Children,  Homeschool,  Humor

So I Guess I’m a “Homeschool Mom” Now

I have a secret and I have no idea why it’s a secret.

I am homeschooling Ella.

I started over a week ago, and I haven’t really told anyone outside of my circle (other than homeschool groups on Facebook, then breaking the news to my Instagram followers).

No real reason other than I don’t think I felt ready to be judged (I guess it’s a thing), not ready for all of the advice from homeschoolers I know of (I want that advice, but not in the first week because OVERWHELMED), and honestly, just not ready in general.

Let’s just say that homeschooling has been on the back burner since Ella was in kindergarten and had a tough transition.

Ella doesn't want to go to kindergarten
Ella waiting for the bus the second week of kindergarten, 2013. God bless her heart.

Since I am pretty transparent on this blog, I felt I should tell you this is going on because I may want to write about it here and there, it may be shared in other parts of my life, and truthfully, I may need your support.

So here is the why portion because I have always been curious to know other families reasons for homeschooling and I am sure you want to know as well.

Ella, as you know, has ADHD and anxiety and honestly, the ADHD portion of her diagnosis has never been a problem in school. Oh sure, she has some learning issues, is behind on certain subjects, but for the most part (even on testing) she is at the same level and sometimes even above average when it comes to all of that.

As far as behavior, one of her teachers put it best: I’d never know Ella has ADHD if I didn’t see it on the paper in front of me. Of course she has hyperactive moments, has trouble sitting still at times and the like but Ella is a people pleaser (gee, wonder where she got that from) so at school, she works HARD to make sure she doesn’t look different from others. No wonder she came home every school day thoroughly exhausted.

It was the anxiety portion of her diagnosis that was the struggle.

She has always been able to manage it somewhat with medication and therapies (horseriding is one), but this year, with so much change swirling around her (sister moved away to college, daddy is gone 60 hours a week with a new job, puberty looming). it was too much for her to bear.

Ella is very closely tied to family and our close friends, more than maybe even they know. When her world is shaken up, it is too much for her, but you would never know it from the outside. Internally, it has been really difficult but like anything else, the cracks begin to show and that is where we are now.

Those cracks started to show themselves over the past six weeks. Sobbing on and off the day before her first day of fifth grade; wondering where we were when we were in the house at all times. Then during the first week of school, the nurse called saying Ella had a tummy ache. The following week, she couldn’t go in because she vomited before school but had no temperature, no other symptoms. Two weeks later, the nurse called again saying Ella was crying in her office. The following week, she sat with the assistant principal in her office unable to go to the classroom all day. It was after her not being able to get on the bus one morning and having a full blown panic attack that Mike and I looked at each other and said ENOUGH.

You know, we’re told to let kids struggle, that we didn’t have an out “back in our day”, a term I detest by the way. But why do children need to struggle? To make them stronger? Better human beings?

In the email to the assistant principal who has been one of Ella’s “angels” at her school, I said (among many other things) that:

I don’t think I am shielding her from problems but rather giving another solution to a situation that is pretty intense. I know throughout her life she is going to have to deal with difficult situations and personalities but right now, she just isn’t up to that task and is missing out on important lessons that I could be providing for her at home.
She agreed. So did the principal of the school, someone who has the title Dr. in front of her name. So does the psychologist who has seen a lot of stuff in “his day”.

I must say that her school has been AMAZING with us as far as support. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the support from everyone from the principal, assistant principal, school psychologist, and social worker.

They truly want Ella to succeed and for us to succeed as parents and are still there for us as we navigate this new-to-us journey.

Ella has managed to get through each school year since 2013 (I’d say since 2012 but private preschool was a much different experience), but we never felt like school was where she blossomed. It was outside of school where Ella’s personality blossomed, her skills, talents, her zest for life, everything.

I remember thinking to myself that Anna never struggled with school in the way that Ella did. I realize all children are different but I kept on recalling that Anna seamlessly floated through elementary school whereas Ella struggled mercilessly through.

I was very active in both of my girls’ school experiences, especially at the elementary level. Copying for the teachers, working at parties in the classroom, volunteering for field trips. I say this only to note that it was during these volunteer activities that I was able to actually see with my own eyes how my kids were adapting, adjusting, and getting along.

It was during these encounters that I would notice something heartbreaking: Ella wasn’t really fitting in, especially the older she became.  Not at all being put down or bullied, just being on the outside looking in, if that makes sense. I should say that she has friends and the friends she has are wonderful but when she was within larger groups, she could never find her groove. It was heartbreaking to witness because Ella is this vibrant, polite, loving, person. Why couldn’t her peers see what we saw at home?

