Friday, December 17, 2010

Trimester Review: Pros and Cons

Wow, it's been a fast few months! I wanted to reflect on how homeschooling has been in this first trimester. Here's the quick review: it has been amazing!! I can't believe how much I love it, and for so many reasons. These are my top 10:

1. Stress-free mornings

I can actually start my day at a relaxed pace, and I've been able to incorporate a prayer each morning in bed. That's been a wonderful new habit that I didn't have last year. Recently, I added checking my phone for the daily Bible verse before I get out of bed as well to get my mind focused on truth before I do anything else. Those few minutes of peace are critical to my day, and since we don't get started with "school" till 9am, I don't feel rushed.

2. No packing lunches

It may seem to be a trivial thing, but with 3 girls, packing daily lunches is a massive chore, especially when I know that they probably won't eat anything I pack. Being able to eat at home makes life a lot easier! (Unfortunately, Sophie has to bring a lunch for preschool and since she can't take peanut butter, she refuses to eat anything in her backpack on Tuesdays and Thursdays!)

3. No busywork homework

Since we cut out the middleman through schooling at home, we don't have to deal with busywork. I can monitor where they are and work on any issues during the day. There's no need to produce extra work for assessment purposes; I am assessing daily! We don't have to do anything after "school" is done, so they usually practice their instruments, read, and play afterwards.

4. Individual pace

We are able to go at the pace of each of the girls individually. This has proven especially helpful in math for Ellie; she can stop the video teacher at any point, ask me a question, and we will go over the concept that she needs clarified. As for Chloe, we have been going at her pace in writing and spelling. I think she would have had a very difficult year in school if we hadn't had individual time to focus on writing legibly and spelling correctly.

5. Depth of discussion

I can't tell you how rewarding it feels to discuss Emily Dickinson's poem "There is No Frigate Like a Book" or other literature with the girls and see their eyes light up as we discover and unpack the meaning of the words. They share their ideas, make connections with other areas of their learning, and try to emulate the poet or author in their own writing. All of this is basically unsolicited; it is a natural response to great writing!

6. Variety of subjects

Our days have been filled with art, American and world history, geography, poetry, anatomy, nature study, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, Shakespeare, music, Bible study, math, a little French, and lots of reading. The variety keeps it fresh, and I can honestly say that for each subject, the girls are genuinely interested and excited about learning more. There hasn't been an eyes-glazed-over look yet, and that love for learning is priceless.

7. Time

I am so blessed with my Ellie, Chloe, and Sophie. I often can't believe how fortunate I am to be their mom! Spending time with them has truly not been as taxing as I expected, probably because I am no longer the drill sergeant I was last year. I have moments where I am cooking lunch, the kids are playing, and I think to myself, "This is what I was meant to do."

8. New friends

I hosted a homeschool mom's brunch at my house this week and it was so great getting together with these ladies who have been homeschooling a little longer than I have, with 5th-7th graders. I am so grateful for their perspective and their ideas, and the kids have become good friends too!

9. Flexibility

I love that we can drop what we're doing on a Thursday and go to a choir concert at the Adolphus Hotel, or take a field trip to the museum or the zoo in the middle of the week. I also love that we can get affordable private tennis lessons during the day since we are homeschooling!

10. Discipling my kids

This might be my last reason on this list, but it's truly the most important. Some of you know me as the discipleship contact at church, and I am definitely all about helping others learn the basics of our faith and grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus. I have enjoyed leading discipleship groups and meeting with women individually for discipleship through the years. However, I have come to realize that I also need to see my girls as a priority in discipleship; I have been given a huge role to direct them to a Christ-centered life and I don't want to let the years go by without being intentional with them. This is the first year that we've been able to pray together, study the Word together, memorize Scripture together, and grow spiritually together. This is one of my biggest joys and I pray God gives me more years with them!

Now that we have the pros, what about the cons of homeschooling? Here's a few for me:

1. Limited personal time

I admit, I am a retail therapy kind of girl. Sadly, my shopping has been limited to 1 hour when all 3 girls are at choir practice on Wednesdays. (I'm sure Todd is actually secretly glad this is the case for me.) However, this means I am WAY behind on Christmas shopping!! Also, I used to go to the gym and work out in the mornings but that's no longer happening. I definitely gained some weight and now I am determined to get rid of the muffin top. Hopefully Jillian Michael's 30-day shred is going to help!!

2. Really bad home-cooked meals

I decided early on that if I homeschooled and continued my music studio, something was going to have to give- either the cleanliness of our home, or the cooking. Since I can't bear for it to be too messy, I've given up making good meals. We are resorting to all kinds of quick fixes, and I am not proud. However, we are still eating, so I guess that's a good thing? I know there are some homeschool moms who make the most incredible meals, but I'm just not one of them.

3. Being judged

Yes, it happens. I used to judge homeschoolers too, so I shouldn't be surprised. I'm not any different than I was last year, but sometimes I'm treated like I've joined a cult. I also think I'll be judged either way- by non-homeschool moms when I'm homeschooling, and by homeschool moms if the girls go back to school. But we moms are guilty of judging a lot, aren't we? It might stem from our own insecurities of what is best for our kids. We all want to give them the best, and I say, let's just allow each other to make those decisions for our kids without judging each other if we make different choices. I trust you with your kids, and I hope you can trust me with mine!


4. No daytime phone calls

It's funny, the one day I posted on Facebook that we were skipping school that morning, I got a few emails and phone calls from friends who said they missed me and didn't want to bother me during the day! I do miss those hours of chatting with friends and being able to go to lunch to catch up; I am definitely limited now in the amount of time I get to cultivate my girlfriends. However, I am trying to balance this by staying connected with old friends, making time for my new homeschool mom friends, and going out every Wednesday with the Bible study ladies for lunch (my girls know that this is treasured mommy time so they eat at the adjoining table). There is definitely a relational sacrifice for the sake of educating my kids, but I know that true friends will survive the changing times and seasons of life.

5. Shorter quiet times

Again, though this is listed last, it's probably the biggest issue. Thankfully, I do spend the first few minutes of my morning meditating and praying, but after that, I am at work. My quiet times used to be longer; I was working through Malseed's Old Testament Overview, and I haven't pulled that book out in months. Thankfully I do have weekly Bible study homework which gets me in the Word, and working with the kids on their Bible study keeps it fresh daily. However, it just feels different, and I'm not sure if it's my own idea of what quiet times are supposed to look like that makes this a problem, or if in fact it is a problem. Either way, it is shorter, and it's taking a while to get used to the new normal right now.

So the final verdict? The pros outweigh the cons, which I didn't expect at the beginning of the year! We still haven't decided whether this will remain a one-year commitment or not, but for right now, I am thankful to be exactly where I am.