Did you miss parts 1 – 4? The full series can be found here.
Part 5/5 – Soul Lessons
“I got an 80 on my math assessment. There were only 10 problems. There was even some stuff on it that I learned during homeschool,” my older daughter announced.
“Like what?” I asked.
“Absolute value. Some of the other kids didn’t know absolute value.”
“What about pre-algebra? Was there any pre-algebra?”
“No, no pre-algebra.”
And like magic, my older daughter was accepted into the seventh grade advanced math program at her new school in Italy.
Magic. Just like the magic that my younger daughter’s now second grade teacher put into a plastic bag full of paper bits — tears, sweat, heart, resilience, and compassion. After burning my older daughter’s Kumon pages, we didn’t give up. Instead we rolled up our sleeves and tackled a different set of workbooks. I was more deliberate — choosing specific topics, pages and problems to work through that would challenge her without being overwhelming.
My older daughter’s assessment announcement was not the only good news to arrive that day. Earlier in the week I had emailed my younger daughter’s teacher, sharing concerns about her reading level. I wasn’t sure that, through homeschooling, we had gotten as far as we should. Her half saint and whole teacher reassured me that she believes my younger daughter will do fine in reading, and “she is not only a hard worker but also a great listener too.”
It turns out self-regulation had found its way into my younger daughter’s life without resorting to twisted cell phone intimidation tactics.
When our year of homeschooling came to a close, I was sure I had done it all wrong. Even after reflecting on it through writing this series, I’m still sure I did it mostly wrong. If I had homeschooled my daughters for two years, instead of one, I’m fairly certain they would have been held back a grade.
When the new military school requested documentation of the girls homeschooling, I was able to look back through the photos and files of the prior year and cobble together an outline of the girls’ work. As I read through all of our “class trips,” the curriculum I attempted to write, the classes the girls completed online and the classes they completed in person – piece by piece – it came together as a whole. I was even borderline proud of it.
But that skeleton of a document does not adequately demonstrate what we learned, really learned that year. Our lessons had less to with brains and more to do with tears, sweat and hearts.
I admit, in the past, I eyed homeschooled families with a bit of wonder, awe and skepticism. The parents so often seemed so calm. And the kids? They generally listened. And siblings? They generally got along. Do homeschooling parents drug their children? Do they spend all of their time praying and then exist at a higher plane of consciousness than me and my kids?
That’s not it – or at least it wasn’t for us. I didn’t drug my children or build an alter in the basement. However, during the growing pains, during the hurt of their father moving to the other side of the world, during the hurt of leaving their friends in Florida, during the stress of starting over – all we had were each other. There were family members that stepped up and helped out – but for the most part, it was the three of us, all day, every day. My children saw me cry, try and fail, and then try again. I saw them reach for friends, not make a connection, resort to getting lost on YouTube, and then finally reach for each other. It was The Hard Year of Just Us.
We learned how to live together. There were no breaks. No kids going school. No parents going to work. Few playdates. Few nights out for mama. We learned how to give hugs when we needed them, space when we needed it, to yell at each when we needed to, and then to forgive each other for those harsh moments, which over time, became rarer and rarer.
Other homeschooling families don’t seem so mystical anymore. Maybe the biggest lessons of homeschooling have less to with the classroom and more to do with the hearth. While we may not have reached a higher level of consciousness nor engaged in stellar academic exercise, our year of homeschooling was full magic – that special kind of paper confetti magic — tears, sweat, heart, resilience, compassion and love.
* * *
I’d like to close this series by expressing a special thank you to my father-in-law. While my husband was in Korea, my father-in-law opened his home and heart to us. We used two of his bedrooms, ate in his kitchen and struggled through homeschooling in his basement. He is a busy man, volunteering in his local church, golfing, biking, and spending winters in Florida. Yet he still found time to cook for us, share stories and ease the burden we carried during the Hard Year of Just Us. I know it wasn’t really just us, and I thank him for being an important and significant part of it. Many thanks also to my father (and his fireplace!!), for the time he spent with us on our “class trips” and the hugs he gave us when we really need them. Thanks also to my friend Melissa and her two wonderful children. We never would have made it through without you.
Did you miss parts 1-4? The full series can be found here.