The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 2

Continued from yesterday's post.

Homeschool these days

In response to Brienne's needs and interests we ratcheted up her school routines and expectations by a couple gears this year. She wanted more than what she was doing. And even though it was requested and self-motivated, we're all still adjusting to this change. She's doing algebra (been working on this since this winter), Apologia biology, English literature, Canadian history (Cold War era), French (a co-op class and private tutor), a Geordie theatre class, early morning work-outs (weight training) with Damien at the gym, and a book club/discussion group. She's the kid that wants all the things. And wants to do all the things well.

Laurent is in his final year of high school, with a tentative graduation date of fall 2019. He has a full schedule of art (personal projects, paid commissions and projects, and teaching a 7 week introductory art class at co-op), English literature, algebra, world geography, human anatomy (on Udemy), remedial spelling, book club/discussion group, early morning work-outs (weight training) with Damien at the gym, and Karate.

In the winter and spring both Brienne and Laurent's schedules will change with additional co-op classes and activities.

Laurent teaching art class

Celine is working for clients building and tweaking websites and getting all her ducks in a row to apply to post-secondary studies for the start of the 2019 school year. Her goal is to study costume design but comparing the school programs that offer training for this is like comparing apples to oranges. And depending on the school there are portfolio requirements or an actual project design required for application. It's a lot to consider and a lot to do.

I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am, with how much hands-on homeschooling work I still need to do. I thought it would be more wrapped up by now. Ha! It seems like I spend more time "homeschooling" them now than I ever did.

I didn't spend a lot of time "schooling" the kids when they were younger. Homemaking tasks - groceries and cooking (all that cooking!), managing finances and our rental unit, errands, gardening, etc. - took up most of my time. The kids and I did stuff together; reading, nature walks, crafts, a wee bit of sit down lessons (when I could pull it together), community events, just life... But the "school" part of homeschooling? That was never the focus.

homeschool, nine years ago.

These days everything is school, school, school. I am more diligent with sit down lesson work with my high schoolers than I was during the elementary years. Case in point, we continue the work past the first month! The irony is that perhaps if I had actually taught spelling the first time around we wouldn't need to catch-up in high school. But it wasn't a need then, and it is now. So we dive in and just get it done.

We have become home "schoolers" in every sense of the word. Our lives revolve around our kids' schooling. Life has always revolved around our kid's overall well-being and education, but now it's actual classes and coursework, deadlines and applications. Helping them achieve their goals now and for the future.

It took us a little longer to get here, to the "school" part of childhood. And even though it's want they want and need, I feel resistent, time slipping through my fingers, so much out of my control.

How do parents who send their kids to school deal with this for like, 12 years of a child's life? How do you run the race, stay on that train and basically (what feels like) surrender your family life to something external?

the beginning of our homeschool journey
kids are 7, 5 & 3

Please know, this is not a criticism but an honest question. Perhaps in the same way that schooling parents ask homeschoolers - how do you manage to be with your kids all day? Which for me is incomprehensible to answer since my reverse question is how can you stand to not be?

Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

But also for many of us, life just doesn't play out the way we had imagined and we do the best we can with what we have, whether that's homeschooling or regular schooling; our life surprises us, catches us off guard and feeling ill-prepared. Maybe we all feel, especially while raising children and during intense seasons of family life, like we're running to catch the train of our lives. be continued tomorrow.

« The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 1
The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 3 »
  • Susan

    Susan on Nov. 9, 2018, 4:02 p.m.

    Interesting question. I have 3 kids, one in college, one senior and one freshman in HS. I went to both private and public schools growing up, and to me, the school rhythm is my rhythm. To me, a new year starts on the first day of school, not January 1st. Even in the years between my education finishing and my kids starting school, this was my innate mental pace. There have been things about our schedule I have not liked from time to time - the switch to all day kindergarten in our district between kids 2 and 3, the late start/late dismissal of our elementary school (9-3:30) - but I've generally felt like my kids were where they were supposed to be and doing what they were supposed to be doing. It helps I'm sure that my kids were eager to learn and have been successful in the school environment. They are happy to go to school and be with their peers and grouse about a, b or c.

    I am having the opposite experience as you once again. I was very involved in the school work back in the early years, quizzing the spelling lists, helping with the math problems, etc. Today, I get asked to proof read a paper occasionally or be an audience for a practice run of a presentation. I have little day to day involvement with the school work besides asking what they are doing and hearing their school stories.

    Good luck to Celine as she evaluates her college choices. My senior is in the trenches still with college applications, and it is so much work! I imagine putting together the portfolio is much more time consuming but having seen her work, I'm sure Celine will knock it out of the park!


    • Renee

      Renee on Nov. 9, 2018, 6:05 p.m.

      Susan, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I like how you say, "but I've generally felt like my kids were where they were supposed to be and doing what they were supposed to be doing".

