And So Here It Is

I have been digesting all of your thoughts (plus all of my thoughts that your thoughts stirred up) since my Dazed and Crazed post, asking about your experience with choosing schooling for you child, and I am finally ready to respond. If you haven’t had a chance to read all the comments on that topic, I encourage you to take a peek now (click on the link in that first sentence)…there’s a motherload (pun intended) of wisdom in there.

I have made the decision. Notice I did not say “we”. Jeff and I realized early on that the decision to homeschool/unschool or not was up to me….I’m the one who has time to do the research, I’m the one with teaching experience and I’m the one who would be primarily implementing any decision we made. I’ve had a lot in my lap, and mostly I’ve just been sifting it around in a slightly overwhelmed way.

Truth be told, I’ve known since I was a very young woman that I wanted to homeschool my kids. Here is a great quote from Marybeth

i’m not NOT schooling based on fear. sorry for the double negatives, and defensiveness. it always seems to be assumed that we’re making this choice because of x y z about school we don’t like or things we fear about how our son will turn out or what he will be exposed to, etc… nope, the way we look at it, we LIKE this, so we CHOOSE this. 

I am a natural born teacher. When I worked at a middle school as a Drama teacher with an emergency credential, the principal literally begged me to go forward with getting a “real” credential. I don’t say this to brag, I say it because if you have ever seen me in action with kids, it’s obvious that teaching is one of my gifts. It makes sense then that I would organically want to share this gift with my own child.

Intuitively, I’ve known that this is the path we should take. Intellectually, I have a habit of getting in my own way by not trusting said intuition. Fortunately, I now know the warning signs when I am turning a blind eye to innate wisdom and I can catch myself. I began to recognize the futile turning of cogs in my brain around the schooling subject as overthinking. Checking back in with myself, the answer was obvious. I want to homeschool.

What is not clear is how to go about it. Homeschool for the early childhood days, then private/Waldorf/Montessori/Reggio/Charter it? Unschool all the way? Let my daughter choose when she gets to a certain age (this is already a “Yes”)? Here are some of the ways I am inspired by the way other readers are navigating the journey:

our approach embodies a little bit of all of it. and we are quite lucky with our public school at the moment. 22 kids in all, k-5 in a 100 year old school house with two rooms up in the high hills. kind-of dreamy. kind of makes us pinch ourselves to check if this is real?? and then max, well, you know, he needs tons of extra support. so can you say costly private tutoring with specialists that blow me away with their skills? we have had them all go to a buddhist preschool once or twice a week as youngsters. ~heather

i dislike the notion that i cannot continue to add to my childs education while they ALSO go to school. i spend the part of the day when my kid is not at preschool hanging out with him, reading, teaching, doing art. he can have BOTH a formal education AND a hands on education at home. ~brigit

We are part of a homeschool co-op of families that meets each week. I’m teaching a class this session on Native American and Appalachian history and culture to a group of 7 boys! Last week we made stone necklaces and this week we are making baskets. The parents offer a class they are interested in teaching and the children choose which class they want to take that session. We love our diverse group of families.
We use several blogs as inspiration for activities, including Waldorfy blogs. We also have used some curriculums to get ideas and information from. I would NOT recommend Live Ed as a curriculum. It is very purist and overwhelming to follow, plus it’s expensive and they do not allow you to return it. Iwas able to borrow it from a friend. We like Little Acorn Learning (young ones) and Earthschooling (K-8). Both are wonderful in that you can easily follow the curriculum and the moms who wrote them are extremely helpful. –Jennifer Miller

i revisited my first instinct: waldorf. i visited both the public school and private school in our area. i immediately loved the public waldorf, but i knew that our chances of getting in we slim at that point. i visited the private waldorf and felt my self saying “no no no” at many a corner (based on teaching staff, as opposed to curriculum), but decided to pursue it as a backup plan, anyway. long story short, by late summer both kids had been accepted into the public waldorf (phew).
it has only been two months since we started in waldorf, but it has been a world of change. our entire family unit is far more relaxed and happy, and the kids still continue to blossom intellectually. ~Nicole

– i have many things that i worry about with waldorf education. none of them are coming up in my reality today. most of them are fears of the future. we will cross those bridges when we come to them. i dont care what anyone says about them. i cant listen to their fears because after all these are my kids, not theirs. ~The Other Mary (whose entire comment is so rich with information that I adore her even more than before)

Back to why I chose our charter school… the charter was written with an agricultural emphasis. The school is set in the midst of grape farms and is 20 minutes away. Our local elementary public school is about 2 blocks away. See?? HYPOCRITE. However, my children are experiencing project based learning (field trip to a grape harvest anyone?), they have a full time music teacher who follows the same philosophies I do, a Learning Garden, small, diverse community, with a beautiful “back yard”. For me this is heaven. Downside: it’s exclusive in that not everyone can get in otherwise the school would be HUGE, so they have a lottery and a waiting list. It’s so sad that public education has lost so much of what other schools (charters) are able to do. ~Kristin (who is a public school teacher and rather than being the “hypocrit” she claims to be by sending her kids to a charter, it is just as she said herself…FIRST she is a mom, SECOND she is a professional. She is also not the only public school teacher who’s stories of the system have only served to solidify my knowing that public school is not the route I want to go.)

