My Mother Thinks Homeschooling Will Ruin My Kids

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Anatomy is fun!

It is February and we are more than half way through our first homeschooling year. My oldest child will be 6 years old next month, kindergarten age. My second child is 4 years old but she is using kindergarten curriculum. Then, I have my 2.5-year-old and my 4 month old baby. It has been a learning experience for us all. Home based learning is an adventure; difficult, wonderful, and filled with messy fun.

I sometimes place pressure on myself, especially since my kindergartner is struggling to read (and frankly, not very interested). Sometimes I push her when my instinct says to let it go, allow her space to lead. I am aware of the eyes on me, watching and waiting for me to mess it all up. I take a breath. I stand tall. I remember that I am her mother, and I know what my child needs.

It is hard to remember that because of my own mother. My mother is highly involved in our lives, in a good way. She is a young and active grandparent “Nana”. My girls adore her! She adores them! It is beautiful. Yet, my mother is also opinionated and stubborn. She believes that homeschooling is the worst thing I could ever do to my children, and I am not exaggerating.

She has told me bluntly that I am setting my children up to be failures. According to her they will be uneducated, socially awkward, and have barely a fighting chance in the world. These are her words. The words of my own mother. They cut so deeply—hurt so badly.

How can she say that to me? Does she think I am so incredibly incompetent? Am I so stupid that I would not realize my children aren’t doing well? Am I so oblivious, or do I care so little? How can she believe these terrible things?

Why must my children sit in a brick and mortar school with 25 other kids in order to learn anything?

Why must they have recess and lunch in order to socialize?

I can’t wrap my mind around her utter disdain and absolute disapproval. I could understand if she preferred public school. I could understand her having some worries. But to insist that my children will suffer and not learn anything, that I cannot comprehend.

I can’t even speak to her about it anymore. She seems so angry about it. I am so close to my mother besides this point, which makes it hurt even more.

I want to talk to her about the activities we are doing. I want to share the joy of watching my girls learn something new. I want to involve her in my girls’ education, just like she is involved in other areas. But I can’t, because she will explode with hurtful words like arrows into my heart.

I am not sure how to manage this with her, but I am sure that I will do what I know is right for my family.

The Big Needs of my Little People

It is winter time again. The ground is lightly covered with snow and ice traps my windows shut. It is beautiful but the first wave of winter sickness has entered our household.

I was the first to get sick, but I continued on with the many daily tasks; as well as organizing and cleaning after the holidays.

Today was the first day since Christmas where we had some intentional and structured homeschooling. The apartment was cleaner and more organized, and I had high hopes of folding my laundry and getting outside.

Those hopes were dashed when my adorable 4year old daughter Liora came walking into the kitchen looking a bit pale. She told me her tummy hurt, and before I could say a word she threw up all over the floor.

“Oh hunny! I’ll be right there. Your okay, your okay.”

I put my 2 month old son quickly down into his bouncy seat. He immediately started crying (my fussy boy).

I grabbed towels and wipes and new clothes for poor Liora, and helped her get cleaned up.

Baby screaming. “I know I know baby! I will be right there!”

Ok, Liora is cleaned up. I sit her on the couch with a light blanket.

Baby is still screaming.

I jog unto the kitchen to wash my hands and get poor crying baby boy but Zipporah my 2 year old wants me.

I can’t pick her up until I wash my hands, and the baby really needs me but none of that matters to a 2 year old who wants mommy NOW.

I drag myself over to the sink with Zipporah who is holding onto my leg wailing “UPPY! UPPY!”

I wash my hands, pick her up and give her a hug. “Mommy loves you Zipporah. I had to wash my hands so I don’t give you germs. I’m sorry. Your sister is sick.”

After I give her some quick  cuddles, I turn to my poor screaming baby and pick him up finally. I kiss his sweet face and nurse him. He settles in happily, finally getting what he needed.

Now I go to sit back at the table and realize that my tea and soup are luke warm. Sigh.

I give up on the soup which was already reheated twice that day and I bring my untouched tea to Liora because she needs to replenish her fluids.

