Get Real :: Learning at Home

April 23, 2013

I have been waiting a while to write this post. It has been in my head for weeks, and on my heart for much longer. This is not an easy subject to write on, mainly because every family is different, and sometimes I fear that in writing about homeschooling my children, I am creating a good vs. bad discussion about education. I believe that every family needs to make their own decisions, and feel good and supported in those choices. This is simply our story, and our journey with our children.

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I have written extensively on the subject of homeschooling. It has been a part of our lives for many years, and I am sure that it will continue to be so for many more to come. It is also a challenging subject for me, as I don’t think that my family fits into the traditional homeschooling “type”.

We began to home school our oldest son when he was in preschool. It was something that I felt passionately about, and that I convinced my husband would be best for our family. I read every book I could find, soaked up all the information over the internet, and feverishly planned for the years ahead. I used a combination of Waldorf and Montessori curriculum, and embraced a creative and natural approach to his education.

It felt really good for a while, and as Elwood joined our daily rhythms and activities, it grew into a loving and special time for all of us. We tried Jacob in a kindergarten environment for a few weeks when he was 6, but knew right away that it was not right for him. We felt secure and happy in our decision to home school, and figured that the path that we were supposed to take would be clearly laid out before us as the years went on.

Of course, life never works like that, does it? In 2011, Landon blessed our home and our lives, and I began to feel my confidence as my children’s educator slip away. It was a very sad time for me, mainly because I no longer felt that I could give them what they needed. I began to doubt who I was and what I could provide, and instead I allowed other’s opinions of what was right and wrong to come into my vision.

In the fall of 2011 I placed both of my children into school. I was happy with the decision, and figured that they would find a way to adjust. I convinced myself that the school had everything that they could want, and that they would make friends, and be happy and that everything would be wonderful. My husband was not pleased with my decision, and tried his best to convince me that I should wait a bit longer, but I plowed ahead.

My children did adjust, beautifully. They both won awards, ranked in the top of their class, flourished, and assimilated. I patted myself on the back for my brilliant decision making, and slowly adjusted to being a mother of school children.

A year later, almost to the date, a terrible kidnapping and murder of a fifth grade girl took place in our area. It was frightening, and because it was so local, it was a subject that came up with my boys. As I was driving Jacob to soccer one afternoon, I had the overwhelming feeling to just remind him how short life was, and to make sure that his choices were always based on happiness. What happened next will forever change all of our lives. He looked up at me and with a trace of anger in his voice said, “My spirit has been broken the past year”. I swear I almost had an accident. I pulled my car over and just stared at him in disbelief.

We sat and talked for about an hour, and honestly I was so emotional I had to call my husband to come and take him home. He asked me why I had made him go to school, he told me how much he had loved to learn and how much that had changed. He felt that he was constantly being talked at, and pressured, and looked through. It was not a conversation that a 9 year old should have had, but it was one that we were going to have to face.

When I got home, I sat down with the boys and Joel and tried to prepare myself for what was ahead. They both expressed the same anger, the same frustration, and the same sadness. They were simply not happy.

How had this happened? How had a mother of three children, who was once so confident and so sure in her path, lost her way so completely? It took me a few days to come to terms with all that I had failed to recognize, and all that was ahead. I knew what the next step was, but I wanted to make sure that we were all prepared for what it meant.

A few months later, the boys came home. It was a decision that some agreed with, and some did not, but Joel and I knew that the only opinions that mattered were ours, and our children.

I want to stop here and say that our original decision to home school our kids was not based on a feeling of public schools being evil, or even lacking. It was not based on a need to protect our children from the dangers or difficult situations of the world. It was based on a desire to spend our lives with our kids. To not release them into the world so young. I do not believe, in any way, that school is bad, and that homeschooling is good. Life is never that black and white. I also loved the school that they went to, and I have nothing but gratitude for the year that they so fully gave to my children.

Learning

Landon-reading

Jake-at-the-microscope

The boys are now at home, and I have a feeling that this is where they will stay for quite some time. It has not been an easy transition, as Landon is a toddler, and we are expecting another babe here soon. I am not going to paint a rainbow and sunshine picture of what life is like as a homeschooler, because it will not do me or anyone else any good. It is tough! But I love it.

