We've been doing homeschool for a few months now, or maybe we haven't. I'm not actually sure if what I'm doing is Real Official Homeschooling per se. I had someone leave a comment on a post where I'd detailed some of our school activities for the week, and she was like, this is different from being a stay-at-home mom HOW?
And I was like 1) hmmm, well, I've never been a stay-at-home mom before, so I guess I'm not sure, and 2) hey, what's it like being so irritated by life all the time? Is your blood pressure real high, or what?
Really, just the word homeschooling seems to trigger dramatic reactions out of people. Either they think I make my children wear bonnets and churn their own butter, or they think I'm a braggy jerk who likes to falsely elevate Everyday Parental Nurturing with a fancy new name.
I don't much care what other people think about our maybe-homeschooling, maybe-not, but I am hopeful that we're making good use of this year. My goals have changed since we started this in September; initially I had lots of books and activities and structured things I did each day, now I'm much more apt to play things by ear. I let Riley take the lead—whatever he's super interested in, that's what we explore. Sometimes we spend the day making paper robots, sometimes we chart out the various attributes of his favorite X-Men. I don't know, I guess that's not homeschooling. Or maybe it is. Maybe it doesn't matter what the hell it's called, you know?
We decided not to start him in kindergarten this year because we didn't want him to be the very youngest kid in class. I knew he was plenty smart enough for school, but I was worried he wasn't quite mature enough. Since we've been doing our version of kindergarten, it finally occurred to me that the best thing I could do during this time is help him in those not-quite-ready areas.
Like working through the frustration that takes over when he messes up a letter, or can't immediately figure out how to draw what he wants. Or learning coping techniques for when he trips and hurts himself. Or finding a way to share a toy, or ask the questions he needs to about an unfamiliar situation to help lessen anxiety.
He's a bright and curious kid and if anything, I fret that plowing through lots of structured learning will make him bored next year. He can read, write, do basic math, tell time, everything you'd expect a kindergartener to know. We still work those things in, but I've come to believe it's less important to make sure we finish the Learn How to Identify Action Words! chapter in our books, and more useful to just go with the flow and focus on issues as they crop up. If in the course of a day screwing around with paints and looking up dinosaurs online we deal with a challenge, then talk through how to deal with it, I count that as a success on the education front.
Whatever it is that we're doing this year, I feel so lucky to have this time with him. Soon enough he'll be in a real school, where he'll be for the next ... well, who knows? Fifteen years, maybe?
I used to think how I couldn't wait for my kids to be in school. Now I wish it could always be like this: paper robots, superheros, lazy afternoons talking about anything and everything.