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Forgive My Rant

I debated whether or not to post this.  In the end, I decided that even though it’s been written and discussed a million times or more, I need the solidarity of knowing once more that I’m not alone in this struggle.  So here goes.

I had another instance over the weekend of someone saying, “I just think public school is better than homeschool. For the social interaction.”

Usually, after four years of doing this, I am able to let comments like that roll off my back. I know what I know about homeschooling, and those people are speaking from a place of true ignorance. But this one came from a little too close to home, from someone the Littles might actually listen to. In fact, I heard Littlest say within 24 hours of the comment, “If everybody homeschooled, no one would have any friends.”

I had to bite my tongue to keep from taking it out on him. After several deep, cleansing (ragged) breaths, I was ready to respond.

“Who is Will?” I asked.

“My friend.”

“Who is Seth?”

“My friend.”

Sam? Anna? Caitlin? Robert? Oh, I could have listed them for a very long time. “Baby,” I said to my boy who is no longer a baby, but on the cusp of pre-pubescence, “if everyone homeschooled, they would still find ways to make friends.”

It confused him. But it confuses a lot of people. As a society we tend to think of the public school experience as the number one way to make and have friends. We forget all the other ways kids meet people. Church. The park down the street. Family gatherings. The local pool or the YMCA. Karate or gymnastics class.

Homeschool kids, though, they have even more opportunities. Co-ops are great places not only to let your child learn something you may be unable to teach but to let them interact with other kids. Within 5 minutes of us, even in this rural area, are 3 homeschooling families. We get together regularly as a group to share classes or just hang out. Our local forestry offers a weekly nature class all year except for the very coldest months. We’ve attended classes there when more than 20 families showed up. Several of the museums in the nearby city offer monthly activities for homeschool families.  The regional zoos offer outings for homeschoolers. Even one of the small local theaters does a play every couple of months featuring only child actors. Every time we attend one of these functions, my Littles are interacting—not just with other kids but with other adults. They have friends. Lots of friends. Of all ages.

Here’s what my precious Littles do not have. They don’t have bullies making them scared to walk down the street or stealing their lunch money so that they’re starving every day. They don’t have to worry about which clique they fit into, so they can just grow up being themselves, without the pressure to be ‘as good as’ someone else. We are all as good as the next person. Money, smarts, athletic ability—those things do not put one of us above another, and my Littles know that. They don’t have to wait till after high school to realize it. They do not have to live through that middle school experience where suddenly 90% of your friends turn on you for some unfathomable reason. Some of my friends with public-schooled kids are suffering the agony of watching their kids go through that right now, and my heart aches for them. Whenever I hear another horror story, I just go hug my Littles and feel immense gratitude that they are not enduring that cruelty.

There is no lack of social interaction for the homeschooled child. Saying it feels like beating my head against a brick wall for the billionth time. It hurts my heart that my kids have to hear people to whom they are close assume that they live backwards, imprisoned, lonely lives just because they don’t go to public school. I mean, yeah, that’s not what was said but let’s face it, every time someone says homeschool doesn’t provide socialization that is what is implied.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence as a mother. I can’t tear out my hair every time someone makes an asinine assumption, and I can’t punch them in the face. All I can do is remind my Littles of what is good in their lives and why such comments are to be ignored or at least taken much more lightly than I was able to do this time around. And maybe use my blog as a place to vent so they don’t see me reacting in a negative way!

And you know what? I don’t hang out with anyone I went to public school with. I’ve made all my friends in other places over the years.

Have you ever had someone make assumptions about your kids’ lifestyle without really knowing anything about it? How did you handle it? Better yet, if you homeschool, list me some ways your kids make friends.

Going to take a few more ragged breaths….

Love wins (every time),

KT

Bedtime Stories

I have a secret.  And fortunately my beautiful husband doesn’t read my blog, so I can tell my secret to you, my curious reader.

When all my boys were little, from the womb in fact, I read them bedtime stories.  I have very fond memories of my dad or my brother reading me stories at bedtime, and later of climbing into bed with a book I chose myself, watching those lines and squiggles on the pages become a world in my mind, taking me places and on adventures I may never get to have.  In fact, those adventures went a long way toward turning me from a city slicker to a farm girl without ever looking back.  There is still nothing cozier to me than burrowing into the covers at night with a book or my Kindle and reading until my eyes drift shut.  I do it every night.

You know that my Littles and I read a chapter aloud together every day in class, and I have mentioned (over and over again) that I think engendering a love of reading is the biggest educational gift you can give your little ones.  I haven’t written much about extracurricular reading, but I enforce it.  The boys are required to read at least one book every four weeks.  I developed a book report-starter worksheet that lays out everything I expect in a report in question format, and the Littles have to fill one out for every book, writing two full reports from those worksheets per semester.  This is to ensure they are really reading on their own.

That’s not my secret.

