When my kids were younger, I’d see people talk about their sadness about being empty nesters, and I could not imagine ever feeling that way. Not that I thought I’d be happy to not have my kids around, but just that I wasn’t going to boo-hoo as my kids grew up and spread their wings! No sirree. I don’t know if it was because I was overwhelmed with all of my kiddos at the time, or if it was because I’ve always tended to transition into each stage of motherhood without angst. But I was pretty sure that the natural order of things was not going to get me down.
Well, I understand it more now. For me, it’s that my kids are an absolute delight to me. They are my dearest friends, too. And now we are facing having some of them move away, and it feels really, really sad.
My oldest son is going into the Air Force, so he and his wife and my little granddaughter will be moving away. I’ve been so blessed to have them nearby and to see my little granddaughter regularly. I feel so thankful that my daughter-in-love is an absolute sweetheart that is a total joy to have in our family. I’m so thankful for the time we’ve had. And it is really going to stink to have them move away. I feel it acutely that a really special, charmed portion of our life is now coming to an end.
Then, to make matters worse, my third child is about to graduate from high school this week, and has now gotten an offer to go on a great adventure far from home to pursue his dream. I think he’s going to take it–and he should, if he wants to!! But, knowing he’s suddenly leaving home feels terrible. He’s one of my favorite people. He’s my good buddy. We share a lot of interests and enjoy talking to each other every day. Gosh, I will miss him terribly. Things are moving too fast!
Every time a child leaves the nest, the dynamics change. It’s a loss, but also an opportunity to grow and nurture other relationships, to see how each family member changes and develops within the family structure. It’s good, and hard, and sad, and exciting to see the big kids tackle life in the broader world. It’s right and normal. But it’s a huge loss, too.
I know that most of you are not in this stage of life, but it’s coming for you, sooner or later.
I am so glad for the huge amount of TIME that homeschooling has given me with my kids. I am glad that I’ve been mindful of getting INTO mothering, instead of trying to GET OUT of it. There isn’t a single investment of time, energy, patience, encouragement, or effort that I regret having spent on my kids. It’s 100% worth it, and it feels great, even when a chapter is ending, to know I gave myself to this fully.
My friend, if there is one wish I have for you, it’s that you would be mindful of the gift each day and each challenge presents. Don’t wish away an age or stage–appreciate the beauty that’s going on right now. In the words of James Taylor: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel…”
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you. Keep loving your tribe fiercely, tenderly, and enthusiastically. This is worth the very best you have to offer!
My third child, Jacob, graduated from our homeschool Friday night. It was my first homeschool group graduation, and it was really lovely. As soon as we got home, I did a facebook live chat to share about it, because I just wanted to encourage other homeschool parents in their journey. If you’d like to go watch (and cry along with me), click here to see that replay video.
What I want to talk about today, is something that happened last month. As Jacob and I were working on putting together some information for his graduation ceremony, we got talking about his feelings about homeschooling and what he feels home education has done for him.
Although we started out homeschooling in 1997 when our oldest child was a kindergartener, we diverged from our homeschooling path briefly in 2003 when babies 4, 5, and 6 had arrived in under 3 years, and there were simply too many needs and not enough of me or my sanity to go around. Our 3 oldest kids, Micah, Haley, and Jacob, went to school that fall, and the 3 babies and I stayed home.
Jacob did fine in kindergarten, and benefitted from the speech therapy at school. First grade got bumpier, as the strong emphasis to have all children reading was not a fit for him. His well-meaning teacher encouraged us to practice reading with him more and more, but it was no use. He was not learning to read. We knew something was off, but didn’t know how to help.
In second grade my sweet son continued to struggle. Reading just couldn’t unlock for him, and writing was really tough, too. His kind teacher told me that she felt we would eventually learn that Jacob had dyslexia, but at his age he was too young for an official diagnosis.
After that year, things had stabilized enough for me that I was able to have Jacob return to homeschooling. My feelings about his needs were that I could not leave him in an educational environment that was both subtly and overtly teaching him that he was not smart, and I knew that at home I could help him learn without making a big deal about his reading difficulties. I wanted to preserve my son’s sweetness and optimism, and nurture his love of learning, whatever that looked like for him.
