Why Homeschooling has worked for us (Most of the Time)

 

Homeschooling was never an option for me as a kid. In the first few years of my elementary education, I wasn’t aware that it was for secular children. My parents took me to church but I never recalled either parent being particularly devout. Religion is an entirely different post.

When my parents divorced and my mother moved my older brother and I to a small town as I was entering fifth grade, homeschool became a fantasy. The social aspect of school, the cloistering setting of a classroom became overwhelming for me. After having a sporadic attendance problem throughout elementary and junior high, I hit a wall in high school. I just couldn’t do it. There were terrible arguments with me and my mother and I couldn’t explain why it was so difficult for me to be around other students. I had entered high school the fall after Columbine, so it wasn’t a great time to tell kids that school was a safe place.

After too many lost years I was placed in Independent Study, and then to a continuation school where I flourished. I ended up going to college and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a Master of Arts in English with a Rhetoric Emphasis. Why? Because I always loved to learn but the way I was being taught made me hate school. Once I reached college, I was introduced to a world where there was no one way to teach or to learn.

Now my nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter are homeschooled and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach them. Each child has their own strengths and weaknesses and I am able to adapt to those things. While I have been the primary teacher for them since Kindergarten, it has not always been easy.

The opinions of friends and families: Everyone in my family scoffed at my decision to homeschool. My judgemental older brother, my mostly indifferent father, and even my usual nonjudgemental mother all responded with confusion and certainty that my decision was a poor one.

Initially, I started my son in an independent program in which we met up with a teacher once a week to go over the work. The school in our zone happened to be the one I attended when my mother had moved my brother and me when I was in fifth grade. The school was terrible when I attended and from what I learned prior to enrolling my son was that it only got worse. The teachers ranged from apathetic to disdainful to the entire education system. We were only living there temporarily, but even after we moved back to Washington state after his first year I realized how homeschooling worked for us. In the end, I continued educating my son and then my daughter. Eventually, my family grew to accept it because there wasn’t any other choice for them.
Now, after using a program created by Washington State in which we receive the materials and lesson plans, my son and daughter are in their fourth and third year respectively of homeschooling. The most exciting part is that they are thriving. My daughter was supposed to begin second grade but has been advanced to third-grade materials along with her brother. My son is doing fourth-grade level geometry and I only encourage him to use those abilities. Each kid has a subject they fly through as do they have one they struggle with and that’s perfectly fine.

When my family suggested that homeschool was a bad idea their only reasoning was that it didn’t allow enough social interaction. Both kids regularly play at multiple parks and engage with kids quite well. My daughter is also part of a soccer team which she adores. They learn at home and have friends outside of the home. I recently discovered there were Meetups in my area that were designed to bring homeschooled families together. Living in a community where teaching at home is common has been awesome.

There is one tiny drawback to all of this but it usually only lasts about five minutes. There is a level of stress that needles its way into me often. So many things to teach, so little time. Sometimes other important decisions or activities get sidelined in favor of teaching and learning. There are some days where it is the school work that must be sidelined in favor of other life responsibilities. The ability to move around schedules and adapt easily has been a real lifesaver for our family.

In the end, I would never change a thing about our life. I have an advanced degree and studied pedagogy throughout college which gave me a leg-up. I have the opportunity to spend my days with my two favorite people in the world and watch them learn and grow. Homeschooling is not for everyone but it has worked for us.

All that Remains-Chapter One

Having a blog can be a useful thing for a writer. While I do freelance for websites, writing novels is what I cherish most. Assuming there is any interest, I will post a few more chapters. The story follows Angela Abrams, a recent high school graduate who cannot wait to get out of her small town. There is something sinister about this town and it is up to her and her best friend, Milo to get to the bottom of it before they both leave for college at the end of the summer.

 

Chapter 1

     It was the time of the year when my entire room was under assault. Even with the blinds closed tight, the heat would sneak itself through the inhibiting slats, rousing my bare legs, arms and every inch of exposed skin that wasn’t hidden beneath the thin cotton sheet. Usually, I would become furious with the aggressive coaxing from the sun to start the day as it was typically a weekend in which I didn’t wake up before the sun. This was a morning, unlike the others. This time it was a signifier of summer. Not just any summer, but the last summer I would sleep in my childhood bed. The last summer I would have an east facing window. In only a few months, seventy-four days, I would be living in a dorm room away from everything I had known. My mom begged me to go to school nearby but living in the middle of the desert for nearly eighteen years was long enough, and I wouldn’t wish a lifetime in Manere Valley on my worst enemy. Manere became physically and emotionally exhausting and was more than I could handle for another year. My chosen University was Carnegie Mellon, a school I fantasized about since before I knew what I wanted to do there. I found a brochure hidden beneath old magazines and advertisements in our school library. There were pictures of young people laughing on the steps of historic buildings, others goofing off on the lush green lawn while some were studying under massive oak trees.

