Homeschool

Our Next Leap: Homeschooling Because We Want To (Not Because We Have To)

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Foolishly, I thought I was done taking huge leaps as a mother. Maybe that’s an oversimplification. I knew there’d be big decisions in such a changing world and that homeschool loomed as a possibility in the future, but nothing seemed imminent. Then we went on quarantine and suddenly we had to build school into our home routine. And, to my surprise, my oldest didn’t miss school. Instead, she asked if we could keep doing this together. Weeks went by, and she felt the same. More than two months later and she hasn’t looked back.

As for me, deciding to homeschool next year instead of returning to her sweet Waldorf school has been an enormous contemplation. Day by day, week by week, I’ve been testing the waters. I’ve reached out to all the homeschoolers I know — and, thankfully, I know four amazing women who’ve assured me it’s not only doable but a lifestyle I didn’t know I craved so deeply.

I’ve researched and researched some more. I’ve read about famous entrepreneurs, performers, and scientists who were homeschooled. I’ve read stories from entrepreneur moms who’ve decided to homeschool and learned to balance their own careers with also teaching their children (hint: it takes creativity and a village we have to create ourselves). I’ve dug so deep that finally one morning I woke up and just knew it was the right decision for us right now.

Still, it’s a hard choice to make. I worry maybe my child is missing something by not going to a traditional school. Then I look deeper and see all the holes in my own education, the years of boredom I spent staring out the window, and all the social struggles I experienced — and then I allow myself to think differently about homeschooling.

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Waldorf provides guiding principles for us as a family, but it’s also exciting to explore at E’s pace — she’s been obsessed with writing stories letter by letter (on her own!) and now we’re moving at an unhurried, self-directed pace.

No path is perfect. We all just do our best and pick what feels right for our families. I want my children to love to learn, to go deep into areas that interest them, to develop hobbies and skills without the stress of not enough time, to not waste hours sitting idly in a classroom waiting for everyone else to shut up. I also want this to be what we all want as a family, so we’ll check back in annually to make sure it’s still the right course for each of us.

For now, I’m excited. I miss teaching and have so much fun teaching my own children. Teaching keeps me present with them. It’s easy for me in the course of days and weeks to lose track of time and not give them enough focused attention. Imaginative play, while so important for them (and still a huge part of their routine), isn’t my strong suit.

However, give me fresh brains and materials and I love the challenge of helping my kids learn (even if it’s just how to move a paintbrush across paper and explore combining colors). Homeschooling has already become a source of quality time together in our family rhythm. They still get tons of unstructured play, which is so important in early childhood, but I also get time for focused activities together, which I love.

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I love that we’re still getting plenty of Waldorf inspired learning and embracing a slow pace for childhood.

As for working and homeschooling, I’m lucky. I work 25 hours per week and homeschooling can be achieved in a few hours per day. What takes six hours at school, takes only a couple hours at home. I already see this. I hear it from my homeschooler friends. It excites me that both are possible — although I know I’ll be taking some other things off my plate to make it work (and enlisting the help of others for those hours when I’m working).

I just want my kids to grow up knowing life is full of possibilities. I want them to learn to pursue knowledge that excites them and believe the sky is literally the limit. I want to be able to pick up and travel with them no matter what month of the year it is — and take the learning with us. I want to raise them on our evolving homestead, learning how to take care of themselves, plants, and animals, while also showing them the world and letting them pick the activities they love to spend hours fine tuning (I already see ballet and horseback riding in our post-quarantine future). I want to teach them to write their own rules for what life can look like.

As we cruised through Kauai last summer with the sunshine bouncing around us and the tropical breeze blowing through our hair, we dreamed together of a future where we lived outside the box. This is that first step. It’s scary. It’s a leap. But, it’s also incredibly exciting. I want to prove with time that this lifestyle can be rewarding and hugely educational — socially, emotionally, and mentally.

From what I’ve already seen, it can be amazing.

Motherhood

Five Years Of Motherhood: A Cat, Co-Sleeping, And Mortality

It’s 4am and I’m awake because the stupid cat was at our door, mistakenly left out. The words are there, too, keeping me from sleep.

I return the cat to her room, across the house, and shut the door this time, then lie back in bed. Still, the words won’t leave.

“Mom, can we die together?” she asked again the other day, out of the blue.

The deep ache burrows into my chest and leaves my eyes burning, even now. I have no good answer, the mystery of life so heavy and so complicated, reminding me that all we have for sure is now.

And now is busy, now if full. The five year anniversary of my motherhood approaches and yet I still struggle so much to be present. In fact, I was better then, in the beginning, at stopping to take it all in. Now, two kids, a job, a messy house, a phone that always offers something to pull me away. So many nights I go to bed vowing to actually play with them and then find myself repeating the same cycle of doing all day long.

