flexibility

Okay, I'll admit it.  I'm very often late.  That's really hard for me to admit because it's probably the thing I like least about myself.  I hate being late.  I hate it so much that it is without a doubt the biggest stressor in my life.  I've tried lots of different strategies, but even if I have the kids dressed and ready and all packed up  for an outing hours early something will inevitably happen to throw a wrench in our plans and, despite all of my best efforts, we will be late.

When we are running late I am the worst version of myself.  I get grouchy and overwhelmed and I go from the calm mommy to a growling monster.  It's no fun.

Yesterday morning was growling monster day.  Cap had school and due to a last minute potty break we were about 15 minutes late to school.  Today is calm mommy day.  We've spent the morning eating breakfast together around the table, reading a new Veggie Tales devotional Cap discovered and just chatting.

When I picture the potential mornings of sending all of our kiddos off to school, I don't envision mornings like this one.  Instead I see growling monster mom and frustrated kids.  That scares me.  If the kids do go to school I will have precious little time with them.  I really don't want those times to be stress-filled moments that we all dread.  I'd much rather have the flexibility to spend our mornings enjoying each other as we go about the business of our day. (I'm much more productive on the mornings we don't have to rush out the door at 8.)

Being able to live a flexible lifestyle is a major reason that homeschooling appeals to me - and not just as it pertains to morning routines.  I think there is a lot of wisdom in Phil Vischer's words in his book, Me, Myself & Bob:
"If I am a Christian - if I have given Christ lordship of my life - where I am in five years is none of my business.  Where I am in twenty years is none of my business.  Where I am tomorrow is none of my business.  So our plan at Jellyfish - and it's an odd one, I'll admit - is to make no long-range plans unless God given them explicitly."  
There is something reassuring in the idea of letting God make the plans, especially because I'm pretty clueless most of the time.  But, even if I wanted to make long-term plans I couldn't.  I have absolutely no idea what our lives will look like a few months from now, let alone in five years.  My husband is a seminary student, working towards we have no idea what.  There is a good chance he may end up as a pastor...or not.  Who knows?

As members of the United Methodist church, the potential of Jeff becoming a pastor means an even greater need for flexibility.  Pastors in the UMC are subject to itineracy - meaning the leadership of the conference gets to choose where you will serve and when.  Last I heard the average appointment for a pastor is around 5 years.  That's a whole lot of uprooting for kids.  Not to mention that pastors kids have a tough row to hoe as it is.

Whether Jeff ends up serving as a pastor or not, it seems to me that homeschooling would provide some stability for our kids.  It would make frequent moves a little less traumatic.  We could take mid-year breaks to go visit relatives and friends who live further away.  Evenings that might be full of meetings and events wouldn't mean not getting to see Dad at all.

And beyond those freedoms there is the advantage of flexibility in day-to-day scheduling (Not feeling well today?  We'll do it tomorrow. ), flexibility in subject matter (Find a tangent that's interesting and educational?  Why not follow it?),  flexibility in learning style (If one teaching method isn't working we can just try something else.)  Education can be as fluid or as fixed as we want it to be.  We can do whatever works for us.  And that really excites me.


Even the bad days rock!

Yesterday was a really rough day.  Cap had a really bad day at school.  The teacher said he was "having trouble hitting", broke all of his crayons and was just angry all day. Both Cap and Skidamarink were grouchy on the walk home from school.  Cap because I wouldn't stop to put his coat on in the 80 degree weather and Skidamarink because I wouldn't let him cross the street by himself.  They both cried the entire way home.  So we got home, I immediately put both of them in bed.  The little one I watch arrived a few minutes later.  His contribution to the chaos was an extremely messy, change-the-clothes-and-mop-the-floor dirty diaper.

By the end of the day I had a tear-stained face,  three cranky children,  baby food covered clothes,  a dirty-diaper smell that I couldn't get rid off, a migraine and morning sickness.  It was not a good day.

And yet...

For such a bad day it had some beautiful moments.  Like when I was washing dishes and couldn't help but sit right down on the floor in the kitchen, scoop Skid up into my lap and cover him with hugs and kisses.  Or the conversation I had with Cap about his day at school...

