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Adjusting to a New Job

I have a theory on learning. The days that are easy are not the days when you are learning. The days when you make a lot of mistakes and you go home ready to cry – those are the days when the learning is taking place. I have learned to embrace the bad days and weeks because they are the times when whatever I needed to absorb was getting absorbed.

This is in no way a correlation to elementary school. I am an adult and my learning processes have slowed. When I was a kid, I learned quickly and painlessly (except for New Math). My next homeschooling/anti-common core article will deal with that debacle and the similarities of common core. I lived one. My grandchildren are living the other.

Back to the subject at hand: I have had a “bad” week at work. It has been one of the most challenging weeks and I felt like I was going the proverbial one step back after having taken two steps forward. I anticipated this would happen when I switched jobs. I didn’t think – not for a moment – that leaving the old job would entirely remove stress and difficulty out of my life. I was giving up one sort of stress for an unknown factor of stress in a new position.

I have been through multiple software changes in the past 18 months. I am 57 years old and all of these changes have been changes from software to some sort of internet-based programming designed to make life easier for someone, not me. Every single change has been challenging, frustrating (usually because of the lack of online and real-life support and the lack of a hard copy manual). I have had very little training on any of the systems changes and sometimes had to just go in and figure it out for myself.

My change in employment means one more series of changes, all in software or online programs. The laws and rules of Real Estate remain static and I have that down pretty well, but the actual day-to-day working of the particular programs a particular company chooses to employ as tools… Add to that the frustration of language!

My previous coworker was from southern India. Her native language is Tamil. She speaks The Queen’s English (she loved it when I explained to her what that meant: not American English, like I speak, but British English, with its different pronunciations for common words). Her English, however British, is marred with a thick Tamil accent. She still thinks in Tamil.

My latest trainer was from Belgium. Her native language – the language in her head – is French. She thinks in French. Her English (which is considerably more Americanized than my Indian friend) is still punctuated with a heavy French accent.

So, in addition to learning new programs, I have had to be adept at understanding the accents and pronunciations of coworkers. It’s been interesting. (I happen to love languages. Can’t speak another language worth a darn, and I know just enough French, German, or Mexican to get into trouble. My Japanese really sucks: I can count to five.)

Today, I almost brought all my notes home so I could rewrite them on my own time and absorb them. Almost. I set them aside at five minutes to close and told myself: Don’t panic now. It’s only been six weeks. You are expecting too much of yourself. Allow the mistakes. Ask the questions. No one has screamed at you. Yet.

A couple people have strongly suggested I did something wrong, but they have been very patient with me. I apologize that I am stumbling through. I refuse to *not* ask questions, however. I will pester to death anyone willing to answer me (my Belgian trainer has been an Angel!). I am working on an office manual so the next person (a long time down the road because I am not leaving this job any time soon) will be able to step into my position and just open a book to follow the steps.

It’s not just real estate programs (who knew what a plethora of industry-specific programs were out there?!), but the supporting programs as well. The day-to-day processes of onboarding new agents. Understanding how the new company handles referrals. Remembering the steps to input new sales or listings. Emailing everyone about meetings and – gasp!! – picking up the phone to make calls to people.

One thing I love about this new job is that they subjected me to an EQ (Emotional Quotient) Test. They know – and understand – that I am an Introvert and that I operated best in a certain environment. That’s huge to me. My past employer never acknowledged that. They knew that (because I was rather outspoken on the subject – take that pun!), but they did not embrace that.

Tonight, I am tired and I wish the week was over. My brain is stretched. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I feel like I am not learning or comprehending the job.

Thankfully, I have learned that it is OK to feel that way. This is the week it all gets absorbed into my brain and I am learning the job.

Unlike New Math. I never did get New Math.

My children attended public school during the early years, so most of our fun craft stuff was done on weekends or during summer vacations. In between those times, they had to get up in the mornings to catch the school bus. They liked school. They had great teachers and the school had a great support staff. Those were the years when (for us) public schooling was doing its job.

