Sunday, November 8, 2009

A candid moment with Helen (or strap yourself in, this is a long one!)........

Well, fourth term is wrapping up and we will have officially completed a year of homeschooling!!! It is a cause to celebrate, and a chance for me to review and rethink, re-evaluate and just plain old take stock.

And all I can say is WOW!!!!

I did not know, that when I posted at the beginning of the year, my decision to homeschool would bring about so many changes, and that God would really begin a work in me and in my life.

I have always admired homeschoolers, the closeness that seemed so obvious in their families. But I was of the mindset that I couldn't do it. I knew an extreme amount of patience and self-sacrifice was required, and those two aspects are not what I would call naturally mine.

I was relieved (and somewhat sad) when I enrolled Ellie at school - letting myself off the hook with the thought that it was a good, Christian school, and if she was to go anywhere, well obviously it was the best choice.

But homeschooling continued to be in the back of my mind.

At the centre of it all, was the fact that I want to have a very real relationship with my kids. I want to be involved in their lives. I want them to be able to talk to me about anything and everything.

For them to do that, I felt like I needed to be involved in every aspect of their lives. But already, with Ellie going to school, I felt like I was pushing her out the door in the morning, and then losing her for at least six hours of the day. After school it all seemed fraught with a desperate attempt to reconnect with her, do homework and get dinner on the table.

So,  I taught my daughter the art of wagging school -  not in the general sense of not going to school to do something deviant instead, but just to stay home with me and Harri, hanging out together.

They were the best of days....

At the end of last year, we made a lot of decisions as a family - we would leave QLD and head off travelling, eventually ending up down south to live closer to family. With that in mind, Nev and I settled on six months' worth of homeschooling while we travelled. We would work together as a team, each of us bringing something different to the whole experience.

Woohoo!!! I was so excited. With Nev's support and the joy of travelling together - well, it was going to be awesome.

But God had different plans. At a time where we felt a little bit lost and unsure, he found Nev an amazing job, and placed us amongst some people, who would help us to take a look at our lives and challenge us on a lot of issues.

Without Nev's hands-on role with homeschooling, I doubted that I could do it myself. Having already purchased the curriculum, and with a little voice inside my head saying "no matter, if it all goes completely to crap, you can still just enrol them in school down the track", I decided to just give it a go anyway.

I didn't realise though, that my heart and my attitude would need so much more work. I felt quite literally defensive about what I was planning to do. I almost felt like my back was up aganist the wall, like I had dug myself a hole, but dammit, I would continue none the less. I would not be seen as a failure now, not when so many others were doing it. Other people do this, so I can too!!

A battle was going on inside me - I was determined to not become one of these lovely women who believed this was their God-given calling to stay home and give everything of themselves to their families - even though I secretly admired them.

I would not start to wear aprons and a constant serene look on my face. I would not bake my own sourdough bread and keep chickens and plant vegetable patches and make furniture out of rough-hewn timber while bambi pranced on the lawn. I felt sure that these sorts of women were headed for some kind of breakdown, and that I would never match up to them, so why even try.

I would do things differently. I would not ask for help, I would struggle on regardless. I did not need to change, or learn to be selfless. I did not want it to become an all encompassing lifestyle, I just wanted it to be just another thing that I was doing.

It all started really well, as new things often do. It was different way of doing things, and the kids interest was infectious. We began very slowly with a very basic curriculum - purely a textbook style - and sorted out our daily routine.

Once we were comfortable with that, we began to add other things and try out stuff for ourselves. I was quite smug.

By half way through third term, I was completely exhausted. I began to snap at the children and was desperate for some time away from them. I resented Nev being away at work, and became extremely defensive that I was working harder than him.

Basically, I became quite bitter. I resented people who seemed to be homeschooling with such joy and ease, and even though I began to really dislike what we were doing, I refused to ask for help and advice. I felt lonely and isolated, frightened and forgotten.

I didn't like what I was becoming and I didn't like the way homeschooling (or at least my version) was heading.

Even though I was struggling, I was not prepared to give up - I mean, where could I send them to school anyway? I was fairly sure that I couldn't let them go, but what I was doing with them, just wasn't working.
I knew I wanted to run a lot of questions past someone with a lot of experience and a genuine love for her family and homeschooling. Somebody who understood the struggles, and would encourage me to keep on ploughing through them.

And isn't it amazing that God knows who we need, right at the moment we need them the most!! My thoughts turned to friends who had homeschooled for years, and although they had moved away, stayed in contact through this blog. (Yes you, Kayleen - thankyou, thankyou for being so encouraging!!!)

My head also began to get around the fact that (I know that this is completely obvious to quite a few people) you only get out what you put in - and to be honest, I had been relying a lot on the text books to do the teaching, even though part of me was rebelling against the monotonous, repetitiveness of a lot of it.

I began to seek other curriculum, and to do something I hadn't done at the beginning - research homeschooling. (Yeah I know - duh!!!)

A great deal of my life has been done with the "fly by the seat of my pants" attitude, and I believe that homeschooling was just another thing that I under-prepared for.

I also took (just for the sake of it) a questionnaire through Google of all places - "do you think you should homeschool" - vaguely petrified of the answer! And what did I get but a 98% response that "yes, you should give it a go"! Funny where encouragement comes from sometimes!

But through all of this, there was a still small voice calling me to "be still and know that I am God". I began to see that maybe, just maybe, my calling as a woman, is to be a homeschooler. That my identity can be found in this and His plan for me and my family.

I am making a lot of changes for next year, right down to curriculums and even registering with the government as a home schooling family. We will experiment with stuff, be much more hands-on, and go out an experience a whole lot more. And I will continue to pray, that God will continue to mold me into the person He wants me to be, and the person that I need to be, to experience "life to the full".

I may not ever wear a look of complete serenity, but I have to admit there is a part of me that really likes aprons (floral pattern with a bit of ribbon - ssshh!) and quite likes the idea of chickens and a vegie patch. I am in awe of a God who has brought me on this trip and has held on tight to me, when I thought I was definitely going under.

Anyway, gotta go. It looks like Bambi has poohed on the lawn again..........


jenb said...

Wow, what a journey. Now I have to add you to the list of people I just will never be like, they're just too good at life... just kidding I think. Anyhow, talk to you soon. Luv ya.

Kaylene said...

Helen, thank you for being honest and sharing a glimpse of your struggles this year. Sounds like you're on a great journey with your family and God.

Mary Witzl said...

Good for you, for seeing home-schooling through as far as you have. None of the people I know who home-school their kids do it with effortless joy, though. I have a feeling that some out there are feel that it's wrong to whine about their frustrations and difficulties. That makes ordinary mortals nervous that they're doing something wrong.

Narelle said...

You have been awarded the homeschool mum of the week award - an apron! It also comes with a recipe for sour dough bread and a Bambi pooper scooper!
Love to you xxx