Guest Post: A Homeschooling Manifesto

One of my best friends wrote these words, and was gracious enough to let me share these words with the world.  I can see this being printed out and put on refrigerators everywhere for a dose of encouragement.

Thank you to my dearest friend, Andrea Hartman!  These are her fine words:

I remember back to when we were homeschooling, on those really hard days when the house was a mess, and I was a mess, and the kids were a mess, and I would be having the passing thought  that I should send them to school.  School would be better for them than this.

We had to do public school this year.  We might have to again.  You might have to one day.  It’s not the end of the world, but now I see the public school experience not from my own experience, but from the experience of my children.  I feel like I am really blessed with the knowledge of ‘both sides of the coin’ here.  We are planning to go back to homeschooling this coming fall, so I have written a Homeschooling Manifesto. I didn’t write my little manifesto to discuss the negatives of school, but to reconnect myself with the essence of homeschool.  I’d love for you to read it, file it away, and on those crazy days, you can pull it out and remind yourself of what you are really doing.  I promise you, I will be reading it next year, many times.  ;-)  I hope you enjoy it!

 

Today, in New England, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, breezy, low 60’s. Perhaps to my Florida family, this is a chilly day, made for long sleeves and snuggles. But to my northeastern friends, this was a day for opening windows, climbing trees, and running through the grass barefooted.

As I gratefully cracked open my own window over the kitchen sink this afternoon and felt the cool breeze on my face, I realized that these three aforementioned activities are so very symbolic of the choice our family has returned to- homeschooling.

For a variety of reasons, our family tried public school this year. I must say, that of all the public schools out there, this is one of the best. Not because of test scores or academic standards, but because it is old and has character, it is small and cozy, and the principal is there every day, accessible and available to chat with a smile on her face. One cannot say this of many public schools.

My older two children started off the school year with much enthusiasm. They were quite excited to try it out. The idea of a whole room full of children was brimming with potential, thoughts of playgrounds and indoor gyms delighted them, and school buses were held in the utmost reverence.

So off they went, every day, with new backpacks, clean teeth, and nicer clothes than they had ever owned before. And all was well. For a while.

But slowly I noticed a change. The windows were closing. The breezy, graceful, happy freedom that had once blessed these little people was being replaced with something more rigid. As I said, it was slow, and we marched on through Winter Break without putting much thought into it.

Then came February break. We were not travelling nor were we hosting any visitors, so it was just me and the kids, doing whatever we do, for a week. And it was such an uneventful, beautiful week! That curious, magical, yet oh-so subtle bond that we once had was rekindled. Such a funny thing. I hadn’t noticed we’d lost it till we found it again. A part of my soul was awakened by this realization, I could now see this bond and feel it; a very tangible, very precious gift. The night before school started back again, I was consoling two crying children. They missed me, they missed home, they missed homeschooling.

At this point, my heart literally took over my entire being. My rational mind was reeling, but I grabbed it by the hand and plunged ahead. I began searching out new homeschooling groups, researching curriculums, and planning for next school year. At home.

Now, as the school year edges toward its close, I am looking at the entire school system with an unbiased eye. I do not wish to love it or hate it. (We are actually having the kids complete the school year, because in most cases I support finishing what is started.) And this is what I see:

There are rules and norms, cool things and uncool things. Age and sex become factors for friendship. Judgment comes often and harshly, from state tests, prep tests, report cards, teachers, and other students. It is everywhere. Fun is relegated to lunchtime, recess, and P.E. (though recess is a privilege quickly removed for make-up work or poor behavior). Learning is a despised activity, consisting of sitting at a hard desk under fluorescent lights listening to a lecture that seems designed to bore; little more than test prep conducted by an over-worked, over-regulated, over-stressed teacher, stripped of any power to decide what or how she teaches. The emphasis, in the minds of the children, is not on what they learn, but where they rank in relation to their fellow classmates. And where is the respite, where is the expansive, creative outlet for these boxed-up children? Even at recess, that sacred 15-minute privilege, one may not play with small sticks, or climb trees, or dig in the dirt, and certainly one cannot be barefoot. (All those activities are reserved for eccentric homeschoolers.)

I am not writing this to bash the school system. The people there are doing their best with what they’ve been given, students and teachers alike. I am writing this for the homeschooling mother, the one who is exhausted, whose house is a mess, who hasn’t brushed her hair or taken a shower in several days, whose children are playing with toys in the bathroom sink instead of practicing their handwriting.

You, momma, are doing a fantastic job. Your children are living. Real, authentic, amazing living. Listen. You can hear them squealing with delight as they squirt water all over the bathroom mirror right now. They discover. They probe. They laugh. They learn. They are alive.

