Five years in—that’s three more than we originally planned when we pulled Violet from school and decided to see what homeschooling would be like.
It’s been great. We’ve met great people in person and online. I have made wonderful friends and so have the girls, Violet and Victoria. I like to think that deciding to unplug from school opened the door to my husband, Eggmaster, thinking harder about where and how he wanted to work: not too much later, he got a new job, and then we moved to a neighborhood he loves.
But regrets, I’ve had a few. Not just parenting regrets —good god, who doesn’t have those —but homeschooling regrets. They might look familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up a homeschooling book, those newbie mistakes that you have to make for yourself. And make them I did.
To commemorate five years of homeschooling, here are five mistakes – and a great deal of rationalization to go along with them:
1. Doing too much too soon
I did say these would look familiar, right? We did our mandatory “deschooling” period, but I wish it had been longer and a lot more fun. Then again, I wish I were more fun and relaxed in general.
However, this deschooling thing is hard to get right. Like many PG kids, Violet felt like she was starving to death in school, and leaving school was supposed to be her opportunity to feast. After a month of no “school” she was excited to try Chinese and start reading history and learning some interesting math. And I was eager to prove to naysayers that it would all be OK. So we dove in, and by a process of accretion soon ended up doing too much.
2. Not getting the right support for homeschooling
It’s taken us a while to find the people who bring the Kleenex box over when it’s all too much and who laugh evilly with us at inappropriate times. There were people who knew about resources that might have helped us “feast” on learning without getting too schooly, but we couldn’t find them.
Our first homeschool group—now it can be told!—kind of fell apart soon after we joined, not least because of a little hanky panky among spouses who were not, at the time, married to each other. And who knows why it took me so long to connect with the gifted homeschool group – oh no, wait. I think I know why. Because we’re all skittish and introverted and group-averse, at least until somehow we get to know someone and then it’s just a big freakin’ love fest. And I hate driving, and then we moved, and we always had too many commitments.
I wish we had succeeded at connecting with a supportive group from the very beginning, but our own temperaments, our unique needs, and the general frostiness of Minnesota social life made it a slow process.
3. Not getting the right support for giftedness
After 5 years navigating g/t world, and PG world, I’ve learned an awful lot, and damn it could have been useful 5 years ago. I have several friends who participated in gifted toddler and preschool forums online, something that I would never have considered in a million years when I had a gifted toddler or preschooler. Not that I ever thought of either of my kids in that way when they were those ages—no, my adorable four-year-old who was reading adult books and asking for French and Italian dictionaries for Christmas was just “bright,” and I ruled the district “gifted school” out of our school considerations because I didn’t want to be one of “those parents.”
Except that those parents turned out to know a lot of things I needed to learn, and I had a lot of catching up to do when the school forced us into doing some testing. I read around, but I didn’t make connections with the people who could have helped me—and the people who would have been happy to talk to me about what most didn’t want to hear.
4.Working too hard
We started homeschooling at a pretty stressful time in our lives. So stressful that I don’t want to give away a lot of the very private details. While the last five years have been filled with a lot of joy, I have also spent way too much time feeling burnt out. Over the years, many of my own favorite pastimes have slipped away. This is not how homeschooling has to be, of course, but high-need kids plus limited support tends to equal exhausted parents. It’s also easy to get caught up in the “who’s most burnt out” game with other homeschool parents—after a while it comes to seem like the only form of accomplishment and entertainment. Turning things around after you’ve depleted all your inner resources is hard work.
Back when I first started blogging I read tons of homeschool blogs. Had them on my reader, cruised them daily, bookmarked them all for great ideas. I have learned a few things since that time:
1. I am not crafty. I will never do a project featured on Soule Mama, especially not with my children, who would probably refuse to follow instructions and mess everything up anyway.
2. I do not follow instructions. I’m sorry, I just don’t. The girls and I put together this cool magnetic marble roller coaster yesterday and we were absolutely hilarious. I would point to the instructions and Violet would nod and say “oh, right” while looking at the ceiling, and I could not get angry with her because I am the same way. As my husband said when he came to rearrange the coaster that we had put together backwards, so that the beginning and end would not meet, “Details matter.” But I have a hard time making them matter to me, so trying to implement some of the fantastic things I have seen from La Paz or Elizabeth Foss has been a Epic Fail. (Though I can hope that I have been inspired by them indirectly!)
3. I am not sweet. Homeschool bloggers are, by and large, a sweet bunch, and Catholic homeschool bloggers in particular. I admire them and look to them as role models. But after 40 years, the evidence is in: God did not make me that way.
4. My kids are not like other kids. (Neither are yours, obviously.)
Five years later, I still make tons of mistakes, but mostly they are not these mistakes.
And with any luck at some point soon I’ll be able to mark the beginning of the next five years with five things I’ve done right.