Outside of school, Ella has lots of friends in every avenue. At horseriding, she has friends whom she laughs with, goofs off, and has inside jokes; at church, she has a group of friends who are fiercely protective of her, even running to hug her when she gets to the church each Sunday; in the neighborhood, she has lots of different friends from different backgrounds and ages who adore her as much as we do.  She recently got invited to an all boys party for her friend who turned 10 and played football, basketball, soccer, and the like for six hours with them and they all decided that she was “so cool” for doing everything they were doing. And she has a best friend who “gets” her and lifts her up and vice versa.

But at school, it was a totally different story for some reason.

It was at an open house in school last spring when I saw not one child come up and talk to mine that I decided I was going to homeschool her. I didn’t know when but I knew it was inevitable. I didn’t want my happy child to become unhappy and it was coming because if you are invisible to others long enough, you eventually become invisible to yourself.

One week ago, I withdrew Ella from public school, officially registered her through the state, created a homeschool name (John Hughes Primary School, no I’m not lying), and immediately got down to work trying to navigate this new-to-me territory somewhat alone-ish.

But do you want to know something? For the first time in many years, I could breathe.

And most importantly, Ella could breathe.

On day one, she was upstairs in her room singing.

SINGING.

Oh my Lord, you have no idea how good that made me feel.

Hearing her relief.

It was glorious.

It also feels good to know deep in your soul that you made the right decision.

Since homeschooling her, Ella doesn’t have chapped lips (licking her lips compulsively is a way her anxiety comes “out”), she hasn’t cried spontaneously in over a week and a half; she doesn’t have a tummy ache every night or a headache every day.

I noticed this because, in our linen closet the other day, there were plenty of washcloths. When she was in school, I would have to do laundry on washcloths more than I would like to admit, as she was using them as a compress on her head.

All of these things together made me stop in my tracks.

It was finally well with her (and our) soul.

But there’s this stigma that goes along with homeschoolers and homeschooling that I am not comfortable with.
How will I respond to the judgemental people at the grocery store who question why Ella is with me GASP during the day GASP?
How will I befriend other homeschooling moms like me?
How will I answer the socialization question? Over. And over. And over.
And please, for the love of GOD, smack me if I ever wear something like this in public:
There are so many questions that I am sure to be asked in the upcoming months, and I am sure I will have my sarcastic answers ready to go by then but in the meantime, I’m not sure what I will say.
Right now my homeschool style is structured but loose if that makes any sense. I landed on a free online curriculum but know that it can change whenever we want it to, one of the beautiful things about homeschooling. We have a schedule Monday through Friday; she has the option of going to her “old” school every morning for an hour to do “specials” (art, library, gym, and music); she does her school work for up to 3.5 hours a day but I am flexible on the amount of time as of right now; she cannot watch anything other than educational YouTube channels, preapproved Netflix educational documentaries and the like during “school hours” (that is 10-3 Monday-Friday), and has to read an hour each day before bed.
But again, this is flexible. For example, the week I wrote this post, one morning she was planning on volunteering at a book bank with Rebecca and me as a field trip; then one evening she helped me to “babysit” some neighbor children to earn money for herself and taught them to do letters and numbers while doing so: another day, she and I painted our fence (post coming soon) and I called it “recess”.
I’m learning that she can’t focus with music on, which makes me realize that sitting next to the loud kid or in a class with 28 other human beings might have been a HUGE reason why she struggled each year.
She also told me she isn’t able to do word jumbles where you have to rearrange letters as she has a bit of dyslexia, so I simply don’t give her work that requires that.
You know what else I can do? I can create fun units around things that interest her to get her to learn, something that isn’t possible in public school. I can engage her with things of interest to only her to make her understand concepts that normally would be too difficult for her to grasp. I’m already planning on an entire horse unit of study including a field trip to a horse farm and you’d think I was going to Disneyworld.
I am also not focusing on the what ifs right now. I had someone ask me what we would do if I wasn’t able to homeschool her and I can’t think like that right now because I CAN homeschool her, thank God.
Will it always be easy? NO.
Do I think we made the right decision? YES.
Is it inappropriate to have a fundraiser if you homeschool your children?
Asking for a friend……

 

Before I had kids, I never thought once to myself that I would like to teach them inside of my home.

Not once.

It was an evolution that happened because of things that have happened in my kids’ lives.

One of Anna’s friends asked me last week if I was qualified to homeschool, which kind of took me back a little but also made me happy.

The future IS bright, let me tell you.

I have a background in education, but am I really qualified?

Image result for homeschool humor
I think I’m gonna need Roberta in my life.

I need breaks. What on EARTH am I gonna do when my husband is gone all the frick frack time? I have yet to find another blogging homeschooling mom who has mentioned just once how they deal with the kids getting on their nerves because they are ALWAYS FREAKING HOME.

I am terrible at Math. I hate it. Fractions? Blergh. Decimals and place value? ICK.

