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.

Balance, Health, Hopes, Toddlers, Work

Letting Go for the Sake of Balance

I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn't actually focusing on what matters most when I'm at home.
I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn’t actually focusing on what matters most when I’m at home. My family.

Something happened last summer. I was suddenly in turbo drive. After nearly a year and a half of being in total mommy mode, all my other curiosities flooded back. I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Teach, write, start a business, work for my husband, take care of my family…

I felt like supermom. I could do it all. And, I did, for about six months and then it became too much. I found myself less present with my family. I wasn’t exercising as much as I needed. I couldn’t keep up around the house. I forgot what it felt like to sit on the couch. Still, I couldn’t decide what to let go. I liked it ALL so how could I make a choice?

Thankfully, I had this nagging feeling time would tell. Oh, patience, a lesson I must need again and again. And, just like that, a new (part-time!) teaching opportunity I’ve been lusting after presented itself. Suddenly everything else made sense. Teaching, writing, family were non-negotiable.

It all feels a little obvious as I write this now. After all, I taught and wrote before my daughter was born, but I had been so focused on keeping myself at home as much as possible that I’d lost track of why I wanted to be home in the first place, to be with my family. By letting go and being out of the house a bit more, I’m actually able to be more present in all aspects of my life.

Even so, I had fun experimenting with my previously dormant entrepreneurial spirit. I learned a lot. Especially about margins and what my time is worth. I let myself be a hummingbird and I have renewed faith it will prove useful somewhere down the road.

For now, Wandertots is mostly on hold. At first I thought it would require a lot of humility to share this but instead it feels empowering. We should have the right to experiment and put ourselves out there without worrying about how it makes us look. I have no trouble taking ownership over the fact that I have a lot of interests and love learning through experimentation.

I’m still fulfilling orders and have oddly become the queen of selling kid’s headphones, so if you want any busy items, get in touch. I’ll give you a good discount for being a loyal reader. That’s the irony. Wandertots received a ton of interest and still receives regular orders, it’s just not the best home-based model, or at least not the way I’m doing it.

Whew.

Sharing all that feels like the load is getting lighter and I can focus again. If you’ve been in my shoes of doing more than you can handle, I wish you the patience and awareness to let what matters most float to the top. It’s not easy letting anything go, but the last few weeks have felt so much better for me. I’m even writing again, something that had fallen to the bottom because it seemed the least profitable. But I guess that’s just it. You never know, you just have to keep working at what calls you, even when sometimes you’re called multiple places at once.

Balance, Health, Pregnancy, Yoga

Reclaiming my physical self 10 minutes at a time

When I was pregnant, I remember lamenting to a coworker how I couldn’t wait to have my body back to myself. I was thrilled to be having a baby, but I missed being able to move freely. All I wanted was to be able to run down the street at full speed or lie on my belly in bed. My coworker responded, “Oh, you won’t have your body back to yourself for a long time, you’re planning to nurse, right?”

And, she was right. Between recovering from pregnancy and nursing my daughter around the clock, my body didn’t feel so much like mine anymore. Of course, again, I didn’t really mind, but exercise became more sporadic, and my eating habits revolved more around feeding her than making myself feel healthy.

Fast forward two years from when I found out I was pregnant and it’s officially time to reclaim my physical self. In addition to wanting to be in optimum shape before I decide to have another little person sometime down the road, this week I accepted a part-time teaching job as a “games specialist” at a Waldorf charter school. While a little different than your traditional PE program, it will be my job to teach children to be physically fit, which in my mind also means I should be physically fit!

So, as I lay on my yoga mat yesterday evening and contemplated my course of action, I realized I should start small. 10 minute increments. I can claim to be too busy for a lot of things, but every single day should include 10 minutes of my own. The month before I got pregnant, I did a 30 day yoga challenge, so it only seems fitting to start where I left off and pick an activity I enjoy.

Beginning today and lasting through the month of July, I’m challenging myself to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing yoga. Whenever possible, I hope to do more, but with 2.5 weeks of travel planned for July, I know 10 minutes is something I can realistically complete.

Will you join me? Do you have a favorite physical activity you can commit to for a minimum of 10 minutes a day? We can give each other virtual high fives on August 1 and feel more accomplished for squeezing a little extra health into every single day, no matter how busy we think we are, (and, hopefully, this will translate into a new life rhythm of more daily exercise).

