To Homeschool … Or Not.

Jake, Phoenix, Earth, Milla, MJ, Pascal, Leopold Sauvie Island Farm Homeschool

 

Having my kids in a traditional school was ruining my family. homeschool

Those days, my kids would get home and have to begin homework right away or they would be doomed. And by they, I really mean me. There were days they did homework straight through dinner, straight through the weekend, in the car, and in their beds. I once watched MJ fall asleep with a pencil in her hand, mid-sentence. I have even kept them home from school before, just so they could finish projects for school. homeschool

HomeschoolWhat kind of example was this teaching them? To work day and night and never take time to explore who they were? Their school left no room for them to follow their passion or explore being an individual in a big family. I saw them growing up too fast. I saw them overworked and really, really unhappy.

So I pulled the plug on the whole thing. I bit the bullet and took their learning into my own hands.

When I made the decision to homeschool, I imagined my kids becoming instant geniuses in knitted hats (made with their own talented hands of course). Their little creations would become so bloggable that we would become a global inspiration to other families. My imagination ran wild with this.

So called mom Homeschool

Because of this decision, I also could see us going off grid— as though the house would become an experiment in and of itself—we’d learn everything there is to know about solar panels, passive heating and compost toilets. My lesson books were going to be impressive.

 

I would become an expert at recycling, gardening and keeping chickens.

All of this would happen in my heels and tutus, because let’s not forget about the importance of style. The kids would learn instruments and how to sing together and meditate. Dinners would be wholesome and I’d finally have the endless hours of togetherness I wanted. We would be a solid family. The kids would be confident and different, by choice.

Instead, they turned into people-phobes with social anxiety. Homeschool

They became the weirdos that didn’t go to school. No matter how awkward it was, I kept going and for a couple of years it worked. Like kind of how a compost toilet would’ve worked I guess: Some days were better than others, but most of the time I was still troubleshooting, knee deep in my own shit.

Homeschool So Called Mom

Then my oldest, Jake unraveled the whole thing.

So Called Mom HomeschoolHe got the urge to become “normal” and insisted on going back to school. I think he actually just wanted to gawk at teenage girls like any other 16 year old. MJ applied and got into an arts-based middle school over the summer while Pascal formed a posse of girls from the neighborhood and wanted to give elementary school a shot. Earth was the last one remaining—though it was mostly our call to keep her in another year. Milla and Phoenix have yet to experience homeschooling. Milla thinks she wants to learn from me for high school, but I know this will change over summer. Phoenix, I have no say. I’m only the other mom. And of course that baby, Leopold, will always be homeschooled. Even though he isn’t a kindergartener yet, doesn’t mean I haven’t already started with him. Homeschool

Homeschool

Not long after returning to our standard “six kids at five different schools” model, only one of them has returned to homeschooling: Pascal. Mostly because that kid has so much extra curricular life, it has taken over what would normally be considered important: school. I just feel like when you’re a kid with talent and a lot of heart, you should be allowed to lean into your passion and develop it. It’s only habit that we moms put school first. What about French and Swedish lessons? What about Accordion? What about Skateboarding? Are those things not worth their full attention?

MJ-Davinci-Letter-edit why we Homeschool

Last week MJ wrote me a letter asking to be homeschooled again. It was really sweet and made me cry a tiny bit. I can’t decide if it’s because all of Pascal’s new learning materials just arrived or if she truly misses it. Or misses me. I know I miss her. I miss all of them—I even miss the kids I haven’t taught at home—yet.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Up Next: Why So Many Kids

How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

kids jake mj and pascal so called mom

My last post was about fighting, so it only seems right to follow up with talking—to the kids!

Since we have seven kids with vastly different ages, I always have to temper my conversations to some kind of age appropriateness. This is difficult because their ages are always changing.  I recently read about what I’m supposed to be doing on the pamphlets that my pediatrician sends me away with. One of the big no no’s from our family doctor is that apparently I should’ve been helping them communicate better and make friends. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any kids in the house for them to get to know! There are 4 teenagers, two tweens and Leopold. Surely there’s someone to befriend. I say we get a pass on that rule. Still though, every age group is different and, as they get older, it gets harder to talk.

kids so called momWhen I talk to my teenagers, I feel like I’m playing ping pong—with a baseball bat.

I’m so “not doing it right.” I’m so “embarrassing.” I’m so not even sure anything I’ve said makes it into their ears because of the damn headphones. Those things have become so discreet, but also so huge. I suppose it depends on the day—whether they feel like wearing the headphones that are as big as a billboard or the ones that double as Q-Tips. Plus, these days, they are basically fused to the kids heads, no matter how big or small they are. I think I’d like it more if it was music and not videos. Or videos about video games. Or videos of people we don’t know playing video games.

And I’m the one who’s not fascinating?

Let’s take dinner last week. One of my four daughters, Milla, was able to make it through an entire meal with them on, without me knowing it. Her phone was on her lap and when she laughed, I thought it was because of something I said. Sneaky.

I think I’m worth the conversation. I think they are too. But having quality conversations—the stuff that KEEPS you in their life, can be tricky.

Since we homeschool many of the kids, I obviously can’t ask what they did at school. Instead I spend our daytime together being a tyrant over their education. So this gets annoying. To all of us. My daughter Earth has learned not to approach me directly after I’ve had my coffee. I’m all over her with schedules, to-do lists, extra credit and electives. She was only wondering if we had more milk.

The tweens are a little more easygoing AND still think Im fabulous. It’s easier to talk, because I still have their attention. I can still take them out and just about buy their love. I know that’s probably not in those doctor pamphlets but hey, when your kids get older, you try anything for together time.

kids so called momLeopold, the baby (OK…. he’s 5, but he’s MY baby), is still a dream to talk to. I am his everything. We talk about explosions and boogers. Dinosaurs and my pretty hair. He is the only kid who is following my footsteps in ballet, for real this time. Everyone else has dropped out.

I am into together time. Even if it means holding some kids captive, against their will.

This is done best at the dinner table. Seven years ago, I became convinced I was losing touch with my children….and I was. So I began a nightly family ritual at the dinner table “What I Liked About Today and What I Didn’t Like About Today,” designed to get the kids talking—to Pippin and me and to each other. (Even though the teens have retitled it What Sucked and What’s Awesome) You get the idea.

“What I liked about today is that I learned how to ride switch to fakie on my new board. What I didn’t like about today was that I fell and hurt my shoulder.”

“What I liked about today was that we all got to say goodbye to the turtle. What I didn’t like was that we had to put him to sleep because the dog ate him.”

“Whats awesome about today is that I’m finally going to a normal school. What sucks is that I’ve been stuck in the basement in front of a computer so long, that I don’t know how to talk to other kids anymore.”

“What I liked about today is this dinner. What I didn’t like is that the dog just farted. You guys smell that?”

kids so called mom

By the time we cycle halfway through these, we are either laughing, annoyed or both.

There is a lot of talking over one another. I have spent almost a decade getting everyone to listen while others are talking. It doesn’t work. It is chaotic and overwhelming. But the point is, they are talking.  Even if, by the end of it all, we can’t hear each other speak and it doesn’t look like how I want it to, I can still feel like I’m a part of it all.  And with any luck, those headphones are somewhere else for an hour.

Good Talk,

So Called Mom

Next Post: To Homeschool…Or Not.