Part Two: What it looks like and Why we do it
Looking over Part One, I thought of two little addendums I have to make.
1. I said working and homeschooling is hard. I’m not sure it’s any harder than many other lifestyles, and in certain crucial respects (those that we’ve identified as priorities) it’s easier than working and traditional-schooling. The logistical issues, for me, they are hard.
2. I said that Eggmaster maintains a family/homeschool friendly schedule but worried that I did not. But geez, who’s at home most of the time acting as the organizer/motivator of the whole family/homeschool entity? Well, that would be me. So maybe that’s just me doing the “Dad is family-oriented if he gives a second thought to his family; mom is not family-oriented if she gives a second thought to anything but her family” dance. Man, that old song really gets stuck in your head! [How’s that for another post for another day?!]
Combining working with homeschooling does carve up our days. Twice a week we have a nanny from 10-3. The children love it. Field trips, hours at the park, improvised craft projects, children’s museum, extended sessions of Harry Potter lego dramas. It’s great, but the catch is that I don’t get to be part of it.
A couple of afternoons a week, Eggmaster comes home early. This is terrific for the girls. I love that they get a lot of time with their dad. They may go to Target or hit the park or just hang out. But once dad gets home I head to work.
Then there’s co-op/ice skating day. This is a great day for everyone: ice skating in the morning, cocoa, tons of knitting for mom, fun classes and friends in the afternoon. But no meandering. Supposedly this is my night to work, but usually there’s some other thing to attend to, and all that driving has me wiped out for much actual thinking. The work I do is usually either too detail-oriented or too intellectually taxing to be done well after a crammed-full day of other activities.
Saturday mornings I work too, but I try to stay in my PJs for part of it. That gets me to around 20 hours, some weeks more, some weeks (but very few) less.
It can feel a bit hectic at times, though mostly to me, I think. The kids get the long stretches of free time while I’m working. And while it would be nice if I could be part of that more often, I’m not complaining too much. This is the arrangement that makes our homeschooling possible.
I do sometimes think, geez, if this is the way we have to do it, what’s the point? Though I identify more as an at-home mom than a working mom, I don’t think I’m ever going to approach the Angel in the House who seems to be the Ideal Homeschooling Mom. Maybe if I sent the kids to school next fall I could get all my work done, clean the house, make some good meals, and then be free to spend relaxed evenings with the family. Would that be better? I don’t have a perfect answer for that question yet, because after 18 months — I cannot believe it’s only been 18 months! — we’re still developing our homeschool lifestyle. My scattered thoughts:
— Violet is so much happier in this setting. We don’t have to sacrifice play time for at-home, after-school “enrichment.” We don’t have to worry about her developing the self-control and the attention span of a much older child in order for her to learn what she’s interested in (like history or geometry).
— Music! When I think of how hard it would be to fit the girls’ music education and improvisation time around a school schedule. . . ugh! We are all practicing some kind of instrument every day, Eggmaster and I included.
— Art! Violet spends so much time drawing, drawing, drawing, especially comic books and manga characters. So what if I’m not doing all the wonderful art units I see other families doing? My girl has been teaching herself to draw for 8 years and doing a bang-up job.
— Freedom from an externally imposed schedule. Except for my academic stint, I’ve almost always been a freelancer or independent contractor. It’s just my personality. I’m not particularly proud or ashamed; I just can’t seem to help it. Really, I lack the self-marketing skills to do it well (which is fine, as I only need to do it half-time). I think this is why I wasn’t really moved by the suggestion that Violet would need to fit into an institution at some point. Sitting in that particular meeting, hearing those words, I looked at my husband and thought, “you are telling that to the wrong people.”
— Family time. I schedule things like ice-skating, dance, and piano lessons during the day as much as I can, and I work during the day most days, because I like evenings to be at-home downtime or time to connect with friends or do volunteer stuff for myself. Because we homeschool we have plenty of extra day time for that stuff.
I have to look at those things from time to time to remind myself that though my homeschooling is pretty far from the lives of loveliness I often admire online, it’s good enough.
Next topic: My Mixed-Up Life