Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Big Announcement

"I know more about science from beer brewing and using that kiln and forging that knife than I ever learned in a classroom."

When my husband was 14, he brewed his first batch of homemade beer.  For those of you who've never attempted, or witnessed anyone attempt, to brew a decent, drinkable beer, let me assure you that it is no easy task.  There is chemistry involved.  Lots and lots of chemistry.  Have you met Chemistry?  He is no joke.  I mean, you can't even guess at Chemistry.  I love guessing.

Then, when he was 16, he built a kiln AND a forge in his suburban backyard.  Not on the same day.  He remembers a night that he was firing some of his own ceramics in his homemade kiln, drinking a 20 oz. of home brewed stout and smoking a cigar.  In his parents' backyard. When he was still in high school.

The man is talented and interesting and fearless.  He speaks seven languages.  He can make creme brulee.  He prepared his first full meal for his family, a real meal in the kitchen, when he was in middle school.  Middle. School.

Can we all please just take a moment to conjure up all the middle school boys we've met in our lives?  If you're a boy, you're welcome to recall your own days as a middle schooler.  Okay, I think we're all on the same page now.  A page of shock and incredulity for most of us I'm sure!

He went on to graduate as valedictorian of his high school class.  He was awarded a full scholarship to our selective, rigorous University.  And you know what?  He hated school.

He hated school.

He knew how to read before he even got there and he learned most of what he needed to know at home with his five siblings, or at FFA with his fellow adventurous friends, or by reading books on subjects that interested him.  He and his sister built elaborate GI Joe-meets-Ewok villages using pulleys and other simple machines.  He was not badly behaved.  He never got in trouble.  He was just miserable.  Those walls and those hallways only served to stifle what he was capable of achieving.

Now before I go on, let me assure you that I am not against schools as a whole, either public or private.  Tommy's mom was a public school teacher for decades.  His younger sister and his older brother are both in public education as we speak.  At least one of my cousins and countless dear friends and readers are all teachers.  Teaching is a vocation.  Teachers are necessary.  Public schools are a necessity.

Because not every child has parents who will allow him to brew beer and build a kiln and forge a knife in their backyard.  Not every child has parents who will read to them or who will let them make a mess of the dinner table creating something magical for their siblings.  Not every child even has parents to ask.  For them and so many others, public schools and committed, brave teachers are a true blessing.

When my oldest daughter started kindergarten, my husband and I were both working full time.  We lived in a small second story condo with no yard.  Homeschooling was simply not an option for us.  There was no inkling in my mind or in my heart.  There was no "someday".  There was no "what if".  There was simply: this is how it's going to be.   And then my second daughter started kindergarten.  And we were living in an even smaller apartment, still with no yard.  And I had a newborn.   There was no "someday".  There was no "what if".  There was simply: this is how it's going to be.  I wasn't sad about it.  I didn't WANT to homeschool.  They went to public school and we were all happy.

So when I share with you Tommy's experience, it's only to tangibly illustrate that not everyone learns the same way.  Different people thrive in different environments.  Whether it was because he was the fifth of six children, or because his parents let him blaze his own trail (probably more out of necessity than out of design, but the positive results were still there), or maybe just because of how he is wired, his most fulfilling learning happened of his own accord, at his own pace, outside the classroom.

So now here we are.  We have a big house.  (Big for us, that is.  Way bigger than our last house.  More than we dared to even dream of back in our southern California condo days.)  We have this property.  My husband and I are both working from home.  We've got chickens and dogs and a garden and a quiet dirt road outside our front door.  We have a pond and a tire swing and an old barn filled with forgotten treasures.  We have the space, we have the time.  And now....well, now I can hear the calling.

You see, when my kids go to school, they're missing all this.  And when they go to school, I am missing them.  When they spend only a few hours awake together per day, they lose track of their affection for one another.  They forget their inside jokes.  They become less a part of each other and more a part of each others' scenery.  Their days and weeks slip away under the demands of their classrooms.  Our evenings are spent preparing for the next day spent away.  For years it was exactly what we needed. And now it's exactly what we don't.

The last four weeks have been spent decompressing.  Reassessing.  Getting to know each others' rhythms as though we've just been reunited after a long absence.  And the more we get back to being us, together, the more we remember just how funny she is and how interesting she is and how difficult it is to compromise on certain things but how important and fulfilling it is to learn how and that we can.  For us, right now, at this stage in our lives, this is right.  Together is right. 