You need to be an advocate for your child if she is in public school and you are committed to having her there, but you needn’t make an enemy out of the teacher, either. The following vignettes are stories of me advocating for one or another child (or refusing to advocate, as it sometimes happened).

The first incident was when my oldest was in 3rd grade. She was advanced, and she got to spend part of her day in the 4-6 grade classroom. I’m fuzzy on the details, but something was done that caused the teacher in the advanced class to suspect the girls were cheating. Arwen was mortified and hurt. I listened to her side of the story and made a decision: she would ride this out on her own, write an apology to the teacher, and we’d see how things progressed from there. If a pattern of accusation developed, I’d get on my high horse, but for this one incident, I wanted my daughter to understand that adults view things differently and life is not always in our favor. We couldn’t prove she had not cheated (although I believed her and I let her know I believed her).

I don’t recall the consequences the teacher created for the crime, but they were not too excessive, and my daughter survived. There was no pattern of accusation and Arwen became something of a Teacher’s pet with that particular teacher, reinforcing my belief that she was fair. I believe, in the end, the teacher came to believe her accusations had been unfounded, at least in Arwen’s case. She saw a little girl with a conscience who was willing to try to win back the confidence of a favorite teacher.

Levi had a kindergarten teacher who started sending home homework. I understand that is the norm now, but not when I was a young mother. I returned to the school in person, homework in hand, and asked for a meeting. I explained to the teacher that the homework was redundant and I didn’t see any reason why my son should be doing workbooks in Kindergarten. She held a very different point of view. We kept it civil as she pointed out to me how many children come to school and the teacher becomes the focal point of their blossoming education.

I pointed out to her that we, as a family, were constantly reinforcing education by our lifestyle and the family games we played. I used the game “Slug Bug” as my example: you get one point for each VW Beetle, 2 points for a VW Van, 3 points for a VW van with camper pop-out, and 4 if you are lucky enough to spy a VW “truck”. The game is played on the road, the only rules being: it *must be a VW (call a Chevy Van and you lose a point), *no slugging, only calling, *first to call our gets the point(s), and *you have to keep track of your own points. Of course, I kept track of everyone’s points, too, so no cheating. If my son could manage the complicated math to play the game – and do it in his head – then why should he fill out a stupid 2+2=4 worksheet that belongs in the 1st Grade classroom?

I won. My son was set free from paperwork. He moved to the top of the class in no time.

Chrystal came to live with us when she was 10. Her new life coincided with me going back to work full time. The older kids were still home and homeschooling was an option, but I also knew Chrystal was deep in mourning for the loss of her mother and the knowledge of the loss of her father years before. We gave her the choice and she chose public school.

Enter Mrs. Tenure. She had a classroom of 30+ students (thank you, Goals2000 and the constant defunding of curriculum and classroom in favor of superintendents and outside managers for school districts). By the time the December parent-teacher meeting rolled around, Chrystal hated school. She wasn’t making friends (did you know that children pick on orphans? Yeah, sad state of commentary on peer pressure) and she was not blossoming. I sat down with Mrs. Tenure, my usual list of issues in my hand. Arwen’s Kindergarten teacher once told me that “You are the kind of parent a good teacher loves to see coming. A bad teacher doesn’t want to see you coming and will hate you.”

Mrs. Tenure was a Bad Teacher. Our session ended with her heavy sigh, in her heavily tenured manner, “Well, if you want better for her, you should just homeschool her.”

Chrystal did not return to public school after Christmas break.

There were the reading issues as well. I am a Christian, and while we did not go the homeschool route due to religion, it was an underlying foundation. Arwen was nearing the end of her 4th Grade Year when the beloved teacher actually asked the students what book they would like her to read aloud from to end the year out. The vote was overwhelming: something from R.L. Stine’s Goosbumps series. Arwen was certain she should not be listening to this and complained to me.