If you need additional motivation, check out this article about how exercise makes you live longer or, if you’re a fellow yoga enthusiast, join me in following along to Adrienne’s 10 minute yoga video below as my day one pick, (Adrienne also has a fantastic series for 30 days of yoga if you enjoy her instruction). I find the hardest part about consistent exercise is getting started, so I’m hopeful to trick myself into action by committing to just 10 minutes at a time.

We all have 10 minutes somewhere, right?

Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, Birth, Health

Why Hello, Mama Tiger

Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!
Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!

Yesterday I got angry. I’m not sure how I reacted on the outside, but inside I was a ferocious beast. I left E in a supervised care area at a business that shall go unnamed and let’s just say she was less than supervised. I came back to her crying as popcorn was pulled from her mouth. Another child had fed her. There were only three children total in the space. She does not have molars and could have choked.

This should not have happened.

In retrospect, everything was fine. She lived. I lived. All good. But the experience got me thinking about the times parents lost their cool with me as a teacher, as well as the times they didn’t. I once had a kid electrocute himself without anyone getting angry, (granted he was in fourth grade and old enough to know better than to stick a paperclip in a socket). I also gave the Heimlich maneuver twice, (again, these kids had the appropriate teeth), but still those parents remained calm.

Maybe it comes with more practice.

Then again, there were all the parents who didn’t keep their cool about everything from grades to having to sit criss-cross-applesauce at the carpet. Oddly, I kind of get it. I used to take it personally, but now I realize they felt their children were in some way threatened. Our basic instinct is to respond emotionally when it comes to protecting our children. If I ever return to the classroom, I will be more understanding.

Speaking of which, teachers really do deserve more credit. They have to keep 30ish kids safe all day while also teaching each child at his or her individual level. That’s a HUGE job. Add in the scrutiny of rightfully-protective parents and WHOA. Talk about pressure. Makes me want to give all the teachers I know a hug, (and a raise).

So, this afternoon, I’m thankful for a lot of things. E is fine. I met my inner Mama Tiger and have a better understanding of both what it means to be a parent and to take care of other people’s kids. Turns out both jobs can be pretty intense. Thank goodness they are also rewarding.

Attachment Parenting, Baby Fever, Balance, Birth, Hopes, Work

Month Eight: Hints of Independence

E. is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.
E is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.

Last night E pulled herself up and stood without holding onto anything for a few seconds. Her dad and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe it. Around six months she skipped sitting and went straight to crawling. Then last week she suddenly started kneeling. Because she was late to the sitting party, we didn’t expect her to be standing so soon.

This month has been about hints of independence. Suddenly other people can babysit her again (thank heavens!). She makes her own jokes and tells her own stories. She is eating all kinds of foods and insisting on feeding herself. She is becoming a kid instead of a baby, (even though I know there are still plenty of baby moments left).

As she is becoming a little person, I am regaining parts of myself, too.

She is also bonding with Daddy-- even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class... They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.
She is also bonding with Daddy– even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class… They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.

I am beginning to itch to go back to work part-time again. Her rediscovered comfort around others makes me feel better about leaving. While I won’t stop writing, I am also dreaming of teaching. Literally. Half my dreams have been about the classroom lately. I miss my old students. Even interacting with trick-or-treaters brought out that teacher part of me (much to the chagrin of the 11-year-old who tried to double up on the candy). Writing is great, but it fits into the time I steal for myself.

Maybe that is what needs to change, making time for myself instead of just stealing it when she is asleep. I am ready for someone else to take care of her part of the time. I am ready to get serious about work again, whether it is writing or teaching. I will finish the book I am writing first, but then maybe, just maybe, I will be ready to get out of the house and back into a classroom part-time.

Watching her get bigger is a bittersweet process. We are both gaining independence, but she will always be my sweet, cuddly girl. It is a big relief to know she will not need me close forever, even if there is also a whisper of sadness in this realization. Everything at once. Parenthood in three words. I don’t want to take a single second for granted, even if I am also excited for our future.

Hard to believe 8 months has passed.
Hard to believe 8 months has passed. I am having so much fun discovering the little girl she will become.
Pregnancy

Too Busy to Worry.

Seven weeks this Saturday, almost another down. This week I returned to work– first for a teacher retreat in Santa Cruz, and then back to my classroom to prepare today. Tomorrow I’m off to the ocean to celebrate a long weekend with friends, the last of my twenties. Then, Monday is school and 31 new little faces who need will need me for all sorts of things. My brain is full of plenty to think about, such a shift from the last few weeks of babying myself at home.

Usually I am sad to see summer go, but this time there is so much to anticipate.

I’m not looking back, and I’m also done with all the worry.