Over the years since then we have utilized a number of different tools and approaches to learning, despite Jacob’s dyslexia. He eventually spent most of a year in a special cognitive therapy program that helped his brain overcome much of this learning challenge. (See my P.P.S. at the bottom for some info on this!) We built upon each opportunity and breakthrough naturally. His confidence grew and his interest in trying new things grew as well. He joined community theater, which capitalized on his ability to memorize, and overcame his awkward and nervous speech patterns, helping him become a much more confident public speaker, and helping him discover that he had a natural talent for acting. He periodically would decide to try out writing historical novels, theater scripts, and screen plays, just for fun! He has become an extremely proficient fitness expert, and his ability to set and achieve fitness goals inspires me continuously! (Recently, after about 5 months of working toward this goal, he was able to do a muscle up. Except he didn’t do just one. He did 5. In a row!)
We thought Jacob’s post-graduation plans were all set. He was planning to get his Personal Training certification, start working, and save up for his next big adventure that he hoped to begin in about a year. However, when he got a golden opportunity last week to jump into that adventure NOW, he had the confidence to say YES. So, he graduated on Friday, and is currently on his way to New York City where he’ll still be working and becoming a Personal Trainer, but also seeing what he can get into for theater opportunities and other creative pursuits. Whoosh—just like that I went from “I’ll still have this terrific guy around for another year or so” to the realization that everything is changing…..right. this. minute.*
When I look back at how I felt about Jacob’s needs as a second grader, I know we made the right choice, and it is incredibly satisfying to see that a home education allowed my son to grow into a confident, competent, caring young man that knows he has what it takes to go forward into his adult life and continue to learn and grow and rise to the challenges he faces. He and I agree that if he had remained in a typical school setting, the outcome on his mindset and feelings about his own abilities would probably have been much different, and less positive, for him.
It’s incredible, the amount of encouragement we can get from our kids! When my son shared with me his appreciation for the sacrifices his dad and I have made to provide a home education for him, and how he felt this changed his life for the better, it was the sweetest and most precious PAYDAY I’ve had in a long time. The areas in which I have felt inadequate and lacking in our homeschool journey are numerous, yet I see that even so, we have gotten exactly what we wanted out of this experience. What an amazing blessing!
Moms and dads: Get a vision for what your kids need from you, and find a way to provide it! Invest yourself deeply, fully, and with great love and reckless abandon into this incredible mission opportunity before you. Each and every one of your children is an amazing individual that has their own unique life to live. You are their guide, facilitator, cheerleader, teacher, and friend along the way! Homeschooling can be a powerful catalyst for your family. Keep finding ways to make the most of this opportunity.
To all of us as we do our best for the things that matter most,
P.S. For those of you with kids that struggle with learning challenges like my son did, I want to invite you to come listen to my talk about the cognitive therapy approach that helped my kids, and can help yours, too! You can watch the replay here.
Once upon a time, I was a weary homeschooling mom of many, with a husband just 6 weeks past having open heart surgery, and we were dealing with a lot of tough,exhausting, and difficult things. It was 2014, and it became known to me as the year where I got very comfortable with the concept of uncertainty. Things were hard.
Always aiming to do my best in spite of circumstances, I tend to teeter-totter between firm responsibility and indulging in whimsy. After all–both are important, and it’s not always clear which one is needed worse.
One day a friend of mine wrote on facebook that she had about 600 free used golf balls for anyone that wanted to get them. And for some reason, this struck a chord of interest for me. I don’t remember why. I honestly can’t think of any good reason to get hundred of golf balls as I look back on it. But at that time, it seemed like it might be a worthy adventure. Or, it was a form of insanity. I asked my friends on facebook for advice:
OK friends: Talk me down. I just found out about 600 free golf balls I could go get. I am currently frantically scanning pinterest to figure out what awesome thing I could make with them. Currently thinking of Christmas ornaments….. Help!
