Yes, as it turns out, even in homeschooling you run across bullies. They are in our midst. They aren't bad kids. They are our kids. They need guidance. They need empathy. They need to be recognized.

I am very unpopular right now because I want to be up front about it all. Others would rather it go away, was down played. They want to only talk to the children, not the families. They want to have a sentence or two said to all be the extent of it, for now, with promises of a later "learning experience."

Things that happened can't be undone. No one can go back and tell the young girl that she's isn't less-than simply for being young. That she deserved to share in the special password-protected club that her older friends had. No one can go back and put a girl's bed and belongings back before she notices that she was chosen to be excluded from the sleep-over.

I can, however, make sure that these girls and their parents know that I do care. That as one of the leaders in the group, even in absentia for these events, is going to deal with this. This was not addressed enough or in the right manner or something last year and now it has blossomed. I need those girls to know that this blossom is being pruned. It will no longer grow and flourish.

I feel responsible, though there was nothing I could have done. I feel sad, for the girls and for those who feel upset and/or threatened by my words and actions. I feel like crying and quitting and running away. But I can't, I have to stand up and be the adult and deal with this. I know that I am right even if I am unpopular. I guess that's what being an adult is all about.
I won't start our school year. I just won't do it. Why?
  1. It's too damn hot - outside and in our house
  2. It's still summer (see point 1)
  3. Public school starting doesn't mean I have to start
  4. I don't have to take days off for work days, collaboration days, etc. Since I don't have to schedule those breaks into my year, I don't have to start as early
  5. Along those same lines, I don't have the downtime in my day that public or private school has. I don't have to get everyone lined up for gym class. I don't have to wait for everyone to finish before we move on. Saves a lot of time there too.
  6. I can move at our pace, so we can finish our work more quickly
  7. I have the freedom to make the schedule work for us
  8. We don't really have a school year anyway
"You don't really have a school year?", you ask. Yeah, we really don't. We're eclectic, unschooly types. The difference between school-year and not-school-year is just the amount of guilt I feel about being behind or the amount of time I worry about how much I could be messing up my kids. In the summer, I don't have to worry because no one asks me or my kids about school. The rest of the year it's, "have you started yet?", "what curriculum do you use?", "you don't give them tests?!", "how can they learn without worksheets?", and on and on and on the questions come from the well-meaning, the curious, the skeptical, the nasty...

Another thing that changes, the activity schedules - because they tend to be based on the public school kid's schedules. That's something quite noticeable - swim lessons aren't in the middle of the day, the parks are empty at noon, if there's a cool science class at 9am, you can bet it's a school holiday.

And the main difference between school and not-school, I start making the kids do math and spelling. We try to do a bit more school-y work when it's not a billion degrees in the house too. But that would happen year 'round if it wasn't so blasted hot. There really isn't a distinction between last year and this year. It's the same teacher (themselves), the same facilitator (mainly me, but really, everyone.) The same classroom (our house, their computer, the world.) It's not a marked change or rite of passage so much as a re-beginning of a old friendship.

So we won't start our official school year until the weather changes. And really, the dominant school schedule throughout the USA is based on an agrarian schedule which was based on, you guessed it, the weather! So really, we're better at scheduling school than the public school is, right? ;)

School Schedule

This is the time of year that the public schools are getting ready to start again and the homeschool community often follows suit. I want to start going through all our books and make a schedule. I want to list out what we'll do each day and week. The projects we'll undertake. The books we'll read. I want to be that school teacher - but at home, with the girls loving everything I set before them.

Somehow that never works out.

Why? Oh so many reasons.
  1. I'm really, really good at organizing and planning, not so good at implementing.
  2. Some things I think will be fabulous, we hate.
  3. Some thing I've never heard of will end up being fabulous.
  4. Getting the kids to focus and do something is half a day in itself
  5. We get focused on one fun, interesting thing and do that all day
  6. All our "side activities" take up all of our time and energy
  7. I realize that the learning that is most memorable is the stuff they find for themselves
  8. Half of what I plan is due to what I think school should be based on what it is in classrooms - and I know that's not what I want to do
  9. Sleep is more important than spelling

