I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking about many things but mostly about my children and their future. You see, we have chosen to take a path that is much different than most families. I’ve been very cautious about what I say here on my blog, since in the back of my mind I often wonder what people will think or “what if they don’t agree” or I just don’t want any negativity that the internet and social media seem to attract so often. This whole blog and business thing almost didn’t happen since I am not a fan of technology. It may not seem that way, and I have changed my views slightly, but I just couldn’t deny that the internet has provided me with so many new resources and contacts, especially when it comes to the children’s homeschooling. So in the interest of being true to myself and not listening to all the “noise” around me, here is my first blog post of 2018.
We have chosen to educate our children at home but it wasn’t always the plan. When I had my first son, I fully intended to send him to school and return to my corporate job. As it turns out, leaving my child at daycare and going back to work was really hard. I mean really hard. I thought for sure that I would be that mom that loved being back at work but instead it felt completely unnatural and not like something I was supposed to be doing at all. When you have kids, you start to question a lot of things…things like how safe the food that they are eating is and what kind of people live in your neighbourhood. Sometimes all that questioning leads you down a rabbit hole that you can’t quite get out of and quite frankly you don’t even want to get out of. It led us to talking about homeschooling, but not just talking, researching and reading like crazy. We attended workshops and presentations and joined as many social media groups as we could, just to ask all of our questions or read about other people doing what we were thinking of doing. Now we are in it, not deep into it because our oldest child is still pretty young, but we have still taken steps that are solidifying our belief in our decision and the feedback we are getting from our oldest son is proof enough that we are on the right path. I sometimes feel the need to prove to people that we are doing the things we are supposed to be doing as homeschoolers but really, what are those things and who says we have to do them? Like anything in life, people have opinions about what and how you are supposed to be doing things. Sure, there are regulations to follow but most of the people telling you how you should be doing something haven’t even read them! I suppose that is a topic for another time since I am here to talk about one of the books that really got me thinking long and hard about what I wanted for my children’s education. The book is called Home Grown and it’s written by Ben Hewitt who is an author and farmer living in Vermont. I remember reading his book in about a day, I just couldn’t put it down and I’ve read it a few more times since. I will most likely read it again after writing this post. Each time, I seem to find something new that gets me thinking and exploring some other concept about the children and our home life. I’ve since read many other inspiring books about children and education but I always seem to come back to this one, perhaps because Ben is not trying to convince us of anything, he simply share’s his family’s adventures and discoveries. He talks about how uncomfortable it can sometimes be “living out-of-step with so many common goals and expectations.”(p.21, Home Grown) It’s easy to follow what everyone else is doing and just keep doing things because perhaps it’s easier or that’s just the way they have always been done. However, sometimes when you dare to do something differently, you make some amazing discoveries. Ben talks about how his children helped him realize that perhaps he does not “…stand apart; none of us do. We are all interconnected and interdependent, and because of this, we are all only as rich as we enrich those around us. I did not learn this in school. I learned it from my children.”(p.23-24, Home Grown)
“My children have enormous freedom to do as they please.
This is by design; we have engineered it into our lives,
the way most people make room for a career, or strategize their retirement.”