After he had rested for awhile, I called him back out into the living room to sit and talk with me.  I asked him what had happened in school.  He shared with me that a boy in his class had been hitting him and he started hitting him back.  I have no idea if that's what happened.  The school's policy seems to be not to disclose any information involving other students (A really frustrating policy when  you only hear part of the story.  There's a little difference in how I respond to hearing that my son is randomly hitting other students and how I respond to hearing that my son takes a swing at a kid who is continually hitting/pushing/bullying the girls in the classroom.  I really don't want him hitting, but there is an significant difference in motivation here!)

We spent some time talking about how hitting is not good and how he should not hit others.  We talked about how hitting feels and how important it is to think of how other people feel.  And now comes the shining moment of the day:  Cap broke down in tears saying, "Mommy, I want to repent!" (Phraseology that he picked up watching What's in the Bible?)  He got down on his knees, buried his face in his hands  and cried.  I pulled him into my lap and asked if I could help him.  I helped him find the words as we prayed together, asking God for forgiveness and for help treating others with love.  Then I wrapped him up in a hug and just held him for awhile, giving him a tangible experience of forgiveness.

Those are the moments that make it all worth it.  For awhile I struggled with my decision to stay at home with my kids and how it would look to others.  Doesn't it make me look like a failure?  I mean I'm a decently intelligent and capable woman.  I got accepted into a highly selective pre-med program.  I could have done something.  It's moments like these that have taught me to have confidence in my decision. All of the baby poop, splattered food,  noise, mess and chaos is more than made up for by those spontaneous moments of guiding my little living epistles to the Father.  What more challenging, significant and breathtakingly honorable occupation could I ever have?


And We're Back...

The first three weeks of school went great!  Cap did all of his work, got tons of clothespins (for doing kind things for others), and did everything he could to help the teacher.  He had a great time and had good days. - Much like the little guy I am used to at home.

School this week has been like reliving last year.  He's exhibiting behaviors he never shows at home.  He's being disobedient and throwing fits and not being kind to others.  Sure, Cap has rough days at home.  There are days he struggles with doing things he doesn't want to do and occasionally he has trouble controlling his emotions.  But those times are few and far between.  The phrase that's especially difficult for me to hear is that he "isn't considerate of others".  That is NOT the kid I know.  The little boy I know always wants his brother to get his milk first and wants to help with everything he can.  He's always looking for some way to do something nice for someone else.  So, why the disconnect?  Why is it that my little boy has a habit of transforming into someone else at school?

I spent a large part of last year trying to answer this question.  I came to a few conclusions, but it was still perplexing.  I understood a little more through our homeschool experiment this summer.  The other day I read an article that I think may be a big piece of this confusing puzzle.

The article, Can Behavior Problems be a Sign of Giftedness, described my little guy to a T.
So how can you tell whether your child's misbehavior is due to giftedness?  One sign is if the unwanted behavior is specific to a situation. Maybe your child mucks up only at school. But at home, he's consumed with a project or pastime, often getting lost in the activity and losing track of time, or isn't easily deterred from the task (he doesn’t hear you calling him for dinner because he's engrossed in a book, say).
We saw a major turn around in Cap's attitude and confidence over the summer when he discovered something he wanted to learn - how to read.  He's been working hard to build and recognize words.  But reading isn't a big part of the activity in school right now.  They are doing worksheets that are either easy or boring for him.    I'm not trying to say that my child is a genius and that the work they are doing at preschool is beneath him.  For whatever reason, maybe he's just not engaged by what's going on in school right now.

His behavior may be understandable, but it's still inexcusable.  The disobedience, rudeness and unkindness needs to stop.  Hopefully looking at how school is and isn't meeting his needs will give us a starting point for preventing a continuous cycle of bad behavior.