Your house may be messy, but your precious windows are open.

 

Lots of love,

Carrie

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41 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Homeschooling Manifesto

  1. We homeschooled for the past two years and had to put our child in public school (and our little one in nursery school) this year for financial reasons. Just this morning, my 7-year-old woke grumpy and didn’t want to go to school. He is mad that we don’t homeschool anymore. Reading this post just made me cry!

  2. I can so relate… with a newborn… school is mostly reading aloud whilst nursing these days, and I found my kindergartener playing naked in the backyard, clothes hidden under a pine tree, on one of the first 65 degree days here in NY…

  3. Dear Carrie,

    I am crying right now. Thank you so much for these posts and this one in particular. Our five-year old daughter is in senior kindergarten at public school. It’s a mixed bag for her. She is making friends, likes the activities, but is also getting into mischief that we think might be due to the way the classroom is structured. As you say, recess is short and a privilege that can be revoked, and sometimes is. Recess is what Ruth lives for. She wants to be outside running around and always, always playing.

    Thank you.

    love,

    Scott

    • Dear Scott,
      I am glad this resonated with you. I encourage you to look into a Waldorf school if you have one near you. The five year old IS living in their body, in running and playing…that is the work of the small child!
      Many blessings and a hug,
      Carrie

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Your friend, Andrea’s, words express all that I am dissatisfied with in our public school. I like to think of teaching as an art rather than a science. And the prep for standardized tests and adherence to specific curricula takes all of the art and creativity out of the teaching. It’s sad state of affairs, really. Gifted teachers aren’t allowed to teach the way they are able to teach.

    On a sidenote, my 9 year-old and I are like oil and water….how would one manage to homeschool with such a dynamic? Maybe the homeschooling would change that dynamic?

    • Homeschooling allows you the TIME to change that dynamic for sure! It allows freedoms for both of you to just be. To get enough sleep, to think things through, to realize that when you aren’t rushing to school, rushing to get homework done, rushing to lessons or sports, there is much less to clash over. To do your own things and go separate ways when you need to. I shudder to think what my relationship with my 9yo would be with those added stressors!

    • My oldest and I struggled mightily our first year home schooling. A wise mama who had graduated 3 (4?) of her own students gave me a bit of advice that changed my life. She told me, those dynamics are there whether you home school or not. She told me I could deal with it when my daughter was 6 or I could wait until she was 16, but I would have to deal with it eventually. It took our whole first year of schooling, but we have learned how to work together. We have come a long way from the days I couldn’t wait to get away for a break. Now I (mostly!) enjoy spending the days with my kids. They are smart, interesting and funny. I’m not saying that everyone should home school their kids, but no one should miss it because they are afraid or can’t imagine how it will work out.

    • Sarah
      Thank you so much for sharing your story; I think it is a very important experience and perspective to share.
      Blessings,
      Carrie

  5. Andrea – Your guest post is a gift to others to treasure! Your words came at the right time for me. It is helping me to decide on how to plan next year’s homeschooling year.

    The reminders you posted about how homeschooling can let the lessons be natural and not classroom driven, along with time for discovery and play have really helped me figure out some things.

    Our homeschool group just recently had a guest speaker who talked about the importance of not being rigid like a school and allowing play to happen throughout the grade years.

    In the homeschooling community, we all are now seeing a push to take enrichment classes and co-operative classes. We are encouraged by other peers to sign our children up for activities beyond our homeschool cooperatives. It is the normal for children to be scheduled to get social time and outside activities.

    What we are forgetting is that homeschooling should be joyful and more free than a school. Everyone talks about how over scheduled a school student is, however, this happens in the homeschooling community as well.

    Homeschooling should be sometimes spontatneous. If you and your children are so over scheduled with enrichment activities and outside sports, music lessons, art classes, etc. than your family will not have the joy of building community, having free play dates, and taking field trips. Something will be missing from your homeschool experience.

    You will always be running, yet never fully making satifying connections with others. Your children will model this behavior as well and friendships will not be as deep for both parent and child. These are just some lessons I’m really starting to learn after several years as a homeschooling mom. We already live in a disconnected, hurried world. We hope to not model this as homeschoolers, yet I do see the community doing this unintentionally with the best of intentions.

    Parents and children will burn out and not realize the joys of homeschooling fully if we try to hard to be a school, make up for school or say “yes” to everything in order to please our spouses, family, neighbors, peers or even children.

    We have to remember as homeschoolers we can take the joy and love out of learning for children if we are not careful. As I read Andrea’s post, I realized, yes, we can be over scheduled as homeschoolers and not fully connected as we truly thought we would be.