I do feel much more peace since they have returned, and even though I still battle with feelings of confidence and security in this decision, I know that it is the right one.

Our days are slowly coming together, our rhythm is slowly taking shape. Who we are as homeschoolers is becoming more clear each day. We are together for right now, but are slowly opening our circle for home school co-ops and events.

We do follow a curriculum, and in the coming months I am anxious to share our journey with you. For now, I think that this will do. This is about as real as our story can get. This has not been an easy 18 months, but we have learned a ton. The road ahead will be paved with uncertainties, and I am sure many challenges, but for now, the one thing that we know for sure is that our path will be walked together.

This post is part of the series Get Real, which was created by Adrie of Fields and Fire and Tonya and of Plain and Joyful Living. It is a series that looks at the real ways in which we each deal with the lives we have created. I hope that you will visit each of the participants, and enjoy their perspectives each week. 

Tonya at Plain and Joyful Living
Adrie at Fields and Fire
Lisa at Hullabaloo Homestead
Melanie at Mama Ash Grove
Kyce at Old Recipe for a New World
Aubrey at This Blessed Life

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy April 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

This post resonated so deeply with me, thank you for being brave and sharing it. I too made the decision 6 years ago to put my kids in public school and it was a positive in many ways. I adjusted to Mama of school kids and let go of the guilt of not being able to ‘do it all’. Here we are now looking at homeschooling again (the younger ones), but with renewed confidence and a deep value of what was gained during all those years of homeschooling my older kids. I’m really glad you shared this, I’m passing it along to my husband.

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Tonya April 23, 2013 at 9:05 am

So pure and honest Heather, thank you! What an amazing son you have to have been able to articulate his feelings – what a blessing.

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Erin April 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

Thank you so much for sharing this. We too homeschool and sometimes I find myself questioning that choice. Reading your post reminded me that public school is not the perfect choice for children; neither is homeschooling. Our focus is better directed towards “spending our lives with our kids”, as you wrote so beautifully. :)

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Jamie Ford April 23, 2013 at 9:21 am

You are exactly right, the only opinions that matter are yours, Joel’s and your boys. I am glad you are so happy with everything you have chosen. It is surely not the easy route. Very proud of you! Xoxo

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Emmalina April 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

As a homeschooling Mum who has changed tack so many times I really appreciate your honesty! I still have guilt about our early days of school that were marred by building a house and the challenges of a destructive toddler! We are finally finding our own way but I don’t know anyone who works the way we do, I think we are a little odd! While life has tripped me up more times than I can count I do believe that giving my kids a unique vision of the world is the right choice, who knows what they will think though!

I hope you know that you are not alone, that you are brave and strong, that your love is enough. Thanks for sharing your twists and turns and for easing that insecure part of me that compares and says I’ll never be as good as others : ) For what it’s worth I think you are fantastic! I’m sending you a virtual cup of tea and a sit down around my kitchen counter, you’re welcome any time ; )

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Melanie~Mama Ash Grove April 23, 2013 at 9:34 am

Heather, thank you so much for sharing so much of yourselves. It isn’t easy to write about- I had difficulty with my post, so worried I’d offend someone!
You are so courageous for doing in your heart what you knew was right for your children. hugs

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Arianne--Stillparenting April 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

I love your honesty. That’s the only real way we can help each other on this path, I think. With truth. Your sons are lucky to have a mother who is adjustable and willing to change directions when things aren’t working. That matters more than perfection. Just the fact that he can express what he’s feeling to you with such clarity is proof of your mothering skills.

We too love homeschooling. But I’m about to give birth to number five, my fourth son, and I know there’s always going to be a rift between my idea of the way things should be and what I’m truly capable of. Even with the limitations and struggles, I wouldn’t trade it though. My kids have peace and freedom. That matters most. Love and hugs!

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Gina April 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

Brave and Courageous Mama! Flexibility makes all things approachable. I can’t wait to read more about your journey!

