I’ll Never Homeschool, My Kids are Fine, & Other Parenting Certainties That Have Gone Toe Up

When I tell you that I had no intentions of entering my family into any form of homeschool whatsoever, I feel like this is basically the understatement of the century. Not only was I not planning on taking them out of public school, but I was fiercely against it. A handful of the reasons for that unwavering conviction (***unwavering until it utterly crashed and burned) are listed below. Feel free to raise your hand if any of these sound familiar. Also please note that I can’t see your hand, so maybe pretend like you are waving to someone across the room so you don’t look like a total weirdo randomly raising a hand.

I’ll never homeschool because…

  • Public school reflects reality.
  • For the most part, our children make good grades and are being taught the appropriate curriculum in our schools.
  • We like our teachers and the school administration, we don’t have problems with any specific families or kids, and we are zoned to one of the best districts and schools in the state.
  • Children need social interaction with their peers, and hanging with a sibling 24 hours a day simply doesn’t cut it.
  • We cannot put each child in a bubble, and pulling them out of regular school is a futile attempt to avoid conflict that they will face in reality.
  • Every school has issues so why would I want to pay money for different issues?
  • Although we are a family of faith, we do not concur with highly conservative or fundamentalist views and do not want the individual beliefs of others pushed on our children.
  • I work full-time, so even if I wanted to homeschool (which I don’t), that would be impossible.
  • I have zero patience and the news would surely be at my home within days if we were to homeschool.
  • We just aren’t the homeschool type. I don’t eat granola, my kids don’t look like they recently escaped the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and F bombs are an integral part of my classy speech pattern. Public school is so our bag baby.

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For our individual family, it feels like these are seriously solid arguments against homeschool. As I said before, never gonna happen.

But there’s a seriously funny thing about using the word “never” with regard to anything in the Parentiverse. You unwittingly use the word “never” with absolute conviction in a sentence about something pertaining to choices you will or won’t make for your children. The Universe (God / Jesus / Your Preferred Divine Name Here) then catalogs those words, laughs hysterically, and proceeds to turn your world inside out just for the sake of proving you 110% wrong.

In addition to the “never homeschool” beatdown I would one day (a.k.a. now) receive, I would also be getting a bonus gift that would simultaneously lead to my eating the words below.

My kids are fine. I know this because…

  • They look happy and don’t seem upset.
  • They actually want to go to school (In truth, that one still weirds me out, but my kids have always been such complete nerdzillas.).
  • Their teachers don’t complain about their behavior to us.
  • They are in advanced classes, perform very well on average on their grades, and always score solidly on the state standardized tests (STAAR – the state standardized assessment tests that I have loathed with a fiery passion since we first experienced them several years ago).
  • If they had problems in school, we would recognize it because we are a close-knit family.

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The two sets of bullet points above have been covered in extensive detail during countless conversations with my husband, family, and friends over the years. Even as my spouse and I watched our children’s individual learning gaps yawn wider and wider with every semester that passed, we couldn’t fathom how a non-traditional program could possibly fit into our lives nor did we want to go that route. We agreed that it would never happen.

Apparently I have been using the word “never” a little too emphatically because God has since felt the need to put me on the fast track in order to change my mind. Here are some of the gems that we never saw coming that we have discovered firsthand over the past two weeks.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t realize years ago that...

There is zero emphasis on fast facts. Seeing teenagers count on their fingers is painfully commonplace. I’m not being facetious. They literally count on their fingers. Education has shifted basic mathematical teaching to a utilization of various techniques that attempt to optimize every potential learning style. The problem is that the kids don’t have enough time to get really good at any single style, so they never get the most basic of foundations for any concept. Fast facts aren’t engrained in their base mathematical learning, and this dramatically impacts their ability to solve complex equations with any level of accuracy or speed.

As an example, I watched my genuinely brilliant daughter solve very complex equations this week. Unfortunately these equations took her an excruciating amount of time due to all of the micro-calculations one would expect to be automatic by that point in her educational experience. When I say micro-calculation, I mean something incredibly basic like 4×5. A student at her advanced level should easily be able to recognize that 4 x 5 = 20, right? Well I absolutely assumed so, but I watched my daughter repeatedly solve basic problems like this… 4 x 5 = 4+4 = 8 so 8+4 =12 so 12+4 = 16 so 16+4 = 20. This is not unusual for children in modern middle school (a.k.a. junior high school), but it is absolutely bonkers. Unbelievably, I came to the terrible realization that we needed to reintroduce the same flashcards that we once studied when our children were in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Although we found that our other kid could easily recite fast facts, we also discovered that he actually forgot how to solve 99% of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems at his level without a calculator. Full access to calculators has been a standard in his classes for years. I agree that calculators are fab, but unless you are solving something extremely complicated or inhumanly possible, one should still understand how to solve those same problems via pencil and paper. Sadly, we are now working on reteaching him his entire last three years of math once more. Three. Years. He will get it again at a fast clip, but the truth is that he should already have it given the grades he achieved in those classes.