On Friday, July 15th, we made the final decision as a family to give homeschooling a real try.  And let me tell you....the moment the last "okay" slipped from the last child's precious lips, the cheers were tumultuous!  There was leaping and hugging and running and chattering.  Then list making and web searching and giggles and grins.  And of course, we wondered why it had taken us so long to finally commit to the notion.  But at the same time we knew that the appreciation we were all feeling for the final decision having been made was made possible by the fact that we had prayed and discussed and what iffed and discerned together.


We decided together.  We're in this together.


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52 comments :

  1. Dweej, you are such a terrific wife and mother, I have no doubt your family decision is the right one.

    Sometimes, your family is the best teacher.

    And on to homeschooling adventures!

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  2. I can't wait to read about all of your homeschooling adventures! Congrats on your big decision!

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  3. Funny, I thought you were already a homeschooling family.:) I'm sure you will enjoy it. It is definitely not without it's challenges, but I'm sure you will find what enjoyable people your children are. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy mine. They are delightful people that continue to surprise me everyday. Who knows? You may even consider "unschooling" someday...there I said it!!;)

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  4. YAY!!!! Congrats to answered prayers and hope for a happy and successful first home school year!

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  5. Dwija: Your husband sounds a lot like my son who yes, has been cooking us meals (and creating his own recipes) since middle school, who made a complicated film at age 11 and who was offered out of the blue a 30-hour-a-week job for the summer as a bike mechanic! He's 14. Totally self taught. These folks are what we call kinesthetic learners - they learn by DOING. It is a beautiful thing.

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  6. That sounds great! For some reason, I thought you were already homeschoolers. This'll be a fun year for your family!

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  7. awesome!!! I'm always in awe over moms who home school. Can't wait to follow your journey on this.

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  8. Your husband sounds EXACTLY like my husband, minus the kiln. He could read when he was TWO and also loves to brew beer:) Hated school too!

    I am not sure I'll ever homeschool, I have never considered it, but your post just brought tears to my eyes. I can tell you that I am not looking forward to the day my kids go to school (they are 2 and 4 right now)

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  9. What a challenge! But I'm sure it'll be worth every moment. I mean, what a great thing to see your kids learning together through something other than books and homework and to see that they have something to teach you, too.

    I wish you luck on your journey, and I can't wait to see where it takes you!

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  10. Congratulations on your new journey! The decision to homeschool is a scary and exciting one all at the same time. We made that decision almost two years ago and it has been a good choice for our family. May you enjoy the journey!

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  11. So very exciting! I think you're about to embark on a grand adventure!

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  12. Good for you! You are such a good mom, so I'm sure you will be an awesome teacher for your kids. I can't wait to read more about it!

    Can I make my husband be friends with your husband so he can learn how to brew beer? :-)

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  13. YAY!!! You're going to be so awesome at this!!

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  14. This was a great explanation, but don't EVER feel like you have to defend your position, your choice.

    By the way, I knew this was it, but I thought I'd wait and let you tell me.

    ;)

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  15. So so SO excited for you Dwija! I can't wait to read more :).

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  16. Oh congrats on your decision! I'll be reading in anticipation of your journey. It's definitely something I've thought about, but we still have 5 years to think it through! And your husband--wow. I'm so impressed!

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  17. So happy for you! I have a number of friends who have pursued this option and and they couldn't be happier. Can't wait to read about the adventures ahead! :D

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  18. Way to go, Dwija! I, too, am about to embark on the journey. I wish I shared your enthusiasm. I am more...what's the word?...terrified. It doesn't help that I'm starting with my oldest, in kindergarten, with no base of knowledge. It's all up to me. Scary stuff. Keep up with the enthusiastic posts, will you? Hopefully it will lift my spirits a little.

    Your husband sounds awesome! And creme brulee...yum.

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  19. That is awesome, Dweej! Y'all are gonna have a blast! I love home schooling! We start on Monday!

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  20. Congratulations on your new adventure!

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  21. I think the best part of home schooling is getting to dump a book back on the shelf in favor of a different way to teach the subject. I loved home school, and look forward to teaching my youngest to read (the one sound asleep in the midst of toys and blocks). It was wonderful to decide when our holidays would be, and how we would schedule our more formal and less formal school work.

