At 6:45 the alarm woke us up with it’s horrible bark. With indignation I would get out of bed, smack it silly, and then head upstairs to wake up Renna and Sam, inevitably waking the twins as well. I tried to be nice about it, truly I did, but my patience is thin in the morning, and if I have to be up, they better jump up and MOVE. I yelled at them to get downstairs and brush their teeth. I yelled at them to get their clothes on. I yelled at them to get to the table and shove food in their faces while I frantically searched for school appropriate snacks and made lunches. I yelled at them to get their shoes. Why are shoes so difficult to find? Where did you take them off? Why can you only find one? Did you take each shoe off individually in separate rooms? They’re a set. You should really take them off together! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? You’re going to be late! Where is your jacket? Why is it covered in mud? Get outside, the bus is coming!
They would board the bus at 7:30. They got off the bus at 4:15. They were exhausted. I yelled at them to get their homework done. I yelled at them to get changed for their activities. When we got home, even more exhausted, I yelled at them to keep them moving and eat their dinner, shower, read, and go to bed. And we did this…every day. 5 days a week. But this is what we knew. This is how it goes, right? There isn’t another option, right? There are a million things they HAVE TO get done in a day…right?
In September of last year, Elliott got sick. Like really sick. The doctors kept telling me it was just a tummy bug and there was nothing we could do. We just had to wait it out. We were sent home from doctors 3 times. And let me tell you, we don’t go to doctors unless I think there is something seriously wrong. I stuck to my mom gut (always trust your gut, you’re their mom for a reason) and finally got some testing done. My sweet baby, my 3 year old had Salmonella. But not just salmonella, untreated major salmonella and he was septic. His renal system was slowly shutting down. He went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan by ambulance from our 4th visit to a doctor, where he stayed in infectious disease isolation for 5 days. Hint 1, tomorrow is not promised.
While Elliott was still in the hospital, I called my dear friend Kelly, to complain… I was whining about being there and being tired when she gave me a shock. She was undergoing testing because she had some major back pain and they found a mass. After Elliott was healed, I went down to visit Kelly in Toledo Hospital, where, on the day we visited, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Primary Mediastinal Lymphoma. She was 32 and one of my dearest friends. It was in her chest, her back, her arms, and her legs. Hint 2, you never know what tomorrow may bring.
Three days after Kelly’s diagnosis, my friend Bob, a part of my history and my adolescence, passed away of a massive heart attack at 41. He laid down on the couch to take a nap because he didn’t feel quite right and he never got up. Hint 3, LIFE IS SHORT!
The next week, I pulled my kids out of school. This might sound crazy, but we had debated it before and just never would have pulled the trigger. This series of unfortunate events, spoke to me in such a way that I could not ignore it. Life is short, you will never know what tomorrow brings, and it is not promised. So we made a choice.
I cannot speak for Lewis, but I don’t have anything against the public schools. I think teachers are remarkable people who dedicate their lives to educating children and helping build the future. I was a public school kid, and I happen to think I’m pretty darn smart, well-rounded, and I have a love of learning. I had amazing teachers who were able to reach me and helped me find myself. But this isn’t about the school. It was about us. It was about FREEDOM.
I was tired of yelling. I was tired of my children being gone 9 hours a day, and fighting their exhaustion when they were here. I was tired of this grind, this mold we stick them into and expect them ALL to fit. As a mom of 4, I can assure you that all children are created uniquely and none of them fit a one size mold. I wanted the freedom to explore together. I wanted the freedom to teach them life skills, and teach them what it meant to serve others and volunteer. I wanted the freedom to stay up until midnight to learn about the stars, sleep late, and do math in their pajamas, because let’s be real, when I have to do math, I want PJ’s on and a comfy chair to do it. I wanted to take them to museums, and adventure. I wanted them to touch the earth and not just read about it. When they did read, I wanted them to choose books and subjects that interested them and inspired them to learn something new. I wanted them to make choices.
Here we are, 9 months later, and I think some people might call what we are doing “unschooling”. I prefer to think of us as some sort of hybrid just finding our way. We have workbooks and curricula, but we don’t use them all that much. We do go on adventures, but we also learn life skills, and we work a lot on just discovering what we do and do not like to do. For instance, I have discovered that I am not a huge fan of geocaching…the mud in the swampy woods ate one of my favorite boots and it never recovered….I’m not sure I’m built for the woods… But I learned I love science. And my kids have seen through my eyes and excitement that learning is fun. Baking is math. Animals teach you responsibility and biology. Planting a garden can teach you about the earth, photosynthesis, the life cycle, and patience. Trips to the library ignite a love for reading and reading opens the door to any education you wish. Being able to touch things and break them apart and see how and why they work has done more for them this year, than any amount of table work they could have done, in my opinion. All this said, I do recognize a need in the coming months for a little more structure. It’s possible we gave ourselves a little too much freedom 🙂 But all in all, we yell a whole lot less. We aren’t nearly as exhausted. And we’ve given ourselves the gift of time in a life where tomorrow is not promised, you cannot tell what it holds, and LIFE IS SHORT.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes which I submit to you as my home schooling mission statement: There are but two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.