I also swear. A lot.  Not in front of Ella. Okay sometimes in front of Ella. So if I swear a lot, can I still be a homeschool mom?

Is it wrong to want to get a sitter once per week to do things like meet friends for lunch, or therapy as part of self-care; I also plan to keep writing because now more than ever, I need that form of therapy as well. WHY AM I SO SELFISH?? I am sure Michelle Duggar never had this conundrum.

I need to find my tribe of homeschoolers who swear, like to drink wine when the kids are in bed, go to church but don’t have the word BIBLE or LORD or GLORY in the title of their curriculum, and can use your and you’re in the correct way.

That’s like finding a unicorn with a $500 dollar bill collar, isn’t it?

ISN’T IT????

So this is where I’m at.

I know I will be judged, I already am, I am sure of it.

But this is what’s right for Ella at this point in her life and maybe, just maybe, it’s also what’s right for me at this point as well.

Do you homeschool? I would love some advice right about now. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. 

 

 

I love to write about my family, John Hughes, tacos and Bruce Hornsby. Not necessarily in that order.

20 Comments

  • Pam

    You will find those like-minded homeschool moms (it might take a little time, but you will), you will probably be judged (but it won’t matter), you should definitely take time for yourself without feeling guilty (you aren’t being selfish), and, I am sure you will never regret doing this for your daughter. We have a long homeschool story that I won’t bore you with right now! But both kids got what they needed and graduated from college with high honors and lots of friends. My main bit of advice to homeschool moms is relax and know it will be ok, because I wish I had done that more in the beginning! I loved having that time with my kids. P.S. There will be those who stereotype homeschool moms, but there are as many kinds of homeschool moms as there are moms. Enjoy!
    Pam recently posted…Thursday Favorite Things #362My Profile

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      I am so thankful for a tribe of people that I have found via blogging and I consider you a part of that.
      I will be picking your brain as soon as I come out of this homeschool beginner fog.
      By the way, tell me the homeschooling story someday, I would love to hear it.

  • Melanie

    I give you so much kudos for recognizing Ella’s needs and choosing to homeschool her. Phil used to beg me to homeschool him when he was in Kindergarten – 2nd grade, and I always said I couldn’t do it. He was so incredibly strong-willed and we butted heads a lot. I felt like I didn’t have the strength to get through it. I wish I could go back and change things, but of course, I can’t. You are so amazing to me. And yes, DO take care of yourself, too. Get a sitter and go out with your friends. I am sharing your post on FB so that my other homeschooling friends can see it.

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      I think if we all could we WOULD homeschool because it’s a motherly instinct. I’m not saying if you can’t that you don’t have it but I think all of us wish we could. For years I have been pushing this off and trying to see the happy in Ella that wasn’t always there. We planned to homeschool after Christmas break if she couldn’t do it anymore but she couldn’t do it one more day.

      I am very lucky to be able to do this, I realize it but there are days where I am like WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO! 🙂

      I might need that good red wine from Binny’s sooner than I thought.

  • Mrs K @ Mrs. Kringle's Kitchen

    Haters gonna hate, this is your kid, they can bug off. I’ve got no kids so I’ve got no advice but I don’t know if this link will help. The Pioneer Woman has homeschooled all of her kids and had a community of people who contributed to her website that were fellow homeschoolers. I don’t think she keeps it up now but there are 67 pages of content hiding on her site if you want to peruse it. I don’t think it’s outdated and might be a good place to refer to: https://thepioneerwoman.com/homeschooling/

    Based on your grocery store concern, I’d start here: https://thepioneerwoman.com/homeschooling/get-rid-of-your-homeschooling-doubts-once-and-for-all/
    Mrs K @ Mrs. Kringle’s Kitchen recently posted…Quik Halloween BrowniesMy Profile

  • Jessie

    ❤️ eh, people judge no matter what. I love how you live your best life and support your daughters as they live theirs.

    I’ve got zero advice. Having homeschooled our two bio children from first grade through 12th I can say the overwhelm never leaves. You’ll always experience doubts and question yourself. You may run into a few people who give off the judgy vibes, but it will surprise you how rare that is these days. My son (almost 18 and soon to graduate from our local State College with his AA before transferring next fall to the University, his entire education paid for by our state because of his high SAT scores) is very much like your Ella. Including the dyslexia and anxiety and problems concentrating in a stimulating environment. Reading your post is seeing him. When asked, he’s glad he was schooled at home and believes he is more successful and able to handle the world better because of his opportunity to learn and prepare at home. So, there’s that 😉.

    As for the curriculum, it took years of trial and error before we were able to piece together what worked for us. Still, they turned out fine and make all A’s at the local State College. When you’re overwhelmed remember it all works out in the end.