None of this will stop me from trying to plan out a schedule. I like to have a plan, even if it has to be altered along the way. Here are some of our (my?) plans:
  • Girl Scouts (and I'm leading one of the girls' troops)
  • soccer
  • more swimming lessons
  • maybe more archery
  • hopefully 4H (units on sewing and forestry)
  • Latin class
  • Options
  • trying out the Math-U-See curriculum
  • doing our Rome unit
That's just the stuff that I need to get scheduled before I can think about the other stuff we need to do. I don't know why I'm feeling busy and overwhelmed already. The box of curricula I borrowed from Options sits across the room staring, no leering, at me. I need to look at it all and plug it all into a chart that we'll never finish. Or maybe I'll just go read some Gatto and forget the whole thing :P

Are you their teacher?

I get this question a lot in different iterations and it always gives me pause. I don't think of myself as their teacher just because I'm the adult/parent in the homeschool relationship. We don't have a traditional school or even a kitchen table school. I don't set out books and worksheets which they toil at for x hrs/day after which time we are free to play.

teach (tch)
1. To impart knowledge or skill to
2. To provide knowledge of; instruct in
3. To condition to a certain action or frame of mind
4. To cause to learn by example or experience
5. To advocate or preach
6. To carry on instruction on a regular basis in

I feel that I am the facilitator. I bring in things I think they'll like. I see something that excites me and I share it with them. I find books they like and check them out of the library. And yes, I do help them work out spelling words or math problems, but it's more of a mentor, a "why don't you try this", or "our language is screwed up and it's not spelled that way, sorry." I help them in their learning, which they are already doing.

facilitate [fəˈsɪlɪˌteɪt]vb (tr) to make easier; assist the progress of

Of course, while I may ruminate on the answer privately (or here in the blog,) with only a moment's pause, I answer, "yes" to the "are you their teacher?" Why? Because it's easier. It's more acceptable. It's hard to explain that I don't feel my children need teachers. Especially difficult to explain this while knowing that this route isn't for everyone and I don't have anything against teachers. In short, it's too complicated and too personal so I take the easy way out. It's like answering "fine" to "how are you?"

This isn't about homeschool, hence the title. This is about Stella and her anxiety. She goes in and out of periods where she cannot be anywhere without one of her parents present. Last week's camp was one of these periods.

The girls were both enrolled in CSU Sports Camps. Sandis went last year for soccer and loved it so this year we spent some of our tax refund check on camp for both of them, soccer for Sandis, music and movement for Stella. They were both so excited to go. Even when I dropped Stella off the 1st day, she happily went with her class. I asked for a hug and she seemed bothered to give it to me. I figured we were good to go.

Then Brian picked them up that evening and was told by numerous people that Stella had a rough day. She would cry for momma whenever there was a break in the action. She even cried at lunch when she was with her sister.

We talked to her about it. We devised a plan with her. 1) we would talk with the counselors and she could be their helper during breaks to keep busy, 2) she could wait with her sister at the end of the day, 3) she could sleep with mommy so she could have plenty of mommy time that week, 4) blatant bribery - she got ice-cream every day she made it through camp.

It had limited success. I spent most of Tuesday at the camp. Wednesday she was on her own and it was shaky, but ok. Thursday she was so upset she threw up so I pulled her that day. Friday she had to make it through the morning without me, which she did with minimal tears, and I spent the afternoon at camp.

Far from a restful week for the parents. Far from an easy week for Stella. But, she had to push through it some because 1) we've done this multiple times before, 2) we've talked with her therapist and her advice is that Stella needs to do it and see that she can, in a safe way like this, 3) Stella LOVED the camp, she just didn't want to do it alone.

There are lots of theories as to where the anxiety comes from, very few on how to effectively deal with it. A handful of ideas as to from where it stems. And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg with Stella. She intense, in all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful interpretations of the word. We love her dearly. We want her to be happy. We're trying, Stella, we're really trying to help you any way we can. I hope you understand that.

NOT back to school

Can I just say how ecstatic I am that my kids do NOT go back to school in 2 weeks? It's still summer, it's still a million degrees out, and schools here go back either 1 or 2 weeks from tomorrow. There have been back-to-school sales for the last month or more. The lists of what to buy have been out forever. The ads in the paper show sweatshirts and uniforms. And my kids still get to go to the pool, jump on the trampoline and learn at will.