Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week One

We are on the other side of the first week of school, Tim and I's first week of teaching in over a decade and the kids' first week of school ever! I am not going to lie or sugar coat it. It was rough. It is a huge adjustment for us all. The kids have been angry. They've been in tears, and so have I. One even passed out in class from what we can only assume was a combination of not eating enough and stress. We all are exhausted.

But we made it through the first week.

All the places in homeschooling that we were more relaxed on are glaring in my face as the kids struggle in their classes, and we work with them at night. It is easy as a homeschooler to spout the benefits of children working at their own pace, the importance of life skills over book knowledge, or the development of the child's interest and strengths. At my core I still know that all this is true, but it is hard to not feel like you've failed your kids when they are suddenly with a group of their peers and are "behind."

We will work through this.

The things I don't like about the system of education are also glaring in my face. At this small, private school, there isn't nearly as much red tape, hassle, and ridiculousness. The system I refer to is the classroom, age level, memorization, cookie cutter system, the do school for 7 hours and then do an hour or two of homework.  Kids don't learn at the same pace. It is so easy for them to feel like failures in this system, and so many character traits and life skills are hard to value in the academic system. Life is more than memorizing your multiplications tables! The system leaves little room for figuring it out yourself or critical thinking.

We will do our best to encourage and celebrate those things the system doesn't.

At the end of the week though, it isn't all bad news. The kids don't hate school. I count that as a win.

I am enjoying teaching. I'm pretty much flying by the seat of my pants. Often I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing. The school routines are new to me. Teaching an elementary group is new to me. Learning that with Vivian, who is "behind" and a little clingy, in my class is a challenge. A completely full day of students combined with full nights of helping my own kids leaves me with almost no preparation time for class. The kids are sweet. They are co-operative, and luckily I'm pretty good at winging it! The teachers around me are wonderfully helpful and supportive. The elementary building really works as a team, and that is a great experience.

Tim is also enjoying it. He is less stressed, and having fun with the different age levels he teaches. Our latest nights home from school are about the same time as his earliest nights home from Kerr's. Our nights have been filled with chores, dinner, homework, and getting ready for the next day, but it is nice to have the family all home working together.

It is refreshing to work in a Christian environment. I'll admit to some reservations there. The church is more conservative and traditional than we are, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might. The atmosphere is loving, encouraging, and Christ focused. What a difference from other work places we've experienced.

At the bottom line, the two paychecks are nice. Granted any "extra" this month has been consumed by school uniforms and supplies, but it is so nice to see that wiggle room in our budget again. We are ready to attack that last looming debt monster of student loans that is still hanging over our heads.

It was a tough week. There will be more tough weeks until we are on the other side of the adjustment. Though there were times this week I had my doubts, I still feel like this is the right thing for us as a family. There is another family at the school who has been a great encouragement to us. He is Lydia's teacher. She teaches high school math. They were in our shoes three years ago. Their four had been homeschooled from day one. They struggled with the switch. They survived and thrived.  We will too.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Preparing for Changes

August is here! This summer has been a strange one. There has been lots of rain, and for the most part it has been cool. It feels like fall already with warm days and cool nights. It feels like we haven't even had a summer, and here we are a mere two weeks until our summer vacation days are over and we set out on this new adventure of private school. I'm not ready!

The past week has been a blur of school shopping, last days of summer play dates, school paperwork, searching Pinterest for classroom ideas, talking nicely to the tomatoes to hurry up so I can do some canning before school starts, and trying to prepare the gears to make the shift to our new activities and schedule. I'm exhausted!

The kids are warming up to the idea. Vivian is thrilled. She has been from the beginning. She will be in my class, and to her this is the best decision we've ever made.

She is not ready for is the getting up early. Our kids have never been big on sleeping in. They are usually all up by 7. Vivian, in the last week or so, has decided she loves sleeping in. Not only sleeping late, but then lounging in her bed for awhile after she wakes up. I've been dragging her out of bed between 9:30 and 10:00. We will need to leave for school before 7:00. This is going to be an adjustment.

Nolan is the most adamant that this is a horrible idea. Have you seen this angry face before? This picture was taken a few years ago, but Nolan still makes the same angry face now. If anything it is more intense. This is the face we get any time the word "school" comes up. The face, along with a lot of grunts and growls.

The other day he and Vivian were having a conversation about the money he earns from his Ham, Bacon, and Egg project.  He told Vivian, "Next year I am going to put all that money into my savings account. I'm going to need it for college because now that we aren't homeschooled, I won't be so smart. I won't get as many scholarships."

Between you and me, I think Nolan will probably love school the most. He is very social. That is part of the reason he is so upset about the change. He is sad to be leaving all his homeschool friends. Once we get through the initial transition, I think he will love being with other kids every day, and I think the structure of school will be good for him too. We'll see.

On a complete rabbit trail, in the interest of writing this down before I forget, Nolan and Vivian had another interesting conversation the other day. We were processing chickens, and they were helping me package them up. They cut and seal the bags for me. They help me get the trays ready for packaging. We use biodegradable trays with absorbent meat tray pads something like this:

They were putting the pads on the trays for me and making a stack. I'm not sure how the conversation started, but this is what I heard:

Vivian: I don't know. I think it is toilet paper.
Nolan: I thought they were diapers.
Vivian: Diapers?! They are too small!
Nolan: Diapers for the chickens.

They were talking about the meat tray pads.

Back to the subject on hand.

Lydia, my sweet sweet Lydia. She doesn't have much to say about school. When you ask her how she feels the answer is "I don't know." She really is just an easy going, go with the flow, cooperative child. We met her teacher. I think that helped put her a little more at ease with the change. I think she is a little nervous. That is understandable. School is something completely new. I'm a little nervous about math. It has always been hard for her, but she has worked hard the last couple of years. She has gained some confidence in math. I think it will be ok. I think she too will enjoy having her friends around every day.

And then there is Kellen. This picture pretty much sums up his reaction to going to school. His biggest complaints have been about the loss of freedom. He has complained about the dress code, the required courses for graduation, and things like that.

He is used to pretty much learning what he wants when he wants. Deadlines and structure are not part of his homeschool experience. We keep pointing out that it will be good practice for college.  I think he gets that even if he doesn't like it. He also appreciates that there will be classes he can take there that are hard to cover at home like sciences with labs, foreign language, and classes he can get help with like higher math where he is well beyond his mother's math skills.  I think he understands why this is the best thing for the family even if he wishes it would have happened a few years later.

Personally, though I am far from ready, I can't wait until we are past this transition and into the new schedule. The transition is hard. It is like we have each foot in a different place. We are trying to tie up the loose ends on one side while we plan and prepare for the other side. I am very sad to leave our flexible, laid back homeschool life. I am sad to leave the co-op we've been a part of since Vivian was an infant. Sad that I've had to step down from the board of The Wild Ramp. Sad that this change also means changing churches. There are so many people that I'm going to miss regularly hanging out with.

I am excited though for us to embark on this new adventure as a family. I can't tell you how thrilled I am for us all to be going to the same place on the same schedule every day. I am excited for my second grade class. There are only seven kids, and in many ways it will just be an slightly expanded version of what I've been doing for years. I am excited for Tim to be home in the evenings, for the time on the farm we'll have on breaks, and for the breathing room in the budget. This is going to be a good thing. Now, if I can just get through the next couple weeks!