A short while later the kids had joined me in my interest:
Here is the fun already resulting in this crazy plan: Kids estimating how many golf balls could fit in each container that we have. Me starting to think about the cottage industry opportunities for the kidlets to turn these golf balls into money. This is the kind of homeschooling I really enjoy, and don’t get to do often enough.
I’m sure I had probably dozens or hundreds of other things I could have or “should have” been doing, but I have a motto that The Winds of Inspiration Must Not Be Denied, and so we went with it. Here’s how it went:
I’ll tell you what–today I am the poster mom for following whimsical bunny trails.
I smiled and laughed all the way to pick up the golf balls, while the kids and I brainstormed about what we might do with them, how we would divide them up, etc. , and I got to visit with a sweet friend during the pick up.
And then while driving home we discovered that a few spiders had been stowaways with the balls. Poor Isaac is extremely scared of spiders, and the ensuing shrieks of terror and panic went all the way past terrifying over to utterly comedic. We were all screaming KILL IT! KILL IT! while poor Isaac was having a heart attack. After the poor unassuming spider was dead (sorry spidey) the kids were leaping into the farther back areas of the van, and we were all laughing maniacally. (It was very fun. You’ll just have to trust me on that.) They were yelling “PULL THE CAR OVER! MAKE DAD COME PICK US UP FROM THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!” hahahahaha. We were two minutes from the house so we carried on.
Aidan had been in the seat where he was responsible for preventing the tall hampers full of golf balls from spilling. So….of course once he wasn’t sitting there any more. I went around a corner and there went hundreds of golf balls onto the floor of the van. We laughed even louder. Then we got home and the kids in the way back of the van let themselves out the back door instead of the side door so the balls wouldn’t fall out. Dave met us in the driveway and before we could tell him not to open the side door, he did it, and a zillion golf balls went pouring out in the driveway, so we laughed and screamed even louder.
After we picked up all the balls and deemed them spider-free (I’m sure the rest of the spiders are taking up a comfortable residence under the van seats right now), we commenced to have much, MUCH practice counting by twos as we counted and divided up our bounty. Each one of us has almost 300 balls to figure out what to do with. We discussed the pros and cons of selling quickly for a lower price, vs. taking time to create something and then having to market and sell it in order to get a bigger return. We will possibly still be trying to sell golf ball items for the next decade.
It is a beautiful day outside, the breeze was very relaxing, I got some exercise, and Aidan labeled my bucket of golf balls “Mom is Awesome!”
1565 used golf balls: free.
An afternoon full of smiles and gut-busting laughs and memories with my kids: priceless.
(And later on if I ask myself, “Why on earth did you go borrowing trouble and go get all these golf balls?!” I will even laugh then, because I do not take myself too seriously.)
That. was. an awesome day full of fun and memory-making. I think we ended up selling all of the balls within just a couple weeks, and each kid was pretty happy with the money they earned. But the real point here is that I was able to let go and do some crazy thing with my kids. I let go of my To Do list. I let go of having to know what the outcome would be. We just did a crazy thing and it ended up being a ton of fun that we still enjoyed talking about at dinner tonite.
There will always, always be more work to be done and more responsibilities to tend to, my friends. Know what there won’t always be? Children all around to make fun memories with. Take time to prioritize those opportunities! This matters more than you know.
I had the opportunity to ask Hosanna more about her life, her homeschooling, her inspiration for the books she writes, and how she has time for it all. Read on and enjoy this glimpse into another homeschool family’s life!
Hi Hosanna! Please tell us a little about your family and how you got started homeschooling.
Our family of six, including 2 boys, ages 12 and 10; and 2 girls, ages 7 and 5; are a lively, imaginative bunch! We live in Southern California where we have homeschooled our kids from the start. Encouraging friends who successfully modeled the potential found in the realm of homeschooling and the freedom to pursue specific interests were the catalysts to move us in this method of education. The final push came from my husband, who was convinced from the get-go that homeschooling would be a good fit for our family. I, on the other hand, while respectful of those who accepted full responsibility of teaching their children, took a little more time to digest the process. Would I have what it would take? After countless hours of research, reflection, discussion, and prayer, I took the plunge and haven’t looked back since. I never would have imagined the thrill of such an adventure was awaiting me!