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brooke g April 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Oh Heather! You spoke to my heart to today. I am actually teary eyed! these are the words I needed to hear. That it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows… and the negativity that comes with the sentence “I think I am going to homeschool” is amazing!! The doubt that crosses the faces of people you love and respect. How can they doubt us? We are the mamas of these wonderful kids, and we are choosing to teach them about the world at their own pace, and at our own pace.
It seems in this world as we know it today, everyone wants to hurry up and just get there (where ever “there” may be)…. but I want to be here. For me, sometimes it is really hard to be “here” and not think about the “there”… but I am getting there.
I start nursing school next year I think (fall 2014) and my biggest worry is that I won’t be able to homeschool. And my kids say they love school… love to learn. But I fear that that might change. What your son said hit me hard. How he had been broken. That is how I feel some school systems are designed to do… almost like military bootcamps! You must conform or else mentality seems rampant. But all kids are different (heck, all four of mine are SO different) and I imagine it is hard to teach 25 kids in one class and get good results for everyone and nurture EVERY ONEs spirits…. I can’t even imagine.
But I can teach and show my four how to learn and grow at a rate they are comfortable with.
But boy am I nervous! We are going to start a form of homeschooling this summer/fall, and my husband will be deployed, so it will be interesting… and I can’t wait.
I LOVE reading your blog as always. I feel like we could be great friends if ever within a closer radius :)
Thanks. Heather. So much!

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anushka April 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

thank you for this post heather. so nice to get your update in all your honest truth. i have had the same exact feelings of inadequacy in homeschooling my oldest since our baby was born and can completely understand you. i think this must be the hardest time for a homeschooling mom, when she’s integrating more children into the family. i know a homeschooling mother of four who said she really didn’t start any real homeschooling with her four until her youngest was 2 and a half. by this time her other children were 8, 6, and 4. if i could just relax and wait until then, i may have these feelings less, but it’s so hard when you are up against the majority. my son is kindergarten aged and i know he isn’t at grade level according to california standards having been a school teacher for many years. and although i know that those are not my goals with my children, it’s hard not to be influenced by the majority sometimes. i’ve never been a fan of early academics as a school teacher, and now as a parent i’m living out my philosophy allowing my children to play and be outside and learn things when they are ready for them. i am well aware that i could force him to learn kindergarten standards, but at what cost? my heart tells me to carry on homeschooling, but my head sometimes tells me otherwise. i think it’s ego. it’s not an easy path to be on, but as we all know as homeschoolers there are so many more moments of gratitude and love than you would have otherwise with your children spending more time in school than at home with you. learning is always happening. they will learn different lessons from being at home. i think it’s best not to compare the two types of education when it comes to raising our children. i just consider myself very fortunate to be in a position to have the choice. i look forward to hearing more about what curriculum you chose to follow and what your days look like.

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Danielle | Crafting Connections April 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

Oh, this so so nice to hear. It is good to hear that your journey is not a linear one. It inspires me to forge on with our own journey as well. While we are intending to homeschool, we haven’t had to face it quite head-on yet. Our little ones are 2 and 4. But now, with nearly all of our friends sending their kids to school in the Fall (and us not) I know it is coming. I need to find the bravery to be confident in my choices and know, in my heart, that the only ones who matter here are those in our home. Thanks for that.

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Desiree April 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

I had a similar experience. But my oldest was only in Kindergarten when I pulled her. She was bullied horribly at school and it killed her love of learning. The bullying turned her from being an outgoing social butterfly to so deeply shy and anxious that she is a hair breadth away from a selective mutism diagnosis. Hang in there! It sounds like you’re doing the right thing for your kids!

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Chelsea April 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Dear Heather, thank you for writing this. We are preparing for Pan’s first year of kindergarten at a Waldorf school, and while it is a decision that we are all really excited about, I think that — as you write so beautifully here — it is important for us to remain open and fluid to how our family’s needs might change as the boys grow. Sebastian’s parents did this for him through his elementary and middle school years — especially when he reached middle school and was very unhappy in that environment. His father homeschooled him through those years, and by the time he reached high school, he was incredibly confident and capable and complete as a young man in a way that most high schoolers are not. He has carried this self-awareness and confidence through his adult life, and has one of the most amazing and open relationships with his parents that I’ve ever seen. Of all the things I hope to be as a parent, the most important is to be attuned to my children’s needs as they grow and change, and have to courage to meet them. This seems to be exactly what you are doing, and it is very brave and beautiful. XXOO +Chelsea

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Kelly April 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I love your honesty. And your ability to keep assessing the situation and making the best decision you can make.

