Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In case you were wondering...

Some of you may have noticed a lack of homeschooling posts in the last few months. Springtime is my normal time of reflecting over our school year, reviewing what we've accomplished, and subsequently freaking out over what we haven't gotten done. But this time, I'm remarkably calm about the whole situation. We're only on chapter 36 when we should be on chapter 47, and I'm okay with that. We have this summer, right? And the kids are learning tons of stuff they wouldn't be learning otherwise if we were focusing solely on our textbooks. See? It's all good.

Right after Christmas, I started my regular freakout sessions, "We haven't done spelling since November!! AAACK!!!" With an upcoming tax refund (whenever they worked out what I owed and all that), I was planning on buying new books for next year and stuff too. So one day I'm telling the kids we're gonna skip science today (because I'm going to buy from a different company next year), and telling them watching Animal Planet or The Weather Channel, or playing with kitchen ingredients will be sufficient. And the next day I'm yelling at them, doubling up on assignments in subjects we're behind in. And threatening them! Because if they don't be quiet and do their damn Language work Right This Second, the lady that reviews our portfolio will think they're not learning, and they'll have to go to public school, and I'll probably go to jail or something.

Can you feel the crazy, people? It radiates from my body.

Then one night while I sat drinking my tea and reading some math geek book, I remembered a funny family story. See, my great aunt had a cat that was not allowed on the furniture. The story goes that the cat had a litter of kittens, and when they were big enough to get around, she got on the couch for the one and only time of her life and taught her kittens not to go on the furniture as well. She meowed and called them, and every time they jumped up, she would hiss and bat at them until they went sprawling back on the floor. After several minutes, none of the kittens were willing to jump from the floor. Lesson learned.

Then I saw that this is what I've been doing to my kids. I suddenly realized that as much as I talk about being a relaxed homeschooler, I haven't actually been one. I've baited them with the wonderful ideals found in all those books: learning should be fun, learning is a natural process, learn at your own pace, c'mon you'll love it... and then switched on them, lecturing about the importance of education and staying at "grade level", punishing them with extra work and guilt trips about laziness. (Hello? Hypocrite??) My great aunt's cat was pretty darned smart. But me? Not so much. Why this story popped into my head that night I'll never know. But my next big thought was, "Pretty soon, they'll stop trying to jump." What happens when they stop believing that learning can be fun? What happens when "school" becomes a code word for boring drudgery, or worse, forced work on the whims of a crazy lady? And *choke* how do I look to them, with this homeschool teacher schizophrenia?? How will they look back on our homeschooling experience? Holy hell.

So I've made a deliberate and pointed attempt to let go. They are learning, without my pressure. They can learn those few things I feel they need to have, but they can do it on their terms. I will no longer look at lesson numbers, or count days until the end of the year. Despite all the former attempts at this kind of calm, I don't think I ever achieved it before now. Don't get me wrong, I don't think for a second that I will feel this way every day (and I don't). But it's March, and I haven't forced double lessons or yelled about schoolwork since January. It's a step down a long, long path and I realize that. But I feel so much better about homeschooling than I ever have before. And it's all good.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Monday afternoon, as I sat with the kids in the lobby of the oral surgeon's office waiting to take my bleeding husband home with one less tooth than he came in with, I perused the Family Fun magazine and found this awesome idea for leaf-printing eggs. I was planning on trying egg-dying with the kids this year anyway, but this was the most fabulous thing ever and I was anxious to try it. I imagined doing them, and taking pictures, and posting them here so people could ooh and ahh and then go try it themselves. I was really excited.

After buying all the dye and eggs and stuff and promising to dye eggs this week, imagine my surprise to see that Poppins had seen the same article, and tried it with great results. Ah, well. She is the queen of fab, and one can't be first all the time.

We still did leaf print eggs, and we still had a really fun time doing them, and you can still ooh and ahh over them if you like:

This is the first time I've ever dyed eggs, and Vic had never done it either, so it was a first for everyone in my house. My leaf print was the green one in the middle, which turned out pretty cool, and Cadence's blue leaf egg and Riley's orange (top right) were neat too. But I was especially impressed with Chad's (top left) where he dipped and soaked a million times in red, green, and blue, until the contrast of the leaf print was the most dramatic. I'm so glad we tried this. It was so much fun!