House For Six


More Than You Wanted To Know About Our Homeschool Experience And Why We're Back In Traditional School This Year.

Deme Crinion10 Comments
Tomorrow is the day, y'all!  The first day back to school.  The day that I will set my alarm for 6am, protest cry, and attempt to drag my body out of bed before the children.  #IthinkIcanIthinkIcan

We're at a new school this year and we're all pumped!  The big kids have reassured me many times, "Oh, Mom!  You're going to be so lonely! What are you going to do??  Well, don't worry, Beanie will be here to keep you company.  You can do baby school for her".

Wait.  Weren't you homeschooling?  

Yes!  We were.  But this year we're not.  

Do you remember when we decided to homeschool?  And when I changed the whole curriculum a week into it?  And then we put one kid back in school mid-year?  It's sort of a giant blur to me too.  One that I didn't document very well either.  I blame it on being enormously pregnant and the foggy newborn months that followed.

I've wanted to write a follow up post on our year, but in all truthfulness, I still feel vulnerable about the subject.  People tend to have very strong opinions for/against homeschooling.  I want to be protective of our choice without feeling like we have to defend ourselves...and for awhile I wasn't even sure how I felt about the whole experience.  But time has a way of widening the lens.

My parents were visiting over the summer and while out driving my dad asked, "Now that the school year is done, how do you feel about how things went?".  I've had a lot of time to think on that and for the first time I was able to wholeheartedly respond, that I was glad.

Glad we tried homeschooling all three, glad we recognized that traditional school was a much better fit for Mia (and moved her accordingly mid-year), glad we kept the boys at home for the remainder of the year, and glad that they'll all be walking through the doors of the same school tomorrow morning.

If you ever wanted to know more about why we chose that path, then read on!  Or you can just scroll down a bit for our lessons learned.

Have you ever heard something so clearly at your deepest core that ignoring it would be like slamming on the brakes at a green light?  That's how I felt when God clearly said, "I want you to consider home school." 

Really?!?  But why??  Oh, well, I might know...

Our move from Albuquerque to Dayton was so fast.  Within two months we got news of relocating, sold our house and bought another here in Ohio.  We had a 24 hr house hunting trip in which we saw 10 houses and were able to visit one school.  The school was highly accredited/desired, so that's where we enrolled Mia to finish out 1st grade.  I wanted to visit a smaller school I found in our city research, but there simply wasn't time.

Towards the end of that year we began to notice some red flags.  Mia was coming home exhausted.  Physically, mentally, emotionally...exhausted in every way.  Her relationship with us and her siblings became strained.  We noticed some behaviors we weren't crazy about.  And we began to have some concerns about the school itself.  Sure it was big and fancy, but it was proving to be less community and more well-oiled machine.

When registration for the next year rolled around, the warm fuzzies about our great school were quickly disappearing.  Sully was right at the age cut-off, so we enrolled him for the next year's early fives class instead of kinder.  The student to teacher ratio for that age was really high and Jack would have to attend a separate school.

Then, we found out baby #4 was on the way, and maybe it was time to give homeschooling a more serious look.

But not before a litany of irrational reactions...

-First, I was mad.  Homeschooling was not for me.  I had friends growing up that were homeschooled and several friends who now homeschool their children.  And no, come to think of it, they aren't odd or socially inept...but still!  That's just not me.  I didn't want to think about that option!

-Then the perfectionist in me saw it as a challenge and wanted to do it.  To know if I could. To prove that I could.

-The planner kicked in shortly after and got all gung-ho about making lists and planning out our days.

Such misplaced motives.

I finally simmered down and returned to what God was asking of me.  Not to jump in with both feet and plan out our year.  Just, look into it.