My children LOVE their school, they are getting experiences and knowledge that I am thrilled with, they learn to navigate the things that may not be perfect in their school, life , etc, just like we all do in life. Their teachers love them – truly love them. We were very lucky with our teachers. And it is a wonderful community. I feel if you are looking for everything to be exactly how you want it to go – it could turn into a detriment to the child. We are making the best choices we can for our children when they are babies and help them navigate the rest – why should school be any different? ~somesortagirl

I happend upon Waldorf and it was so clearly the path for us, by seeing how Madeleine thrived and bloomed with it. I love it as a way of educating and cant imagine doing things another way right now. Its become an amazing part of our lives and though I am not an anthroposophist, I see lots of wisdom in there, and use what works for us, as I do with buddhism and Christianity too, and whatever else works for us. I leave out what doesn’t and if I have any issues, I speak with her teacher about it. We are so lucky to have an amazing teacher, who M adores and when I walk out the gate of the kindergarten each morning, I know I am placing her in a good place. She is learning so much through song and play and developing her body and mind. Its all working its magic through movement and being outdoors. M is more connected with nature then I ever was, and so in harmony with the woods where we live. I look at her all the time, thinking how blessed we are, that I can give her this much. ~Elizabeth

Also, another benefit of homeschool/unschooling is that you can make your own blend. I too am not comfortable with some of the hardcore stricter aspects of Waldorf and Montessori, but I love many things about both. So I blend bits of both into our day and rhythm while adhering to our own hearts and minds only. Trust be told, I love the aesthetics the most for both of those learning mediums. But I can’t stand following rules of any kind it seems (yeah, great parenting right?!)
But anyhow, we love it for kinder and first. And I’ve felt in my heart and knowing my child now that it’d be good till about 3rd grade FOR US. ~rosie dreams

Each and every quote that was thoughtfully written was a virtual treasure trove for me. This last quote from Rachel at 6512 and growing struck such a deep chord in my heart that I am still humming from it:

I love being home with my kids, I love learning with them. I love having time away from them as well (plus I need and want to work). It’s important for me that they have community and that they’re free to love learning for learning’s sake. However, I do stress at times because Col is not super focused on reading and writing. If he was in full time public school, he’d prob be farther along in reading and writing. But he’s learning a lot of other amazingly wonderful things and I know the literacy stuff will come.

I really like the downtime that unschooling allows. I honestly feel like my kids need that for their physical health (let alone spiritual/emotional health).

When I was fretting last year about educational choices, someone said to me, “if something doesn’t work, you can always change your mind.” A-ha! I feel like the whole thing is a big experiment, day to day.

There have been many other moments of synchronicity that have left me resonating as well. A trip to a neighborhood used book store, where, after having spent the entire walk there musing over this subject, I happened upon some new arrivals…all about homeschooling, including Montessori in the home. There was the trip to the local library where I picked up an issue of Bay Area Parent and discovered a feature article all about homeschooling and independent schools in the Bay Area. There are 30,000 homeschool families in the Bay Area. I don’t think socialization is an issue I need worry about.

I still love the idea of falling into a great independent/charter/public waldorf school as well. So much is still up in the air with us in terms of where we will finally land, homewise. I feel lost when I try to foresee the future and choose schooling based on correct guessing.

So for now, the loose idea is…homeschool/unschool preschool and perhaps into the early childhood years. Build community starting immediately, regardless of where we may end up living, by reaching out to friends who are mothers, as well as homeschool families in the Bay Area. Stay attuned to my child and her needs, with my own ideas and desires taking a back seat…just as I would if I were sending her to public school. Be flexible, as unattached as possible, and walk a fine line between the depth of heart wisdom and flying up to get a bird’s eye view of the situation. And, as always, be prepared for nothing to be what I think and for the possibility that it could all work out in fabulous ways I have yet to imagine.

As a last quote to share, here is a perfect sum-up on unschooling:

And one last note, on the unschooling hating going on. I think it is how it is carried out that makes the biggest difference. I’ve seen parents who say they unschool when really they send their kid off alone with a book. Obviously, that kind of isolation and lack of teaching is not cool. There’s no way that child’s needs and interests are really being met and engaged. But, I think, I hope that unschooling can be great. I equate it to baby proofing when your child first learns to crawl. You can place your baby in a play pen with educational toys to protect them from all the sharp corners and outlets. Call it good because they are technically learning in a safe environment. Or, you can cover the corners, plug the outlets, move sharp objects up and let baby have at it. It requires more work from the parent, more discipline to foster an environment that lends itself to learning than just tossing toys in a playpen, but they get to experience a much larger, much more interesting world. I think that to unschool well, it probably takes more work on the parent’s part than many other forms of schooling, to facilitate their interests, help establish social relationships, learn discipline and tenacity without constant due dates. But , if we’re up for the challenge, they have a whole world to explore. In my opinion, that’s quite a gift.~dreaming habitual fondness

So many more thoughts and things to discover, decide and share but this is as lengthy as I dare to be right now. Thank you again to
all who contributed, and please don’t fret if I didn’t include something from you….Every comment left me feeling rich in resources for having contact with someone like you.
I love this little soul and am so privileged to have these choices to make, these options at hand and this life to spend together. Blessed.