My oldest daughter Noemi wants to play a game with me, she wants to take out her microscope and do some science with me. She wants me, her mother, to just sit and be with her.

When one child is sick, it can be so difficult to meet the needs of the other small children (and babies) who need you!

I was very close to my grandmother Rose, and talked to me right before her death about how she adored my babies and she thought I was a wonderful mom; but she warned me that it would be so hard to meet all their needs if I had more.

She wasn’t negative towards me having more, but she knew something I didn’t know yet. She told me that “you will miss some things” even when you don’t mean to. My grandmother raised 6 children, and so she knew this struggle.

She was right.

It is hard to strech yourself out enough to be present for each child, each day. The truth is that we have to go by who needs us the most at what time. I try to be fair, but I know I won’t always get it right.

That is why I am doing my best to forge a relationship based on strong communication with each of my children. It starts with babyhood, when I am in tune and receptive to their needs. And it changes as they age.

My 5 year old Noemi took me aside this evening and said to me “mommy, you were with Liora today…no time for me”

I felt sad that she didn’t feel like I was with her today, but I was so thankful that she was able to tell me! She trusts me to enough to tell me. She trusts me enough to know I will do something about it.

Fernando has off of work tomorrow, so Noemi and I will do something together just the two of us. Daddy will stay home with poor sick Liora, and watch the youngest two. Noemi and mommy will do something special together.

I will come home and I will have 3 more little ones with BIG needs. I will do my best to be there for each of them.

Mothering means that my laundry didn’t get folded today, and I didn’t shower until the afternoon.

Mothering means focusing on the little people in my life over things.

Mothering means being needed, a lot; and seeking to meet those needs while recharging for myself too.

Whew. Time for sleep.

(Until my 4 year old wakes up and gets sick on her bed)

Our first month homeschooling kindergarten!

Soooo…our first homeschool year has begun this month. My oldest child is 5 years old, so she is officially a kindergartner. I also have my nearly 4-year-old daughter doing preschool and a 2-year-old. All of this while 9 months pregnant! I am less than 2 weeks from my “due date” and I have been experiencing a lot of prodromal labor (i.e very slow going early labor). Yet, here we are starting our “official” schooling journey.

This has been a learning experience for me too. I have not been as organized as I imagined I would be. We are basically unschooling, along with a general schedule and a list of the subjects we will cover each week. That said, I am really pleasantly surprised by how much my children have been learning in this more casual style of school. The girls are all very young yet, so I consider imaginative play and a lot of outdoor exploration to be just as important as workbooks and more traditional schoolwork.

Both my 5 year old and my preschooler have been doing math randomly, every day, without any prompting on my part. They will frequently take objects from the kitchen table, or toys from their bins, and then proudly explain to me how many they have left when some are taken away and how many more they have when some are added. I went over more traditional math lessons with them a few times, covering basic subtraction and addition, but now they are taking those lessons and using them during the day by themselves!

Another example is learning shapes. This is more of a review for my kindergartner, but I also added 3D shapes for her such as a cylinder and cube. We did some fun coloring workbook pages with shapes, read a book about shapes, and then we did some slightly complex puzzles with shapes. They had to find shapes that would fit into a pattern on a card they were given, for example they may have a butterfly shape and then need to find which shapes are needed to complete the picture. After we did this, they both come up to me constantly excited to show me a shape they found (my kindergartner told me the farmhouse had a cylinder, my preschooler told me the refrigerator was a rectangle, etc).

They are truly taking in whatever lessons we have and applying it during everyday life.
We take weekly trips to the library and bring back a haul of books. Reading is a big part of what we do, and that has always been the case. I started reading to my oldest when was 6 months old! I showed her baby picture books, and she has always loved reading. My middle child is extremely energy, so it took longer for her to be able to sit through books. I am happy to say that she is usually very good about sitting for reading now, especially when she can pick books out at the library herself that interest her.

