What We Learned


The first day of school, and the last. Of course I took pictures, it is what I do, I record memories and save them. Print them, frame them, turn them into books to flip through. I compared the pictures, side by side, two little girls, gamely holding up signs and smiling for me. Or really, smiling for the bribe of candy I promised.

We have come so far. Some days I lead, and they follow, like ducklings at my feet. But I realize now that they have led as much, leaving me to follow. If I just shut up, and trust in myself; to teach, in them to learn, in us to come together, I learn just as much.

I’ve learned that I do not have girls who learn through play. Well they do, but I came into homeschooling thinking we would have a play-based, Montessori-style education.

Instead Sprout will watch documentaries on Egypt, come to me with questions, and we will stumble down a rabbit hole, learning obscure facts.

I’ve learned that Pudge will stack blocks, just so, over and over, until they are aligned perfectly. She sits patiently with a box of rainbow counting bears, carefully sorting them and matching them, standing them facing the same way.

Where Sprout is all instinct and rushing into things, Pudge is calculating, technical, taking her time to finish something. She still eats paint though.

I discovered a huge secular homeschooling group, and my sanity when I did so. Through them I found a history curriculum, a science, a math. I am better armed for the formal years of schooling, now that I’ve seen so many of them do it, than I was before. And I am better prepared for how the girls need to learn. They need to be challenged and nudged, led to discoveries and realizations.

Halfway through the year, I realized that many of the questions I was getting, about homeschooling, about what we do, were not questions, but were thinly veiled criticisms. How do you do it, really means can I do it. I don’t see how you can teach that, you didn’t take it in school, really means, are you smart enough to teach it. I’ve learned to see the genuine questions, and the criticisms. Questions I answer, and criticisms I ignore. For the most part.

Along with that, I’ve learned that some people are not going to respect my decision to homeschool. (Our decision really.) I’ve whittled most of those people out of my life. Homeschooling will be a huge part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and I do not have the time and patience to deal with the nay sayers. I do not want to create an echo chamber, but I do not want to waste my time defending my decisions either.

I’ve learned to write lesson plans, to stay organized. A few minutes at the start of the week, and everything goes smoother. It’s easier to fill those little brains and keep them learning.

On the other hand, I’ve learned when to throw those plans out and get creative. The weather will ruin a perfectly planned outdoor experiment. I will run out of supplies the night before a big project. One of us will get sick. Those days, we put our best laid plans to one side, and just relax.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to relax. Although my end goal is to keep the girls on roughly their age level in public school, it is ok that Sprout has atrocious handwriting and doesn’t like to work on it. Or that she is ahead in math and science. I can teach them at their speed, subject by subject, until things even out. But they are learning, soaking in everything I point out, talk about, whatever they read about. More of it is sticking than I ever dreamed would.

We do things differently. We’ve become more classical in style than unschool. We have more of a routine than many homeschoolers do, especially with young kids. But it is working for us. That’s what is important.

For the rest of the summer, I have plans to do summer school. A few projects and things to do every day, nothing like the rest of the year. Maybe some handwriting work, lots of science lessons and math, lots of art and coloring.

And then?? We’ll see how much we all learn this next year.