Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supporting Each Other

Ever suffer from peer pressure as a homeschooling mom? I do, and it drives me crazy.

When we choose to educate our children within our home, we immediately alienate ourselves from a section of society. No, I don't mean that we purposely alienate ourselves, but that many never understand that choice. As a result we can often take abuse of different sorts from that camp. The thing is, we expect that to a certain extent. Humans, being what they are, have trouble relating to those who are different. We all do it, right?

We answer the questions about our children's academic level, their socialization and their future prospects with as much grace as we can and keep on keeping on. Unfortunately this comes from both Christians and non-Christians. It comes from those who teach in schools, both public and private, and from those who just don't understand why we would do this. We have to be prepared to face it pretty much where ever we go.

In our weariness related to the pressure from without, we often look within the homeschool community to meet a need within ourselves....finding a place to belong. A place to go and people to be with who understand our choices. A place we don't feel judged. It is this subject that begins to make me a little crazy. For within these groups of supposed support we find greater peer pressure than anywhere else.

Please don't think I am suggesting that homeschool support groups are all bad. I'm not. We need fellowship and that feeling of belonging. I have been involved at different levels of such groups in various parts of the country. Some are online and others are groups of friends that meet in each others homes. There is great variety in the types of groups, but also in the overall philosophy.

I would say that looking for a homeschool group is similar to looking for the right church for your family. There are many wonderful churches, doing a great work for the Lord, but we look for one that fits our family's goals and beliefs. In more urban areas there are more choices, while in rural areas people have less to pick from.

Regardless of where you live, if you homeschool, you may have had the experience of introducing yourself and explaining your family's homeschooling lifestyle, only to hear a variety of crickets chirruping loudly in your ears. Perhaps in this homeschool group no one else uses "workbooks". Or maybe that's all they use and the idea of "unschooling" is tantamount to being an unfit parent. Or maybe, you get a "Charlotte Who?" response. Whatever the case, you suddenly get a feeling that you don't belong.

Over time we can begin to question our own choices for our family. If everyone around me thinks this is best, maybe that is what I should be doing. And to that, I say, keep an open mind, research it on your own, pray about it, discuss it with your husband and then feel confident in your decision.

My husband and I have had the priviledge to speak with homeschoolers over much of the country. We (homeschooling families) all come from different backgrounds, different beliefs and different personalities. There is no one right way to homeschool. Every home is different...every homeschool situation will be different. As a family, we need to know what our priorities are. What are the goals we are seeking to accomplish? That is what our homeschooling decisions must be based on. By discussing and then recording our goals, we can organize our home and the education of our children to accomplish them.

When that has been done, we can really begin to look for fellowship within a group that best augments our educational plan. Don't be beat up by the idea that if everyone else around seems to be doing something different than you are that you are wrong. And if you are in a homeschool group, I encourage you to look around and see the differences. Maybe there are those who are struggling to fit in and need to know that you support them in however they have chosen to educate their children.

Finally, let me say that this pressure can also come from the homeschooling community to those who have not chosen that path. There are churches that have a majority of homeschoolers and without even realizing it, may cause those who do not homeschool to feel like second-rate parents.

Parenting is a God-given responsibility. We are mandated to teach our children in the ways of God, but how we do that is personal. A parent can have their children in a public school and be no less "spiritual" than those of us who homeschool. Christian schools can be excellent choices, as well. It just depends on the needs of your family.

Christians need to be supporting each other in the awesome responsibility of being parents. We must educate ourselves, and we must be flexible. Not flexible to every wind that passes through, but flexible to the needs of our own families. What was right last year may not be this year. What worked for our first child, may not work for the third. Most of all, we need to be on our knees for our families and for the families around us. For if our relationship with our Father is as it should be, our support of each other will follow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Recovery Zone

Despite, a busy weekend, its Monday morning and time to organize and make the most of a new week. After arriving home from church around 9pm last night, my husband and I both felt like we had run a marathon and could not take another step. The load of clean laundry that had been thrown on my bed as company had come looked comfortable, and I really considered just sleeping on top of it. That was just how drained we were. You will be happy to know, no doubt, that we did the right thing and folded that laundry before completely collapsing.

Sundays are like that. After a six day work week, Sunday barrels in with a non-stop schedule of worship, service and hospitality. Go, go, go! My husband has been asking that we have a young serviceman in again, one we have had in many times before, but lately I have just been so busy and pre-occupied that my hospitable attitude has been sadly lacking. Yesterday was the day. "Yes," we said, "we would love to have you come over after church." This was with the knowledge that I had absolutely no plans for dinner. My husband told him, it will probably be mac and cheese with a little burger thrown in. And sure enough, that is what we did. As he thanked me for the chance to have some "home cookin'" I choked on the water I was drinking, just a little. Hmmmm.

Now, Monday morning, I am feeling encouraged. My husband and I got out for a quick walk this morning before he left for work. That always makes me feel a little more ready for the day. The kids are cleaning up bedrooms and starting on school work, and I am finishing a cup of coffee that is hopefully going to help me organize my thoughts.

