Saturday, June 14, 2014

Learning to Ride

   Learning to do new things is sometimes scary.  You have to let go and just give it a try sometimes.  Recently my 5 year old learned to ride his bike.  He took his training wheels off and with just one push from Dad and another from Mom, he had it figured out.  In all actuality, I think we should have taken the training wheels off of his bike a long time ago.  He really already knew exactly what to do, he just needed to actually let go and give it a try.  As soon as he realized that he could do it, he immediately wanted to "catch up" with his brother, who was riding down the road.  He had barely gotten the hang of it and he already felt behind.



   So many times I find myself wanting to do the same.  I've barely learned to sew a straight stitch and yet I want to make something with ruffles.  I can barely make homemade ice-cream but I want to make blueberry ice-cream with homemade blueberry syrup.  How many times do we do this with homeschooling as well? We've barely made the decision to homeschool but yet we want to catch up and have the Pinterest Perfect homeschool classroom and daily Pinterest worthy lesson plans.  We struggle to catch up with those around us that have been homeschooling for years.  We strive to have everything together and have a perfect year but what we forget is the learning curve.

   Three years ago we made the decision to homeschool.  I found some great Montessori homeschool blogs and I was going to do it all just like those moms.  I worked all summer trying to make lessons and buy those that I could afford.  I saved up money that I found in the laundry, babysat for a few friends, sold a few scrapbook things and worked in my husband's office in order to have money to purchase those expensive materials.  Things were great.  We had a few friends join us the first few weeks of school and all was going great until I started to fall behind on my work for my husband's company.  He hired someone to take my place but then we had to move out of the office area that we were using for a classroom.  It was early December and I felt like my plans for the year were just over and that our year had been horrible.  We rushed to finish a room upstairs, moved our bedroom up and then used the old bedroom as our classroom.  All was well with the world again but I still felt like I had failed my kids.  For our co-op yearbook that year, a good friend of mine made a collage to be used as our family page.  Take a look at the year we had and tell me if you see the chaos.  What I see when I look at that collage is a great year full of fun, laughter and learning.

2011-12 Collage for the year book.

    Not thinking about the actual successes of the year, I focused on things that I just couldn't keep up with.  I decided that Montessori homeschooling just wasn't for us and I purchased curriculum.  You know, the kind that has a whole collection of text books that look just like what I used in school, along with nice crisp workbooks.  I was in love!  Everything was going to be soooooo easy that year.  Boy was I wrong!!!  Elijah hated them!  You know what he loved?  The extra activities that I planned to go along with his lessons from the textbook.  Desperate and upset that I had spent all that money on curriculum, I talked with a Montessori teacher friend that decided to spend her day off with us and give me some textbook free ideas.  Again I felt disoriented with our homeschool journey and just knew that I was doing my children a disservice by keeping them home.  I didn't have a fancy collage of photos through out the year this time but you know what I did have, a little boy that would beg to stay up after bedtime to read.  I had another little boy that begged to have stories read to him all day long.  I asked them if they wanted to go to school in the fall and they asked me, "Why?"  It seems they enjoyed the year and like being at home with Mom.

End of the year celebration and Student of the Year trophies.
I even got a Teacher of the Year plaque.

   This past year was possibly our worst one yet.  We now have 2 foster children and have had several others come through our house over the past school year.  Thirteen to be exact.  We even had a newborn for a few weeks.  As hard as I try to stay organized, I lost all sense of organization when the second foster child entered our home.  She's been with us a year now and I'm just now getting into the groove of things and trying to get organized, of course, we now have a baby on the way of our own.  Anyways, so this past school year we started out going back to Montessori but we added a Math curriculum that fits well with the Montessori philosophy.  I thought the year was going to be great because I was so ready, I didn't know that the state was going to throw in extra family visits during the week.  I didn't know that having afternoon activities 4 days a week was going to affect our entire day.  I didn't know that Saturday morning soccer games and Sunday morning church were going to keep me from getting anything done on the weekends.  Needless to say, very little school got done until we stopped all activities and visits in January.  We managed to fit in 9 months of school in just 4 months before we were completely burnt out again.

A day at Walter B Jacobs, a nature trail and wildlife refuge.
September 2013

   Was this year a disaster?  I'd say so!  Did I learn from this year?  Certainly!  Will I always remember how horrible this year was?  Probably not!  The truth is, that regardless of how bad this school year was, there was still much good in it.  My kids love our math program, ShillerMath.  They love to read and visit the library.  They love their school work and are looking forward to starting back in the fall.  As I have done each May since we first decided to homeschool, I gave my kids a choice.  I asked if they want to go to school or continue homeschooling.  Their answer always puts a smile on my face and reminds me that despite all of the challenges of homeschooling, we must be getting something right.  My boys don't want to go to school, they want to stay right here at home and continue homeschooling.

   I won't say that I've completely learned to ride yet, but I can proudly say that I continue to get back up each and every time that I fall.  I've got scars to remind me of the journey and the lessons that I've learned along the way.  Each time I fall, I have to remind myself that I haven't failed, I've only learned one more way that doesn't work for our family.  I'll be trying things a bit different this school year too.  There will be more trials and lessons to be learned but through each one, we are still learning as a family.

   Keep learning to ride.  Get right back on when you fall off.  Remember the lessons learned with each and every fall.  The trail is a rough one but one day we'll look back after the last child has graduated high school and we'll realize that we've finally learned to ride.  We will then be ready to teach others how to ride!

 




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