I'll answer the bottom two questions today as soon as time permits.
Julie asked: Why did you choose to home school? Will you always home school?
I’m not sure that my decision to home school was made in a single light-bulb moment. I taught elementary school for about six years after I finished my undergrad. I picked up a little about the way that kids learn, especially about how to teach kids to read. I loved helping them learn to read, to discover books. When Sailor was born, I thought I’d teach her how to read a little early, maybe start about age 2 with letters. It was amazing how quickly she was able to learn. I didn’t feel that I was teaching her how to read, but rather reminding her how to read. Soon she was inhaling novels, reading over 300 pages daily, well before she was kindergarten age. At this point, I was still planning on sending her to school, but I worried about the boredom factor. When she was five, she tested out of K and went straight to first grade, but it still seemed slow- paced compared to the one on one tutorial she was getting at home. And ironically, she didn’t have time to really enjoy reading like she had been doing before school began.
(Side note here: Having taught school before, I know that there are many children that aren’t being challenged academically. I also know how difficult it is as a teacher to meet the demands of each student, especially since the needs of the lower performing students are more immediate. I take my hat off to public school teachers; their work is difficult, often thankless, but absolutely invaluable.)
But I also missed Sailor terribly that year she was in school. I hated dropping her off every day, just to have her come home tired and cranky, with not much to show for the many hours that she was gone. I felt like I was getting the worst of my child, simply for the benefit of socialization. I decided to bring her home for one year, believing that perhaps she and West could march off to school together the following year, and maybe I’d stay home and write or get a PhD, or find some other meaningful project for myself.
But we found out that first year that we love it. We’re here together, the three of us, working our tails off to get a good education. We are all learning together. Sometimes I feel that I am teacher in name only, since I suspect that I am learning the most of all. We work incredibly hard to fit it all in, but there is still just enough time to devote to violin, piano, fencing, dance, art, friendships, play time, and other worthy pursuits. I don’t plan on homeschooling forever; I never really had a forever plan to begin with. I try to make the decision afresh each year.
It isn’t always easy. It’s actually a whole lot of old-fashioned hard work, especially since I teach in the evenings at the college. I run from one teaching gig to the next, hopefully with just enough time to slap on a little lipstick. It’s an unconventional choice to be a home-schooler. People aren’t always sure what to make of you, so there is a sense of being under a microscope. Most people are extremely kind and encouraging. Either way, I can’t let external opinions influence my decisions about education, or anything else for that matter. My house is never in perfect condition. Sometimes the kitchen table is covered with science experiments for weeks on end, but that’s OK. We’re learning. And that’s precisely the point.
I want to honor the decisions of the charges also, so if they ever choose to go to school, I’ll support them and buy them a new backpack and pencil case. But for now, they love to learn at home. I’m hopeful that the fire of inspiration has been permanently lit. I’m excited about learning and I love being able to be a part of the process with my children. At least for now, and we’ll take it day by day. I truly suspect that I will look back at this experience as my favorite part of motherhood.
And I'll clean off the kitchen table when they leave for college.
Julie asked: What was the first cooking contest you ever entered? What was the first one that you won/placed in? Which one was your favorite to compete in? What will you do with the money if you win the French's one? What is your motivation for entering the contests? Do you want to go be in the Pilsbury one together if I ever get brave enough? I already saw you in it once. I don't even care about winning, I just want to go.
Julie asked: You seem invincible to me.
You always have. You homeschool, and craft, and cook, and teach college, and serve on the charter school board. I mean, really, is there anything you can't do? Is there anything that makes you nervous? Anything you are not confident about?