As we drove to a play date at the park today, I saw a sports car wrapped around a pole. The same type of sports car my father drives. We were close to his office and it’s an unusual car. I called my dad, no answer. My confidence started to waver. I called my husband to confirm the badges on the rear bumper, and then I lost my ability to speak. Even though I knew there was a chance it wasn’t him, the magnitude of the possibility was paralyzing. I drove by his parking spot at work and sighed the deepest exhale to see he was there. The girls were confused by my emotion but it was impossible to stifle my relief.

Almost two and almost five and there’s no question life is precious and time moves quickly. M is already attempting to potty train herself, a jumble of words that mean real things but aren’t always easy to understand. And, curls, so many curls. E starts kindergarten in September and is bold and outspoken and easily commands a room. Both my babies but less so by the day.

Thanks to that cat and all her meowing, they both lie peacefully in our room, asleep. Some may cringe, but truthfully the last month or so of sharing space has offered the deep comfort of knowing we’re all together, safe. My small children sleeping alone across the house just doesn’t feel natural to me, each crackle of the baby monitor drawing my attention from my dreams. In the same room, however, something primal is satisfied by having my babies close. The sweetness of their breath, the occasional reassurance of their touch. It brings us back together from those busy days.

Still, I know it’s temporary, and once the kitten grows and stops that damn meowing we’ll all return to the more accepted sleep arrangements we’d worked so hard to create. For now, though, I’m going to relish it. I’ll climb back into bed, make promises to be a more present mother when we awaken, and let the rhythm of their breath lull me back to sleep.

Maybe I owe that cat a thank you, after all.

Toddlers

Almost 21 Months… Or Something Like That

44950815_697678983939879_2083281798254559232_nIt’s so easy to lose track of time. Often I don’t even know the date on the calendar, let alone the number of months it has been since M’s birth. Of course, it doesn’t really matter, but I used to document it all, each milestone, each moment I wanted to hold forever.

And, lately I’ve been keeping those moments in my head, hoping I’ll remember to write them down. Usually I forget. But the words keep rushing in, poetry dancing, begging to exist on paper or at least a screen.

Her eyes change with the light, little pools of brown turn muddy blue.

Words bouncing around as I made dinner and forced myself to reach for my phone so I wouldn’t forget.

She’s changing so much right now. She went through this phase for a few weeks where she refused to go to sleep until eleven each night, and I nearly lost my mind, but I remembered this is what happens with developmental milestones. And sure enough, next she started climbing out of her crib, forming three word sentences, and attempting to use her little potty all at once. In one single day my baby transformed into a two-year-old. It felt like all we did was blink.

And, two-year-old she is, (unless you count the months on the calendar). I’ve carried her out of many public places lately kicking and screaming. I’m that mom with that kid that makes other people turn to look. But, the second time around, I don’t care. I just laugh and carry her. There’s nothing more to do than that.

I do get loud sometimes for effect. Mostly when I’m across the room and can’t reach her in time to safely fix the situation. Then her eyes well up with tears and she refuses to look at me. She’s so stubborn and yet her feelings are so delicate. So different from her sister who’d just stare back at me with that “so-what” look on her face.

Without the crib, I now lie down on the other side of the room and wait for her to start her nap. Otherwise, she just gets up and plays 17,000 times. As I lie there, she pops up her head and looks at me, to see if she can escape. I point and say, “Lie down,” and obediently she listens. It confounds me. Here I have this independent child who follows directions (at least for a minute) when I get serious. Again, so different than her sister.

And, those curls. Still, those curls.

Almost 21 months and I needed to make sure I’d be able to look back and remember her, just like this. Her sister is already so big and toddlerhood is suddenly a season again, not this daunting stretch it sometimes seems.

Last week we got a kitten and she was one of those women who cries happy tears because she’s just won a house or a car or something huge. She was in hysterics. So much so the next seventeen years of caring for that creature were worth those moments of excitement, the word “kitty” uttered again and again between the tears and the shrieks of joy.

I don’t want to forget.

Those curls, those eyes, that little hand reaching out to hold mine, ready to show me exactly where to go and what to do.

 

 

 

Baby Fever, Birth, Pregnancy

Happy first birthday, little M.

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As I hold you in the darkness, I think of my doula’s words.

“Labor prepares you for motherhood.”

You won’t sleep. Neither soothing nor crying is working. I’m barely powering through. I thought at twelve months you’d be sleeping soundly. We’ve worked on it, and yet, here we are, dancing this tiresome dance again, every few nights for months now.

Those words from all those years ago finally make sense. At the time I thought nothing could compare to the challenge of your sister’s birth, but motherhood is a marathon with hills and valleys. Sometimes the hills are harder than we remember. Sometimes the challenges are cumulative in their weight.

Somehow one year has passed. I spent hours yesterday pouring through the photos. So much has changed in twelve months. You’ve grown, we’ve moved, we’ve started different jobs. And, everything is changing still.

I told a friend the other day I have trouble when I don’t know the answers for the future. I like to look down the road of life and to see what’s coming. Which is silly, really, because some of the best changes have been unseen.

A year ago, at 3PM, I pulled your wiggling body onto my chest and cried the tears of relief and happiness only birth can bring. You brought such unexpected magic. You’ve given me hope for a better future even in some of the world’s darkest days.