So, we started researching. We joined homeschooling forums to ask questions.  We talked with families that have successfully homeschooled, and those who chose to go back to school. We prayed and researched more.  We talked with teachers who have taught in the classroom and at home.  We visited local co-ops.  We prayed.   We read.  We prayed some more.  And little by little, one small affirmation at a time, we arrived at yes.  Yes, we would homeschool all our kids for the coming year.  Because we were certain we were called to it and felt confident in the resources available to us.
Our homeschool experience

Isn't it funny when you find yourself on a different path, the need for understanding can become this insatiable quest?  I can't help but do that.  I need to figure out the why.  But God doesn't always promise the why.  In fact, in our experience, He doesn't reveal the why up front very often, or sometimes at all.

I know this and yet there I went trying to figure it all out and put together all the pieces of God's plan.  I was convinced I had found it.

Oh yes, God.  That was a good move.  You were right to call and challenge us in this way.  Mia needs this.  She's been in such a state of flux and transition and pressure. This will be such a better environment for her to learn and thrive.

Well, guess who hated homeschool?  My dear Mia.  I believe the direct quote was, "I've loved every school I've been to except homeschool."  Followed by a very dramatic slump in her chair, head thrown back.  Good thing I have semi-thick skin.

Mia loves structure and craves routine.  She is a rule follower and does. not. deviate. from the plan.  So, the beauty of being able to skip over concepts she's already mastered and spent more time on ones she's struggling to grasp?  Torture to her order-loving heart.

Being able to do school during non-school times when I may have more energy (big ole preggo remember?) or when Dad was home?  Ridiculous!  The consistency craver was crushed.

This culminated before the holidays and with registration for this coming year happening in Feb and a baby due in Jan we thought it best to tour schools before the Christmas break if we were going to consider going back to traditional school the next year.

As soon as I sat down to pray about where to even look, that smaller school I first found when researching from Albuquerque came to mind.  From the moment we stepped in for our tour it felt so different. So unlike the huge school that placed more value on accolades than the person, yet still held high academic standards that would challenge our kids.  And their arts program (Mia's jam) was so incredible.  By the time the tour was over James and I both knew - this was our school.  They also had a preschool, so all three kids could be in one place.  We planned to sign them all up for the following year.

Then our family was graced with one super sweet and super colicky baby.  Mia struggled with this the most and the majority of my day was suddenly spent holding a screaming or lightly sleeping baby.  We got back in touch with the school to see about Mia finishing the second half of the year there.  The next quarter was about to begin and a few other new students were starting soon. A couple weeks later Mia was part of the second grade class and loving it.

Through all that, here's a few things we learned....

-The decision to homeschool (or not) is personal and belongs to you and your spouse alone.  You know what's best for your children.  Once we had made our choice, I dreaded the impending conversation in which we actually had to tell people.  I felt the same way about telling people I was becoming Catholic.  I was in no way embarrassed or ashamed of our decision, but how do you sum up months upon months (or even years) of research and discernment in one short conversation?

We took a lot of time to really dissect all those preconceived ideas we had about homeschooling. Our friends and family did not.  So, try not to take it personally if they aren't as excited or seem leery.  Chances are they simply care about your family and want the best for your kids.  Try to be patient, explain as best you can, then accept that they may never come to the same place of understanding.

-Your homeschooled children will not be socially inept, if you ensure they aren't.  I think the biggest argument against homeschooling is "what about their social skills and being around other kids?!"  This was actually the least of my worries.  We have always been a very social family, active in both our parish and community.  Our children are around other kids in various settings (including structured class) all the time.

Yes, there are some families who try to create a bubble around their children, shielding them from the world and all of its influences.  They have withdrawn their children from brick and mortar schools but from every other aspect of society as well.  They have created a very safe haven of like-minded families, and their children only interact with these other children.  

And where we have parents building impenetrable shelters around their children from mainstream society, there are those just across the way who send their kids out the door with nary an idea or care as to what they're doing or who they're doing it with.

Those extremes could leave your kids very awkward and lacking in social situations, or incredibly rude and self-serving (or a whole slew of things in between).

