Schoolish Thoughts: Hey, Jen Hatmaker!

School, from The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

I just finished reading a blog about the worst end of the school year mom ever(Which is hilarious, by the way; go on-click on that link. Click it!) Jen is a woman with whom I can completely sympathize, and it occurs to me: maybe she should try homeschooling. Then, that awful public-school mad dash to the finish line won’t be an issue at all. One of the greatest perks of homeschooling is…

The End-of-the-Year-Fade-Out.

Cuz’, baby, if you home-school, you get to fade into the warm June sunset. We sort of ooze from April to May, and then slide nice and slow from May into June, where we end up more or less napping in the backyard with a book in our laps.

Home-schoolers, for all of their awful righteous indignation and irritating moral superiority, often discover a perk of the lifestyle that’s A Dirty Little Secret: homeschooling often eliminates a lot of sociological stress. The pressures of one-upping Suzy Supermom, who spends two hours every morning making her six perfectly-coiffed daughters’ tofu and bean-sprout sandwiches on twelve-grain homemade bread cut into the shape of beautiful butterflies (complete with antennae), just aren’t there. There is no morning R. Lee Ermey-esque drill sergeant routine (“Where’s your backpack, maggot?!?”) The end of the school year includes no weird projects, socially obligatory gifts, fundraisers (still-dear God will they ever end? sigh…). I never have to make cupcakes for thirty homeroom classmates, three of whom are allergic to eggs, two who must eat gluten-free, and one poor punkin’ whose mama won’t let him have anything that wasn’t grown on a pesticide-free family farm. Not to mention the never-ending oceans of permission slips and other assorted papers I never have to sign, or the myriad stresses that accompany oral presentations due two days before school lets out. We don’t have to deal with any of that crap.

We just fade out. It’s fantastic.

My kids ease into their school days. They have never had to race around like crazed wildebeests running from famished predators in order to get to school on time. They just turn off Batman-The Animated Series and move into the dining room, turn on Pandora to their favorite station (Halo music), and finish up whatever’s left to do, which today includes a page or two in a critical thinking workbook, a detailed map of Russia and the surrounding areas, and an essay.

There’s no crazed search for clean uniform pants or matching socks: we school barefoot. We don’t settle for a cold pop-tart we barely have time to fly through the kitchen to grab, as though the room were some sort of drive-thru. We read and analyze  poetry in our jammies while eating An Actual Breakfast. Together. At the breakfast table. At nine in the morning. 

The societal demands and pressures that come with education  outside the home just don’t exist here. Status and cliques and bullies and peer pressure, while still a part of their lives, are largely absent from their education, and so the kids don’t experience the stress that comes with connecting those things, which is one reason I personally think a lot of kids hate school. The kids work at their own pace, oblivious to the fact that in some areas they have flown past their peers and in other areas they’re moving a bit slower. They could care less that someone in their peer group is wearing new hundred-dollar kicks while they have to settle with something mom found on a clearance-rack. While they do miss out on hearing the riveting oral presentations on bats or the Eisenhower administration or the Cretaceous Period and group projects in which they get points for participating orally (read: throw out whatever idea pops into your head, regardless of its value or relevance), but not necessarily for contributing anything of value, they do compete with themselves and with each other. For us, this laid-back learning environment works.

The school year around here doesn’t actually have A Definite Cut-Off Date: the kids just work until they’re done. The boys have actually been done with math and science for several weeks. (Although they’ve pulled out several books on geology and continue to read those for *fun*. Which thrills me to no end.) The girl finished her history and literature studies back before Christmas, which has freed her up to study other things. I find the kids reading “school” books in June, conducting science experiments in July, and reciting poetry they memorized completely by accident in August. (Eric’s been running around reciting Jabberwocky for weeks. In a British accent: “Twas brillig and the slithy toves…” I had no idea he even knew that one. He learned it completely on his own,with some help from his big brother.) And, we’re always reading a book or two aloud together, regardless of what the calendar says. That thing’s not the boss of us.

I'm not saying life's completely devoid of stress...

I’m not saying life’s completely devoid of stress, but we’ve eliminated a smidge of it…

Our educational choices aren’t going to fit everyone, but they do fit us, and they provide an environment here at home that we crave: simplicity. There’s a peace in the fading, and a gentleness to the pace of our days.

And, there’s this: the best thing about homeschooling is that we don’t stop in June and start in September. We are always schooling, because learning is our way of life.

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." -Mark Twain

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

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7 Responses to Schoolish Thoughts: Hey, Jen Hatmaker!

  1. I often enjoy your posts and especially liked this one. As a teacher, my personal hell is hoping I can get my students through all the learning I have planned for these these final weeks. I often compare homeschooling to what happens in my classroom, because I admire the laid-back yet challenging style I see there. And I love Calvin and Hobbes. Wish I could connect the three as nearly as you did.

    • rodalena says:

      I have a deep admiration for classroom educators: I find it impressive to the point of awe-inspiring that one human being can educate and often even inspire thirty or so young minds all at once. I have three minds in my care, and I feel my inadequacies all the time. Thanks for being in that classroom. It’s a noble thing you do.

  2. indytony says:

    We (and when I say “we” I mean “my wife”) home-schooled our oldest two daughters and it went fantastically well. They are now wonderfully unique, passionate, confident, faithful young women.

    “But Tony,” (I can hear my mother say) “it’s great that you can home-school and all, but what do you do for socialization?”

    “Well, if you mean by ‘socialization’ – ‘when do we confine them to a pack of single-aged peers whose minds are morphed by the media and who are prescribed copious amounts of psychotropics to improve their performance’ – no, we don’t do that. We take them out into the world and let them explore real people.”

    Great post.

    • rodalena says:

      Socialization is such a weird concept. I figure if you can get along with, and hold your own against, your siblings, you can effectively interact with pretty much anybody. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comment, Tony.

  3. Legume says:

    We fade into summer. That sums it up perfectly, Ro. :) I always say that we go, and then run out of gas some time in June when the weather beckons us to do something else. Of course, not all homeschoolers operate like that. Many can relate to Jen Haymitch’s post about all the end of year activity. When we were part of a Co-Op I always thought that December classes and anything after April was a waste of time. Unfortunately, not all the mom’s felt the same so we dealt with the last minute needs like a costume that no one really wants to make or wear, or the Uncrustables for lunch from the freezer section of the grocery store on the way to Co-Op; salsa and chips are a good snack to tide up over until we get some real food. All I know is that I don’t want to go to that indoor place anymore this month. Perhaps we can meet at the beach next session? :) I have coined a time in our year called “May Mode,” where we put aside the annoying things that hold us back from doing the school we really want to do, and concentrating on finishing up other things and ending, or slowing down, or school year. We take that time to go to the movies, on field trips, and plays. Why can’t we school like this all year, right? I actually think my kids learn better and more during May Mode. Go figure.

    • rodalena says:

      The pace does vary, and that’s good: it’s important to learn to work under a bit of pressure. But, I’m a big fan of “May Mode.” Enjoy the Fadeout, Legume, and give my best to all those Beans. :)

  4. Pingback: Schoolish Thoughts: Doors | rodalena

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