In August I was FULL of it. Literally, I quote myself when I say “I think homeschooling might work out better for us this year” (from this blog post). Two months down the line, and the first half of the first term of this school year done and guess what? It’s not working out better for us this year. It’s going okay. But only okay. The kid are happy (the last words muttered by every parent on the edge of sanity). And to be fair to myself, they do seem to be learning something. Not necessarily what I set out to teach them, but hey, something is better than nothing. Right?! RIGHT??? “The truth is homeschooling will neither be as amazing as we fantasize, nor as terrible as we catastrophize” (posted on Instagram back in August) is pretty spot on as fridge door philosophy goes right now.
The truth, in actual fact, is though it may not be as amazing nor as terrible, it is exhausting. There have been numerous days when homeschooling has felt like the impossible dream. I’m not saying that to sound dramatic. It really has just felt impossible. And like a dream… a bad one.
So it is with absolute terror that our two week mid-term break comes to a crashing end today. Monday we’re back to it. Back to printing worksheets over breakfast, trying to encourage Clara to write in the correct direction, and trying to keep Finn relatively focused. It all sounds so do-able. I’m not trying to teach them nuclear physics at age four and five, and whatever other weird over-ambitious academic stuff people think homeschoolers do. We’re not aiming for Nobel prizes. Or even for GCSE’s before the age of sixteen. We’re low balling here. So if Clara could write her name as C-l-a-r-a instead of ɒ-ɿ-ɒ-l-Ɔ that would be ACE. But Finn and focus is a quandary for his future teachers. I’ve sort of given up that battle two months in. He’s five though, and a boy, so stereotypically that means he can’t sit still for anything or anyone. Me included, apparently.
And yes, I did just say future teachers. I’ve always said it, and I’ll say it again. Homeschooling, for us, is not forever. It’s just a phase of parenthood / childhood that we’re all going through. I hold onto that thought and repeat it to myself OFTEN. Usually whilst hiding behind the kitchen door eating nutella out of the jar and wondering what I did in a previous life to deserve this. All the glamour of parenthood. And almost definitely not what anyone imagines of a “homeschooler”.
I can’t help but think of a totally cool, calm, collected earth mother when I think of a homeschooler. Probably living by the beach. And probably with kids who have super cool non-gender specific names. Or haircuts. At least, this is the version of homeschooling Mama (always Mama, never Mom) I can pretend to be a really terrible version of. Basement dwelling super-Mom’s with ten year old’s applying to Cambridge are NOT the aim of the homeschooling game. Unfortunately that is the overriding stereotype though. And I’m not one hundred per cent sure, but I think some people are under the misguided impression that I too am rearing super-offspring (but who are short of a vital social skill or two).
I’m not. I don’t think.
But homeschooling does produce a particular sort of child. Stereotypically speaking. And other people are definitely concerned for Finn and Clara. The kids have been questioned as to what it is I’m teaching them. Questioned by family, by friends and by strangers. Apparently I don’t give off an aura of in-control mother or something, so other people just have to double-check that becoming a stay at home homeschooling mother hasn’t sent me completely loopy. I don’t know exactly what everyone thinks I and my kids are capable of, but it must be terribly disappointing to learn the truth. Either that, or there is a strange curiosity as to exactly what age homeschooled kids start to turn weird are. Four, five, never? I don’t know either! We’re our very own little anthropological study.
Back to real-life school though – the one with real-life (aka qualified) teachers – and it’s looking more and more appealing by the day. Particularly today, the last day of my / their / our half term break. I am hopelessly aware that if we were in the UK Finn would be taking his first public exam this year. Fair enough it would be towards the end of the school year, so worrying about it now is a bit premature, but I’ve looked at the example tests available online. In theory it should be simple enough, a spelling test of forty words aimed at five and six years old’s. Easy peasy. Except some of the words are really quite tricky (obviously to determine the “gifted and talented” kids from the bog standard). Well this twenty nine year old is a bog standard five year old when it comes to spelling. Should I be homeschooling my kids? It is questionable. I mean, I still have to say the little reminder Mrs Farrington taught me so I know how to spell “because”. Big elephants cause accidents under small elephants, in case you’re wondering.
In a way I can understand other peoples concerns that I have been appointed (by whom it’s not clear) to be Mother and teacher to these two little humans. It is all a bit of a gamble really. And it’s not that I’m actively NOT looking forward to Monday morning, my children aren’t that bad, I’m just not looking forward to the unknown restarting. When will Finn stop seeing everything as a competition? When will Clara remember to write in the correct direction? And when, seriously WHEN, will I learn to just spell “because” without the need for elephants to get hurt?