I went to see the teacher and she assured me the books were not demonic. She even offered to let me take one home to read & decide for myself, which I thought was a wonderful gesture. I accepted the challenge (and read the book overnight). I returned it and told the teacher that she was right – nothing demonic at all about the story line. However, I felt it was way underneath my daughter’s reading level and I thought Arwen’s biggest complaint was the writing style. I asked if Arwen could be given library time to read something more on her level (say, some Rudyard Kipling)? A compromise was met.

My style of advocating was to go in with an agenda, but never to confront the teacher as if she was doing something wrong. I had questions if they had time to address them. I was willing to listen and to research (read a book, for example). But I was never going to back down on what I deemed the quality of their education.

A lot can happen in the walls of a school building. Teasing, peer pressure, fights, suspensions, cheating, accusations of cheating. Most teachers are there for the right reasons. Most education laws are there for the wrong reasons. Teachers are trapped, too. Good ones will listen to you and acknowledge where their hands are tied. Bad ones will lean on their tenure and let out heavy sighs of, “You don’t know how difficult this class is. I have four Special Needs kids and yours is only one of them. I can’t do it all.”

I don’t hate public school or public school teachers. I hate the laws that tie our hands. I will fight to remove teachers who are resting on their laurels due to tenure (they were probably resting on their laurels as young teachers, too – just no one like me confronted them early on).

Good teachers loved me. Bad teachers lost me.

I am taking a little break from the homeschooling posts in order to bring you this.

001

It says: DEAR GrAnDma i LOVE YoU VOLTRON Love, Zephaniah

Voltron, in case you are unaware, is the Defender of the Universe. He’s a Transformer ™.

I also received this:

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My daughter’s handwriting is scrawled across the bottom: Bad Voltron.

The other side reads (in my daughter’s hand):

Dear Grandma.

I hope you give me this present for my birthday. (Don’t worry, I’ve warned him it doesn’t exist) I love you.

Love,

Javan

My husband said, “Why can’t we give him that?

Me, “Because Voltron is a GOOD guy. There’s no ‘bad’ Voltron.”

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is the back of the envelope.

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HAHAHA! He must have been pretty proud of that picture.

I love my grandsons. Even the ones who can’t bear to part with their artwork.

 

I want to preface this with: I understand many women work away from home during their child’s toddler years. Single income living leaves a lot (if not most) families below the poverty level. So you gotta work.

I tried working outside the home when my kids were little. The biggest hurdle I faced was Day Care (which is now synonymous with PreSchool). The cost was counter-productive to start with. We made more money if I simply stayed home and didn’t work. More than that was this: I could not find a Day Care that met my stringent requirements for quality child care until a few weeks before I decided to give it up due to the high cost of quality Day Care. I will be forever grateful to Katy, that last Day Care person, for operating a quality business.

I won’t even touch on the horror stories, but I recommend you “drop in” without announcement to see how things are going. I fired one Day Care provider over what I found going on while I was at work (no, it was not abuse. It was more along the lines of emotional suppression: because my children were not allowed to nap (I’d never get any rest if they did nap), they had to sit in a quiet time for the entire nap period, without any stimulation such as work books. In other words, they were penalized for not needing to sleep.

I tossed out nap time when the oldest was 3 and I discovered that with a nap, she wouldn’t be ready for bed before midnight. She was always up at 5. Without a nap, I could put her to bed by 8 and she’d still rise at 5, but *I* would get some sleep. NO NAP. (To each his own.)

The greatest influence you can have on your child and his preparation for education is during these formative years. Their platform for learning is formed, their personality becomes more concrete, and their need for nurturing is at its highest. Forgive me if I cannot remember who said (Karl Marx?) that if you got a child before the age of 6, you could manipulate them to your will. (Paraphrased, & badly)

Before I had children of my own, I had twins. My dear friend, Janey, lent me her children while she worked. The twins were great learning ground (and their older brother, Justin, who I also watched for a period of time) for my future children. Before I had the twins, I had a summer job babysitting the adorable little girls who lived next door, ages 3 and 5 (or something like that): Tammy & “Beady”. Before those girls, I had talked my way into several summers of helping out at a local Headstart program during my Junior High years.