Wonderful! What are some things that your family enjoys?
Our family is a colorful mix of personalities and interests. My husband, Walter, is my Puerto Rican-born hunk, and is a self-employed musician whose beats and jingles you have undoubtedly heard on various movies such as Star Wars: Rogue One, Zootopia, Frozen, and countless others. When he’s not making music, he’s wearing many other hats such as kids’ chauffeur, part time homeschool teacher, wife’s business tech and creative partner, best BBQ’er this side of the Mississippi; and that’s just scratching the surface! As a family, we love celebrating life with each other and with friends as often as we can, whether it’s coming together to eat, watching movies, partying in a book club, or using just about every corner of our little home, aka the Rodriguez workshop ;), to develop what we love. You can find us painting, cooking, photographing, pulling apart electronics for inspection, exercising…I told you, we’re a colorful bunch!
How would you describe each of your children in one word?
Our kids in one word: Christopher—bold, Jaden— artistic, Juliana—nurturer, Christina—creative.
What do you like best about homeschooling?
What I like best about homeschooling is it allows us to be true to ourselves. We revel in time as a family. We seek out varied routes to explore and develop our interests. We band together with friends and others in the community to share in life and learning, which are essentially the same thing.
I absolutely love the concept of the book club for young children! How did you get this idea?
I organized my first official book club about about 8 years ago and was shocked by the response. I was new to the homeschool world, and my eldest was only a preschooler at the time. I knew very few people who were walking the same path, so when nearly two dozen people signed up for that book club, I had to scramble for other locations for hosting the club. I loved it! I’ve organized many book clubs since and have learned much along the way. I can’t wait for our next book clubs scheduled this year: Hobbit for the older ones and House at Pooh Corner for the littles!
What has your personal experience been with this concept of book clubs?
I have to laugh (and scratch my head a bit) when I think back to my years as a child. I was NOT a reader. Sure, I read when I had to, but my first choice of material was nonfiction, and now I’m having an ongoing party with fiction written for various ages. But now I know why. Reading about death-defying triumphs, heart-wrenching tragedies, and acts of the purest compassion and courage all by myself was far too lonely of an experience. How could my soul be gripped and not have anyone with whom to share it? Now when I’m in the middle of a fantastic story with my kids, my mind races with ideas of how to incorporate different elements of the story for the purpose of kids developing beneficial skills.
How do your children like the book club experience?
Our kids love book clubs. They beg for them when we are in between clubs, and they also submit their specific requests. I’m particular with the literature we indulge in with our book clubs and tend to stick with the classics, although I may include current works in the future. One thing is certain: there is no lack of exhilarating material!
Have you seen skills learned in the book club translate into other areas for your children?
Yes, absolutely! The skills that my kids have developed in a book club can be seen in many ways, years after the book club ends. In the early years, kids can’t help but pay more attention to the storyline and language structure with all the connections they make through the activities and the shared experience with friends. These reading comprehension skills just scratch the surface when it comes to all the potential skills that can be developed in a book club setting. Critical thinking skills, divergent thinking skills, fine and gross motor skills, communication and artistic skills are all possible in this setting. When planning a book club, my goal is offering kids exercises or experiences that promise twice the return, a double whammy if you will.
As an example, in our most recent Beatrix Potter book club, the kids sewed their own bunny ears. The skills strengthened were their fine motor skills, but the final results were a set of felt bunny ears, stuffed with padding and including a bell for extra fun when jumping as bunnies. These were not bunny ears made of construction paper that would end up in the trash before the day was over, but something that would last. They had even taken a simple step into the world of sewing, which will inevitably prove useful in one way or another. We all wear clothes, for heaven’s sake, and there is bound to be a time when a button needs to be replaced. So the general idea is developing skills with lasting value. Much more fun than tracing page after page of zig-zags on a worksheet that they’ll never look at or care about again.