My goal this week is to complete a schedule for our home. Not the kind that dictates every moment of your day, but one in which everyone knows what they need to accomplish during the day, as well as the consequences for not meeting the goals. I have tried scheduling and going sans schedule and our home is definitely a happier, more efficient place when we have something to go by. Lately, I have been lax in this area, so I am going to go back into recovery zone (a place I am extremely familiar with). Along with the schedule I need to get back into watching my diet.

I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a teacher, a writer, a gardener, a cook, a........You understand. There is really no way to easily classify who or what I am. Somehow, I need to organize all of those things and move forward with this new week. I'm thankful for Sundays, while they don't often feel restful, they do offer a separation from last week to this. Today is a fresh start. With the Lord's help, I can take it on. He wants victory for me. If I remember that most of all I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, I will take the time to get my strength from Him. The other things will fall into place, and we will have a good week. I wish the same for you.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Music In the House

This week is an exciting one at our house. We, finally, after a VERY long time, have a mostly tuned piano and a tuned flute!

You see, growing up, I was all about the music. It was my day in and day out obsession. Punishment for me was usually being told that I could not play the piano for a period of time. The piano was moved into my bedroom to minimize the distraction to everyone else's life. If I was not playing music myself, I was listening to it. My dreams revolved around being a concert pianist touring the world.

Enter life. I am actually a stay-at-home mother of four, living in a rented brick ranch in a military town who has not had a tuned piano in 13 years. Between nursing school and mothering four, I lost the passion I had for the music. Year after year would pass, and I felt sadness that my children were not going to able to love it the way I did. The idea that there was always a more pressing bill to pay than there was a need to put money into a piano I did not have time to play, placed my love for the music low on the priority list.

Many changes; many moves. Now, having one teenager and another not far behind, I was faced with a time issue. I only had so much time left to nurture my children in the musical arts. This was going to be the year. Our family was going to become a musical family. I pulled my old flute down from the shelf and felt discouraged when it appeared to be broken. I had no idea how to fix it or where to go. I really wasn't sure I would even remember how to play it, but......I actually did. Truly, it is nothing special. I had mostly taught myself so there is much I didn't know. A little shopping on Amazon, and I had ordered a book on playing the flute that had come greatly recommended.

My husband saw the desire and the need and found a place to go to take my flute. In a few short minutes my flute was tuned and greased. Ready for whatever beautiful melodies I would soon be able to master and share with the world.

Within the last few weeks I had also seen advertisements for a particular piano tuner who was new to the area and was, therefore, charging less than everyone else. He also happened to be a Christian. I just did it! I mean I emailed and said, "I am interested in having our piano tuned." It really wasn't as hard as I was expecting. We scheduled a time for this week and I lived worrying that he would chastise me for the neglect I had shown toward my beloved instrument. So when he arrived, I sheepishly explained the situation, and I must say, he was very kind.

On removing the front of the piano, he asked if it would be ok to bring in his shop vac. Gulp. "Ah, yes, of course. Is it really dusty?" (ashamed look on my face). He then handed me a calling card and a Chuck E. Cheese ID and said "Well, there are quite a few things in the mechanism." Now, tell me please, what concert pianist would allow "quite a few things in the mechanism"?

As he worked, I busied myself with kitchen clean up, homeschooling and pacing. Could my poor neglected piano be fixed? He worked for what seemed like forever, and I was becoming sure that the price must be being doubled. Certainly $80 was not going to cover this.

When I heard the scales being played without painfully, discordant notes, I knew we were going to have it again. Surprisingly, the fee remained the same. For $80 we were going to have a tuned piano!

Maybe some of my dreams have been unreachable. Maybe some were just unrealistic. But there are some that I am on my way to reaching. I am going to be able to play the piano again. I am going to be able to teach my children and hopefully, instill a little of my love for music into their hearts.

In the life I chose, my dreams must adapt or I will live in a fog of failure and frustration. For this homeschooling mother, this week brought us a little closer to fulfilling a dream and to bringing music back into our home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The joys and pains of homeschooling are most certainly the inspiration for this place. The four faces and personalities above are the heart of the inspiration. Each one is so beautiful and unique that I am overwhelmed at times with the responsibility which my husband and I have been given. Sometimes even breathing becomes difficult.

That, I have found, is not unique to myself. Over and over parents have talked to us of the stress of figuring out the "right" curriculum or philosophy of homeschooling. "What if we make a mistake?" is another common question and stressor for those who choose to educate at home.

My best advice is to "just breathe". Life changes by the hour. Our children grow and change with it. Taking the time to enjoy the change and bend with it, is the way to survive this path we have chosen.

I hope to be able to share a little of our journey while giving tools to help others on theirs. Homeschooling is so much more than just "schooling". It is just one aspect of our lives. Education is so much more than the 3 R's we came to understand it to be. It is living and breathing. Learning together, one step at a time and yes, one breath at a time.