    Have fun with it.

    Your husband sounds a lot like my husband and his brothers. Those creative, brilliant capable men are all too rare!

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  22. Hooray!! I still remember the day my parents sat me down and asked if I would like to try homeschooling. One of the best days of my life! So excited for you guys!! :)

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  23. I applaud your decision, Dweej...wholeheartedly!

    Our school system here in Putnam County, NY is, well, antiquated; hasn't moved outside of the educational box in the twenty + years since we built our home here. Now that the two Grandkids who live here are in the schools, I cringe every moment they are in attendance.

    Certainly, the district loves to tout "changes" but that applies only to higher salaries for its educators while the learning platform stagnates.

    Am I being harsh, given the fact that my oldest is a high school adminstrator? Hell yes! When I see what my daughter has accomplished for her high school in Florida, taking it from a D to an A school, it angers me that the same isn't being done here, for our schools.

    The bullying is epidemic and at least 80% of what is taught in school is simply handed-off to the parents which encompasses hours of homework for two children, night after night. Why not home-school then? Teach your children important values that are no longer a priority in too many schools and, in that process, give them a much better education.

    I wish you all the luck possible, not that you'll need it; your children will flourish, thanks to your efforts!

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  24. Exciting! Our family made this same decision this past week as well! :-) Can't wait to read about your adventures. Good luck and many blessings

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  25. Guggy! We're going to be homeschool buddies!

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  26. Good luck! I know many homeschooling families and, contrary to what one normally hears from the media, they are all different. The kids are not all geniuses -- nor are they all maladjusted. That said, homeschooling has been wonderful for my relatives, but is not wonderful for everyone. I really have met families who should not have tried it, or at least should have quit.

    If it doesn't work out for you, or it works out with only some of your kids, don't fall into the trap I've seen -- thinking that homeschoolers are superior and using a school means failure. Some kids really do learn better in schools. I have a wonderful friend who homeschooled her three sons but found it incredibly frustrating and constantly wondered why she couldn't make it the joyous adventure so many people say it is. Turns out the oldest had some difficult to diagnose learning disorders that a professional teacher could handle -- and after she put him in school (a small Catholic school, although they are not Catholic) the other two boys were soon clamoring to go too. She wasn't a failure; that was the best option for her. Another boy who graduated from a local homeschooling co-op this year (the ones my relatives attend) spent his last year and a half in a regular high school, after taking several classes there in previous years. The co-op offered some great classes but not as many as the high school, and for him that was the best option. He was in the National Honor Society and was captain of at least one team. If your school system isn't terrible, keep up a good relationship with the staff so that you can transition in if you need to.

    Do whatever works best for you and your children. Good luck!!!

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  27. Thank you, Gail! Our public school system is actually quite wonderful- one of the reasons we chose this house. Made the decision to give this a try an extra difficult one in its own way. But I know it'll still be there if we change our minds along the way. Hopefully we'll be given enough grace and wisdom to know when to persevere and when to change course. :)

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  28. This is going to be such a great experience for your family Dwija. I know you'll be great at it and I can't wait to follow all your (mis)adventures! xoxo

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  29. This is going to be a great experience for all of ya'll :) You are going to be a great teacher and your house a great school! So much to do and learn and experiences they will never get in regular school. Looking forward to seeing how ya'll all like it!

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  30. :-) Just..... :-)

    Oh, and AWESOME!

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  31. Great post and good luck! I think you have a great perspective. You have to take things one day at a time and one school year at a time and do what's best for the kids and your family. There's no one formula for everyone. And God's plan is always the best plan. Accepting it is the key!

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  32. Good for you! Great post. So well written! The line "They become less a part of each other and more a part of each others' scenery" really got to me. Sounds like you're doing what's best for all of you. I'm so intrigued and interested to hear how it evolves. And it sounds like Tommy is the #1 best guy to undertake this journey with you :)

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  33. What a wonderful post this was to read. I can't wait to read about all of the wonderful things ahead! Your girls looked so happy in that picture :)
    P.S. So does your husband still brew his own beer?

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  34. Holy Cow - You are a BRAVE woman! Cannot wait to read all about this over time.

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  35. You can do it!

