Friday, August 28, 2009

Raw Homeschooling

When my kids were in third grade, first grade and preschool we had our first year of real homeschooling. In the years before that we'd always said that we were a "homeschooling family who used public school as an enrichment option". It was a cop out, but it worked for us. Our kids did just fine in school. We had some wonderful teachers, wonderful gifted programming, some wonderful staff and families. But it just got to a point where our oldest was rushing through his work so he could finish a mystery that he read between assignments. He read about three a week. I volunteered in the classroom, but what I did was work with other peoples' kids in the hall.

That was crazy. I was eager to have them all home, they were willing to come home and most of our best friends were already homeschooling. What were we waiting for?

We scheduled a "Not Back to School" trip; a tour of the Olympic Penninsula. That set the tone for the year. Other than some math game books we did no formal learning. But we read constantly, and we traveled. We spent time in the wilderness and we listened to Public Radio (good Liberals and Unitarians that we are). We spent time with our friends.

When you "raw" homeschool--no co-op, no homeschool school, no shared teaching, you really need to have friends. I would have run screaming into the snow if I hadn't known that once, twice or on a really good week three times a week; I'd get to see friends.

One homeschool family we spent a ton of time with is my bff. We went to school together, we lived together in college, we went to the same party and said "we're having a baby!". She was at two of three births of my kids. My youngest has a middle name in honor of her. We loved to spend time together. But we lived pretty far apart. In the snow and the heat and with little ones, that was sometimes hard.

I was involved with La Leche League as a young mom, and there I found a different kind of connection than I usually found at church where many moms worked full time, or with the neighborhood moms where there was sometimes a swat on the behind or a (horrors) regular popsicle. One very long winter another mom and I formed a play group that met, I think, on Wednesdays.

All winter and into the spring it pretty much went from her house to my house to her house to my house to her house. Our oldest kids were six months apart--about three at that time I guess, our youngest kids were about one. We each had only two kids. She was a quiet person, reserved. And she was also deeply involved in her church. But it was a very different church. They were Baptists and we were Unitarian Universalists. You can hardly get any farther apart theologically. Well, in theory you can hardly get any farther apart. As with so many things; the common groud was much, much wider than any little slip of difference.

We spent hours and hours together. Moms talked, kids played. We became friends. Real friends. And I was so grateful to have found this family. They believed almost everything that we did. Our one sticking point was probably Jesus. Well, that and football teams since she was from Wisconsin with their crazy cheesehead Green Bay Packers. But I had enough of a personal relationship with the spirit of Jesus and they had enough of an accepting view of all God's creatures--even us, that we became good family friends. I had another baby. We moved much closer to them, they had another baby. Our kids grew, the dads finished rooms and fixed cars. We celebrated holidays together, we gardened together, decorated together. And we homeschooled together.

Yesterday, I read this from a lovely homeschool family at Grassroots Homeschool. I could just SEE the time that our friend's oldest was at our house making cookies, completely convinced that I was crazy for not putting enough butter and liquid in the frosting recipe. Of course, it turned out perfectly and I think I still have street cred from that one event to this day.

I don't have a ton of memories about teaching the kids math, although clearly Mr Math tutor at the community college at age 16 proves we did something right that I simply don't remember. I don't remember any reading lessons. But I remember many, many days of hanging out with friends; kids involved in science or history. Being together. Learning together.

I miss those days of "raw" homeschooling. I miss weeks of tearing through everything we could find about the Oregon Trail, about Ancient Egypt, about whatever took their interest. I miss quiet days, and long, long read-alouds. I miss playing. I miss our friends.

Now, the kids from all those families are starting college or finishing high school--or actually, they all did both in the same year with early start college programs. They're dating and driving and becoming fine young men and women. We're standing on the porch, waving as they go. Happy and sad. Grateful for good friends, good days and how lucky we are to be right here.

1 comment:

dianak said...

*sniff, sniff*

Yeah, we are lucky. I'm finishing a song this weekend about this same subject - that old passing of time...

Miss you!