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KC April 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I’m struggling so much with this issue right now. Back in the States I was going to homeschool my girls for many reasons. One being the schools are not very good in southern Arizona, and like you I didn’t really want to be away from them all day 5 days a week. But now that we have moved to France I am finding it almost impossible to keep them at home. EVERYONE here goes to school from age 3 on wards. The schools are very good. My husband who is from Italy is very excited for them to go to school here. But I have a lingering feeling of doubt. Homeschooling is legal here but you have to follow the French curriculum. Meaning that I have to teach french history and math in French. When an inspector comes once a year the girls must be able to respond to questions in French. If I get two bad reports they will fine me and make the girls go to school. I don’t think I could handle that. For now I am riding on the fact that school is not required until age 6 so I have more time to think.

Thank you for this wonderfully honest post. :)

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kyndale April 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I want a microscope! Thank you for a thorough post! ♥

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Emmie April 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I know I will re-read this post. You have articulated so beautifully the struggle. I don’t want to clutter the experience with too many words, so I will just say “Thank you,” Heather!

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Elnora April 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Heather, I envy you. I miss those quiet times of bonding and learning. I have so much anxiety pent up inside of me, trusting the school will care for my children in my absence. But it’s all about test scores and status quo, less about the children. I am so happy you get to provide this enviroment for your children of peace, and you open their minds to endless possibilities. It’s wonderful!!! There is nothing “not” to write about! I love reading it.

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Kim Akari April 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Thank you for sharing this! Thank you for being so honest and open about your decisions about your children’s schooling. I always planned to homeschool our children, but we’ve recently moved…and now i’m considering private school vs. publics school and possibly still homeschool if my daughter can’t get in anywhere! (Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in Hawaii and since the “good” public schools are over crowded with kids wanting to get in from all over the island, the school doesn’t have to accept you, even if you live in their district.)
My head & heart are feeling the roller coaster of trying to make the best choice for my child’s education. It’s never an easy decision, but like you said, hopefully we will know what feels right.

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shelley April 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Thank you so much for your honesty! This is a beautiful post, full of the hopes and realities and frustrations of home schooling. It is a fluid and every-changing journey and, as you say, never, never black and white. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

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Lindsay April 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

We came to homeschooling for somewhat different reasons, but the joy we get from having our kid (only one is homeschooled for now) in our daily life is enormous. Now that we’re seeing the results, it’s hard to imagine going back to public school.

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Adrie April 25, 2013 at 9:41 am

Heather,
What an amazing post! Thank you so much for opening your home and heart to us, and sharing so truly. Sometimes we have to see both sides of the picture to make our choices clear.
With love,
Adrie

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alwayshungry April 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

KC: I too live in France and get negative feed back about homeschooling all the time! My little boy is only 7 months old but I’m already tring to get ready for the onslaught of disaprouval I’m going to have to face if we choose homeschooling! While very thorough, the systeme is so rigid here!! Where do you live? I’m in Montpellier…

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Melanie April 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

My sister and her three boys (8, 4, and 3) live in Ceret and have always homeschooled. There is actually quite a number of families in that area and she feels quite supported, even with the state inspection. You may contact me directly if you would like to get in touch!

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alwayshungry April 27, 2013 at 11:42 am

What a nice offer Melanie! I’d love to talk to her about her experience even if it is a bit premature for us…as I said Evan is only 7 months old!

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Melanie May 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Yes, it’s always good to start gathering information, support, and community. Feel free to send me a email.