This was all during the time that I decided I never wanted children of my own. I loved the four year olds. It was the crying babies that got me.

The mother of the twins had a job with Headstart. She gave me the most valuable advice – ever – in raising toddlers. GIVE THEM A CHOICE.

She was appalled at the children who entered the Headstart program who did not know basic colors. “You and I, when we open the cupboards, will ask the kids, ‘Which cup do you want? The blue one or the red one?’ And they learn they have choices and what colors are. The kids who come in to Headstart have never been given those choices. Someone opened the cupboard and chose for them, never announcing what color the cup was.”

Sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it? When my ten year old niece came to live with us, she wanted to make hot chocolate and I told her it was OK. She heated the water (under supervision) but turned to me to ask permission to use a coffee cup in the cupboard. I was floored. “Any cup you want. They belong to all of us. They may get broken, but they *are* ceramic. WHY are you asking?”

“Because I was only allowed to use certain cups…”

Oh, for God’s sake. Unless it is a really special cup, who gives a flying leap? And aren’t YOU going to break it anyway, sometime? What did it cost you? Five, ten, fifteen bucks??

Or you can use all plastic in your house, but since I am opposed to plastic… Hey, don’t judge me. I won’t judge you.

So – the number ONE tool with toddlers is this: Give them a choice. A color. A size. “Do you want orange/cranberry/grape juice in the pink/blue/red/yellow cup?”

Go on “Treasure walks.” I’m pretty sure I invented this. You give your child a bag and you take their hand and you go for a walk around the neighborhood or park – at their pace – and pick up anything that interests them (exception: tossed condoms and needles. Sorry for the reality check there). Leaves, rocks, piece of glass (you might want to pick that up), wire, broken sunglasses, anything that catches your child’s attention. These are “treasures”. My oldest lives near a harbor and often has smelly crab claws in her home. They’re treasures. Get over the smell.

Stackable cups. I bought my set from Discovery Toys. Unless you have the personality to sell, purchase these from someone online. I might know someone who sells them, but most of my friends are Introverts and it’s likely that if they once sold them, they gave up.

Stackable cups teach kids how to measure, build castles in the sand, pour water, and stack items.

Duplos™ is a huge resource. Not only are they colored, but they stick together and you can create things. This is a HUGE pre-math skill.

Puzzles. Any big puzzle. Pre-math skill.

Crawling. Most new parents do not realize this, but crawling is very important. Don’t encourage your child to skip this developmental stage. Crawling is a pre-reading skill.

Pat the Bunny & other books are great, but at this stage they really just want YOU to read to them. In our house, my husband took on this role. He worked odd hours and the only time he felt he could connect to his children was to read them bedtime stories. He was a very literal reader, so he read the stories as written. Our children went to bed with those stories for the first 5-7 years of their lives.

(I am a more imaginative reader and will sometimes skip words to move onto the emotion of the story.)

Just think of things YOU can do to interact with your child, but still be an adult.

Homemade *Playdough – the best recipe can be found on the side of a cornstarch package. So you have to clean it up. You *are* the grown up.

Picking autumn leaves and ironing them between sheets of wax paper.

As i Said in my previous post: YOU are the limit. You need to decide how dirty you want o get (these are kids, for crying out loud: GET DIRTY) and what projects you want to do (COME ON!!! PLAY DOUGH!)

Veterans – please list your favorite Go-To ideas in the comments.

Don’t. That’s really the only word applicable here.

If you are like me, you will be lucky in that your parents (or, in my case, parent) will support you. My folks never questioned any of my choices, not even the dicier ones like selling all my belongings to travel the U.S. on a Greyhound bus, solo.