While I certainly want and will continue to shelter my children from many of this world's realities with appropriate boundaries, we are meant to live in this world.  We cannot be salt and light and share the beauty of God's love and goodness by hunkering down in our very comfortable, non threatening life.  Or by only interacting with the people who already have it.

I think children take most of their cues for how to interact with the outside world from us.  If and when you are out in the world, they are learning as they watch you.  Then they get to apply it when they are with friends at school, or co-op, or church, or play dates, or sports practice or wherever. As parents we get to identify concerns within our children's education, and we do the same with their social life.  If we see a social need or where a skill is lacking, we get to determine the best way to work on it.  And there are lots of ways beyond the traditional classroom to do that.

-Trust your gut.  The curriculum choice about killed me.  I had never done this before so I wanted something comprehensive.  I wanted something that would tell me what to do and hold my hand. I didn't want to be spending hours on lesson plans.

I was never totally sold on the curriculum we went with (even though it was popular) but I needed to make a decision.  I quickly saw that their set-up and materials were not working for us.  I would spent hours each week chopping up the pre-formed syllabus and piecing it back together in a way that made sense for us.  And I cut out half of the books that came with the curriculum.  Which totally defeated the purpose of having a comprehensive set.

I finally stopped beating my head against the wall, returned it all, and pieced together my own curriculum.  It's what I wanted to do from the very beginning, but didn't feel confident enough to try off the starting blocks.

The good news is that homeschooling is very forgiving.  You can adjust and change as you go.  Don't be afraid to give something a shot. Sometimes you have to try something out before you know if it's going to work.  And certainly don't feel locked into something that is clearly not working.

-Planning is good, but flexibility is better.  I thought Mia would love curling up on the couch for school and hopping around different subjects, but as we've already discussed....No.

I read I should have things for the preschooler or he would just disrupt and destroy.  So, I had workbooks and manipulatives and fun activities for him to do....and he didn't give a hoot.  He was happy to "do school" for a short bit, then was off to do his own thing.

I heard that I shouldn't plan much for kinder....a little reading and basic math should do it.  Mostly play.  But Sully was our wildcard.  He wanted SCHOOL.  He kept asking for more (which had me scrambling!) and ate up everything we planned for him.

I said that I was either homeschooling all of them or none of them, we were not doing a bunch of different things!  Turns out that wasn't best for everyone either.

-It's not ever time lost. We learned so much about our children's abilities and how they learn during the short time we homeschooled. Our extensive research on schooling methods was so valuable for the long haul and is knowledge that will continue to aid us in our approach to our kiddo's education.

If you're thinking about homeschooling, but are worried about making the wrong decision and losing a're not going to screw up your kids.  I promise.  They are so resilient and gain so much more than we realize even from the simple work of daily life together.  That intentional time together is never time wasted.

-It's OK to pull back if that's what your family needs.   The idea of stepping back from school and pulling back for a year is so taboo.  It's all strive, strive, strive, high test scores, extra curriculars, social's a lot for a kid. It's a lot for a family.  If this year has taught me anything it's that I'm totally fine going against the grain of our societal rat race.  I'm OK if my kids aren't at the top of their class on paper or aren't competing on the best swim team in the city.  I will not crush them with a schedule full of things that are "good for them".   I still believe that in the end, our family unit is the best foundation for our children's future success, regardless of our schooling method.

-Grace abounds.   Oh goodness, there is grace.  I'm pretty sure no parent ever said, "You know, I really excel at patience and enjoy the thrill of chaotic multitasking. I should home school."  And if they did, then yes, they probably would be an excellent candidate for managing their children's education from home. However, most of us that have faced those waters have done so with a great deal of fear and self-doubt.  Some of us are better equipped than others for teaching, but if God has called you to this particular mission, then He will be faithful to pour out the grace needed for the task.  One day at a time, Mama.

