Thursday, May 31, 2012

The lure of the better

The internet can be both a blessing and a curse. I've met people who have become life-long friends, received encouragement and advice, connected with people in similar circumstances facing similar challenges. I've found ideas, tips, tricks, and information galore. I'm certain the internet has changed the face of homeschooling, and it has changed parenting in some ways as well. We have access to an unprecedented amount of information and resources and the ability to connect with other, like-minded people in a way that would have once been impossible.

The flip side of that coin, as probably any mother who spends time online will tell you, is how easy it is to be overwhelmed with everything you aren't doing; with all the possibilities, ideas, books, curricula, crafts, projects, studies, outings, programs and options. Pinterest gives you a place to store ideas and inspiration, but it can be a source of guilt; all the projects you "pin" and don't ever do. Blogs give insight to other people's lives, but mommy-blogs can be a source of competition and leave some of us with a sense of inadequacy. Homeschool blogs can provide fabulous ideas and insights into what homeschooling looks like, but they can also make you feel utterly overwhelmed with the vast array of options out there. It is easy to get lost in the pursuit of the perfect.

My life will never be picture perfect, and the logical side of me knows that the moms behind the mommy-blogs or the homeschool blogs don't have it all together all the time either - even if it looks like they do. But my logical side is not always loudest and I have my share of doubt when I look at our life, and particularly our homeschool. Am I doing this right? Is it enough? Is there something that would be better?

I already have a tendency to overthink things. And my "tendency," I mean certifiable obsession. I mull things over constantly, I research the heck out of just about anything, I make lists and charts and spend far too much time doing it. Homeschooling has brought my overthinker out with a vengeance. This is my childrens' education, for goodness sake! How could I commit to anything without first researching and weighing all possible options!

It seems like I have spent a lot of this school year settling on something - books, curriculum, or even just a "direction" - only to stumble onto something different, which I then have to track down, research, read reviews and generally make myself crazy as I try to decide what materials and resources are best. I read a blog post where they rave about some book or method, or I simply see something mentioned in passing, realize I haven't seen *that* particular product before, and I must know all about it.

I need to put a bunch of post it reminders all over my desk that remind me not to let the pursuit of the perfect ruin the achievement of the good. I don't just mean the good enough - I mean the really, truly, and in all other ways good.

The truth is, there's no perfect book. There's no perfect curriculum. And I have told myself many times that our homeschool won't look like someone else's homeschool. We won't do all the same things another family does. We won't get to everything, and there will always be shiny new curriculum or packages or methods or books that seem oh so tempting.

But I can't research everything that is out there, try as I might. And yes, I might miss something really great. But that doesn't mean that we aren't doing just fine as we are.

So in those moments, I need to just back.... away... slowly... and go make some tea.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some musings on homeschooling

Today Calah at Barefoot and Pregnant posted a bit about homeschooling. It gave me some food for thought and instead of boring her with my lengthy ramblings in her combox, I decided to come to my own little house and blog about it.

She referenced this article, which I was all set to disagree with. And I did disagree with some of it, but not as much as I thought I would. I sort of get where the poster is coming from on some things - the idea that a mother can be overwhelmed by schooling a houseful of kids, as well as simply being Mom, and how it seems odd that some Catholic men seem to be using "woman who will homeschool" as dating criteria, possibly setting up some unrealistic and unfortunate expectations for the potential wife/mother. I kind of get that.

What I have been pondering this evening though, from the blog post above (not Calah's, but one she was blogging about), is this:

But really, let's be honest: homeschooling, even in the best of circumstances is far from ideal. It's essentially an emergency situation. It is not a normal state of affairs, and it is not, however much like you might like to believe so right now, the best preparation for surviving in the job market. It may not be the worst, but it's not the best, and in more cases than people seem willing to acknowledge, it is downright harmful.

I think it's a pretty big overgeneralization to say that homeschooling is an emergency situation. I guess there are those who wind up homeschooling for "emergency" type reasons - out of fear of what their kids will be exposed to, or because of a bad experience at school, or because someone else expects them to do it.

I came to homeschooling from a totally different angle. I didn't plan to homeschool originally, but I also didn't turn to it to fix a problem situation or out of fear of what public school would do to my kids. Did I have reservations about the public school system? Sure. Did we have a terrible time there and I couldn't think of anything else to do other than homeschool? No. I don't feel like we're living in an emergency situation where all other educational options aren't so great so we're picking the lesser of all evils. I actually went into this with eyes fairly wide open, with some healthy skepticism and a big dose of faith.

See the thing is, I'm audacious enough to believe I can actually educate my kids well. Really well. And maybe part of my audacity is that I'm not looking to simply prepare them for the job market. I intend to go bigger than that. I'm trying to make them good thinkers and lifelong learners. I want to instill my love of books, my love of history, my love of discovery and my love of learning. (And I'm well aware they are going to have different interests and passions than I have - but the beauty is, they will have the time and freedom to explore those passions in a way that traditional schooling wouldn't otherwise afford).

Maybe I'm looking at it from a different perspective though. No one expects me to homeschool. It was totally my idea and I had to do a bit of convincing of the hubs to get the ball rolling. And where did it come from for me? Where did I get this crazy idea in the first place? Call me nuts, but I've always believed quite strongly that the Holy Spirit led me here. Yes, I am claiming a bit o' the Divine here. In a way, God told me to do it.

How's that for a ridiculous and hard to argue with reason?

But it is the truth. For me, homeschooling isn't an emergency fix for a school system that I find inadequate. It was a leap of faith that has proven to be immensely satisfying. Maybe I'm crazy, or arrogant, or a bit of both, but I think my kids are going to grow up to be well educated and well rounded adults who will be quite capable. A lofty goal? Perhaps. One I think I am capable of achieving? Yeah. I'll own that.

And there I go sounding like I have those crazy ideals the poster was talking about - ideals that aren't really achievable and only serve to make the mom feel guilty for what she isn't doing. Believe it or not, I'm actually quite realistic about what I am capable of and what we can accomplish both on the small and large scale. I read plenty of homeschooling blogs and see what amazing things some people are doing and I'm pretty good at filing away ideas that interest me and leaving the rest, forgoing the guilt of "I don't do it that way, therefore I must suck at this." We do what seems to be working for us and I think that is enough. I won't win any SuperStar Homeschooler awards, but much like the myth of the Supermom, I don't even want to try.

I am enough. I'm not perfect. My homeschool isn't perfect. But it's still awesome and my kids rock and I think I have this. Will I always feel this confident? Probably not. But that's where my reliance on faith kicks up a notch. If God led me here, I'm pretty sure I can trust His judgement.