You probably won’t be that lucky.

But what about friends? Or your church? They’ll support you, right?

No. Well, let’s classify that: if you attend a church where most of the families homeschool, yes. The church we were attending: no. But they didn’t support us when we brought Chrystal into the family. The senior pastor’s wife pulled me aside and said, in all earnestness, “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

No, I didn’t know. And I will *never* regret the decision to bring my niece into my family and to introduce her as my daughter. Never.

EVERYONE will ask, “WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?”

You didn’t even know that was a childhood concern until you decided to pull your child out of the indoctrinational halls of public education.

What the hell is ‘socialization” anyway?

Merriam-Webster defines it as: : the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status

The Psychology Dictionary defines it as: 1. The process by which we learn social skills. 2. The process that employees adjust to a working environment. 3. The process where people become aware on lifestyles and behaviours.

SOCIALIZATION: “Socialisation is the process by which we learn social skills.”

The first words out of your best friend’s mouth (unless she/he is already a convert to homeschooling) will most likely be these: “I don’t know about this ‘homeschooling’ idea of yours. What about ‘socialization’?”

Now, you could quote The Princess Bride. “I do not thin’ that mens what you thin’ it mens.” (Translation: I do not think that means what you think it means.) And you’d be right, because your best friend doesn’t have a clue about what that word means.

She means: But they won’t know how to stand in line for crappy food in the cafeteria, be embarrassed by the school bully, don cute little cheerleader costumes, and learn about sex by reciting johnny m*f*r behind the gymnasium.

Yeah. Let’s talk about “socialization”.

Unless you are one of those rare (but highly profiled) monsters who is planning to chain your child to a metal bed and hide them in the basement, feeding them the spare moldy bread crumbs, there’s a pretty slim chance that your child will not be properly socialized by the time she/he enters the adult world. She might be naive, but she will know how to fold a dinner napkin and sit down to dinner with people older than her. (And she will know all about s*x because she stole your copy of The Color Purple from your private bookshelf because she didn’t know it was forbidden to her.)

But she’ll miss The Prom!

Big friggin’ deal. Want to know what *I* did for my prom? I designed it, created the dance cards, decorated the school gym. I waited for someone to ask me out. No one did. I spent that night babysitting a wailing infant and a sleeping toddler, trying my hand at chords on my employer’s guitar. It wasn’t the best prom ever, but I made good money and the person who hired me to babysit her children is still a friend of mine.

My husband doesn’t even speak to the person he took out for prom.

Besides, homeschoolers actually have worked out ways for their children to enjoy the same benefits as publicly schooled kids! My son’s first date was to a homeschool dance when he was just 13. I sat in the car outside and read a book, but her father stayed inside and played chaperone. OOOOO fun.

My son developed a lifelong love of dancing which later led to community college courses in swing dance and going out on the town with a core of swing dance friends he made.

But he won’t get to play on the football team!

Back up here. If your goal in life is to raise a professional athlete, and your child has the talent to make it, public school may be your best option. You can still raise a very aware young person by being involved in every step of their education. Still, even *if* you are a homeschooler, most states allow your child access to the athletic programs. Believe me, if your homeschooled athlete has the talent of a Tim Tebow, I’m pretty certain a public school will make all kinds of allowances to allow your child to play – or to please you in the academic portion of their program. That’s not even a valid argument.

Let’s talk about what homeschooled kids can do that might make them more socially acceptable. Private music lessons, sewing lessons, crewing on a hot air balloon. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. 4-H, FFA, volunteering at an old folks’ home, participating in the Society for Creative Anachronism, Civil War Reenactments, Rendezvous reenactments, local theatre, Civil Air Patrol… Are you getting the idea?

We did: Cub Scouts, 4-H, private riding lessons, hot air balloons, Renaissance Faires, sewing lessons, band (just off the top of my head).

