9.07.2017

our transition from cyber to independent homeschooling

Oh my gosh y'all, I am so excited about this new school year! We are two weeks in and having so much fun. Toward the end of the last school year I started reading more about Charlotte Mason (CM). I've known about the method for years, but didn't know much about it. All I knew was that my mom had The Original Homeschool Series written by Charlotte herself on her bookshelf, and that I had a friend who was a CM graduate, and she was intelligent, well-spoken, a critical thinker, and just an all-around lovely person whom I really admired. When I started listening to these amazing, insightful, and delightful podcasts at the website A Delectable Education, I had the realization that everything I loved about homeschooling when I was young were things my mom took as inspiration from Charlotte Mason. I became enamored and completely hooked on the idea of quitting everything we were doing in homeschool so far and completely rely on the CM method for our next school year.

I grappled with this decision for four months. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Calvert curriculum had been good to us; there was no denying that. River went from being able to read simple, three-letter words to reading on a third grade level in 6 months, and I didn't find it entirely insufferable (I never saw myself as a curriculum type homeschooler). But there was a lot in the curriculum, and it was tedious, exhausting, full of pages upon pages of seat work, and took over 3-4 hours to complete if we followed it to a tee (which we did... for about two months). I wasn't a fan of the math program they offered, and as someone with a legitimate phone phobia, I grew a little tired of the phone calls every two weeks from the school, asking how River was doing. My thought was always, "You see he's acing his tests. He's in cyber class once a week. Why are you calling me?!"

It would have been easy to stay in Calvert. It was a program that was completely free. They sent all the supplies to us, including a laptop. Paper, pencils, textbooks, workbooks, tests, laptop, PE equipment. All I had to do was scan his tests in once a month and upload them to the site. But even that little bit of oversight, with the calls and emails, grew wearisome. I wanted independence. Less expectations from people who are not in my children's lives and know nothing about them, because River's name was just letters in a system.

There were some positives to the curriculum, of course. Besides what I've already mentioned, following the curriculum showed me two things: one, that my son was learning. At home. With daily work. I was seeing progress on a daily basis! And two: that I could do this. I was doing it.

But could I do it without guidance? Without phone calls from teachers checking in? Without a lessons planned out by someone else? I've never doubted my ability to teach; I've doubted my ability to stay focused. To stay on track. To raise an academically successful child, despite my own struggle to stay focused in school and college myself. It's not that I don't believe I am intelligent and capable... it's that my brain is always at odds with me, and the question of whether or not my brain and body connection will cooperate.

Armed with the evidence of River's progress, and the information I read that led me to believe a more relaxed homeschool environment was just what we needed, I emailed our advisor through PA Cyber and told her we were pulling him out. Perpetually fearful of nearly everything, I thought I would receive backlash, confusing paperwork, or some sort of questionnaire asking why we were leaving. Nothing of the sort! She emailed me back and told me good luck and that she was sending me a shipping label for the computer. At that moment, I sighed a breath of relief and felt both a weight off my shoulders, and a lightness in the thrill of realizing what I'd just done. We were no longer tethered to a system; no longer did I have the feeling of other people breathing down my neck, peeking in at my child's education. Freedom!

(By the way, if you're reading this and you happen to be thinking of joining PA Cyber, they definitely did not breath down my neck. That's just how I felt because of my personality and need for independence in homeschooling. They were great and supportive! And besides the twice-a-month phone calls, I was not badgered about anything, ever.)

Summer was a relaxing time. I'd spent so much energy listening to podcasts, reading blog posts and articles about Charlotte Mason, researching different lessons plans from Ambleside Online to Simply Charlotte Mason, and I came to a point where I was tapped out. I felt prepared enough for the time being. I'd literally spent full-time hours researching and planning for the past few weeks, and had put together a schedule and booklist on the computer, along with ideas of what I wanted to do that school year. I picked out a math program and decided what book I wanted to be our "spine" in history. I felt as ready as I could be, three months before the next school year. But oh my goodness, did summer pass quickly.

Before I knew it, it was two weeks until the first day of school, and I hadn't even opened my documents on the computer to go over my ideas, much less make a lesson plan for the first week! I was aware there was a deadline. I knew our school room wasn't organized. Heck, I hadn't even ordered any books. I felt that there was some sort of stress that I should be feeling, but every time I pondered the challenge that lay ahead and me and tried to conjure those familiar feelings of anxiety, they were not there. But in a few short days, I still scrambled. I tried to come up with the "perfect" school schedule. I doubted my choice of math program and considered changing the curriculum at the last minute. I tore apart all the shelves and baskets in attempts to get everything ready. And then, someone posted this magical video in a Facebook group I am apart of. And if there was an inkling of even feeling guilty about not feeling anxious, it was gone. If you are a homeschool mom, I highly encourage you to watch it!



As the first day of school approached, this time it was so very different from the last. I didn't feel the almost physical pressure mounting in my chest. I didn't have a nervousness of meeting expectations, of proving I was capable of giving my son a "perfect" education. (Mamas, there is no such thing as perfect. Not even public schools can teach a child everything there is to know, or everything they need to know.) I felt content. I felt... confident. Do you know when I have ever felt confident in my life? I'm not sure I can even share one instance. But y'all, I felt it. And I felt free.

And so, here we are. We are two weeks into school. Some days we have been up by 7, our morning flows smoothly, I sip my coffee for two hours and we begin and 9 am, and we are done with everything just in time for me to make lunch. Other days we have slept late, we did half of our school at 11, and then we did math just before dinner at 5pm. And you know what River told me after we cracked open his new math book and had finished a full week of school? "I love this school! We should do this kind of school forever."

He loves it because there is no pressure to perform. There is no test to tell him his worth. But I know his worth. I'm not only his teacher, I am his mother, and while I teach, I still must mother. It's not my responsibility to bark out orders, make sure he's following a schedule, make sure he spits out correct information by a certain day in a certain month, or even that his hair looks nice when he comes to school. It's my responsibility to nurture his mind, to create an enriching environment, and to make an emotional connection with him. To make him feel safe and accepted, no matter where he is in life, or in academics.

For the record, I also love this school and want to do it forever. Maybe in a few months, the pressure of homeschooling just right or in a certain way will rear its head again. Maybe I'll get overwhelmed with three kids at home and my spirit will grow tired. Maybe we'll struggle through a book and I'll question everything, and I'll consider packing them up and sending them all to school. But I hope I remember, despite those feelings and challenges, that today I have made the right decision, and remember that at home, they aren't just being schooled. They are being nurtured.

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