Our experience with homeschooling reinforced that each family is so different.  There are certain moral truths that deserve our firm and enthusiastic resolve, but this is not one of them.  There are many ways to educate our children and the best person to make that decision for your kids, is you.  I think most of us know when something is not working and we also know how good it feels to thrive when you're in the right place.

I had to let go of a little pride to admit that homeschooling was no longer working for us.  Our short stint homeschooling was not primarily about Mia, as I thought it would be.  It was also about giving Sully a better foundation and time to mature for kindergarten  It was about giving our family time and space to recover from the fast paced move of the past year.  It was about saying no to something that seemed really good, so that we could eventually say yes to a better option.

So, will we forever be a traditional school family?  I'm not sure.  For now, it's the right place for us.  We're fortunate to live in an area with fantastic schools, and we seem to have found one that's a great fit for our kids.  We know we're blessed to have these options.  If our situation changes, then we're grateful to have home education as an option in the future.....although, I would have to work on the "structure" bit for Mia's sake.

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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The Land of Limbo

Deme Crinion3 Comments
I do not think there's a state in life I loath more than limbo.  Waiting.  Not knowing.  Feeling helpless.  Unsettled.  Ugh.  Just, ugh.

You know it's bad when you're putting dinner in the crockpot and almost make a run for the closet with the open bottle of wine instead of pouring it on that meat.  Pregnancy saved the day this time.

We mulled and mulled over the decision to homeschool.  Then mulled and mulled some more over what curriculum to choose.  In the end, I was too intimidated and overwhelmed to plow through the mountain of options and piece together our own thing.

So, we bought a fancy all-inclusive curriculum that's probably the bees knees for another family, but it so wasn't working for ours.  I could see that the approach and their layout just wasn't clicking with the kids.  Or with me.

Granted, I have absolutely zero authority on this subject since we've been doing it for all of one week, but I think it's muy importante to look for something that mom/dad/teacher can be excited about too.  I may not learn in the exact same way my kids do, but it's just like anything, meal planning, exercise.....there's a bunch of different ways to tackle those beasts, but if you're pushing through with a method that's not clicking, then that train is going downhill fast.  In this case, I set the tone for our home classroom.  So, I need to be excited and motivated about what we're doing if success is going to be anywhere in our future.
(They all love the Word Ladder)

I'm just going to look at this curriculum overhaul as a fresh start.  Hopefully, plan out our weeks a little better (particularly for the little guys).  And hopefully, have some fun.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning.  I just couldn't beat my head against the wall with it another day.  We've still been doing our morning circle time, journal prompts, and a few workbooks/manipulatives I picked up for the kids over the summer. 
(I told Sully he could build any pattern of his choice. Uuuhhh, OK.)

But I packed up all three boxes of curriculum and sent it back.  Fortunately, this company offers a full refund without any hassles.

To be fair, it's a wonderful, high quality curriculum if you like a literature based approach to learning.  I would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting that option and will break down all the details on the old vs. new once we have our new stuff in place.  Which should be arriving in pieces from Amazon, EBay, and various other companies throughout this week.

Until then, it's limbo.  Which is better than sticking with something you hate just because you're too stubborn to admit you made the wrong choice.  Because really.  School should rock...

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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First Day Of School!

Deme Crinion8 Comments
It's our first day of school!!  And our first ever day of homeschooling - ACK!  This is the first year that I've had the back to school nerves in a loooong time.  I'm giving myself a break by keeping this first day fun and more of an intro to our curriculum, school setup, and new routine.  And hopefully, we manage to make some fun new "first day of school" traditions that will stay with us no matter our method of schooling down the road.

I'll do a full post on our first day traditions and our homeschool set up later this week, but for now, here's a few pics I snapped from this morning....

 I attempted to get some pics of normal/posed/smiling children but there were none to be found.  

This was the closest I got.  Maybe I'll try again later in the week....

They really are so excited to start!  So, you pressure or anything.  Wish us luck!  I hope any of you heading back to school today have an amazing start to the new school year!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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