Thursday, May 23, 2013

Once Upon a Time vs. Happily Ever After

Once upon a time...a yellow school bus came to our house!
I used to count down the days in August until the big, yellow bus came back!  No tears were shed at our house on the first day of school!  The arrival of the school bus meant that peace and quiet would once again ascend upon our house!  The squabbling that comes from sibling rivalry would come to an end!  The nearer we came to August each summer the more yelling and arguing would take over our kids.  God does not exactly give parents kids who are perfectly compatible.  Just because my kids were siblings did not mean they would have chosen each other as friends.  They are just so different!  

Now that the school bus passes our house without stopping, are we living happily ever after?  Not every day.  Are my kids still totally unlike in personality? Absolutely!  Do I sometimes wish Julia would stop and honk, waiting on the kids to run out the door to woosh them off to school?  Some days, yes!  

What I have discovered, however, after completing our third year of homeschooling is that I no longer dread the last bus drop of of May, nor do I celebrate the kids' leaving in August.  There is a steadier ebb and flow to life now.  There is no "getting used to the kids being back home" in May.  We are already quite used to always having each other around. There also is no huge sigh of relief when they leave in August.  The sigh comes when we settle back into "school routine."  I sigh when the kids stop saying "I'm bored!" and begin to have much learning to keep their little bodies and minds busy!

When our school year begins in August, usually complete with a back to school camp out, (Usually AFTER the public school kids go back into the classroom, just so we can giggle by the campfire and relish in the fact that we are not there. ~ I know, that's not very nice! ~ ) we slowly dive back into our subjects, each day  adding a bit more work until we are up to full speed.  Like a scuba diver who has to learn not to ascend or descend too quickly into the deep waters, we ease ourselves out of summer routines ~which often times are really a lack thereof!~ and ease ourselves into another season of intense, scheduled learning.  Part of the Happily Ever After we experience during the back to school phase of the year is being able to start the school year with four or five days already under our belts.  We tend to "sneak" in some educational "school days" each summer which the kids love.  This is a great time to take field trips (a.k.a. educational stuff on vacations!)

When our school year ends, it never really comes to a screeching halt. We trickle out of a school year similarly to how we trickle in.  Some subjects get finished sooner than others.  Math is one that never truly ends 'till the whole book is finished. We celebrate our 180th day of school as a milestone reached but not as an end in itself.  There's always more to be done.  Once upon a time the kids ended their school year abruptly whether or not books and subjects were finished.  Happily ever after, we are finding completeness in finishing what we started.

I hear many parents say that they now (in May) have to "brace themselves" for the return of their children following the last day of school. Once upon a time I was right there with them!  Today, however, the last day of school brings no great shock.  There is no readjusting period. No learning to get along all over again.  We just flow gently into summer instead of hitting it like a cannon ball in the pool...and that makes me happily ever after!

                                                                                                

Once Upon a Time...the state determined what my kids needed to learn and when they were ready to learn it.   Bureaucrats who have never spent time teaching children tell even the most excellent teachers what they have to teach and when to teach it.  The readiness of the child is often overlooked. Today, some of our newly ordered curriculum for next year began to arrive in the mail.  We made two curriculum changes so far for our boys for next year.  For one, we are eliminating the text book style of teaching language arts for a year to let our middle schooler dive into a one year LA program that focuses all of its lessons on C.S. Lewis' Chronicle's of Narnia!  He is so excited to base a year's worth of work immersed in the land of fauns, centaurs and talking beavers!  He is so excited to start writing next year!  He is even excited to "do grammar" in Narnia.  When a 12 year old boy is excited about anything having to do with writing and grammar, that's a mamma's Happily Ever After!

Another change we are making is to end all "typical" teaching of spelling for our daughter.  A spelling list a week has not worked for her!  We should have done this two years ago but just didn't know where to turn.  Thanks to much prayer and a used curriculum sale, we found something new.  It's not just the newest researched program that a school might purchase and teach to everyone.  It is simply new to us and new to our daughter.  And it's absolutely worth the try.  If it works, we will celebrate; if not, we will go to plan "C."  But either way, it was chosen just for her to meet her individual needs.  Once upon a time, my kids were not individuals, they were part of larger "grade levels."  In some subjects they kept up with the pack (grade level) but in many ways they slipped through the cracks because their brains or maturity or whatever, ran in another direction or speed.  Happily Ever After now means that they can run as fast or slow as they need to because school is tailored to meet them right where they are.  There is no more leaving them behind when the pack runs faster or leaving them still and bored if they are ready to move on before the rest of the pack.  (When I was a public school teacher, B.C. ~ before kids ~ I used to get so frustrated when I couldn't reach a student right where he or she was at simply because there were 25 others in the room to attend to also.
                                                                                                

Once Upon A Time...my daughter was told "You will never be popular like us because you don't have the right hair!"  Seriously! This was in second grade!  People pay a LOT of money to have reddish, auburn hair like my daughters!  The sad thing is that she never told me when this teasing and bullying was happening.  Two years later she told me how bad these other girls made her feel.  That breaks my heart!  In our happily ever after period, there is much less of a pecking order  among all of the kids.  When we get together with other homeschoolers, many of them don't even know which grade levels they other kids are in let alone which styles make you cool or not.  My oldest son was once considering ending his life because of the academic and social stress he was under after years of being cast aside as not cool.  That was NOT COOL!  He is now much more happily ever after as many of the other boys in our homeschool group look up to him as a leader.  They see his natural abilities and don't focus on his weaknesses.  He is COOL to them!  And that is COOL for me!
                                                                                                 

Once Upon A Time... was asked if I would ever consider homeschooling my kids due to their "Labels."  My answer for years was always "NO Way!"  I can't homeschool them! Now I am commonly asked, "Are you ever going to send your kids back to public school, especially for high school?" The answer is still, "NO Way!"  We love our new life.  Happily Ever After is not a delusional dreamland where we have escaped from reality and are hiding our kids from the realities of life.  Rather it is rather, a better way of preparing them to face the challenges of reality.  It is not our way or hating schools and the government.  Rather it is our way of best meeting their educational and social needs.  It is just best for us.  We love this place of peace and knowing that we are in the center of God's plan our us as well as our kids.  Happily Ever After is simply knowing God's desire for us and doing it.  The rest: academics, social relationships, and our kids' futures are in God's hands.  They are not really even in ours, and certainly not the state's.   Happily Ever After could not be reached when we did what we were told was right FOR us, but rather happily ever after can only be found when we know what's right  and do it! 

Once Upon A Time we did what we thought was best, but God showed us a better way for our family and now we really are living happily ever after!  
                                                                                                     

* Disclaimer*   :O)
So, are we always happily ever after?  Seriously!  On this side of eternity is anyone ALWAYS happy?  Not!  Did homeschooling make my kids turn into best friends?   Absolutely! Can you hear the dripping sarcasm?!  Never before have we had to work at our relationships.  My kids are still very different...like flint and steel!  My kids still have ADHD - yes, all of them.  That makes for some less than happy moments!  "But I just want to get it over with!" is commonly spoken during grammar and math!  Have I threatened to call the superintendent's office and have a bus here in the morning?  Absolutely!  Could they just go to school for a week or two a year to give myself a break?  I think the school would catch on!  :O)  Are we perfect!  By no means!  Trying to be obedient, yes.  Perfect, not by a mile!  or more!  

Happily ever after is not a momentary feeling, but rather a lasting peace knowing you are doing what God asks of you.  Maybe he asks you to homeschool, maybe not.  Just be open to his asking.  (Don't fight him for two years like I did.  There's no peace in that!)