We are also going over Spanish, which has been the hardest for me to teach. My husband is bilingual; his parents are from Colombia. He didn’t speak Spanish to them enough, and he was gone for some long periods due to illness. I am sad that they aren’t learning as native speakers, but they are all still so young that it is very possible for them to become fluent if we work on it now. I am teaching it to them through books, and making their own books with words and pictures. We are also using song and memory cards. When this baby is born my husband has promised to speak exclusively in Spanish to the baby, I think this will help our other children as well because they will hear the words on a daily basis in regular language. My mother in law will be coming to stay with us shortly after the baby is born, so she can also help with Spanish while she is here.

Our local homeschooling group (a loosely joined together county wide group) as been wonderful. Some of the mothers really do a lot to put together great activities for the children, such as a nature walk and nature craft that we just love! Even better, the state park this occurs at is only 10 minutes away! We just started this back up because the classes ended over the summer, due to the oppressive heat. They girls made beautiful nature looms, and my younger two children had a blast playing with moss. They also get the chance to run and play outside with other children, getting exercise and making friends.

In addition to this, all three girls are in dance class (yes even my 2 year old!). They love dance! We also took a trip to the museum of natural history last month, and we plan on taking big field trips at least every 3 months. This keeps things new and creative, while learning in new environments. I already have tickets for my oldest two children and I to attend our first children’s targeted ballet (Beauty and the Beast). The library often has activities they can do for free, and we have a YMCA membership which will be super important during the cold months when outside physical activity is more limited (although we WILL be in the snow).

So, this is just the beginning of our homeschooling adventure. It is not easy to be home all week with all the children, but I could never see myself sending them away for school 5 days a week for the majority of the day. It would be so different. We are forming strong bonds as a family, and I want the ability to keep our lives flexible and adapt to each of their needs. There is so much positive in this, it is worth the hard work! (Even 9 months pregnant)

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Peace and blessings to you all.

The Wide Open Heart of a Mother

I think it may be the prenatal hormones that are kicking in. I am getting close to my due date (about 6-8 weeks away) and the baby is moving a lot, our connection has grown a lot already as I prepare myself physically and mentally for his arrival. It could be that, I don’t know. All I know is that I have found myself really contemplating and feeling the vastness of my love for my children.

My oldest is 5 and she will start kindergarten homeschooling within weeks. I am in awe of this little thinking person she has become. I miss her babyhood, yet I adore the child she is and look forward to the years ahead that we have of learning together. She is strongly empathetic and caring, her spirit is one that naturally wants to help others. My hips have been in so much pain lately from SPD (a condition of loose ligaments during pregnancy), and she has taken to rubbing my hips gently to sooth it. I never showed her how to do that, nor did I ask her to do it. She just knew. She just sensed what I needed and desired to help ease my pain. She is also strong, which is good because she is so sensitive. She hurts easily; but I see inside of her the strength of my mother and my grandmother and great-grandmother. Women whose blood runs in her veins; women who are and were strong. She is beautiful in so many ways, my little girl. My mother heart feels physically full to think of her.

And then there is my second, 3.5 year old Liora. She is fiery. She is powerful, all sinewy strength and muscle. She takes a lot of time, attention, and sometimes leaves me questioning my ability as a mother. Yet, she is tiny physically (all that solid muscle in a short petite frame). She is in some ways even softer and more easily damaged than her big sister is. She needs my love in a way that is fierce and terrifying for her. She will rage and tantrum if she is scared of losing it. Recently, she hurt her sister (again) and I was upset. She was all fury; fists, teeth, knees and jabs. But then, she broke down. She wept, and looked up at me with those amazing brown eyes filed with tears and said “mommy, you don’t love me anymore?” My heart broke. Shattered. I pulled her into me and assured with a thousand words and kisses that my love was still there, and would always be there. I spent time this week just holding her. She requires physical touch, and verbal affirmation. She will be a force to be reckoned with in this world, my little Li. A wonderful, loving, fiery force.

