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Learning extreme...

Learning extreme… (Photo credit: ernstl)

I never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom, much less a homeschooler.  When kid #1 was 5 (and this was actually more drama than I anticipated due to his December birthday), I enrolled him in public school kindergarten.  That’s what you do, right?  Two years later, kid #2 turned 5 (in July, thank the gods, so no late birthday craziness) and I enrolled her in public school kindergarten.

I knew kid #2 was different.  When she was 4 (and I was enormously pregnant with kid #3), she came to me with a stack of books, and asked me to teach her to read.  She was extremely annoyed to discover that learning to read would take more than the span of one afternoon.  But we kept at it and by the end of kindergarten she was reading chapter books like “The Magic Treehouse” series independently.

All was not well in kid #2’s classroom.  Our public school was well-equipped in differentiating language arts curriculum, but math was another matter altogether.  Kid #2 was mastering the entire year’s standards by October and the school had no idea what to do with her.  She was resisting going to school and becoming a behavior problem when she was there.  I’d done everything I could think of:  weekly meetings with the teacher; then weekly meetings with the principal;  going to the district; tutoring at her level; everything.  Finally, her beloved third grade teacher had to take medical leave and we decided that homeschooling was our best option for keeping her interested in learning.  Ultimately, all three kids ended up homeschooling.

In California, we have a wide array of options, and we’ve always chosen to homeschool through a charter school.  I liked the charter school because it kept me accountable and on track with a credentialed teacher, as well as offering the kids a variety of classroom-based options and social experiences.

Kid #2 graduates from high school in June, and kid #3 wants to go to public high school in two years.  As I near the end of my career as a homeschooling mom, I realize that some of the best lessons were the ones I learned:

Patience is a muscle.  You can build it up with practice.  Take a couple of breaths before reacting to the disaster the kid made of the art project/science experiment.  No, every kid isn’t a genius, but they are learning.  They, too, can learn patience.

I don’t know everything.  It’s amazing and humbling all the things I’ve forgotten.  My kids don’t think I’m the village idiot when I admit I don’t know something and we look it up online together.

Every kid really is different.  Kid #2 had an almost John Nash-Beautiful Mind understanding of math.  Kid #3 is in 7th grade this year and still learning to master long division.  Everybody’s different.  And that’s ok.

Self-sufficiency.  I never realized how often I punted a hard question by answering, “Ask your teacher,” until we homeschooled.  Now I was the daily teacher and I needed to find a way to reach my kids.  Different techniques work with different kids on different days.  And it’s my job to figure out who needs what on any given day.  No more punting.

Remain open.  What worked with one kid in the 4th grade might not work with the next.  Keep trying different things.

Follow the tangents and fall down the rabbit holes.  Sometimes one thing leads to something completely different than what you planned.  It’s ok to follow the interesting tangent or fall down the fun rabbit hole.  Being engaged in something enjoyable just because it’s enjoyable is a learning experience, too.  Everything doesn’t have to be perfectly planned and executed.

Admit when you’re wrong.  I don’t get everything right every single day (because I don’t know everything).  When I’m wrong, I admit it and we look for the right answer (if there is one) together.

Sometimes the standards are b.s.  and you have to do it anyway.  Into every life, some buls**t must fall.  And more often than not, you’ve got to complete the task anyway.  It’s a life skill.  Suck it up.

In the end, I hoped to teach my kids to read and think critically, manage their time, and problem solve.  Whether we homeschooled or not, these goals would have remained the same.  As I watch kid #1 find his way in college, I see that we were successful.  But I’m not sure who learned more, me or them.