And then you have the nightmare that is composition. The kids don’t study grammar much (if at all) and consequently can’t write sentences correctly. They don’t capitalize words properly, and they don’t use punctuation. If they do use punctuation, it often appears in the most bizarre of places. One of my older children wrote a paragraph for me a couple of days ago that literally started with a comma. The comma was intentionally written before all of the words. Despite my obvious head explosion at the sight of such horror, she has since pulled this wild punctuation move multiple times (because apparently she has been doing this for quite some time). In. Sane.

Another fun note is that while I feel strongly that one is permitted to have moderate to severe crap penmanship, you still need to be able to read and write your own name with a real live signature. I don’t care if the rest of your class jumps off the block letter bridge. You aren’t in kindergarten and should therefore be able to sign your name like a big boy / big girl / adult. Countless young adults are graduating high school and college with honors yet they can neither read or write cursive nor can they sign their names with a genuine signature. I am waiting to see someone put an X on a piece of paper. When that happens, you will hear my scream of horror from whatever corner of the globe you happen to inhabit.

Don’t even get me started on spelling speling spellyng because it has gone the way of the dodo doedoe doughdough. It’s Crap Central, and wow that’s seriously not okay.

An unexpected fun game I introduced to the kids was “Can You Figure Out How the Dictionary Works?” Spoiler alert – they couldn’t. My brain almost popped out of my head watching my daughter attempt to interpret the apparent hieroglyphics that systematically covered the pages of the new Webster’s Dictionary I recently purchased for this event. I bought the book in yet another attempt to back the kids off technology. Sometimes they need to look up words, but we have always used apps or the internet. I had no clue what a mind scrambler I was handing my poor child, but she was fascinated to discover the hidden code (know to the seasoned few as “alphabetical order”). It feels like they are so dependent on technology that they have lost what should be an innate ability to problem solve, to recognize patterns, and to seek alternate possibilities.

Our children are extremely intelligent and should be able to do so much more than what I have seen over the past two weeks. Thank heavens that my husband and I still have time to break this disturbing and debilitating pattern that is afflicting our children, and we will do whatever we have to to make this change. We have to figure this out for their sake. I refuse to raise meatheads.

Each new discovery of the past two weeks has left me feeling more and more guilty. It has made me question my parenting and forced me to ask myself how I could have possibly missed so much. Thankfully I was sharing those feelings with a kind friend of mine, and her response was exactly what I needed to hear. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What a gem of a comment and a beautiful soul! (The biggest hugs go out to you Lynda!)

She was right. Had we known, we would have done something differently. Maybe we wouldn’t have opted for homeschool, but perhaps we would have supplemented their educations. It’s spilt milk now (buckets and buckets of it but over and done nonetheless). Thankfully, we know now.

Although I know that we are on a completely new path, I still can’t tell you how all of this will work. I have no doubt that I will have plenty of mom fails in this arena, too. I feel like that’s kinda my special skill, but then again, it’s just how is goes in the magically imperfect world of parenting. However, we always continue to learn, and ideally, we do our best to help all of our little loves do the same as well.

I pray that your littles are happy and well and that they are receiving the best education that they can get. I hope that you are having better luck with regard to being able to help and coach them in that journey. And if you are experiencing anything close to what we are seeing, I want you to know that you aren’t the only one. I’m here if you need to know that you aren’t alone, and I sincerely believe that you can make anything happen if you can be brave and release the fear. We’ve got this, and the One who sees it all has got us. ❤️

Parenting is so easy, right?!? (…said no one ever) 😉

Best wishes to all of you. Jo

G is for Guilt

When the doctor hands you the teeniest human freshly removed from your hoo-hah, you immediately realize the incredible responsibility you are holding in your arms. You know exactly what to do.  You have read all the books, followed all the blogs, attended all the classes, and watched enough family rom-coms to let you be certain that there will be ups and downs, but overall, it’s all good.   Unfortunately you are cluelessly in the dark about how you don’t know anything about true parenting, how those same books will be covered in macaroni and crayon in two years or less, and how you actually picked up a super-sized bag o’ guilt when you agreed to personally cook (or adopt) and keep this harmless looking tidbit for life.

We have 3 tidbits of our own, and we learned long ago that sometimes they should really be called tidbeasts. To be clear, I love these beasties more than life itself.  More than cheesecake even.  Yes.  More than cheesecake.  They are my absolute most favorite things ever ever ever and are without doubt the best creations I ever was involved in – even better than the killer cupcakes I once made but can no longer have because I am now forcing myself to eat sadlad (No – it’s not a typo.  Salad just depresses me.).  Really – they are totes amazeballs yo (the kids and the cupcakes).