The sky’s the limit. Well, not quite: YOU are the limit. What you say “NO” to and what you say “YES” to will matter. What you are willing to shuttle your child around to/from, will matter. What you can afford will matter. The same as publicly schooled kids, your demographics and personal core beliefs will matter.

Socialization, however. is going to happen no matter what you do. It will happen according to your child’s personality and temperament. Grandparents, neighbors, other parents, and playmates will all have an influence on your child’s socialization – whether you want them to or not.

My children were not allowed to swear, but if we spent a weekend with my husband’s father – well, they learned every swear word in the book by osmosis. It wasn’t my place to correct my f-i-l. If he couldn’t filter his own mouth, then I had to explain the words to my kids. I wasn’t going to stand in the way of their love for their grandfather (or his love for them), so I interpreted. You have the choice to filter your family.

My own father judged children by whether or not they connected with him. He didn’t like children who would not talk to him as if he was their peer. He loved kids who could sit at the table with him and engage in an adult conversation, and kids who showed an interest in what he had to say.

We crossed cultural boundaries. Don’t be afraid! Our children attended a Christian Romani funeral. If you don’t know who (or what) the Romani are, look it up. I still have very good Gypsy friends, but they aren’t on Social Media. If we happen to meet in Portland, we hug and kiss.

Funerals, weddings, folk gatherings, art museums, camping, hiking, skiing, boating – life is limited by your imagination.

If your best friend still thinks your children are not properly socialized… You may need to adjust to the next season in your life and a new best friend. But keep the old one, if you can. Old friends are gold.

The first roadblock to our decision to homeschool our children was that we didn’t know anyone in real life who did it. The second roadblock came from friends and family, and even our church: anyone who can pronounce the word socialization will suddenly question every parenting technique you use. The first roadblock was easier to overcome.

The only person I knew of who homeschooled was an author in Washington State. I knew he homeschooled his four children because he wrote a book about it that consequently fell into my hands, and I read it. That he would later be better known for his novels was a side benefit: for me, David Guterson’s non-fiction treatise on homeschooling, Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, became my road map to home educating our children. If this man, who was a public school teacher at the time, decided to homeschool his children and could make a strong argument on the issue of socialization, then so could we.

Other friends refer back to authors like John Holt  or books like the Moores’ Better Late Than Early.

Our decision to homeschool was made in the late 1990’s. I started to meet local people who did homeschool, all Christians of different denominations. I had one friend in particular who lived just around the bend in the highway, and we often got together so our children could play. She worked full time as a nurse (you can homeschool and work outside the home) and I was a stay-at-home mother. Our children were close to the same age and we had the same underlying faith.

We progressed into homeschooling and soon discovered there were hidden pockets of homeschool support groups locally. Some were specific to a church where all the families were encouraged to homeschool for religious reasons. A nearby school district put together a short-lived co-op to support local homeschoolers and to offer them some of the benefits that publicly schooled children had. Our county library eventually developed a homeschool center.

We discovered these places because we were now using the lingo of homeschooling and they were on our radar. They had existed before, in some form or another, but because we were not looking for them, we did not know they existed. Now we were looking for them – and they were there.

Music lessons, theater, art.

The library, museums, book stores, antique stores.

Sports were nearly always through some community program and not the schools (although we did not participate in sports).

The local community college offered free classes to homeschooled students who could meet certain criteria (over the age of 15 unless the child challenged the test – we did know one boy who started there at age 13). Note: this perk was subsequently challenged by the public schools and other community colleges in the area and it consequently went away, but not before Arwen & Levi made full use of the benefit.

The kids were covered, but what about me? I had that one friend who homeschooled; none of my other friends even considered the idea.

The Internet existed, but not every home had a PC. Social networking consisted of websites like egroups. Egroups was later replaced by Yahoo Groups. I belonged to a small group of horselovers and it was through that media that I was introduced to the online support group that saved my sanity. There are now myriads of such support groups: on Yahoo Groups, Facebook, MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?), and other social media posting boards.