Reason #1 - Peace

The biggest question is why? Why homeschool? I've been meaning to write these posts for awhile, but it's such an overwhelming task. When people ask the question, I find myself talking on and on and not even getting to half of the reasons homeschool is interesting to me. There are so many reasons homeschooling seems like a good idea. And just when I think I've got a pretty good list of the pros, I come up with more. It's a pretty common occurrence to hear this question in my conversations with my husband: "isn't that a great reason to homeschool?" Everything from midnight runs to Krispy Kreme to increasingly busy schedules to the potential of back problems from the weight of backpacks makes me want to homeschool. But before I get ahead of myself and all jumbled up in my excitement for this seemingly crazy idea, let me step back. I'm writing these posts because I want to lay out my reasons in some kind of reasonable manner. I want to simply state my reasons without running into the very common temptation to defend homeschooling as the absolute best way to educate children (a defense I am ill-equipped to make as I'm not sure that homeschool is the best thing for us yet.) So, here we go: reason #1 why I think homeschooling may be the best option for us...


The kind that Jesus talks about.  The don't worry about anything - God will take care of it kind of peace. It seems to me that it's pretty hard to live a peaceful existence in the world today.  If we take an honest look at our society peace doesn't rule. Stress does.  Lots and lots of stress springing, I think, from two sources:  hurry and worry.  

There's no doubt that we are in a hurry.  Our schedules fill up and the places we live become more like hotels than homes.  We fill up our time with all sorts of things - most of them good things - until we are frazzled and empty with no time to rest or reflect.  I do it.  But I don't want my kids to do it.  I don't want them to grow up thinking their time isn't well spent unless it's fast-paced and full of accomplishment.  I want them to take plenty of time to grow and learn and experience life.  I want them to have time to be still and hear the voice of God.  It breaks my heart to think about how busy the lives of so many little ones are.  They are constantly running.  It seems nonsensical that many kids have more hectic schedules than adults, but I'm pretty sure it's true.  They go to school and do homework and learn instruments and go to church and sunday school and midweek programs and play sports.  And all of those things are good.  Yet they all add up, leaving very little time to just... be.  I want my kids to learn instruments and go to church and sunday school and midweek programs and play sports.  I want them to grow and learn and thrive.  But how do I reconcile the experiences I want for my kids and the peaceful non-hurried life that is so important?  I'm not sure, but I know that it's important to figure it out.  And I think maybe homeschooling is one way to make it work. 

What if my kids were done with "school" before lunch?  What if they had all afternoon and all evening for pick up games and sports leagues and church stuff and practicing piano and playing drums?  Would that give them time to just play with their friends in the backyard?  Would that give them time to develop a talent or gift they otherwise might never pay attention to?  Would that give them time to sit and think and grow in relationship with God and with their neighbors?  I think it might.  And, honestly that's one of the biggest reasons I want to homeschool.  I know hurry is always going to be a struggle.  But it seems to me that going to school for 7 or 8 hours a day for 15 years is a pretty big expenditure of time.  Especially when all of that material can be learned in an astonishingly small fraction of the time at home. I don't want my kids to grow up and discover that they never had time to just be kids. I don't want them to learn the habit of excessive hurry.  

 It strikes me that peace is one of the most vital aspects of life as a Christian.  Being a Christian means trusting God through Christ.  If I put my trust in God I won't worry.  Any time worry enters my life it is a sign that there is a part of me that I have not fully surrendered to my Lord.  Believe me, it's my biggest struggle.  I am a big worrier.  It's the reason I cringe when someone calls me "a person of great faith."  Faith is hard for me.  I'm no good at trusting God.  Thankfully, God has grace enough to cover my sinful worry!  

It's a common misconception among adults that kids don't worry nearly as much as adults do.  Somehow as adults we forget the agony we experience as kids.  We look back and the concerns of childhood seem trivial.  I think it's all a matter of perspective.  I fully believe that separation anxiety is just as big of a stressor for an infant or toddler as the stack of bills and skimpy bank account is for an adult.  Sure, the child has no good reason to believe that their parent won't return.  But the child doesn't know that.  Their crisis shakes them to the core, leaving them unsure of the future in much the same way that the crises of adulthood rattle us.