     Manere had none of that; just dirt, cactus, and devastating winds that would knock down innocent strolling pedestrians, regularly. There was rarely studying done outside because the shade was limited, not to mention how difficult it was to think straight with the blistering heat melting our developing brains. If it weren’t for hiding away inside and utilizing air conditioners and swamp-coolers, nothing would ever get done in Manere. Even so, many people walked around like depression-afflicted zombies unable to ask for help. Life was completely different across the country, the cheerfulness on the faces on those brochures sparked a motivation that never wavered. I was going to leave Manere.

     Beyond the most vital reasons to escape, I chose to go to Carnegie Mellon to get away from everything I had amassed in my life, so far. It was more than a pile of memories, it was a heaping junkyard of past indiscretions that needed to be cleared out, so I could start fresh. My friends were the only thing in my life that I knew I would miss when we all went our separate ways. Though, even that was beginning to become less true.

     I had the same best friends practically since birth.  They were my friends before we grew up and became deplorable. Maybe we weren’t any worse than the average awful teenager, it was just our natural state of being. This realization only occurred to me a few months before graduation. The first moment I became aware of the unkindness of my group came during Calculus. Mr. Machinski was giving some lesson on the rules of derivatives, but I became distracted by the notes Ellie and Lucy were passing back and forth. It was one of those long tables, not our standard single desks, so they were just passing back and forth a spiral notebook.

Look at Mr. M with those special Ed shoes and high waters. Vomit!

No wonder his wife left him.

Ugh, now he has a wedgie. I wonder if he even notices

He probably doesn’t even care. He’s probably just going to kill himself anyway

When I saw those words on the paper, which could have been so easily seen by Mr. Machinski, I just felt incredibly sad for him and more than anything, disappointed in my friends. There were plenty of times when we would make jokes about people, even Mr. M but some feeling of unrest swirled inside of me that day, making every interaction with my group slightly less appealing.                                                               

     That wasn’t the first or last time I felt isolated, even from Lucy who had been my best friend since we were three-years-old. The second moment I knew I needed to get out of Manere came when we were in line waiting to get our graduation caps. For four years, the concept of waiting in line seemed to have vanished. Elementary school was all about waiting in line. Coming from recess, going to lunch or the library, was all done in a single-file line. Once high school came around, there was no need for it. Everyone forgot how to behave, and it became impossible to stay civilized. The lack of civility may have contributed to the nasty attitude we all seemed to have developed. Sure, when we were kids, we teased and were teased. Once we became teenagers, it became a brutal psychological game that never let up. Every time I did something rude, I would feel instantly terrible about it. Sometimes it would make me feel sick to my stomach, I couldn’t eat, and my sleep would become all wonky. Yet, I would keep doing it. It was an addiction like anything else.

     Rather than seeking out some help for my addiction, I needed to cut off my supply by moving far away from these people who made it far too easy to scorch the world in which I lived. Since the world I lived in was such a tiny place in the universe, I knew it was time to expand where I had been, so I could develop who I would become.

     Lucy was running late and if there was one thing I could always count on it was that Lucy never showed up anywhere even close to on time. Her tardiness was just one of the traits I was not going to miss about Lucy, especially if it meant we would miss part of Ellie’s final soccer game ever. Lucy snuck up behind me and faintly smacked me in the back of my head.

“Dude, what was that?” I slurred, unsure of whether she left any permanent damage.

“You told my dad we weren’t going to go out of town for the camping trip? What was that

about?”

Lucy was indignant, but it was tricky trying to figure out when something was going to stew with her for days or if this was something that could be cured with a change of subject. I decided it was best to address the problem.

“I thought you said we weren’t going to go, anyway. My mom doesn’t want me to leave town until it’s time to leave in the fall. Your dad nearly had a conniption fit when you told him we were going to go.” I explained

“That was the best part, Angie. What is the point of doing stupid things if you’re not terrorizing your parents?”

“Lucy, you know we wouldn’t be able to leave anyway. I’m sure the trip will be canceled for everyone, once word gets out that a bunch of teenagers want to get out of town”

“It’s barely out of town limits” Lucy whined.

“Still.”

“Ugh, but it would be so entertaining to drive my father crazy” Lucy whimpered.

“I don’t know why you have to be so bitchy to your dad. He loves you, but you treat him like he just annoys you all the time.”

“Ding! Ding! Ding! My dear friend. That is exactly what he does.”

“Come on Lucy, he is not that bad. He just doesn’t want anything bad to happen to you. He’s a

worrier. I can understand that”.

