Tag Archives: Honesty

12. Reality

Sometimes I get overwhelmed looking at other homeschoolers’ blogs, because they seem to have everything so much more under control than I do.  Their classrooms are set up with everything you could possibly want; we do school at the dining room table and have one bookshelf for all of our homeschool materials.  Their website photos are magazine-ready; I tend to use snapshots from my iPhone.  (I have a nice Canon DSLR but would rather not deal with the extra step of transferring photos from the memory card to the computer.  My iPhone is just too easy in comparison).  Their kids seem so studious and exceptional at everything they do.  Ashby and Ryan do love to read and give me no trouble with lessons.  I, of course, think they are exceptional.  But, I also know they’re normal kids…they want to play, and self-restraint isn’t tops on their agenda.  They would watch TV and eat snacks all day long if I allowed it (I don’t). But, they’re curious, respectful, resourceful, and imaginative.   That’s what matters to me.

So, I remind myself not to believe everything I see online.  Look at this:

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This was Saturday morning.  The kids and I took a nice walk to a local coffee shop for breakfast, and they ran around and played outside when we were done.  What joyful and loving siblings, right?  A perfect morning…sunshine, a cup of coffee, happy kids.

Well, here we are about 2 minutes later:

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Ashby comes over to tell me that Ryan is mad, because she isn’t playing the game according to his rules (which he has a tendency to keep adding as his games go along).  Now, Ashby is mad at me, because I’m not reprimanding Ryan right this second (I never do, she tells me).   And do you see Ryan pouting in the background?

This is my perfect Saturday morning.  This is reality.  But, it’s quite easy for me to just post the first pic and tell the world how wonderful our life is.  Not only will you think I’ve got it all together, but I might believe it myself.   So, why not?

Well, just in case I’ve given you the impression up until now that everything is roses and cotton candy in our homeschool experience, I want to set the record straight.  I can’t promise that every post I make will inspire you with its beauty or demonstrate how easy and natural it is to homeschool.  But I can assure you that I’ll be honest.  I can offer you resources that I find useful and lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) in my years homeschooling.  I’ll post about some of our fun homeschool days, but I’ll address the flops, too (with the hope that our challenge could lead to someone else’s success).

The reality is that some days are amazing, and I impress even myself. More often, though, homeschooling (and parenting, in general) is an exercise in patience and humility.  I don’t have all the answers, contrary to what I could easily project here on my blog.  But, every day is a new opportunity to learn and teach, and for that I am thankful.

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4. Mr. Darcy and the Honest Truth

But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.

– Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

While he said this in the midst of a rather arrogant proposal, the sentiment of Mr. Darcy’s words resonates with me (as does just about everything else about him). The honest truth has value, especially when we fear acknowledging it. This is why I feel so passionately about homeschooling. It enables me to teach, an act I feel called to do, in an honest manner. If I try something, and it feels like a perfect fit, great! If, on the other hand, it doesn’t align with my own truth, I am free to change my method without fear of repercussion.

I once worked at a school where my superiors told me that my science department had to achieve a “B average” that year (meaning the average of all students’ final grades had to average out to a B). The previous year’s average had been a C, and that was insufficient apparently. (The pressure came to us from the administration. But, whether the administration was feeling pressure from parents or the District/State for funding reasons, I’m not sure). One of the teachers, a fantastic teacher by all accounts, told me that he planned to use the regular curriculum for his honors students this year and “dumb it down for the rest.” By all outward appearances, this was one of the best schools in the state. As I was now discovering, this was a disguise. How could I pass those students who were clearly checked out (didn’t complete homework…ever, showed up high, were disrespectful toward the other students and me)? I had direct orders to pass them. But, what would I be teaching them, and all the students who did try their best, by doing so?

I left that teaching position soon after the school year started. I knew I was failing by leaving early, but I also knew I couldn’t teach under those constraints (inflated grades is just one example). The teaching practices there were too far from my honest truth. I avoided teaching for about five years after that, feeling that I had no right to teach and nothing to offer my students. Eventually, however, my mentor convinced me that I should try it again. I accepted a part-time position at another school, and I loved it! This healing experience lasted briefly, because we soon moved to New York for an amazing opportunity in Mike’s career. He left California at the end of March, and two-year-old Ashby and I said our goodbyes to family and friends and flew to New York the day after school let out for summer. I missed Mike during our months apart, but I had to redeem myself in my own eyes by finishing what I had started this time.

This journey began almost fifteen years ago, and only in the past year have I come to believe that I wasn’t the only reason I failed in my former position. Yes, I failed my students by leaving them and not fighting for them. But, the school failed me, too. I expected honesty, not disguise.

Thus awoke my curiosity toward alternatives to standard schooling. I discovered some works by John Taylor Gatto and realized I was not alone in my curiosity. Had I not experienced this personally devastating introduction to teaching, I might never have considered homeschooling. So, ultimately, it wasn’t a failure, just an experience. It taught me to value my honest truth, and for that I am grateful. My hope now is that other parents, for whom homeschooling might be a good fit, will find it naturally. It shouldn’t take a life-altering experience to learn about homeschooling. It should be right out there in the open with public schooling and private schooling. I am optimistic, because the number of families who homeschool seems to be growing exponentially. But, I believe there are still many families who would benefit from and appreciate it if only they knew it were an option.

1. The First Step

 It’s going to be a long journey.  But, I have to start somewhere.  So, here I am doing something I swore I’d never do.  Of course, the more I experience life, the more I understand the phrase, “Never say never.”  I was never going be anything other than  a doctor (everyone told me so)…until I admitted to myself that, while I was capable of becoming a doctor, what I really wanted to do was teach and raise a family.  I was never going to be anything less than an amazing teacher…until my first teaching job shattered my illusions of what “teaching” meant.  I knew for certain that I would never do this or that with MY children…until I had children and realized babies and toddlers have minds of their own.  I would never leave the Bay Area and all my family and friendsuntil Mike’s job offers led us to New York…and Chicago…and, 5 years later, back to SF.   I would never give up my career to be a stay-at-home-mom (lose my identity and waste my education?  No, thank you)until I chose to walk away from a part-time teaching position I loved to move to NY with Mike and Ashby (and Ryan on the way).  I soon realized, however, that being a stay-at-home-mom was more fulfilling to me than spending my day in a classroom (away from my own kids).  

  So, no more “never.”  It’s still my natural reaction sometimes, when faced with an option that I didn’t plan, to immediately think, “no,” and feel my body tighten with anxiety.  But,  it’s a fleeting feeling.  I understand myself well enough now to know that, given a couple days to think and process a big change, I can adapt to pretty much anything.  Flexibility makes for a much better life, I think.  So, this is me adapting yet again.  These past experiences have brought me to today.  I am a stay-at-home-mom and a teacher.  I started homeschooling Ashby in Chicago, and we continue it now here in the SF Bay Area.  Ryan joined in a couple years ago, too.  I love where I am, and I’m thankful for all the successes and failures that brought me here.  As much as I love to plan, I accept that life could care less about my plans.  Much like a baby, it has a mind of its own.  I look forward to seeing where it leads me.  For now, I’ll focus on teaching the kids.  I know I need to keep a digital record of our homeschooling adventure; but, a blog?  Everyone and their mother has one, and I would never do something so trendy…until now.