I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on home education and parenting. Tell everything! Hahaha!
If you want a few more details, good and bad, I have plenty to share. HA! I’ll keep it to a minimum, I promise! There were some bumps we initially had to work through, with the younger ages especially, which all parents do to some extent. When kids are young, they’re, well, new to just about everything! They have to learn how to pay attention. They have to learn how to respect others. They have to learn how to learn. I realized early on that approaching this learning process was not always a bed of roses, there would be moments of distraction, chaos, or frustration; but my job was to guide them in a way that didn’t involve heavy-handed dictatorship. So while correction was sometimes needed, let’s say if a child was running wild, disregarding all instruction; it was important for me to also consider the possible varying factors. Had the child had enough sleep, nutritious food, time to run free, parent-child snuggle time? Did he have certain times when his listening skills were better, such as during meal time or bath time that I needed to make the most of when reading at any length? Is the child just plain spoiled? It could be a combination of all those factors and others. We need to be a student of our students. So I told you I’d share details. Here’s one—we’ve had to work with one strong-willed kiddo for years on receiving instruction and contributing to the group in a constructive way. I love a strong, independent thinker, but I don’t love a self-centered, stubborn know-it-all. There’s a fine line, and considerate and consistent guidance has been our answer.
Please tell us about the other books you’ve published.
We have currently published a book called Animals in Time that takes kids on a journey through history as they experience it through the eyes of animals. There will be a total of three volumes when they have all been completed, each containing twenty-six stories, and each following an alphabetical progression. The completed volume focuses on American History. Kids get to sail on Christopher Columbus’ ship with stowaway Alex the Ant. They welcome the Pilgrims on the Mayflower with Bary the Bear, and they witness the Boston Tea Party with Coco the Caterpillar. The stories contain a wealth of historical facts while not reading as a text book, and the alphabetical progression provides the perfect arrangement to incorporate a letter of the week approach for younger students. Ever heard of a one-room schoolhouse? This is a good resource for varying ages. The other two volumes are currently in progress. One last detail I have to share, and it’s much more than a mere detail to me, is the part kids have played to create Animals in Time. While I wrote the American History volume, kids made the art for each story! And the following two volumes are being written by our sons. There is a great deal of time that goes into the research, the creative development, and the editing process. What I love about this holistic approach to learning is that kids are working with so many different elements and connecting history, animals, art, and writing skills in one grand effort. And in addition to the kids crafting their skills as they create, they are inspiring other kids to do the same.
One element in the Animals in Time, Volume 3 book I think subscribers of Enrichment Studies might like is the assortment of artists included in the stories, artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell, and N.C. Wyeth. And one last thing, in our updated website, we plan to have “making of” highlights of all the children artists who created the art for three volumes worth of history stories. That’s a lot of art!
How do you have time to write books?
I may have abundant amounts of passion and drive, but one thing I constantly faced with a shortage of is time, sweet time. When we had babies crawling around the house, I remember so clearly feeling strapped for time simply getting meals on the table and keeping laundry clean. I was barely making it! I would have laughed (and maybe cried) if you would have told me I’d be doing any of this at that time, but babies have a way of becoming large and in charge, despite their miniature sizes. I adore them! And if there was no limit to time and age, I’d guess Walter and I would keep having them indefinitely. I never wanted to leave the baby stage, but there are seasons in life and we have to accept each one for what it can offer. Now that our youngest is five years old, there is a little more consistency in our schedules, although not nearly as much being that we are a family of self-employed people. And throw a musician’s schedule into the mix, and you end up with some wacky schedules. Anyway, at the very least, I try to follow my wise husband’s advice and at least do a little bit a day. I also have lower expectations of maintaining a picture-perfect home. We are constantly cleaning, so there are no nasty surprises lurking behind couches or under beds, but the paperwork and clutter can threaten to take over. They’re like weeds! The piles of paper grow faster than we can sort and throw away. Once again, this is just a season, so we embrace the great with the not-so-great.
Thanks so much, Hosanna! You’ve inspired me with your words and work!