My husband is a firm believer in ‘bedtime is bedtime,’ and when you go to bed, you turn out the lights and go to sleep.  But when the Littles came to me one night and whispered, “Mommy, can we read our books in bed?”  I didn’t hesitate.  With a wicked grin I whispered back, “Oh, please do.”  They’ve gotten caught a couple times.  Their sweet father reminded them that if they want to read they should go to bed earlier.  Behind his back, I slowly winked and shook my head.

Read, my beautiful boys.  Whenever you want to, especially at bedtime, let those adventures and strange places and interesting characters lull you into pleasant (or even outrageous) dreams.  Read while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re riding in the car, while you’re waiting for your brother to finish his chores.  Never, never believe anyone who says, “Now is not the time to read.”

Just don’t tell Daddy.

Love wins,

KT

Happy New Year

I am not a person who makes resolutions.  Not the ‘this year will be different’ kind, anyway.  For one thing, I am so blessed in my life there is not much I would resolve to change.  I am grateful every day for all I have.

However, since we are not schooling this week, I am doing prep work for the coming semester, and sometimes that is a new years’ resolution in itself.  By this time, I had better know what’s working and what’s not working this school year.  I’ve ordered yet another chemistry book and I think we’re going to be very happy with it.  The geography binders are working wonderfully.  Art history, though I’m still working on it week by week, is teaching the boys lots about both theory and history.  We’re actually reading music, something I never thought I would get to learn to do.  And I think I’ve mentioned our reading of Oliver Twist enough for you all to know how superbly that is going.

Still, I’m not finished with the study guide.  (Oh, Procrastination, you are my friend.)  And I really do need to spend some time coming up with experiments to augment our chemistry lessons.  And it’d probably be a good idea to get a couple weeks ahead in art.  So, as always, my work is never done.

But that’s okay.  It is the job we take on when we decide to homeschool. And even for that I am grateful.  Not only do I get to teach my kids with a depth they would never receive in public school, but my own brain is constantly working, constantly learning–going, going, going.  My sister would say I am staving off Alzheimer’s.

Don’t fret if instead of getting downtime in this post-Christmas period you are working harder than ever.  It’s the mark of a good parent, a good homeschooler.  Be thankful you have the option and always, always remember why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for.  And don’t resolve to be better or different next year.  Keep doing what your doing and your children will excel because of it.  And be safe and happy and grateful no matter what year it is.

Love wins,

KT

Oliver’s New Twist

dickens dictionary outside                               dickens dictionary inside

I have extolled the virtues of reading aloud with our children several times in the last couple months. I have even mentioned that the Littles and I are reading Oliver Twist together this year. But today I found yet another reason having a read-aloud class is beneficial.

I fell in love with Charles Dickens when I first read Great Expectations at about the same age as Middle. I remember discovering the decades-old hardcover in the middle school library, but I don’t remember what in me made me decide to pick it up and check it out. I think, at the time, I was fascinated by the old cloth and thread binding of such books. I didn’t know what Great Expectations was about and if I had heard of Dickens before it was through seeing different versions of A Christmas Carol on film.  Even so, from the moment I opened the first page, I was hooked.  Ensconced.  Enraptured.  I have read a Dickens novel every year since, at Christmastime, which seems like a fitting time to dive into the world of mid-1800s England and lose myself among such brilliantly written pages.  I know more about the British government and the plight of the poor and Victorian England than I really need to.  And I never tire of it.   And reading Dickens is always like slipping into a warm blanket with an even warmer cup of coffee.

So I wanted my Littles to know that feeling.  Last year, when they were in 3rd & 5th grade, we read A Christmas Carol and made the dictionary pictured above (it is actually quite long, because if there’s one basic thing any reader can take away from Dickens, it is one kick-butt vocabulary).  They understood it! and enjoyed it so much that I decided to read my Christmas Dickens with them from now on.  Oliver Twist has 50-plus chapters, and since we read a chapter a day, we had to start early to make sure we were reading it for Christmas.  We’ve now been reading for 4 weeks—finished chapter 20 today—and the Dickens Dictionary has grown exponentially in that time.  But today—oh, I do love when something new comes from reading literature—Middle was reading aloud (they alternate pages) and he read this line:

The latter recognition was uttered with just enough embarrassment to imply a doubt of its reception..;

Except he read imply like it rhymed with simply.  A reasonable mistake.   I was thrown back to the years (about 10 of them, to my reckoning) after I first read the word vehement.  Probably in a Dickens novel when I was close to Middle’s age.  I pronounced it vee-hem-ent rather than ve-a-ment.  For 10 years.  At least.  And when someone corrected me, he did it in front of a crowd of people.  He thought I had called him a behemoth.  It was super embarrassing.  So immediately upon hearing Middle’s mispronunciation, I gave him a gentle smile and kindly told him how to pronounce imply.  And tucked it into the teacher file in my head to watch for such easily mispronounced words and make sure both Littles know how to say them right.  To save them any embarrassment in their twenties.

See, having a well-read mind automatically brings a great vocabulary into one’s life.  Being well-spoken is something we have to learn.

What about you?  Have you come across a new learning tool when reading aloud with your little ones?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Love wins,

KT