When we began homeschooling I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t see how I could do it. I closed my studio. I set up a space in our home so that I could continue to run my business. I told myself we would take each day as though it were one small baby step at a time. I reminded myself when I began to hyperventilate from panic and fear that I just needed to concentrate on today and not the rest of our lives. When my anxiety felt too difficult to manage I focused on the next moment. I wrote lists, I purchased an old fashioned day calendar to write out subjects we would cover each day. And then I sat down with Emma. I asked her whether she thought homeschooling was a good idea.
Emma typed, “You believe in me and once creating versions of getting the truth, I am able to go far.”
I said, and I’m not exactly proud of my need for reassurance that she understood, but I said it anyway, “You realize it means you will not go back to school, right?”
Emma wrote, “Yes. Taking my awesome nice teacher named mom what cabaret kind of life awaits me, I can only guess.” A little later she wrote, “Know that love teaches more than doubt.”
I asked Emma how she wanted to do all of this.
She typed, “make a schedule mapping out lots of topics both written and spoken.” Then she shocked me by writing, “sometime I want to learn another language, how about german?”
“Wow! Seriously?” I asked.
So here we are some eight months in and we are still finding our footing. Each day is slightly different. I still rely heavily on that old fashioned calendar where I fill in what we are working on and for how long. Every morning I ask Emma for her input as to what she wants to learn. I still, occasionally, feel I’m not doing enough. I still, though far less frequently, find myself panicking and wondering how we are going to do this. I still, though rarely, wonder if what we are teaching is enough. But through out these last eight months, I have never felt so sure of anything we’ve done as this decision to homeschool.
As many of you know I am no stranger to regret. Homeschooling is not on that list. In fact, the only regret I have about homeschooling is that we didn’t do this sooner.
We have been blessed with a couple of wonderful family members who volunteer their time via Skype and one non-family member who teaches Emma literacy. At the moment Emma is ripping through Act 4 of Romeo and Juliet. Her sessions with K. are a highlight of her week. K. tirelessly and enthusiastically comes to our home with new ideas of how Emma can make notes on text so that she can later cite parts of the play to back up her answers to questions like: “At the end of Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet is of two minds about what has happened. What are some words that demonstrate her split thinking?”
Together K. and Emma are exploring “writing craft” and delving into language, tension, foreshadowing, story arc and character development. We use Khan Academy, Brain Pop, books, lots and lots of books and the internet to research and learn, as well as Rosetta Stone for German. I also am using Duolingo to supplement Rosetta Stone for German, but Emma is not yet able to use it as it relies too much on writing. The beauty of Rosetta Stone is that it relies on pointing to images to match text primarily. In addition, we have a Graduate Student who comes to work on art and Emma is taking ceramics, swimming/diving, gymnastics and piano and guitar lessons.
We have created a little nook devoted to various materials we use for lessons and while it’s usually in a state of complete disarray, there is some semblance of order, even if only to me and Emma. The single most essential item other than the keyboard and stand for the iPad in the photograph below is the Timed Timer. Without it we would be lost. Emma explained to me that when I forget to put on the timer she is filled with rising panic and anxiety. She told me that without a visual timer, “time can stand still, while anxiety pushes all out of its way.” We now own three different sizes of the Timed Timer, though Emma’s preference is the largest one they have, twelve inches, for our home sessions.