The Internet saved me. The online support group I joined was a diverse group of homeschoolers who were exploring a radical idea called “unschooling”. I jumped in to a conversation (called a “thread”) and that was it – I was assimilated. That was sometime in 1997. I am still part of that support group, and the people who have passed through those emails are now some of my very best friends, some in real life, some on Facebook, and all through “the ccu-sisterhood” (apologies to the men who have occasionally braved those sacred halls).

I started as a school-at-home homeschooler and quickly found out how difficult it was to manage to do lessons with resentful children. I moved to a more eclectic style, following the advice I received from these online gurus, some of whom were full-on unschoolers in every radical sense of the word. They also supported me when I decided to send Chrystal to public school, then private school, then charter school.

If I needed to rant about a husband who wanted more out of the kids than they were willing to give, I had a sympathetic ear (and often a wise one that said, “Maybe he just wants to feel like he’s part of the team”). A child wrecked a bicycle and made a six-point fall (one point for each part of the body that hits the gravel)? Instant prayer support. My neighbor’s son shot my child in the head with a .BB gun? A calming circle of hugs (the child was fine and the x-ray proved he did, in fact, have a brain in his head).

What if my child can’t seem to wrap his mind around cursive writing? What to do? Maybe cursive writing is not that important. Who says it is important? Why is it important? Can you be willing to let it go?

That kid still doesn’t write in cursive.

Better yet, if one of the online members was going to be in the city near you, there was an immediate clamor for “do you think we could meet? In person?”

I learned the most important things in homeschooling are these: coffee. wine (for mom). dark chocolate. Led Zeppelin. The ability to quote from The Princess Bride. Forgiveness. Library cards. Overdue library books (and checking out more books for your daughter on your card until she can pay off her library fines).

And last, learning how to say Please pass the bean dip when family doesn’t understand your choice (or other real life peers).

Something that is near and dear to my heart is education. I did consider (very briefly) going into education as a career. I think I was 12. As I said, it was a very brief infatuation with the idea. I lasted longer with my desire to become a veterinarian (hopes to pursue that career were dashed when I flunked high school biology my freshman year. I mean, what tendon connects to what bone? Say, again??).

The thing is: I love to learn. I love to read. I’m fascinated with geography, anthropology, history, literature, English, culture, art, physics. I’m even pretty fair at mathematics and some of the other sciences as well.

The one thing I did not particularly plan for when I was still in school was parenthood. I babysat a lot through high school and I was pretty convinced I would never want children of my own. Of course, I hadn’t reached that point in life where my maternal drive kicked in. When I reached that point, I decided I wanted a house full of boys. Four boys. That sounded so perfect. No daughters, frilly dresses, hormones. Just four rambunctious testosterone driven daredevils.

Thankfully, God intervened. In both counts. Well, He didn’t allow me to become a veterinarian which is just as well. I’ve played vet to enough pets and I cry every time I bury one.

God shot down my four-boy-household dream when my first-born was a girl. Now, I love that girl with all of my heart, and she went on to (nearly) fulfill my dream when she brought four wonderful grandchildren into my life: three boys and one girl. The last one is the girl. But I knew as soon as she was born that I wasn’t going to be mom of four boys (I’m astute like that).

My son weighed 10 pounds 3 ounces at birth. That scratched any idea I had of having more children. Two pregnancies (well, three – the first ended in a miscarriage) was enough for me. I’d settle for two.

Again, God intervened, and I ended up with three children, but the third one came to me when she was 10 and I didn’t have to give birth to her. That’s almost the best kind of childbirth: let your sister do the pushing. (Note: I don’t recommend this. I mourn my sister every day of my life. It’s just I can’t sit around and not acknowledge the fact that humor is a healer.)

I kept putting my dreams on hold for this or that in the formative years of our marriage. Finally, our children were off to public school and I was a stay-at-home mom, involved in PTA and shuttling kids to and from activities.

