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Homeschooling Gratitude for a Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving! Or if you share the idiom of my children, it’s Turkey Day. They call it like they see it and state their goals clearly. Time to give thanks for the bounty that is my peculiar life and appreciate that what I plan usually comes to fruition in dynamic color taking unexpected shape and form.

To be a mom is to embrace adaptability. Learning that what works today will pretty much be guaranteed to fall in a sprawling heap on the floor tomorrow thankfully came quick to me. Holding on to the constant that my life will continually change has kept me going through all of the surprises and opportunities and challenges that being a mom and a homeschooling mom has afforded.

When I started homeschooling in 2005, I thought it would be me and the kids snuggled in books until they graduated high school. It was a lovely vision that was fairly close to reality. We were working our way through Spanish and Language Arts and Social Studies and Math in a generally forward progression with many field trips and tangents and digressions from the structure of those snugly books and that suited me fine.

My kids are fun people to be around. We enjoyed learning about film canister rockets at the Children’s Museum and bringing that activity home. Playing Space Quest (board game) was a weekly test of our solar system savvy. Exploding sandwich bags in the backyard in the name of science was a blast (ba-dum-bum).

On New Year’s Eve 2007 my husband came home from work, early. I was talking on the phone to my step-mother telling her how rewarding the last week had been getting all my photo albums up to date – for the first time. My youngest was going to start preschool the next week and my Monday’s were precisely planned to be spent writing from 9:30am – 2:30pm. Corporate holiday cheer was not the reason for the early arrival. Corporate reaction to impending economic crisis was the reason. He was laid-off. Now what?

Working part-time at the natural food store for the past seven years, I had an income, albeit small. The holiday provided us a day of strategy to plan what 2008 was going to look like. Getting to work early for my next shift I begged, pleaded and planted my feet until I could get more hours. It was actually easier than that. My hours at work increased, my homeschooling time decrease and my writing day evaporated.

Months later my husband was still looking for work while the nightly news showed the unemployment numbers rising. The outlook was bleak and, gosh it’s now November 2011 and the outlook isn’t much brighter. It was time for us to initiate Plan B where I would step into work full-time and my husband would commit to homeschooling full-time.

Honestly, I felt some relief. Going into the adult world full-time was an intellectual thrill. By enrolling my daughter in preschool I was giving myself permission to write and creating a space where I could write uninterrupted. Perhaps my thinking was that if I didn’t see a way to write more then I could embrace working outside the home and fulfill my creative cup in a different way.

Success found me eager to work more hours, take-on more responsibility, and move into management. With a promotion, I firmly embraced working and cut the cord on homeschooling. That was all in my husband’s hands.

Boys are so different from girls. A homeschooling dad is a different animal than a homeschooling mom. I couldn’t be both the homeschooling parent and the working parent so I had to let go. There was blood. There were tears. And, oh my, there were doubts. I had to let go and it was painful. My husband and I swapped roles: I was worked out of the house full-time and he was the homeschooler with a part-time job.

It was also liberating. They were OK doing things differently than I would choose. My way was not the only way and the world did not end if things didn’t go the way I wanted. In fact, the three of them did pretty darn good. I could have been morose over losing the role of homeschooler but I was successful at work and I found that I could be happy in this new career.

A year and a half of being taught by their father and my kids were still doing well in school. There was no loss of reading skills, there was no stoppage of learning, there were no voids in education. They were smart and capable and connecting with their father.

Another promotion and a new store later, I was even further removed from home. Another school year came along and my daughter was struggling with reading. Starting first grade, she was behind where my son was at the same age however he’s an avid reader. Maybe she needed more time. She tried to read Put Me in The Zoo out loud to me before work one morning and she couldn’t remember the same word on a different page. By page four she wanted to be done with the book, it was too hard. Something was off.

An hour of tests at the vision therapist yield the diagnosis that her tracking is not what it should be. She was seeing a line of words as a continuous line of letters with no breaks. How the heck can anyone learn how to read like that? She had a hard time deciphering the letters as a word and she couldn’t remember the meaning of what she could decipher from page to page.

My daughter was struggling to read and my husband had to learn how to work with her at home to overcome it. He took on the task and worked with her daily for the rest of the school year. By the end of the school year, the book that had been so hard to read was a breeze. She snuggled up to me and read it with confidence. And I didn’t have anything to do with the work in between. My job had become so demanding that I hardly noticed the school year had gone by. I did notice that Kait and her dad had worked hard and put in incredible effort and she was becoming a reader.

This round of letting go wasn’t so much of a constitutional challenge and way to grow through the change. I had let go because I was no longer involved. It hurt. I was missing my kids. I was missing my family. My family was growing around me and I was hard pressed to notice much of it. And I was no longer happy. The intellectual thrill was a stress headache. The joyful change in responsibility was a weight on my shoulders. All these things were keeping me away from my kids. I made a choice to change.

There was no outside factor to initiate the change. This time, I had to make the decision and take the leap of faith to create a positive change. My work was no longer fulfilling, I longed to make my passion a priority and I wanted to be with my family again. I chose to step away from my full-time job in a dire economy. It was a crazy choice. My husband, thankfully, received more hours and then a promotion.

It’s been three months now and we are fully into the school year. I’m getting to know my children again, getting to know their strengths and wishes and the little things that make us all giggle all over again. And I am able to write everyday, more words that I ever thought I could.

Homeschooling has provided our family a base from where we seek out to find balance. I am with my children more and it is a joy. This monumental journey over the course of six years has taken us to new places in our lives, in our minds and in our hearts. The kids and I are more connected and I can listen to their chatty stories of life with renew interest and participation.

I am thankful for the opportunities that homeschooling has opened for my family and for the stability it has provided us along our bumpy road. Most of all, I’m thankful that I get to be more present with my precious children. This week my daughter has said she wants to learn how to make the stuffing with me. It will be a pleasure and an honor to teach her.

Heather Ruch
Author: Heather Ruch

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  1. What a journey you’ve been on but it’s inspiring to see how you’ve made it work. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Heather, I loved your post! Good for you in taking the leap of faith and I am so happy it all worked out. It sounds like your kids are very lucky! I work with many homeschool families and always am inspired by the time and committment you show to your children’s education! Good work!

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