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Melanie May 5, 2013 at 11:19 pm
Lisa April 26, 2013 at 8:37 am

Oh dear Heather, what a heavy burden to hold within for so long. You are so not alone in going back and forth with what is best for all. We began with homeschooling and then spent time in Waldorf school and public school and Waldorf school again and then three years ago returned to homeschooling. It is a deep feeling of peace in being home together and watching my child grow and learn about the world around him. My approach to homeschooling relaxes and deepens over the years and I realize that so much learning happens with living daily life, and many opportunities arise to meet the children in the course of an ordinary day. Blessings on your endeavor and know that you are not alone, Lisa

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Theresa April 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

You are unselfish to make this decision. We too have had our kids in various school situations – home, public, Waldorf, Montessori. Parents know what’s best for their kids. You have to do what you feel is best. Good luck. The best advice someone once gave me before welcoming another baby to our family – have realistic expectations. You will do fine. Your kids will be independent thinkers and learners.

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phyllis spedden April 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Beautifully expressed my child.

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Zane April 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Heather, I came back to read and reread this a few times over the past week. You inspired me to write my own “get real” post about learning at home—a subject I also have a hard time writing about honestly. Your story was told with such grace. You have a wonderful way of sharing the difficult with awareness and truth. Your decisions to send your children to school and then bring them back home again really resonated with me. Thank you so much for this.

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Taisa April 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

This post really touched me, Heather. Thank you so much for sharing this journey.

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Jessica May 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm

This is a lovely post. I agree, your honesty is refreshing. I’ve oftentimes questions the decisions I’ve made (Did I begin hsing too early? Am I using the ‘right’ method(s)? Will this peace eventually end and the strife I so often read about takeover?).

I try to be honest with my readers…because I believe it’s refreshing to see women admit to those kinds of feelings. Slick, perfectly photographed blogs (and the oddly vague ones too) always make me question the validity and the authenticity of the blogger — thank you for sharing this/I’m glad I re-discovered you! :)

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heather May 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm

beautifully written! my girls and i have had a similar path and have ended up homeschooling for now too. my oldest will be a senior next year, so I know it can be done! :) i was thinking today that confidence is not the opposite of humility…so we can have both. i think feelings of inadequacy can sometimes be interpreted as humility and allow us to keep learning, keep moving forward.

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shannon May 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

heather – this is such an amazing post. i appreciate your honesty. we are walking down this journey of trying a montessori kindergarten this fall, and after homeschooling preshcool and also being pretty convinced we were walking down the unschooling road – i’m kinda having heart palpitations about the whole thing. i’m excited, too, though and pray that it’s a good fit and easy transition for my sweet little 5 year old, who do this day hasn’t let us leave his side in any classroom type setting. anyway – i’m with you. neither one is good or bad – it just is. and it’s a journey of trial and error to find what works best with each passing step. good for you for listening and being willing to try. and what i love most about your story is…through your early years of cultivating openness and trust in your relationship with your boys, they could be honest and open with you about their feelings. now THAT, dear mama, will stay with them for a life time. and that’s worth it. xoxo

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Chantall June 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

what a wonderful post, thank you for sharing this … I feel a lot in common with our own homeschooling in what you express ..

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Kelly June 8, 2013 at 11:53 am

This is an amazing post – thank you so much Heather for sharing your story!!!

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Sarah September 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I stumbled upon this and I’m really glad that I did. We love our homeschooling journey but I have certainly had days where I question and wonder if school would be better for them. It’s nice to know that this happens to all of us and what is originally in our hearts is the thing we lean towards for a reason. The heart always wins.

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Julia January 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thank you so much for writing this post. It made me cry. I just brought my five year old home. He’d been in a Waldorf school that we loved but that also proved to be too much for him. My gut told me that I needed to be courageous and finally commit to this homeschooling thing that fascinates and frightens me all at the same time. My son has been home for almost two months and he is the happiest he has ever been. I asked him last week what he would take with him if he could only take one thing to another planet and he said *home.* I burst when he tells me how much he loves being home because I have dedicated the past five years to making it feel warm and safe. I feel very nervous about homeschooling – isolating myself, not measuring up, not being Waldorfy enough, not being able to teach my children to read or write, etc., your post reminds me to trust and follow my little ones. Thank you so much!

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