I apologize in advance if your eyes bleed after reading this
post novella. I had a lot to say today.
We've been Otherwise Educating for eight weeks or so. During that time, we've gone through several stages. We had the Honeymoon Stage when I was giddy with excitement about educating our children and all the possibilities in front of us. I loved watching them learn by doing. I was positively overjoyed by the fact that they weren't sitting in desks doing worksheets. I was thrilled that they didn't have to eat lunch in 15 minutes with someone yelling at them on a microphone to "Quit talking and eat!" It was so much fun to watch them running through the rain with their friends at "recess". I knew in my heart that we had made the right choice for our children's education.
Then the second day, we moved to the next stage which I like to call "Seriously, This Is My Life?" stage. Reality set in and I thought, "Really? I have to do this every day? No more coffee with friends? No more getting a pedicure without having to arrange child care?" I have to be honest and tell you that the loss of free, government child care every week day is still a bummer sometimes. I love my children more than anything, and truly enjoy having them with me. I was never the mom who counted down the days until the first day of school. I admit, however, that sometimes I find myself dreaming of a day when the public schools offer a one day a week program for Otherwise Educated kids. You know, sort of a Mother's Day Out for home schoolers. I could get my hair colored, get my pedicure, have lunch with a friend, clean my house and catch up on laundry (in theory). Ok, I'm kidding...sort of.
In the "STIML?" stage, I began to question whether or not I could or even really wanted to do this every day. I mean, is it really that important to learn Latin? What is the practical application for Greek Mythology? Hands-on learning, enrichment activities, creative writing, field trips, live theater, art study, nature study? What's the point? I began to see the value in being confined to a desk for many hours every day. If our children don't learn that skill at an early age, how will they ever function in the corporate world when they are confined to a cubicle for eight hours a day (or more)? I was sure I had read a study somewhere about the many positive benefits of florescent lighting on the growth and development of children but I just couldn't locate it.
Then we turned a corner. My incredibly supportive husband (who has been telling me all along how great this is for our children) pointed out the positive changes he observed in Thing 3. I stepped back and thought about it and realized it was true. He was much more settled. He had stopped being so critical of himself and more accepting of mistakes he made. In general, his stress level had gone way down. We talked a lot about how Thing 4 (who loves to do creative things) was allowed to really show her colors (literally) and be herself. She can dance her little heart out all day and then draw when she gets tired of dancing.
I had conversations with other OEing moms, and realized that my feelings were normal. The Pioneer Woman, bless her heart, wrote this great blog post that made me feel so much better...especially the part about the pencil dropping. I thought I was the only one...
Now we are in the "I Can Do This" stage.
When you've been in traditional school as long as we have, you tend to see school as something you "do". It's something you get through in six hours. Five days a week. Nine months a year. You live for the weekends, the holidays, summer break. The children want to get through with their work so they can move on to things that interest them.
Otherwise Educating is very different. I have finally figured out that it's not something we "do". It's something we live. It is a lifestyle. The transition was challenging. It took us a while to go from thinking we had X,Y and Z to accomplish in a day to realizing that learning is just what we do...all day, every day. If we don't get through the grammar lesson, it's ok...we can do it tomorrow. When I finally grasped that concept, OEing became much less stressful.
The children have made the transition, too. They now see the endless possibilities for learning. Almost every day one of them will say, "Mom, I want to learn about..." or "Can we study..." When someone mentions something happening somewhere else in the world, invariably one of them will jump up and grab the globe to locate that state/country/continent. They have rediscovered their natural, God-given love of learning.
It all finally made sense to me last week when we were sitting on the patio studying Mythology together. I was in the middle of a great story about Persephone when my daughter shouted, "Look, Mom! A Praying Mantis! Can we Nature Journal him?"
And that is why we Otherwise Educate.