In nearly 20 years of homeschooling I have certainly heard an abundance of absolute BALONEY about the wonders of home education. Regardless of the fact that I’ve homeschooled my six children for a long time, and overall we’ve been very happy with that decision, I am not afraid to tell it like it is.
Today, my friends, I’m going to start myth-busting for you. Not because I want to burst your bubble or make you seem even worse to your mother-in-law, but because I think, even if it hurts, the truth is worth saying and hearing.
Today I’m starting with the myth of the academic superiority of homeschooled kids. I’m sure we’ve all seen the articles about families with a dozen homeschooled children that have all somehow turned out to be child prodigies and geniuses that are graduating from college when other kids are still struggling with long division.
Every now and then some enthusiastic homeschool proponent will bring up the high ACT and SAT scores that some homeschoolers get, or how many National Spelling Bee champions were homeschooled, or how top Ivy League colleges are actively recruiting homeschoolers because they are dripping with academic awesomeness.
Yeah. That’s all well and good, but here’s some more reality:
All kinds of kids are homeschooled. Smart ones. Struggling ones. Genuises. Kids with learning disabilities. Kids that like to hang out with their mom all day, and ones that seem to hate everybody and everything. Kids that pick their nose. Kids that like to volunteer at animal shelters. Kids that enjoy reading books, and kids that would rather play Guitar Hero for 12 hours straight. (cough, cough) Kids that memorize Bible verses, and kids that talk back to their parents. Kids that take up a vegan lifestyle, and kids that want to eat candy and soda all day.
Yes, it’s true. There are lots and lots of homeschoolers, and they are not all the same. Shockingly, they are not all super-driven, academically-oriented geniuses. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority are normal, average kids that like some stuff and not other stuff, and go on to be fairly normal, average people. AND WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH THAT?
Your kids are wonderful, unique, precious people, and I heartily recommend that you get busy enjoying them as they are, and stop worrying about how you measure up. Yes, certainly you need to help them, and you should do your best to bring out their potential. Give it your very best shot! And in the meantime laugh and smile and join them in playing a game or two and know that having normal kids is…..normal.
Homeschooling is not a magic panacea for all the ills of adolescence, or society, or childishness, or YOUR own humanity, dear mother. Homeschooling will not turn your child into a genius nor you into a woman who sips tea while wearing a flowing dress in the middle of a spring meadow. Homeschooling is simply one of many educational options available to you. You may love it. You may hate it. You may feel both in equal measure. It’s ok. It’s normal. You’re not alone with your average (or below average!) kids. You’re not alone in any of it. All the regular moms with the regular families are out here looking cross-eyed at pinterest right along with you. I promise.
Have you ever been going along in life, doing seriously awesome at several things, but then you’re automatically pointing out everything you AREN’T doing well right now? It’s crazy! We moms tend to be so hard on ourselves, and act like we should be able to maintain every area of life at an A+ level.
Let’s think about this:
An Olympic athlete that just won a medal was not also at home organizing their closet or baking brownies with their kids.
A business person that just closed a multi-million dollar deal was not also reading Story of the World to their kids that were snuggled up with blankets all over the living room.
A mom that successfully got the dog to the vet to fix what ails is not a mom that can also be weeding the perfect English garden or taking her children to the art museum.
Let’s not do this to ourselves, ok? When we do well at something, could we just cheer ourselves on and appreciate our efforts and growth and loveliness? Without pointing out all the still-waiting areas of our lives?
That’s the one thought I want to share with you today. Be your own biggest cheerleader! See the many good things you do and just say, “Hooray! That’s awesome! I love it that I got that done!” And if the thing you got done was resting while you recovered from illness, or nursed the baby, or cleaned a sweet little face, or loved your husband, or got the pencils sharpened, that all counts too.
All of the pieces and parts of each day and the love and care you pour out for your family matter a big, whole bunch. Let’s treat ourselves like we believe it, ok?
I would love it if you’d comment and tell me some things that you have been doing great at recently! Take 2 minutes and do it. Then I can cheer you on, too. 🙂