     I used to worry about everything. When I was ten, the incessant worrying felt like part of my identity. It started out in ways that seemed inconsequential. I didn’t realize it was the beginning of everything else. When I was ten, Lydia Baker came over to play, and she didn’t close Squiggle’s cage after playing with him. That night, there was a clamoring which jolted me out of bed. The flimsy cassette holder that was standing in the corner of my room was now on the ground in pieces. Under the debris of cheap pine was my hamster, poor Squiggle, trapped. Squiggle gave out a single breathe and died. It was the worst experience I had ever had, and even years later I think about his tiny startled face. After that, not only would I check doors to make sure they were locked, anchored things to make sure they didn’t fall, but I also questioned the safety and potential outcome for all possible future activities. Somehow this led to an obsession with germs which lasted a bit longer than securing the house four times before bed. The concern made me physically ill at school. I spent half of the fifth grade in the nurse’s office.

     Along with discovering I had severe anxiety problems, my time there was how I met Derek Mayhew. I recognized him as the kid who transferred into my class mid-year. Through his persistence and the rest of our group taking an interest, he became part of our close-knit team too. That was back when Milo was still talking to me.

“What are you thinking about?” Lucy nearly shouted.

“Nothing. How it all used to be.”

“Oh, no Angela. Please don’t get all nostalgic on me. Is this about Milo?”

              “No.”

        “Yes. It seems like whenever you get lost in your thoughts, we start talking about him.”

   “I guess I just miss him,” I said under my breath, trying not to dwell on it too long.

  “It’s his fault. Don’t even think about him for another minute. He sucks, and you are awesome. What kind of friend just decides to ditch his friends and make them feel bad about who they are?”

        “I know, I just wish,” I said sulkily while I rolled my open palm on the pencil that sat on my desk.

“He is the one who changed. Not us. If he doesn’t like it, he can sit in his sad, dark room with all his friends. Oh wait, he doesn’t have any friends” Lucy smirked

     Milo was the one who had decided he didn’t want to be friends with us anymore. At first, I couldn’t understand why which made me hate him. It took me far too long to understand it all.  He could see what I wasn’t ready to see.

Back in the Saddle Again (This time with Celiac Disease)

Well, it has been over a year since making a blog post. In the blogging world, that’s pretty much the kiss of death. Luckily, I’m not too worried about all that. If I was, that would just be more stress in my already anxiety stricken mind.

There have been a few reasons for my absence. Living in a new place and getting used to it definitely took a toll. After moving to a city, my family and I mostly chose on a whim, I wasn’t sure I felt about the place. The city is over 1200 miles away from our last home, making things even more troubling. But you know what? It has worked out. There is no such thing as a perfect place to live, and after finally realizing that obvious conclusion, I felt relief.

Last year I also discovered that I had Celiac disease, or rather my doctor did. Having bizarre and limiting diets throughout my twenties was great practice for this new life. For anyone who isn’t sure what Celiac disease is, it’s basically this annoying malabsorption problem that exists when a person consumes gluten. It attacks your intestines and moves on to other organs if you don’t give up gluten completely. Some people go on for years never knowing they have it because they may not experience symptoms. I did, oh boy did I. The moment my doctor told me the results, I became vigilant in a non-gluten diet.

Things improved for the most part, and I even stopped having an iron deficiency, which is something I had for as long as I can remember.

If there is a more celiac slant to a few of my blog posts, it is only natural. It’s a completely different lifestyle, and luckily my children are fantastic about it. They make sure to wash their “Gluten Hands” after eating to ensure even the tiniest trace doesn’t end up on my own plate. Making separate meals for me and my family can be exhausting but necessary.

My partner, who is also the father of my children, does so much for me. He makes sure all the dishes are scrubbed and free of gluten, makes meals often, and even convinces me to buy the gluten-free alternatives for certain items even when I scoff at the sky-high price.

Some days are easier than others with this way of life. Fast food is nearly out of the question because even when there are gluten alternatives, cross-contamination is a huge issue.  Not having the ability to just have a burger and fries with my family on the way home from a soccer game can be mighty depressing. Food has always been an event for me. I always ate healthily, so when I did eat out or make myself something particularly unhealthy, I made it count. Now those options are limited.

We did find a small pizza place that made great gluten-free pizzas and had a very celiac, aware staff. I nearly cried when I ate my first bite, it was amazing. Unfortunately, not only was it far too expensive to do regularly, I grew tired of them even when it was just a special occasion treat. Honestly, I miss having Little Ceasar’s Hot and Ready.

I always encourage my family to eat what they want because they don’t need to change their diet. They wouldn’t because it would be unhealthy to do so in their non-celiac situation. I still sit with them at Dairy Queen and have a fountain drink and maybe bring a gluten-free snack along, or make my own meal when they bring home Chinese food. I will admit it is incredibly difficult to see the food, to smell the food, and know that even the smallest bite will have me sick for days.

So, that’s where I am now. I plan on incorporating the Celiac lifestyle to this blog but it will always be a parenting blog at heart because being a Celiac just something I happened to be, but being a parent is what I live for.