Ben Hewitt, Home Grown p.46
I am awakening to this idea that I don’t really need to do what other people expect of me or tell me to do. We have been “programmed”, so to speak, to think that the ideal situation is getting that cushy government job and cashing in at the end of it all. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I had a permanent government position for a little while, you know the one, with amazing benefits, vacation time, comfortable…cash for life I was told. I quit that job. Lots of people told me I would regret it, told me I was being foolish. I don’t regret it, not one bit. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life. If I would have stayed, by the time I had kids and had really started thinking about all this stuff, I would have been too far gone, too far into the job and the routine to feel like I could move at all. That’s the thing, we can get out any time but sometimes we are too far in, too far invested or maybe too far in debt. Teaching my children to think critically will not be easy but it will be worth it. I want them to question everything they are told and not simply take it for face value. At such a young age, they already question so much and I see the spark in their eyes and the love of learning. Our goal is to give them the freedom and the time to nurture those interests. Personally, I think that giving them time is the best thing we can do for them. Living a slow, purposeful and intentional life is a goal of mine and something I want to model for the children. We literally only have one shot at this whole parenting thing and for now I’m going to do my best to be the protector of childhood for my little ones. Last year, I admittedly got caught up in the busyness of life and lost sight of some of the values that I hold so dear. My family deserves better, my friends deserve better and I deserve better. There is no value in working so hard or being so busy that you miss what is going on within your own four walls. No money can ever buy back the time you spend with your children and family. To me, being there with my children while they make new discoveries and being available to answer their seemingly endless string of questions is of the utmost importance. I have heard it said many a time that homeschooling mom’s and dad’s are often told that they must have a lot of patience. Their response usually hints at the fact that we are given the same amount of patience as anybody else but we just learn to improve or work with it. Often times parents will get children out of the way so that they can finish important tasks around the house and yard but as hard as it is, involving the children in a task that would take you five minutes will be the ultimate learning experience for them. Children love to contribute and so far I have found out that the secret to breaking up fights in this house is to give everyone a “job” and then help them out separately. “Like all of us, children just want to be needed. It’s our job to make sure they actually are.” (p.104, Home Grown)
Deciding to homeschool is not easy, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. I am still working at finding an integration between school, work and taking care of the home but I don’t necessarily know that it can be easily found. Perhaps recognizing that things don’t have to be categorized as such and can simply complement each other, becoming regular parts of the day and learning experiences as you go along. So far, my oldest son is very much “in charge” of what he learns, I make suggestions, sign him up for classes and offer to teach lessons but what I have found to be working the best for him is when he comes up with the ideas. As most of you know, I have recently opened up the Owl Family Shop where I am making homemade essential oil diffuser bracelets and accessories. He has taken a keen interest in this process and has decided to make his own bracelets but with beads. He has asked me to show him the ins and outs for managing his money once he starts earning and also how he should set up his corner of the table at our upcoming vendor event. He is counting, comparing sizes and shapes, practicing his reading and writing and learning how to run a business. Learning takes place in so many different ways during our day and I am constantly amazed by it all.
I’ll close out this post with a reminder to you and to me…children are only children once. As much as they drive me bonkers I will want this time back. There will come a time when there is no more pitter patter or stomping down the hall. Those days will be gone. Like everything in life, things come to a close and move into a different season. My season of nurturing and growing my little seedlings will be long behind me and I want to know that I gave them the best imperfect version of myself for my children and my family are my greatest accomplishments to date. I will be that lady who comes up to you in the grocery store, telling you to cherish every moment, no matter how tiring, poopy and irrational. Just before I sat down to write this I read a friend’s recent Facebook post about her son’s birthday and how she now understand’s the sense of urgency in older women when they come up to you, telling you to enjoy every minute. Nothing can be more clear to me now as I rock my last baby to sleep. One day, I will do that for the last time and I won’t even know it.
I will leave you with two of my favourite quotes from the end of Ben’s book, Home Grown.
“If I could write the end of this book from that unknown place in the future, I would hope that the clarity of my beliefs regarding what is possible remains unclouded. I would hope that I could look back over my life and see that I had acted on those beliefs, even as the story of our time suggested I was foolish for having done so. I would hope that I hadn’t succumbed to cynicism, but instead has remained earnest, honest, grateful, and perhaps even naive in my dealings and interpretations of the world around me. I would hope that this would no longer feel like something to strive for, but rather something I had long ago attained. p.149
“What I do with my life—how I raise my children, how I engage with others and with the natural world, and how I pass my time—is an expression of my belief in what is possible. It is an expression of my vision for the world I wish to inhabit, and for the world I wish for my children to inhabit.” p.8
You can check out some of Ben’s other work and keep up with him over on his blog: https://benhewitt.net