Monday, March 07, 2011
It's a Different World
I had no idea what to expect from this weekend. I have never been to Memphis, I had never met Madon Dailey, who I would be spending the weekend with, I had never done anything like this on this sort of scale before, and I had never interacted with this many homeschoolers before. While I was looking forward to the opportunity, I'll admit I was a bit tentative about it and was unsure of myself.
I ended up having a great time and was very grateful for the opportunity to do it! Madon was wonderful, we discovered we had a lot in common and we enjoyed each other very much. Our interaction with one another made the weekend fly by. I also hadn't realized just how much I had been missing sales/service contact with others. Just about every job I have ever had in the past has involved working with the public, and being home this past year has been a real change for me. I love what I am doing with the kids, and consider it a great gift and blessing, but having a little taste of working with others again in this capacity was a nice change of pace.
The convention had good attendance, and I met a lot of really nice moms and a few dads as well. I had time to wander around and peruse materials myself, coming up mostly empty but gaining a few ideas that might work well for us. Much of the curricula out there is firmly rooted in the Christian faith, and because of the public school program we are working through we are not allowed to use any faith based materials. I had hoped to find a few more secular or neutral items there, but was unable to find much. Even if we were not required to use secular material, I personally have found that there is a lot of curricula that brands itself as "Christian" and gets attention simply because of the label or because there is Scripture sprinkled throughout, but that doesn't necessarily make it superior. I also am of the mindset that curricula is not inherently bad because it is secular either. Often, for our unique situation, secular curricula as far more able to meet our needs than Christian curricula is. That being said, there is also some high quality Christian curricula out there as well, but you have to work your way through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat. I guess I just like my educational materials to be "whole grain", and that doesn't mean it has to be stamped with a fish on it. In every other area of our lives God works through all, and I think that comes to curricula as well.
I had time for a lot of reading and contemplation today, as I had a mini-retreat in a corner of the Memphis airport where I had to wait 8 hours for my flight to depart. I found I did a lot of thinking, maybe because it was the most downtime I have had in months! Here is what I discovered for myself:
1) This convention was good for me in many ways, one of them being that I met many moms who appeared to have it all together when the approached our booth, but after a few minutes of conversation it "got real" and I was able to see that no one has it any more together or less together than I do. I am not the single worst Loser Homeschooling Mom, everyone is struggling to keep motivated, to keep their kids moving forward, and to cover all the bases. In other words, we are all doing the best we can, and that looks different for every family. I think I hadn't realized it, but I needed to see that.
2) However we homeschool, it will never look like anyone else, and I think I like it that way. We did not look like the majority of homeschooling families I encountered there. Many wonderful families filled with delightful children who were all dressed perfectly, had every hair in place, and admittedly had terrific behavior. Lots of mom/daughter combos who dressed alike in skirts and were cute with their long hair braided and very demure. Let's put it this way, the LaJoy Women will never, ever be demure. Totally not a word anyone would ever use to describe the three of us, or come to think of it any of our extended family....hahahaha! Skirts and braids, not happening. But you know what? As much as I honestly had an appreciation for those Duggar-esque families (Who wouldn't admire that sort of organization and decency, really?), I walked away with a greater appreciation for who WE are as a homeschooling family. We will never fit a certain mold, but that's OK because we broke the mold anyway :-)
3) I like what I saw in terms of the children I encountered and their easy, respectful and comfortable interaction with the adults around them. I am seeing that same thing slowly develop in our kids as well, and I'll admit I didn't expect it.
4) There was a subtlety I picked up on, which if I hadn't been part of the public schooling system so long I might not have noticed. In public school, parents tend to "brag" on their kids' sports accomplishments, with homeschoolers it is far more often about academics. It took me all weekend to see that clearly, that with homeschoolers there is a much greater emphasis, in general, on academics and that is where the pride is reflected, but in public education parents seem to gain more pride in athletic ability. That's not to say that there isn't some flip flopping there from time to time, but in general, this appears to be true.
5) My world at home has changed, our kids have hit the next phase, and I heard it in their voices and in their laughter during our late night phone call. Goodbye, young childhood, hello pre-adulthood. Don't know why it hit me full force like that, as of course there have been changes going on continually around here, but it was very clear and obvious.
6) I really like homeschooling, yes, even for myself. I like what it does for our family, I like how it has enhanced and shortened the time it took for emotional connections to develop. I like how we have gone from a frantic, running every evening group of individuals living under one roof, to being together as a family far more often. I like that I don't have that sense of guilt hanging over me continually that my kids are at school and are not getting the individual time they need, especially Kenny. I knew this was not going to work, I knew I was failing him by leaving him in school and by allowing him to be moved to be moved to 4th grade. I may not do better than the school did with him, but my guilt has dissipated because now I feel like we are giving it everything we've got to help him (and the girls too!) achieve and be all that it is possible for him to be. I like that we all share in our successes every day and can celebrate them, where in school, for some of our kids, their successes would barely be noticed, even if for them it is huge. I like the atmosphere in our home at mid-morning when all are engrossed in their work. I like the clink of the piano, the swoosh of the loom shuttle, and the twang of the guitar strings.
7) I need to carve out more time for me, I need to create more, to work more, to connect more...it makes me happier and the kids as well. I need to be intentional about it, for I need to be filled too in order to have anything to fill up others.
8) I can be outgoing, but I am truly an introvert. My outgoingness does not come naturally at all, and I have to do a lot of internal talking to move out of my wallflower mode, where I live happily most of the time.
9) I realized that I am much happier having a game plan in place, a framework to work from, and throwing in spontaneous things or projects. But I could never be too loose, it would be too uncomfortable for me. I also realized that creating a general plan through the end of high school is important for me to be able to let go and get in the moment, so I started one and hope it is a living document to be worked with. Already the simple act of doing that has helped release some tension. I know it is silly, I also know that the greatest plans of mice and men yadda yadda yadda, but for me it brings peace to plan, it allows me to let go of certain data and make room for other more important data.
10) We'll never be able to do it all, so get over your bad self!! What we DO accomplish will be amazing and extraordinary. There will be gaps, if we are sane. If we are insane, we will try to cover every single thing and I will beat my head bloody against a wall. I don't want to miss the joy in all of this, and letting go of the need to do EVERYTHING will help in that regard.
There were many more insights I gained, or maybe internalized more after having already given it some brain time. Strengthening who we all are in this, and what we envision for our kids, is an important part in my evolution as a mom.
My eyes are closing on me, and I need to get some sleep. Glad I am only driving a computer!