Sunday, April 26, 2015

Homeschooling- a look inside

I am a little hesitant to begin this post, as I don't normally speak much about our homeschooling experiences- except in occasional jest.  But this one is personal, so try to go easy on me and don't mind if its lengthy as its been on my heart a long time.  Mainly I don't talk about it because its always felt like a private decision we made a long time ago. At first it had really nothing to do with faith, curriculum's, or achievement. It was just a simple conversation between Fred and I in our first house in NY when Andy was about 2 or 3 years old, and Peter a year behind him.

 We wondered where we would send Andrew to school and after talking about the local schools in town, Freddy commented "Or- you could home-school him". I stopped and looked at him oddly, growing up on Long Island didn't afford me a whole lot of exposure to home schoolers. "Isn't that what backwards people do?" Fred wasn't surprised by my remark, and simply said "No, and Robert
 ( his boss at the time) and Mary Rose  home-school their five  kids,  and they are the nicest kids I have ever met."  Interestingly, what I really always wanted was nice kids, good kids, real kids- so this adjective Fred used was a good fit. It resonated with me. I asked how they got books, and he mentioned he thought it was possible to order them. So I tucked the idea into the back of my head, and pretty much forgot about it.

At five years old I drove Andrew to his first day of Kindergarten while I carried Peter on my hip over my pregnant-with-John-Paul-belly. I dropped him off and the teacher told me when to pick him back up. I took Pete home to make a little headway on the house while his older brother was away for a precious few hours. When I came back the teacher told me Andrew had thrown a bit of a tantrum, but not to worry, he would get used to it. I was surprised as he didn't do that at home. I blew it off and figured it would get easier. Second day was pretty much the same as the first, except I enjoyed those few easier hours without Andrew better than I had imagined.  The third day arrived.When pick up time came, he had thrown another tantrum and was visibly red faced when I arrived. The teacher mentioned to me that she also was in charge of the pre-school ( small town) and that she would happily take Pete as well. I asked about Andrew and once again he had thrown a fit when I left but she reassured me that "he would get used to it" and I walked him out of the building secretly wondering what I would do with those delicious hours of freedom from Andrew and Peter I was about to have!

And it was right then that it happened. I was so struck by how quickly I wanted to get rid of them, not for good, but just for a few peaceful hours to myself. As I buckled them in and fit my pregnant belly under the steering wheel of my Chrysler LeBaron convertible ( wedding present from Freddy),  a conversation unfolded between me and God.  I was married only a few years by this point and only a few children into this growing family and already I  felt parts of me wanted out.

I was so sick with my pregnancies, all of them, dreadfully, mercilessly sick.

We were poor and broke. Always.

Kids were cute but also a whole lot of work.

I never slept anymore.

And as I rode home I realized that this teacher was offering me a small way out. Just a little reprieve. And Andrew would get used to it, I knew he would,  as would Peter and I. And I remembered my wedding vows that day, and my promise to love and cherish Freddy and accept children lovingly from the Lord and I knew that so far I was a failure.

So I brought the kids into the kitchen at home and I knelt down before Andrew and I asked him "Do you want to go to school tomorrow?" and he answered "No, I want to be with you" and I looked him square in the eye and told him that he didn't have to . I told him  he didn't have to go to back to school that I would teach him and Peter at home from then on.

So our home-school was born, not out of pride or some queer sense I could do better- (in fact I was terrified I would wreck them all given I had only a high school education)- or some religious reasons, but because I felt that I should at least try to give motherhood a chance. And for me homeschooling was a part of being faithful to my husband and my kids and my vows. What I hoped to gain from it was "nice and good kids" and my only goal post for myself was that I felt I had to be able to at least do what they would get from the local public school had they been enrolled there.

 I only ever home school one year at a time. I didn't start out saying "I will home-school Andrew through High School", I just wanted to make it through kindergarten. Ditto for first grade . And second grade on up. The thought of home schooling for lets just say -five years- is way too much for me to mentally handle without getting desperate, so I just sign on for small bites and don't think about what's next. Which was a good thing since each year brought a new baby and a new grade, and a new amount of work to juggle.

Since to me, this decision was more about a promise between me and God I always counted on him to help me get through it. If I lived up to my end of the bargain and kept going, I expected He would as well. This thought consoled me on many a morning when I was pregnant or nursing a, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth child and I could not climb back under the  covers  into bed (after I woke and immediately got sick for all ten pregnancies or I would finish school work for the day and realize I hadn't done any real house work yet, and needed to begin what felt like a second full time job.