      That's a good feeling to have. I guess that's been my overall sense also, though I definitely have struggled with self-doubt at various stages, but I think that's my authority following personality flaring up more than anything. When I encounter struggles I question my path and think I must have done something wrong, and when you don't follow the "normal" path it's easy to think you're the one off base (and maybe you are! but struggles come regardless).

      With more thought and reflection I realize that one of the reasons these days are so "school" intense for us is because we're transitioning from one kind of schooling - family focused, student-centered into another type. And there's a lot of loose ends to wrap up and documents that I literally have to write up and prepare for my kids to graduate/proceed to that next level and different type of schooling.

      We're moving out of our "home-focused" schooling experience into the schooling system (university for our older two and perhaps high school next year for Brienne) and there's just so much documentation work, and deadlines and gathering of papers, and proving proficiency that accompanies that (extra in Quebec because of the French/English issue), it's so much work. Not to mention the actual help with algebra, and science and spelling tutoring. I'm actually feeling the weight & burden of being my kid's primary "teacher", something I've not experienced much up till this point.

      I think it hits you one way or another. Busy elementary years, or busy middle school years or busy high school years, or maybe all the way busy! Raising kids is hard work, regardless.

      I like to look ahead to help appreciate the activity and joy of the present season, because it will end. Katrina Kenison's latest post was a good reminder of this:

      Thank again for saying Hi.


  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on Nov. 9, 2018, 5:50 p.m.

    Yes to all of it. And part 1 as well. High school changes everything. I miss our old homeschool days. More home, less school. More family, less teachers.

    If Celine looks at RISD and you come for a visit I can pass on great places to eat, visit, park! I could even set you up with a RISD teacher/uber cool unschool mom that I highly recommend.. she's amazing!


    • Renee

      Renee on Nov. 9, 2018, 6:15 p.m.

      Ah thanks Melissa. Celine isn't looking at any american schools, the cost is just too crazy. Thankfully, we have some great schools in Montreal (Canadians tend to go to school close to home) and on the east coast. We moved to Montreal specifically for the range of post-secondary options available to our kids here. Celine is considering Dalhousie in Halifax but even that feels farther than she'd like and is way more expensive the local options. decisions...


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Nov. 12, 2018, 3:06 p.m.

    Renee, as you may know, Athena went to a brick and mortar high school this fall. She went for 6 weeks. She adapted well, had many friends and was learning to learn the classroom way. She could have continued for the entire semester although buy this time she knew she would come back home. It was we who saw changes in her that we didn't like. She lost her constant cheeriness, she was so tired, she had hours and hours of homework each evening and she did not have the time to read even one book in all that time. So now, she has been back home for several weeks and she is back to her old self. As a parent/teacher, I can tell you that the highschool work she was doing made little sense, it was all over the place, the math was terrible, not to mention the fact that she got on the bus at 7:45 and got home at 4:30 every day. Athena is like Brienne, in that she likes a clear, laid out plan with tangible marks. She is doing apologia biology, Medeival History and Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 , which I highly recommend. We are doing the Teaching the Classics Seminar and she is doing formal grammar. From my experience, and the superintendent of our school board uttered the words, "it is impossible for a school system to offer the quality education that homeschooling provides" So you can bank on that. Your efforts will not go unrecognized. Your children are very fortunate to have the education you gave and are giving them. The relationships you built will be solid and last a life time.


    • Renee

      Renee on Nov. 13, 2018, 5:19 p.m.

      Michelle, thank you for sharing Athena's experience. I am trusting in the truth of that last sentence you wrote. I do believe my work as a mom and homeschooler is to build friends for life and to lay down the foundations of the relationship that will sustain and carry us all through everything to come, whatever that is! And school choices and curriculum is important but secondary to that.

      And I appreciate your encouraging words from the superintendent of the school board. I feel sometimes like I haven't provided enough for my kids academically, it's not my bent or how I structured our homeschool. And yet there's been enough freedom and honesty and listening to each other that when more academics is needed we figure out how to make it happen. But of course I struggle with mom doubt and guilt so when an older, wiser and more experienced mom like yourself encourages me, it's nice. Thank you!

      Kudos to Athena for trying school and figuring out what's best for her, step by step, and Kudos to you for paying attention to what your daughter really needs and responding. I think that's the most we can offer as parents.



  • Marianna

    Marianna on Feb. 6, 2019, 2:25 a.m.

    My kids have both attended public school since kindergarten. I’ve never really thought about that education as being a surrendering of our family life. There was always still a major focus on being a family (family dinners, attending events as a family etc.). I was also able to be involved at school on a regular basis. And, honestly, their most important education happened at home. The education that developed independence and perseverance and exploration and grit and self-knowledge and manners and empathy. I could go on, but essentially all those things that are what ultimately really matter in life.

    I hear you on the high school years being almost as intense as the earliest years. I’m not very hands on in my daughters day to day work, but spend a great deal of time talking about and helping her envision her future. Last year it was the same with my son. We still do a fair amount of that despite his being nearly 1000 miles away from home. Thank goodness for modern technology!!


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