    We are doing it- with just a townhouse and no chickens

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  36. I read quite a few blogs of moms who homeschool and know a few people that do but it has never ever for one moment sounded like something we'd ever want to do. Not even a little. But I've never heard anyone give the same reasons for wanting to homeschool as you have. My husband and I just spent the last couple hours talking about what life would be like if we homeschooled. The seed has been planted. I'm not sure whether to thank you or throw something at you :)

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  37. Oh my goodness...that is one of the best, most wonderful comments I've ever read! I didn't know I could be so happy to hear that someone wants to throw something at me :D

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  38. It's amazing to see how far homeschooling has come. My son is 18, my daughter will be 12 in Sept, and I've homeschooled them. Back when I started I was hard pressed to find much support. But now, geesh, look at all the support!! It is so worth it and a great experience even if you come to feel it's not for you.

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  39. CoNgRaTuLaTiOnS Dwija! I enjoyed reading your husband's childhood history, and your journey to this point in your lives. I especially loved the whole entire paragraph that began: "You see, when my kids go to school, they are missing all of this. And...." Exactly.

    I'll tell you what. If you reap half the joy we have found in our homeschooling lifestyle, you are going to feel so very blessed! I'm excited for you! I hope you blog a whole lot about your new adventure as a family! I want to keep up with this story! :)

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  40. We've talked about homeschool... Tom totally wants to do it. I'm intrigued but on the fence. And even though my kid is only 2.5, I feel like every day is kind of 'homeschool' by the insane rate he is learning new things. One of the other commenters mentioned the crazy homework kids and parents do every night and I hear it first hand from one of my BFF's. Maybe homeschooling is the way to go.

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  41. What an exciting challenge! I love this post, especially because you expressed your own choice unapologetically while not denigrating anyone else's choices. Well done. Are you familiar with Shower of Roses? She is a Catholic home-schooler and often has great ideas on her blog.

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  42. I am so excited for you!!! I am trying to decide whether or not to homeschool right now ... definitely learning towards it, but the husband is not so eager. I'm eager to hear your stories!

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  43. So now that you've made the first decision, what curriculum are you going to use? Remember, if you choose poorly your kids will go to hell. No pressure. ;-)

    (I'm kind of her brother-in-law so I can say things like this)

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  44. Thanks so much for stressing me out further, Ian. Totally awesome!

    Actually, and I'll post more about this, I am focusing on a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, looking to Kolbe for math and science for the upper grades. Once they get into high school, we'll worry about a full curriculum, but only so that we can have "official" records and transcripts. So for now, pretty much just 1...*maybe* 2 textbooks.

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  45. Such exciting news, Dwija! I have NO DOUBT this will be just another wonderful adventure in your growing list of wonderful adventures. And I have NO DOUBT you'll be successful at it.

    PS ~ Your hubby sounds like a genius...I love it!

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  46. Wow, as I am reading this I am getting that little twitch...the one that says, I may be doing the same thing sooner than I think. Kinda scary!

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  47. I'm a visiting blogger and read a few of your posts. The moment I read the one where you quietly first confessed your desire to homeschool, I had a feeling it would happen. I just had a feeling. And I read through many of the comments on that post, one of which made me burst out in laughter! You remember the one about the messy house and pajamas? That's the one! You fit right in!

    I wish you the best in your latest adventure. I have no doubt it will work for you. Your heart is in it and that is most important of all! You LOVE your family and don't want to miss out on a moment with them. That is a great thing!

    Just remember, when you feel overwhelmed (and you will) or when you feel like giving up (and you will) or when you feel like your children are driving you crazy (and they will!), go back to what you have written - your reasons for homeschooling. They serve as a great reminder of what brought you to that decision in the first place. And trust me when I say that the good moments far outweight the challenges.

    I love homeschooling and my children, my well-rounded, social children, love it too! And in the words of Dr. James Dobson "not all socialization is good socialization."

    Come visit my blog, if you so desire, at www.hsdays.blogspot.com. It would be great to have another hsbb (homeschool blogging buddy)!

    God bless!

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  48. One other thing I forgot to comment on is that one person commented on how you have so much to do already with your property, projects, feeding animals, etc. Let me just say - those are all "learning" activities that are perfect for school! In fact, those things are actually more of an advantage to homeschool families because they teach far more about real life than books can! I just might set up our own "Cluckingham Palace" all in the name of homeschooling!

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  49. I'm spending H's nap time catching up on your entire blog. :) This line gave me chills:

    They become less a part of each other and more a part of each others' scenery.

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