The issue I believe I am ultimately facing is this – I estimate that I require roughly 10 hours per day per kid to really do everything right by that little one, so that’s 30 hours in the day.  As I expect is the case in your own world, the universe miscalculated and erroneously agreed to allot me a mere 24 hours in total per day.  Consequently everyone gets the shaft.  It’s like my boob to hiney ratio.  I should have been given more boob to balance out the hiney, but that wasn’t the lingerie layout I was dealt.

I struggle to keep our lives on schedule every day. I work crazy hours, run errands constantly, take the kids to activities, and wash and wash and wash.  Seriously – what is it with the endless laundry?  It’s like gremlins, but you don’t even have to add water to multiply it.  How many items of clothing are these kids wearing, and why do they still reek of that outside kid smell despite the incessant baths and nineteen daily outfits they must be wearing?  Also why do kids feel the need to get strep at 4:30 on Friday afternoon in conjunction with every three-day weekend known to man?  Why children – why???

But once again – I love them. No really.  I totally do.  I cart them to sports they actually adore, I help them with projects, I make pancakes with chocolate chip smiley faces – the whole bit.  I also have a husband who is an amazing dad who does tons with them, for them, and for me.  Nevertheless is still it feels like we are on a hamster wheel, but unlike the hamster, I feel much less okay with the endless loop.  I want every bit of my life.  I just want a little extra sleep, too.  I try so incredibly hard to keep it all afloat, but it sometimes feels like the waves are coming over me.  I could probably handle it if those waves meant that I was getting a shower in the process, but no.  Those waves don’t work like that.

So earlier today I played “Which Activity to Knock Out from My Innumerable Task List” and tackling the kids’ end of school year notebooks won that round. My son’s stuff was relatively uneventful with a few beautiful exceptions of poetry and emotional contemplation pieces.  I see such potential for true greatness in him at times, and then two seconds later he will put his underwear on backwards, rub toothpaste on the mirror, and leave his fly down.  The greatness sentiment will briefly be put on pause, but it’s still there just the same.

I then went through my middle daughter’s school work, and this is where the steaming pile of guilt came barreling through my emotional doorway. I have always enjoyed working – well I enjoyed working normal hours – but my hours have been terrible for many months and my exhaustion has been stomping on our mornings and my corresponding ability to be patient (my version of patient is probably more like patient lite), supportive, and mostly upbeat.  Our before school happy mornings have been circling the drain for way too long.  Thank heavens summer is here at last.

My daughter’s daily morning routine at school began with a brief journaling session on her thoughts about her day.  At that point, her day had typically consisted of being forced out of bed before the sun even considered making an appearance, being chased around to get ready (despite every attempt on my part to prepare in advance, getting ready easily appears to be almost insurmountable in the kid world), and racing to school in hopes of not being late (again).  Thanks super much for that one Teach.  I have no doubt that other kids also spilled their family sagas in these morning dish sessions, but it still bites when you read it and the dish is aimed squarely at you.

Being the analytical girl that I am, I could opt to recognize that my name came up in a negative way in a statistically insignificant amount of journal entries. I could also remember that she never said that she hated me and that she talked about many happy moments.  But you see – the rational mom in me gets pimp-slapped out of the picture by the overwhelming mom guilt.  All the guilt allows me to see is the post about terrible screamy parent (In case you are asking which parent she meant, my hand is raised.) followed by a very detailed drawing of a fire-breathing dragon with the name MOM written on it.  There were other posts mentioning how I was mad at her or her brother or just generally grouchy, but that one in particular had a special ring to it.  It was fun with a big fat F and U pointing straight to me.

Most of this past school year’s mornings were relatively good.  Some were fantastic even.  I did lots of cool things with and for the kids.  I worked hard to give them a very good life.  I know all of this.  It just hurts my heart to see how I sent her to school feeling so upset and hurt on some of those days.  I don’t want her to remember me, our mornings, or our life like that.  I am a good mom most days, and a great mom on others.  Unfortunately, I also sometimes utterly stink at the job.

Naturally, I now see my own memories of stressful times growing up as a child with my parents through very different eyes. Being a parent isn’t as obvious and easy as it seems – not in the slightest.  There isn’t any book or blog or class that will tell you how to get it right every time.  I just hope that someday my kids will see all that I try to do for them with each moment that passes.  I want them to really see me, and I want them to know that I have always seen them, too.  They are always my blue behind the darkest of clouds.

So as always, I will keep trying, I will keep working to be better, and I will definitely keep taking caffeine.

***MoJo***

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