Enter the 1990’s version of “Common Core.” I love Barbara Bush’s spunk, but I despise her stance on education. Oregon’s version of Goals2000 was written by our current governor (who was governor then) and several other politicians. I brushed up with “Behavior Modification” when I was in college and my first roommate was studying to become a teacher. She loved the concept; it scared me that teachers could think they had the right to modify behavior at will.

Now we had some set of vague “goals” that were supposed to raise the standard of education for our children. MY children. Goals that started with removing parental involvement. Goals that were so vague as to leave out large portions of history, social sciences, geography, and government. Funding for public schools in the State of Oregon was at an all-time low (recommended: Mr. Holland’s Opus. This was filmed in Portland and reflects the low priority the Arts were receiving during that time period).

It is a fact that music is a pre-math skill and children who are exposed to music early in life do better at mathematics than children who are not exposed.

But let me back up to the mom thing. I had (at that time) the two kids. My oldest was a surprising prodigy to all who taught her. She spent one school year in a Christian school where the administrators continued to test her reading skills because they were amazed at how well she read, how fast she read, and how much she comprehended from her reading. She was in First Grade. By the time she was in the 3rd Grade, she had achieved a Johns Hopkins Scholar Award and she was spending half of her time in the fourth/fifth grade classroom doing advanced work. She was labeled “gifted”.

My son was also gifted. Anyone who knew him, knew that. His teachers saw through him. He screwed around in class with his two best friends while the rest of the class struggled to catch up to them. He hated math and he couldn’t read, but he was light years ahead of his classmates in comprehension.

I wasn’t worried about his reading. I’d read the studies. I knew what sort of learner he was. I knew he was bright. Math, now, I worried about that. It turned out that he just needed permission to count on his fingers. Why schools don’t allow kids to add on their fingers befuddles me. I struggled with math for the same reason and I developed strategies to work around that handicap.

Did I mention that I am a fair hand at basic math? There’s no law against counting on your fingers after you leave public school.

I did not intend to homeschool. I did not even know it was a legal option. Or an option at all.

They closed our school. Our PTA fought the school district, Goals2000, and the laws in the State of Oregon to keep “our” little school open. We lost. They won. And many of us withdrew our children (and our designated tax support) from the school district. We were one of those families.

I stumbled into homeschooling because I felt I had no other option given the circumstances. Once again, I set my goals aside (not complaining, just a fact of the matter) and brought my children home full time.

Yes, there was a fight. Yes, there was criticism. No, there was not a lot of support – at first. There was even inner turmoil as I realized that I was giving up my Alone Time (that essential for all introverts) to be a full-time mom and educator. It was overwhelming. We made a lot of mistakes.

We tried the traditional school-at-home approach first. You know, everyone gets up at 8AM, eats breakfast, and then sits down with a workbook and does real school work. I think a lot of would-be homeschoolers quit at this point. My kids didn’t make it easy. They resented school at home. The oldest resented homeschooling. They really rebelled at Bible study. I could do an entire parody of trying to teach my children the Bible at home.

Lesson: Pick your favorite verse from the Bible and memorize it.

Daughter: “Jesus Wept.” John 11:35. The shortest verse in the Bible.

Son: “I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall defend your flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.” (or some such similar verse out of Leviticus or Deuteronomy – does it matter?)

We scrapped Bible lessons early on.

Early on, I discovered the Internet. This was in late 1997. Our first computer arrived in a box from my older brother. My son (age 11) set it up in minutes. I’m pretty sure he was already IMing some pretty girl he’d met at church by the next Sunday.

I fell into an online support group called Christ-Centered Unschoolers (which still exists, by the way, on Yahoo! Groups). They introduced me into a radical new way of thinking about homeschooling called “unschooling”.

More on that tomorrow. Suffice it to say that all three kids have since graduated from some form of homeschooling now and I am a veteran. I loved being a teacher.

 

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