7 thoughts on “And So Here It Is

  1. I’m happy you’ve found a path that feels like a good fit for you guys. My biggest advice now is the same as in everyday life: follow your own instinct and you’ll find a healthy wealth of knowledge every moment. As soon as you start paying attention to other learning settings, it’s very easy to feel somehow inadequate.
    PS. My other suggestion is to make sure you have support so you can get adequate breaks…but alas, that’s not always the easiest one to figure out. 🙂 Cheers to you and your beautiful family!

  2. While I don’t have any kids of my own I do plan on home schooling them. Since you already have most of the tools needed save the books, (if they’re even needed), home schooling would be my first choice for Fern.

  3. Hey beauty-who-nourishes-beauty,
    Somehow, I missed your first post (which I have just gone back and read… WOW)– how super ironic that that’s one of maybe 5 of your posts I’ve missed!!! Obviously, I have a lot of ideas about all these questions, and as you know, no babies (WOW! It just started SNOWING on your page!) to practice my own advice on. So, If you want a very long (or ongoing forever) conversation, I am super down with that, but just to add here (I’ll declare myself for all the other readers for context here: I went to Waldorf preschool- 5th grade, at which point my family moved to the gorgeous middle of no where and I went to a one-room-rotating-parent-staffed school (maybe like Jennifer Miller’s set up?) for 6th, then home schooled for 7th, left my family (with permission) to board with friends at my original Waldorf for 8th, then went to Waldorf 9th-11th, and left to attend the United World Colleges (which is an absolutely amazing international peace-keeping/leadership school system) for 12-13th…. in not-so-short an unbelievable education I still pinch myself about pretty much daily). And so my three cents are:
    1. Mary, you are one of the most creative, intelligent, connected-to-the-world, imaginative, loving people I know, and I think Fern is over-the-moon BLESSED. I am more than sure that you can give her a wonderful education straight from your heart, and I am so happy that you trust yourself and your inner wisdom even in the face of the crazy pressure that is currently being put on kids and parents in the school system.
    2. THANK you (and Jeff) and all of the other amazing parents weighing in and cradling these incredibly profound decisions… as a child-now-adult who feels grateful literally every day for the major sacrifices, creativity and courage of my own parents making similar decisions, I always want to pass that on to parents I meet in the middle of the Giving for encouragement.
    3. If you need any help/ ideas/ guest instructors/ friend magic on this adventure, I am 100% available.

    (3.5 You *should* however, move to Petaluma, where every option you explored including public Waldorf high school is close by for collaboration, and we could run a cooperative enchanted multi-grade human animal zoo farm…. (the night mower is a freak of nature, I swear, not the norm 😉

    I love you,

  4. Ugh! I’m so behind on your posts again and there have been so many lovely ones to catch up on! Wanted to at least be sure and comment on this one though because as I’ve mentioned, it’s very timely for us and I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts and all the AMAZING and well thought out comments on the subject.

    Firstly, I’m so glad that you’ve found a path, or the beginning of one at least, that you feel strong and centered in! With your guidance, it seems obvious that Fern’s future educational experience will be rich on so many levels, however it plays out. Fern is so fortunate to have a “natural born teacher” in you 🙂

    I’m not so much the “natural born teacher” myself, I don’t think, so the homeschooling/unschooling route isn’t something we’ve been considering. Luckily, there is a nearby arts-based charter school that we’ve checked out and are pretty excited about. It’s a smaller school K-8 and while the curriculum is academically comparable to what a child would learn through public school, they teach all subjects in a way that infuses the arts into the learning process. One of our local public high schools has an award-winning arts education program called ArtQuest which is a pretty amazing opportunity and the charter school was designed to feed into that program. The only issue now is getting her in! Admission is based on a lottery and there will be a wait list, so we’ll see.

    Clover’s good friend who lives next door to us is in Kindergarten there now and we’ve heard great things from people with children at the school, so we’re hoping it works out for next year. If not, we have a decent public school option pretty close by as well, which will require an interdistrict transfer (the public school in our district being not so great) but we’re lucky to know someone who works for the school and can help with that if need be 🙂

    The Waldorf charters in our area would require commuting into Sebastopol (the private one in town is mucho expensive). While Sebastopol isn’t too far, we’d prefer not to have to worry about the transportation thing (especially since I will be trying to go back to work in some capacity), and I can’t say that we’re totally sold on Waldorf to begin with. We have family members (Lucas’ sisters) whose kids have attended or are attending the waldorf charters, some experiences great, some not, it really seems to depend a lot on the kid and weather they “fit the mold” for the type of child that thrives in the Waldorf setting.

    I suppose the best we can really do is weigh the options and resources that present themselves to us and go with our gut feelings. And YES, “if something doesn’t work, you can always change your mind.” I like that too!

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