What I learned most during all those years of meeting new Moms and new homeschooling friends is that we all come to home school for very different reasons. We all have different goals. We are all hiding from the outside world that we really live a double life as school teacher and also as wife/mother that on many or most days, is grueling.

When Andrew and Peter graduated High School it was one of the proudest days of my life. But because I had only home-schooled one year at a time, we still didn't know what the following year/years would bring. Peter had decided to try community college ( yes, even now finances are a determining issue) and Andrew insisted he wanted to get a job.

This nagged at me.

I don't ever ask Fred to be the bad cop, but shortly before that Fall came along I told Fred I didn't care how he did it, but he was to get Andrew to at least try a course at the community college. He agreed to and after much cajoling Andrew was signed up for a few classes. He hated me, but he was signed up. A few weeks in, he found his niche. He decided he'd like to go into law enforcement. I was pleased. He finishes his Associates in a few weeks, and so once again he decided it was time to get serious about work. But again, a nagging took hold of me.

I asked him to apply to University of Maryland. He was bothered again (I have witnesses). But by now we really do know each other well enough and he knew he wasn't getting out of it without a rejection letter, so he submitted his application. He was called in for an interview for a scholarship based on his GPA and essay. On Thursday, after weeks of waiting by the mailbox he got his letter of acceptance and a full scholarship to UMB.

I don't know how to tell you how proud I am of him.

After I hugged him and Fred hugged him and Rachel hugged him and the little ones hugged him, he  stood back and  he said "This is all because of God, I know that now. This wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been guiding me."

And I nodded and thought to myself how right he is, and how smart he is, and mostly ... how nice and good he is.

(Go Terps!)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The things I learn

I learn alot during down time. Not just about the world and places I visit,  but I learn alot about myself as well.  We are in Ocean City til morning and in three short days I've discovered oodles of things about myself.  Here's one-
I enjoy trash chutes far more than I should.

Here's another-
The "claw machines" in every arcade are so disappointingly weak, that I think I continue to put money in just on the outside hope this metal will actually amount to something, or do some sort of performance job.  (Please don't tell me they are American made or I will cry in despair for their lackluster ability to lift even the lightest objects). I have lifted more with seriously frozen fingers, that bordered on frost bite, than those machines can lift any day. Completely a  milk toast performance. I'm a little sickened thinking about it again now.

Also- I still haven't completely lost my touch at pacman after 30 or so years. And Fred is downright impressive.

Maybe these seem like small discoveries. Still, I think it's good to know these things.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sarah's communion and a busy weekend

Sorry for the looonnngggg delay between posts. We have been busy in these parts. Life is coming at us hard and fast. Sarah made her first communion this weekend, and Grandma and Grandpa came from  New York for it. We started Friday night with the girls ballet recital. Mary was graceful, Sarah was lovely and LoLo was....well, lets just say LoLo could use a bit more practice. All week as I coached them to practice she would  harumph and say "I told you already, I'm a bad ballerina" and go back to playing. Before hand she tried to tell me she had stage fright, and when I wrinkled my nose at her, she rolled her eyes and said "FINE" and got back in line. So, while the other lovely ballerinas did plies, and twirled in the air, LoLo did too -just about 4 seconds slower.

Thankfully, Grandma and Grandpa thought a four second delay enhanced the show.

What went off perfectly was Sarah's first communion. She has been so excited preparing for it and our parish did an amazing job of making it a prayerful, and focused day. Saturday they planned a little retreat for all the communicants, and had them practice their readings. Matthew and Thomas were on the altar serving. Knowing that her grandparents were coming to town made is so special for her. I won't fill up the page with too many words, because communion is really about just that, communing. The pictures will do a better job than my words.

Lastly,  in between talking about food with my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, Phil, had been telling us about his childhood and how much he missed his brothers.  He wished he could find time to see them again. It had been ten years since he saw his brother Vince. When he said ten years, I gulped. Ten years is simply too long not to see a brother you love. So, I dragged  Fred into the next room and in asked him to call his uncle who lives about an hour or so from us, and tell him his dad was here, and invite him to come for Sarah's party on Sunday. Her juggled a few things around and he and his beautiful wife Colleen came and surprised Phil and Angela Sunday afternoon!

What a perfect family day. Uncle Vinny bought a video of his parents and family from years earlier, and all of us watched family movies together after celebrating. You could feel the happiness in the air. So that was our weekend. Hope yours was as good or better!