Motherhood, much like labor, has its rewards to counterbalance those seemingly insurmountable challenges, and when I remember to stop and appreciate the rhythm of your warm breath against my skin, I’m reminded of life’s glorious power to be all things at once.

Thank you, little M, for choosing me.

Uncategorized

Month 11: Almost…

Almost walking, almost talking, almost sleeping through the night.

She’s all lashes and a toothy smile. She’s all over the place, in everything, pulling all the clothes from drawers and grabbing all her sister’s toys. She’s obsessed with trying to color, or as my husband says, perhaps write.

Her eyes are finally brown, for so long they were also blue and grey. I worried we wouldn’t know what to put on her driver’s license. Now they’re simple, like mine. Sometimes I look at her and see my mom, my grandma, myself. She reminds me of me, in more ways than one. A little shy, a little bold, very sweet.

My feelings for her have been extra intense lately. I worry if something were to happen to me, she’d never know how much I loved her. It’s a familiar aching. It’s exactly the same way I felt with her sister and somehow this is comforting, knowing it’s just part of motherhood. So I write these words to remember.

She’s almost one.

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Photo credit: The incredible Don Ta

Baby Fever, Balance, Health

Month 10: Holy Croup!

25271069_10106234416700783_1765366550_oPoor little M. She seems to be getting sick every month. October was roseola, November was croup, and now another cold. I’m not sure if it’s just the plight of a second child with an older sibling in preschool or I need to do more to protect her immune system. E only got sick a couple times as a baby, granted those times weren’t any better. I keep telling myself she’s just training her body to respond to germs.

Croup was the worst. We’d made so much progress sleep training and then suddenly I couldn’t let her cry at night or she’d turn into a gasping, barking disaster. Not something any parent (or doctor!) wants to hear. So back to our bed she came as I awkwardly attempted to keep her both elevated and safe through those dark hours.

I’m still reminding myself I’ll get to sleep again someday. Things were finally starting to fall back into place when she got another cold this week. She’s not one to sleep well when she’s uncomfortable.

Not all of month ten has been as hard, however. Her personality is really starting to shine. She loves sharing food and pacifiers, stuffing them in any willing mouth. She also has a game she plays where she throws herself backwards on our bed, again and again, laughing hysterically when she lands. E calls it her trick and she does it on command. We’re guessing she’ll be a kindhearted thrill seeker by the look of things and I’m constantly finding myself diving from one place to another to protect her.

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Oh yes, and she’s also a climber…

It’s always hard to believe another month has passed, but as we approach a year, it’s especially surreal. Part of me is already starting to yearn again for another baby, having difficulty imagining this chapter of my life closing for good. Then my brain kicks in and I look forward to things like sleep and reestablishing a regular work routine, not to mention a bit more sanity. I’m rooting for my rational mind in this one.

Still, these past ten months with M have been a joy. Babies are precious beings. They remind us to be present and give thanks. They bring laughter and a fair amount of tears. Happy ten months, little M. I’m very excited to watch you grow.

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My little wild thing.
Attachment Parenting, Baby Fever, Balance, Breastfeeding, Hopes

Month Nine: Never Say Never.

I let M cry herself to sleep this month. It was both hard and easy, if that’s even possible. Co-sleeping hadn’t been working for weeks. I’d noticed she slept more peacefully during the day, alone, than she did next to me at night. A couple times during her naps it had taken me longer to get to her than it did to put herself back to sleep. I’d seen she could do it. I was also starting to lose my mind with the number of wakings each night. I know it’s a season, but something needed to change.

So, the first night I ate ice cream on the kitchen counter as I watched the clock. Maybe that sounds cold, but I was self-soothing, too. 25 minute crying spells punctuated by periods of sleep. By midnight I reassessed my goals. We wouldn’t do the whole night, just bedtime. My nerves were frayed and I missed my baby. The next night 9 minutes, the following just 30 seconds. Now bedtime is, dare I say it, easy.

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Still, I nurse her twice a night and sometimes fall back asleep with her in my bed until she starts to climb my head again and remind me why co-sleeping wasn’t working. If I had it my way, we’d sweetly snuggle in deep slumber all night long. Ha. Instead we dance between her travel crib and my bed, listening to the intensity of her needs. And, this is a huge improvement, as we both now sleep for actual stretches of time, and many wakings she puts herself back to sleep.

Maybe we’ll focus on removing one of those remaining feedings next, but for now we’ll catch our breaths and just be happy for the easy bedtimes and respective moments of independence. A friend reminded me it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. After all, they call it baby steps for a reason.

Month nine has reminded me how every child and parent relationship is different. I especially realize this now, as we navigate our own middle ground, carving our path that doesn’t match any particular sleep training plan beyond our own.

I’m also reminded how childhood is a state of perpetual change, of togetherness and letting go. Her sister declared her own independence this month, without any forethought, and now sleeps soundly in her room. My heart aches a little to let them both go in these small ways, but I’m confident it’s time.