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      This, my friend, seals the deal for me. I know she will thrive and I am already seeing it in week two! Week two!! I am so glad I have you in my life. I don’t believe in coincidences at all. Maybe you were brought to me years ago not to boost my ego with the screenplay but rather to help me get through homeschooling. But you can totally keep boosting my screenplay ego!

      I am not even following the curriculum any more and going on my own, piecing it together each day. I do want to find one that I can follow so that I know she is doing what she should so she doesn’t fall behind. They don’t require testing each year or turning in grades in Illinois which is good and bad. I feel like I need that to keep an eye on what she needs to work on and what she has mastered.

      Live and learn. But I feel so good about this decision. 🙂

      • Jessie

        Oh yeah. I understand that. The desire to avoid gaps and make sure your bases are covered. Just remember that in public school the kids experience gaps too. It happens a lot despite the state’s curriculum requirements. When you get to Jr high check out teaching textbooks for Math. After a bunch of fails that was the Math curriculum that worked for us. 😉

        SPEAKING OF YOUR SCREENPLAY. I tried to make an account to read the new ending of your screenplay and something failed 😭 in the process. I’ll have to try again.

  • Ani Kay

    OK not to sound obtuse, but what is there to judge? Also would it bug you if I said I wish I could homeschool my kids? I think it’s an awesome thing to do, and if my husband and I switched roles, I would absolutely do it! The only homeschooling that scares me is the kind that denies evolution, and Native Americans, and all the horrible things that happened in the past because they either don’t find it important or they don’t believe it happened. Oh wait, is that the judgement? I feel like it’s like anything, right? There are folks who are awesome at it, and then there are folks who are awful at it. Anyone who knows you, knows you’re going to be awesome at it!

    You are going to rock this! And best of all you are doing what is right for your family. She will remember this and take it with her forever. There is nothing more important in a young girls life than knowing that her mom understands her and is doing everything she can to keep her safe and taken care of. I am 37 and I still remember every time my mom saw me floundering and pulled the tether to keep me from floating away. And I love her so much it.

    You’re awesome!
    Ani Kay recently posted…The Gilmore Girls Fan Fest was GilMORE than I Expected! See what I did there?My Profile

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      OMG, you are my soul mate.
      For real.
      Also, I hate the curriculum I used at first because I don’t feel comfortable with the science they are focusing on.
      So I am going on my own now and using Khan Academy for Math. Don’t know why I am telling you that since you are probably like umm, no one cares.
      But as I type this, we are taking a break from our Native American study, which I plan to spend an entire month on because of Thanksgiving.
      Also, I didn’t know until today that America was disease-free and had no rats or cockroaches until the stupid Europeans made their way over. I hate myself a little more now.

      YES, YES, AND YES. To the comment “there is nothing more important in a young girls life than knowing her mom understands her and is doing everything she can to make her safe”.

      THAT. That, at the end of the day, is IT.

  • Rita

    So, I read this last week and meant to comment then, but…life. Something interrupted me and then my squirrel-brain was off.

    But what I wanted to say is what so many others already have: Good for you. I’ve worked in public schools for nearly 30 years now, and I can say that we don’t do a good job of meeting every kid’s needs. (We didn’t do a great job of meeting my kids’ needs.) If you have the capacity and you think it will work for you, good on you. Do it. Who cares what other people think? Because I taught in high schools, I sometimes had students who had been homeschooled but chose to come to high school for advanced coursework. I will be honest: some homeschooled kids didn’t have much in the way of knowledge and skills. But some of my homeschooled kids were the most skilled and knowledgeable students I’ve had. They clearly benefitted from having an education tailored to their needs. I don’t have any real advice because I’ve never homeschooled, but I’ve got a few reading recommendations:
    Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer (for helping kids love books)

    Free Technology for Teachers (site with tips about cool tech tools; much of it is geared toward working with whole classes, but it’s a way to learn about tech and see how to use it in instruction)

    Nancy Atwell’s In the Middle (about teaching reading and writing). It’s old now, and about middle school, but the basic principles apply and it’s got a lot of practical information in it, too.

    Reading for Understanding (Schoenbach et al), 2nd edition: This is an instructional framework for literacy instruction across content areas. We use this in my district (my job is to teach teachers about it). There are tons of great tools in it you can use.

    Happy to answer any questions you might have about books, reading, writing. Math is a whole different story!
    Rita recently posted…In the middle of the beginning of the endMy Profile

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      Thank you for all of this. I am going to need my teacher friends to help and so far, everyone has been absolutely amazing.
      I love that everyone is rooting for us to win. I know it will be a challenge and one of my biggest fears is that she will fall behind.
      But here’s the thing: she is learning things Anna never learned in the public school system, which is mind-blowing.
      And she is happy. Happier than I have seen her in years. 🙂

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