Laughing Out Loud {A question, a shift, & a decision}

While chatting with my chiropractor last year (in between adjustments), I was asked a single question that made me laugh out loud. 

After some chit chat, Dr. B asked "So are you going to homeschool?" 

Honestly, it's a good thing I was face down on the massage table because I'm pretty sure my mouth gaped wide open and my eyebrows bent in opposite directions. I laughed and wondered WHY he would ask me that!?

Mr H & I had built a respectful friendship with our new chiropractor--we shared common interests and philosophies. We talked about our relatively new focus on healthy, clean eating and our favorite uses for coconut oil (skin lotion! scrape healer! butter replacement!). He praised us for our knowledge seeking and we learned more from him.

We talked about natural birthing, doulas, and the mind-body connection. His wife birthed their babies at home, we made that connection early on that front. We discussed education, creativity, and the value of the individual. 

Somehow with all of those conversations, he jumped to the next logical (in his mind, clearly not mine) question...will you be learning and teaching with your children at home?

I laughed out loud and said "What? Homeschool? Nah. No. Um. Nope." I thought it was hilarious that my natural birthing + healthy eating conversations meant that I also wanted to keep my kids home from public school. Though I had pretty much decided to go the Montessori route (so I did already have some interest in something non-traditional for our school environment) , never once had I envision myself as a 'homeschooler'. 

Dr. B's posed question simultaneously bothered and amused me.

The truth is, when you pull back the word homeschooling (which I don't love*), what you have is an organic, real-life oriented, whole experience learning environment fostered by the people that are experts on the child(ren) and are the most devoted of anyone to provide meaningful (spiritual and secular) education.

With his question lingering in my mind, I wondered why it bothered me so much. Was it just the word 'homeschooling'? Was it because I had actually wondered about, but was too afraid to consider an option?

I already had J registered for Montessori school and was quite grateful. The Montessori method's child-centered learning/guiding style is (to me) absolutely wonderful. Ours is an urban charter Montessori in St. Paul and the applications are accepted by lottery. He was set and we were set. I was disappointed that there were no half day options and regularly (daily?) lamented over that, but overall--we had a plan of action.

Over time, even with his acceptance to that school, my brain started quietly buzzing about homeschooling. I did some research and ended up at a symposium in June that left me feeling enlightened, encouraged, and uplifted in my role as educator in my home.

Even if I didn't homeschool, the principles of emotional connections in learning and child-focused patterns felt extremely applicable to me as a stay-at-home mother of three young children. What I began to realize was...I was already homeschooling. 

Every day we have adventures together, we ask questions, we find answers! We study, evaluate, practice, and create. We learn through our daily interactions & experiences. The questions and interests of my children become our 'curriculum' and their projects become our 'work'. I saw my work as a mother educator in a different light and I liked it.

The more I researched, the more my perspective shifted and my discontentedness in the typical public school route became more solid. I watched this TED talk about shifting paradigms, and this NPR broadcast about children's innate learning abilities. 

I pondered more as I read articles like these: homeschool misconceptions  & why more people are homeschooling that were circling the internets this summer. And from that symposium in June-- this talk (watch it right now!) by Angel Seldon about the "ecology of learning" really resonated with me.

Mr. H watched these with me to understand what I was learning/feeling and the shifts in thinking that were happening for me. He was interested and on board with whatever I wanted to do. I felt Montessori school was on board with my new enlightenment all the way up until that week before the first day of school.

That week--oh that week! My heart was heavy every single day. I agonized over saying goodbye at 8:20am and missing the best parts of J's day...all the way until 4pm. I posted some of my bubbling emotions on that first day of the Montessori "phase in" days--on this blog (scroll down or read it HERE). 

I did not want to let it go. I love what I have. I want to be home with my children and I am blessed to be able to. I enjoy the collaborative learning we experience. I treasure the interaction between my three children and I cherish my gift to guide and direct as it naturally and beautifully unfolds.

So then, the question became--why not?

Why not homeschool my kindergartener?

It is an extension of what we are already doing and we are not locked into anything.  Once I saw what I was feeling was more than just pre-school jitters and actually an intense desire to experience the freedom of having school be what, where, and when we want it to be, I started to feel peace. The anxiety drifted away and I felt answers to prayers. I consulted with Trevor and then went to bed with a smile on my face.

The very next day (one week ago, today), instead of driving J to his 2nd 'phase in' day, we went on an impromptu field trip to Stillwater. We drove across the bridge into Wisconsin. We talked about the St. Croix River as we made echo sounds inside the war veteran's statue. We had our very own tour of the historic courthouse (first one in MN!) and went inside the old jail. We stood by the judge's seat and marveled at the architecture (and we had my Mom on speaker phone the entire time so she could 'be' with us!). We talked about the value of this schooling choice, our freedom to explore and learn together.

I sent a letter to the school and district and registered with the Minnesota Homeschool Alliance (I have a homeschool educator ID card to prove it!) This is a new adventure and we're all adjusting to it. I don't know much, but I do know this is right for our family, for right now. We will have an 'official first day' next week--the same day Mr. N starts his pre-school co-op. I'll be taking our requisite "first day of school" photos on Monday.

And we might just be 
laughing out loud as we do it.

*Top 5 reasons I don't love the word homeschooling:

1-the assumptions (granted, often based on real life examples) of social awkward in-home learners
2-the connotations of frumpy, out-of-touch homeschooling Moms
3-the imagery of schooling that is limited to the walls of one single building (home)
4-the misguided notion that homeschooling is the lazy parents' choice--stay home & wear your pjs all day, right?
5-the immediate change in tone when this word is introduced in the conversation


Katie Bradley said...

The peace you feel is so telling. This will be a fun adventure for you all.

Laura said...

I agree with Katie - the peace is what you should be listening to.

I am one of those people with whom the conversation immediately changes, but perhaps not for the reasons that you imagine. When I meet someone who chooses to educate their children at home, I feel guilty that I don't. So, I might come off defensive.

Logically, I know I shouldn't, but I do. My kids do NOT take instruction from me. At all! Madi refused to learn to tie her shoelaces until I asked her physical therapist to teach her, and then she had it in a week. My decision is the right one for us. The decisions of others have nothing to do with mine, but I (like most people) tend to make it all about me. ;)

The irony of the fact that I get so many compliments on my teaching in church isn't lost on me... I am trying to accept the fact that my job as an educator is to find the right people to teach my kids, and make sure they receive the proper instruction.

I am so impressed that you are brave enough to follow spiritual promptings instead of doing what is "expected". You will have a wonderful journey!

Miles said...

Congratulations on getting an answer and feeling of peace after all of your research and prayers! Welcome to the homeschooling world :) It's a crazyyyyy ride!