My current “baby”, my third daughter Zipporah. She is 2 years old and ready to do everything her big sisters do. They are her world, especially Liora. I labored for a day with Z, and fought hard for her after she was born and the hospital tried to keep her from me. She came home with me with a head full of dark hair and the fullest cheeks. I was a confident mother with her. I knew that I was her mother, and therefore all she needed as a babe. I nursed her, slept with her, and carried her everywhere. Yet, she was always my most independent baby. She rarely ever cried. She enjoyed the chaos around her formed by her big sisters, and as soon as possible she joined in. We called her “free-range baby” because she would just crawl around, then toddle around after her sisters. Momma is still important, but if big sisters are there than she feels safe and ready for adventure. When she says to me “mom mom” my heart is a puddle and she gets whatever she wants. She has an incredible vocabulary for a 2 year old, and she is still my easy going one although the toddler in her does protest when she wants. She adores babies. All babies. Any baby. Just give her a baby and she is in love. Also, food. She loves to eat. She is tall (unlike Liora), and sturdy. Her face reveals her family from Colombia, a beautiful mixture of daddy and me. I am relishing this stage of her life. I love the 2 year old age, despite the tantrums, because of the wonder they have and how every single thing she does is just cute.

And now, my baby boy. My first and only unborn son. I have yet to hold him in my arms but I have carried him and nurtured him for the last several months. Our bodies are connected, almost one. He moves inside of me, and I have learned when he is active and when he sleeps. He reacts to what I eat, and how I am feeling. He is my “healing baby”. He came to us at the close of a horrible, horrible year. He gave me hope. He gave me a reason to change (more of a reason) from the path I was going down. I cannot wait to see what his birth teaches me, and to hold him in my arms and at my breast.

Yes, my mother heart is full. It is full, yet it expands with every child. My mothers heart is wide and open.

 

 

 

Flying Handmade Kites- Homeschooling

One of the best decisions I have made after deciding to homeschool our children was to join a local Facebook homeschooling group. We have already had so much fun doing outdoor activities with other families, and really look forward to more cooperative learning. Last week the husband and I took the girls to a near by state park and created kites with other homeschoolers.

First the children played inside, chasing each other and playing hide and seek. Then, we gathered them onto mini carpets in front of our guide while she read aloud to them two books about the wind.20160624_11063220160624_121943

Next, we learned how to determine how strong the wind is (gentle breeze was ours for the day) by watching the leaves of the trees and the clouds. This park is one of the highest points of NJ and the building we were in has large windows to see far across the sky. Our guide told us that she often sees storms coming in before they reach the area.

After this, we all came together and cut, taped, colored, and tied our handmade kites. My oldest daughter and another little girl her age took coloring their kites very seriously!

Then, the main event; kite flying!

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It was such a joy to see my girls flying their own kites. They would run and when it lifted up into the air they were just jubilant! I took turns with my husband helping our littlest one (2 years old) fly her kite, and that was also really sweet.

I have to say, when you decide to homeschool it can feel like a very scary task. How can I manage it? Will I be good enough for my children? Luckily, we are spending this summer getting our feet wet and it feels like a perfect fit for family. My husband recently said, “we aren’t trying to homeschool, we ARE homeschooling already!” And he is absolutely right.

Yes, we haven’t started full courses of phonics and math yet; but we are reading tons of library books and playing phonics games. And you know what? Making and flying a kite is learning too. They are always learning! We have always been their teachers, and this will only be a continuation of what has already been true.

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I look forward to many homeschool adventures to come!

Shalom friends!

Homeschooling Nature Walk&Crafts

Today the girls and I (and hubby) went for a walk at a local state park with some other homeschooling families. Our oldest is 5, so we are new to officially homeschooling but I sure like what I see so far!

We decided to homeschool for a lot of reasons, but one of them was the desire to spend more time with our children and give them a flexible personalized education.  I loved watching them run and play outside with other children. I love that they are with children of a range of ages, giving them the ability to play well with children a little older or younger (as well as have conversations with adults). They were able to use their bodies and senses to learn and exercise but all of it was fun for them, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.

The mother who started the event had two creative ideas for the nature walk crafts. The children (and some big kids/adults hehe) made nature bracelets. We wrapped duct tape sticky side up around their wrists and the children added flowers and clovers and leaves to them as they walked the trails. Then, after our hike we came to a picnic area and created big nature collages with the ferns, flowers, leaves, moss, etc that was collected along the way.

I am looking forward to what homeschooling has to offer us as a family, and what kind of relationships my husband and I and our children will develop along the way. Bring it on!

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