I'm a little afraid that the ruling educational theory plays up worry.  The prevailing idea seems to be that the goal of education is to create successful adults.  I think there is some truth in that idea, but the question is, "what is the measure of success?"  So often, even despite the best of intentions, it becomes a matter of comparison for the kids.  They think, "I'm not successful until I'm better than so-and-so."  Worry abounds when one child wonders ,what if I'm not any good?  What if I'm dumb?  What if I can't do at x, y or z? What if I'm ugly? What if I just don't understand this?  What if I fail?

Maybe I'm wrong about all of that.  I certainly expect that my kids will have their share of worries no matter where they learn.  But I wonder if home wouldn't be a less worry-filled place to learn - a place where we don't have to worry about a learning curve but can discover together at the pace that is best for us?  A place where failing a test or wearing the wrong style of clothing or being a clutz won't bring paralyzing shame.  

I want my kids to experience peace in a profound way.  I don't want them to spend their childhoods having their heads crammed full of knowledge and accomplishment that they don't have time for peace.    It absolutely amazes me how many kindergarteners I have heard of this fall that have homework.  And not the kind of homework where you find something blue to share with the class.  The kind of homework where you write out spelling lists 5 times and complete a page of addition facts.  In Kindergarten.  That blows my mind.  And that on top of a full day school and traveling to dance class and soccer practice and everything else that goes on in the lives of little ones today.

It's hard enough for me to live a life of peace.  I do not want it to be a struggle for my children.  I do not want them to spend their childhood's frazzled about all of the things they have to do.  I want them to have time to be kids and that's a big reason I think homeschooling may be right for us.  

Back to School and other news

August is over and school is back in session. Captain Silly Wiggles began pre-k 4 last week. He has had a comparatively good first week - no bad reports from the teacher. (Compared to bad reports every day last year.) Ok, actually there was one bad report. On the second day of school they did some cutting work. After a lecture on not cutting clothing or anything besides the paper what's the first thing my little guy did? Cut his shirt. And continue to play with the little hole until it turned into a giant hole. Ah, the power of suggestion. Still, he's not biting anyone or running away from his teachers, so that's improvement.

The most traumatic part of the last two weeks has actually been Skidamarink missing his big brother. Really missing him. The first day we dropped Cap off, Skid cried because he wanted to stay. He wanted to sit at the table next to his pal and play. When I finally got him out of Ben's classroom, he ran across the hall to try his luck in the pre-k 3 classroom. We've had pretty much the same experience on all of the other days we've taken Cap to school. Plus he is constantly wanting to know if we can go get his brother. He'll grab my fingers and try his hardest to pull me towards the door. "Mom, let's go get brother now!" 5 minutes after we leave the school. And he'll continue insisting it's time to get Cap about every 15 minutes until it actually is time to go get him - 3 hours later. I've got a few things planned to help Skidamarink adjust to his brother being back in school and to make the most of our time together.

But for Cap, so far things seem to be going well. It's not very often I get any response other than "nothing" from my question of "What did you do in school today?". Even my more pointed questions ("Did you sing some songs? Did you play outside?, etc) are usually met with one word answers. Still, no frustrated emails from the teacher is good news. He's coming home happy and not complaining about going which is even better news. (I'm aware that he's only had 4 days of class, but this is still a marked difference from last year. Everything could change, but I am hopeful. Cap is excited about learning since we've discovered something that he's truly interested in learning - how to read and write. He seems so much more confident in his ability to learn and to succeed - partially because he's 3 months older, but I think that our work together over the summer has played a big role!

This is an important year for us. It's the year when we'll make a decision for school next year. Keep him in the same school? Put him in public schools? Homeschool? Will we send Skidamarink to pre-school even if we keep Cap home? I'm very excited for the investigation opportunities this year poses. For conversations with different schools and people with different backgrounds. For experimenting with different ways of learning at home (something I hope to always encourage no matter where our boys go to school). For learning more about my kids and who they are and what they need. For listening to where God may be leading our family. And into all of that mix we will throw in the arrival of a new little one. According to Cap he will be having a sister and a brother in April. According to dad, it will definitely be a brother, and only one! So many things to think about and dream about in this year! So excited to experience it all!