Tuesday, August 12, 2014

School Daze and Other Radical Life Choices

      'Tis the days of school- freshly pressed uniforms, neatly bound notebooks, smudge-free book bags and the like.  According to her age and according to the system of education, Katherine should be knee-deep in all of the aforementioned.  And yet, here she is, still at home.  Why oh why have I not taken advantage of the fact that I could at least set one of my birds free to attend a local institution for close to 40 hours a week and have more time with the other fowl I find myself surrounded by one a daily basis?  The answer, my dear friends, is we have chosen to homeschool our oldest chick for this year.  Now, before you go all "that's crazy" on me, hear me out.  I'm no crazier than anybody else out there, I just choose my crazy differently.

     Actually, I have trouble remembering how all of this started.  I will admit I never quite had peace with starting Katherine in one of the local schools.  It isn't because they're bad (just stop it), or dangerous, or anything else of the sort.  I think I've gotten better at listening…..especially to other moms.  And I've been listening the past couple of years, to what life is like in elementary and beyond.  And to be quite honest, I just felt we weren't ready for that yet.  Wouldn't that be enough of a reason?  I find myself questioning this taken-for-granted mentality that every child is ready for formal schooling at age 3, 4, 5, or 6 or whatever.  Or that every family is ready for it.  The funny thing is, I'm typically quite traditional in my beliefs.  Most would probably consider me socially conservative, strongly Catholic and the like.  And yet, there is a very real part of my personality that is fiercely independent in thought. I usually have no trouble going against the flow if I'm convinced it's not the best for me or my family.  And so, this whole elementary school decision kept creeping closer and closer and I just never felt like it was the right move.  Enter the camper.

The "what", you say?  The camper.  You know, this baby:

Except it would be a little (ahem) shorter, without a tiny garage, and it would actually be small enough to be pulled by our minivan.  Haha.  Yes, perhaps I mean this:

    Can't you just see it?  The fam in the back, Cory pedaling us to freedom in the woods…..in Asia.  You guys, jump on the bandwagon of non-traditional living.  I swear, this is the golden ticket to modern bliss.  But, in all reality, it's kind of where we're headed.  I mentioned my misgivings about starting Katherine in kindergarten and how I just wasn't ready to be saddled with so much schooling for the next fifty years of our life.  Isn't there another option?  So Cory said, "why don't we homeschool her for a year and buy a camper and travel."  And I said, "I love you and you must be getting more sleep than me to come up with something so brilliant."  Because, you see, it's conversations such as this that led to Cory and I even starting a dating relationship.  We're both have an amazing ability to be slightly….off.  We dream about living in other countries; we dream about the unconventional; we dream about doing something different!  And it's where we click.  There is a part of both us that thrives on the "to hell with it! let's break the mold and try something new!" and apparently we're passing it on to our children because when we mentioned homeschooling and a camper to Katherine, she seemed to believe it was the most astounding idea ever.  Not that she has much of a clue about any of the options.

I'll also admit that the first couple of months of leaning towards that choice were fraught with doubt and questions of sanity.  Not only did we find out soon after that we were expecting another baby bird to be due right smack in the middle of the school year but I realized I have no earthly idea what homeschooling was all about.  So I messaged all of my homeschooling friends and asked questions.  And listened.  And gradually, a vision of sorts started appearing.  We've decided to join a local community called Classical Conversations that is part of a much larger national program.  The children meet for class once a week and this program helps parents teach their children in the classical method of learning.   I hope to continue blogging regularly to give people more of an idea of what it's like so that people can see for themselves because, honestly, it's overwhelming to me to try and explain what our lives will be like this year (as if I even had a clue).  I do know that we've ordered math books, history books, spelling, language arts, drawing, started Katherine in piano, and narrowed down our camper search to one beauty that we're salivating over until we take the plunge hopefully next month or October.  It's all so…..EXCITING!!!  And that's where I feel the presence of God in all of this.  Sometimes you have to follow your gut and trust that God will lead.  And He has.  In so many wonderful ways.  To the point where Katherine and I can't wait until class starts and we journey together to learn about this incredible world He has created.  

Here's the thing, though.  Many people are HIGHLY uncomfortable with the idea of homeschooling.  And I say, I'm HIGHLY uncomfortable with the choices some people make about traditional schooling and their kids.  I'm tired of hearing about the perpetual diagnosis it seems every kid in America is receiving in first grade.  And the medications, and the tutoring on top of seven hours of school and an hour or two of homework.  And the rush, rush, rush.  And the no time for play, and dream, and create because everything is so over-scheduled for a seven year old that he or she has no time to just "be bored" which I think is one the healthiest things in the world.  And I say…it can wait.  I say no right now.  I'm not saying that would be Katherine.  I don't know, and I don't even want to find out.  I just want more time with her.  I want more time as a family.  James will be in preschool and I will have a one year old and a new baby.  And it will be alright.  Or it won't and we'll start school next year.  Either way, it will be on our terms and not because everybody else is doing it or the school system says it's time.  And, think about it, say we homeschool Katherine for one year.  She will still have TWELVE more years of Catholic schooling.  I think that would be sufficient.  Even if we had a blast this year and decided to do it through 3rd grade (gasp!). She would start in fourth and have NINE more years of formal schooling.  Plenty.  Doesn't that put it into perspective how long kids go to school?

Here's the last little thought I wanted to leave you with:  just because we are choosing this route for this year, doesn't mean I think YOU should.  Get it?  I don't think people that send their kids to school are making a mistake, I don't think you don't like your family or that you're pushing your child too fast too early.  Actually, I don't think about your choices much at all to be quite honest.  I have enough choices to make for my own flock.  I think sometimes when you choose something non-traditional for your family, people can sometimes get their feathers all tangled up.  As if we're saying something about other people's choices.  And we're not.  I actually think most people should send their kids to school- it's a system and it probably works best for most people.  So let's just be okay with your decision and ours.  Nobody's trying to hurt their kids or hold them back.  We're just living and that takes on many forms for all the different kids and families out there.  And, you know, it's all okay.  



tknola78 said...

My cousins do it. I'm always so jealous of the freedom. Especially the traveling. Anytime they want

tknola78 said...

Forge on, sister!

Kate Dawson said...

So will I be seeing less of you than I thought?

Molly Howat said...

Haaaa…thanks, Tricia! Forge we are! And Kate, hilarious. No, because I will be inviting you and all your children to come take trips in our tiny camper!! Yay!!! You will be COMING WITH US, dear. Haha! Just kidding. Actually, we plan on some of the weekends Cory taking just the boys so we can do fun homeschool field trips or Cory taking the older two, or all the other options. Don't worry, you'll be seeing LOTS of the Howats :)

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