Our homeschool was moving along in good form until in January we couldn’t get the beans to grow for the biology lab. Science experiments, like art projects, already make me want to bang my head against a wall for awhile because they take time, make a mess, require advance planning, and never turn out the way I envisioned. But they are real learning. Right?! Right.
But the beans won’t grow. Perhaps it is because they are sitting in a window sill and just on the other side it is frigid. The sun comes out every third day or so, but maybe that isn’t enough?
So, we decide to keep going and chalk that one up to winter. So I pull out the things we need for the next Biology lesson. A long list of science supplies that mean absolutely nothing to me, a spendy microscope I need to spring for, and…uh…pond water.
I could picture someone coming across me trying to break through the ice on the pond at our nearby Michigan nature reserve. Crazy lady with a pickaxe. Science may just do me in.
Three years ago it was tadpoles that sent me over the edge. What a fun way to learn about metamorphosis! Ha! So we ordered a tadpole, spring water, and enough supplies to make my husband look at me askew. And three weeks later we woke up one morning to find the tadpole (now named and beloved) by the children….upside down. After our second tadpole funeral, my husband said “No more. Let’s lay off lessons in death for now.”
I am the world’s worst science teacher.
My kitchen pantry is full of books, art and science supplies, flash cards, and stashes of papers I am not quite certain if I should keep or discard. School supplies litter my house. And it seems that no matter how much of my Saturday I devote to cleaning, a house lived in 24/7 with no breaks is never really clean.
Some days are total chaos and my husband gets a frantic text that today is NOT a good day to stay at the office past 5pm. He gets requisitioned into grading papers and teaching math when I can’t seem to get a concept across. Grocery shopping alone in the evening is often the most peace I get. And I mix it all up with a part-time work-from-home-job just to be certain I am never entirely on top of it.
My own parents homeschooled me for most of my education, back in the days when it was really crazy. My freshman year of college I ended up employed in the Admissions office for my work study job. My first week on the job, I was working late one evening when it came up in conversation that I had been homeschooled.
“I admitted a homeschooler!” The Director of Admissions popped his head around a cubicle wall and looked at me. My admissions application did not admit to being homeschooled; back in those days it was still a radical decision, particularly to homeschool in high school. A contact in my homeschooling group secured a signature on a beautiful transcript that left few clues. It was issued under a “school name” (that an educator had assigned his family-only school) and signed by someone in the state board of education. And I was admitted on the strength of my college-preparedness and ended up working for an admissions director who didn’t understand homeschooling.
From the time I was working as a student in the admissions office to the subsequent years as an admissions professional, I was always tasked with dealing with “the homeschoolers.”
In addition to the traditional college fairs and high school visits, I worked homeschooling conferences. I remember colleagues who would take little breaks to go peruse the wares at other booths. I didn’t get it. Nothing about homeschool curriculum interested me. And I imagined I could never homeschool since I was bored at the very idea of having to choose a curriculum.
My career in admissions came to an end after my son was born and my husband had finished law school and accepted a position across the country from my current job. By then, I had read a lot of transcripts, heard from a lot of students, and compared their paths to my own.
And then it was time to start the school journey with my own children. My parents wanted the best education for me; they were less interested in sheltering me than in helping me becoming an educated person. I did spend several years in Christian schools in elementary and junior high. I was not opposed to sending my children to school.
But I had witnessed the superior thinking and communication skills of students with a classical education during my time in college admissions. I wanted my son to have enough sleep every morning and not have to be on a bus for 30 minutes. I wanted him to have time to play and explore what he wanted to, while learning the fundamentals. Every other option paled next to the homeschooling option. And so, like my parents, we embarked on a year-by-year, child-by-child decision to homeschool.
I am not interested in teaching YOUR children. Being a mother is singularly the hardest, most exacting task I have ever undertaken. Homeschooling is rewarding, but it is hard. And some days, I would work hard to find them all matching socks just to get them on a bus and have some peace and quiet.
But these are MY children. And they will get the best I can offer.
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka; second photo copyright Rachelle Reitz, taken of Reitz family.