    Thank you again Andrea for sharing your journey! I will be re-reading this tonight and each week to remind me of what is important.

  6. Carrie, this is gorgeous, thank you. I simply love Andrea’s words, much like I love your posts and constant words of encouragement. I have followed your blog for the last 2-3 years and it is my inspiration every day to be the best mum and the best me I can be!

    Dare I say, we are not a Homeschool family, but rather our children attend a gorgeous private Christian school here in Australia. Homeschool has always been on my heart, however circumstances have not aligned until recently to allow us to truly explore it. At the moment, due to changes in our lives, we are properly investigating Homeschool as an option for our family. It is very exciting and I feel that God is strongly leading me on this journey. At the same time though, we know of NO Homeschool families personally so it is a HUGE leap of faith for me to undertake with our two children. Your blog is my support, constantly reassuring my head and my heart that ‘I can do this!!!’

    Thank you so much.
    Blessings to you
    Hayley

    • Hayley,
      There are so many Waldorf homeschoolers in Aussie; have you checked about? The Christopherus Networking page has a whole list of folks down under and if you post on Melisa Nielsen’s or Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo groups I know many will chime in.
      You can do this!
      Blessings,
      Carrie

  7. Thank you Andrea and Carrie for sharing this post!
    It brought tears to my eyes and even though I feel stressed out lately and they drive me batty sometimes, I am so happy that we are homeschooling and I would not want to change it for the world right now. I am so blessed to have this special connection with my children and see them grow in so many ways through the years.
    There is absolutely nothing in the world that could be worth to replace this experience!

    Maggie

  8. How does one know if homeschooling is right for them. I fantasize about homeschooling. I have a 18 month old, 3 yo, and my 5yo goes to 5 half day waldorf kindergarten on a farm. When she has time off from school I just live, love, love the clamess of being in our own time, with no rush and mainly no drop offs or pick ups from school. The thing is though, I grew up without a mom and in a very “in-waldorf” way. I know how to push buttons and how to have a cleaning lady. Through my daughter so much more is brought into our home.. Ways of playing and being that I myself never knew. Each year of being a mother my rhythm get more and more solid, I become more and more familiar with cooking. One day I will learn to bake and knit and grow a vegetable garden and do handwork.. Because I want to learn. One day when my life of caring for such young ones and dealing with chronic pain no longer leave me with little time for branching out beyond daily keeping of the home and the family.
    So, my question, how do I know when to stop fantasizing and take the plunge? Or is the waldorf school in town, which goes through highschool and whose students very much impress me and are a FAR CRY from public school students (myself being one of them), the right school for my children?

    • Dear Miamom,
      Did you check the back posts for the post about Waldorf School versus Waldorf Homeschooling? I think that will come up if you type it into the search engine. Yes, there is a learning curve, but you can do this. Be realistic and start with very small steps. You don’t have to learn it all in one day, you can outsource things as well. :) The main thing homeschooling is about is family!
      Hugs,
      Carrie

  9. Thank you, that is the most wonderful up lifting read. I am just about to embark home schooling, or even to set up my own school and I have been having doubts today. You have cheered my soul and reminded me that I am doing the right thing. You made me laugh and made me feel that I am not alone in the mess and no bathing for days at a time! Thank you.

  10. Right on Andrea. Homeschooling is such a sacrifice, but so well worth the time and effort. The final outcome in happy, confident children who have a love of learning is priceless.
    GB

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  14. Thank you so much for this. I’m crying and so happy to have found this. I’ve been struggling with the past year. Being pregnant with my 3rd and homeschooling my 1st with my wild child in the middle has been a hard road to walk on. Everyday I feel I’ve completed nothing but having my children with me and being happy and safe is all I need to do at this time until the next year and that will be a new start.

  15. Printed and hanging up as a reminder because I have the son who defies all structure I try to impose… As I map out our 875 hours, I searched for what a realistic expectation might be… This was a great place to land… Thanks.

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  17. This is so true. My 5 yr old is being ‘naughty’ at school and i realised its due to lots of sitting activities and very few time playing in and outside. Unfortunately it is illegal to home school in Malta and there is no waldorf school yet (they are just now trying to set up one) so I am in a bind! Would you know if holding a canadian passport I should be able to homeschool?

    • Melisa
      I honestly don’t know. I know a few Canadians who homeschool here in the States and report back to the Canadian government (and maybe even helps buy curriculum? Could that be right?) I would try to put out a question on the international homeschool lists and see what you can find out!
      I am sorry that your little five year old is having a hard time at school. Hope things work out for you all rapidly!
      Blessings,
      Carrie

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