Let’s put aside Pinterest and Facebook, even Instagram! Let’s put aside the bright photographs of smiling children and talk about reality. Homeschooling 4 children with tornado toddler hanging off my legs is far less glamorous than I would have you believe. I wish I had it all together, the perfect children with the perfect curriculum with the perfect balance between home and school and work! [tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]I wish I had it all together, but alas, I am but a floundering fish in the sea of my own chaos![/tweetthis]
If you are looking for a little reality, grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and join me on my sofa. The leather one that is a bit worse for the wear as I take you on a walkthrough of my home… my life… my chaos.
Welcome to my house!
I welcome you in my front door which is so narrow you can hardly rotate your body to close the door behind you. There is sand and grass and dirt lining the stairs that go to the main floor and basement (split level entry). Yes, I vacuum them every day, but my front grass is a marsh and we live on the ocean where sand and mud are our constant companions so the grit has become a sort of begrudging associate in our lives. I usher you up the stairs, hoping–praying even, that you won’t want to see the school room in the basement. My kitchen counters are full of dishes, my table has been colored on, the finish is wearing and it feels permanently sticky. My chairs are guaranteed to have some forgotten morsels from breakfast or lunch clinging tenuously between the bars. I will try to avoid the kitchen area and bring you directly to my living room.
My couch, the nicest piece of furniture I own, is relatively new. We bought it about a year ago and it is a nice chocolate brown leather sectional. I am proud of it, until you sit down and I see the pen mark behind your right shoulder and the sticky fingerprints just a little to your left. I try to navigate through conversation while these remembrances of my children scream like a siren in my ear, trying to throw me off course. I hope desperately you won’t release the footrest on your side of the sectional as I try to remember the last time I went treasure hunting under the sofa. Mere minutes after sitting down, my delightful children begin to interrupt. My toddler waddles in and wants to be held, she’s going through some sort of shy season in her life. I pick her up and hold her on my lap, feeling any sense of control over our afternoon visit rapidly slipping through my fingers. She pacifies herself by pushing the button on my Fitbit while contentedly sucking on her thumb. I try to remember if I put on antiperspirant this morning.
We begin talking about school, and I feel myself turning on autopilot. I can do this! This is my happy place! We discuss curriculum and you ask me what my school day looks like. I see your hopeful eyes, looking for me for the answers. I know you want to hear about my rigid schedules and accomplished day. I feel like a huge disappointment to share my reality and yet I know that is what you need to hear. No, our days are not super structured, some days we don’t get a whole lot done! Some days are hard, my school room is such a mess right now we can hardly navigate through it. It’s chaos speaks to the fact that we have been sick for nearly a month. The room has become a dumping ground of sorts. The kids have been making crafts and coloring pictures while mommy cares for little ones or sleeps off a fever on the couch.
What does a school day look like?
My kids watch movies, quite a bit I might add! They play their iPads, they play outside in the forest and build forts. They jump on the trampoline and ride their bikes. They play Minecraft and make believe with their siblings. There is a lot of freedom in our house, and a HUGE lack of structure. I have enough books and curriculum and resources to start a small school and yet many of them sit untouched as we just live life together as a family. We do school as it works, when we are healthy and the sun is hiding behind clouds of mist. But when the sun comes out, we hop in the van and take off to go treasure hunting for agates on the beach! We explore, we live, we laugh, we play, we grow and learn together and nearly all of that happens without any curriculum!
You see, when I was homeschooling 1 child, it was very different. I had all the answers and I played school. It was fun for me, but it was not fun for him. I watched the light die in his eyes a little bit each day. I started off the year with my little boy so eager to do school with mommy and I ended it with a boy who hated school. I fought him to do his lessons and was hard on him when he made mistakes. I had high expectations and pushed him to his full potential and though he learned much and he learned quickly, he did it only because it was required of him. He did it to please me. He didn’t own it, he didn’t find joy in it, he didn’t choose it. Find out what changed our minds here.
So what does homeschooling 5 kids really look like? It’s messy! It’s chaotic! It’s highly unstructured! It means a lot of discussions in the car or while watching a movie that interests us and a lot of freedom to make mistakes and learn through life together. It means sticky fingerprints and felt marker stains on my table. It means artwork proudly taped up all over the house that my kids are free to create at any time. Often it looks like a busy, frazzled mom with a toddler on her hip and the kids simply have to create their own fun together! It means listening to them play make believe games with their made up characters and hearing them whisper and giggle throughout the house. It means exploration and self-discovery. And it means more love and a deeper relationship as a family than I could have ever imagined for us!