Homeschool is the New School for Us All
Do you know what I never wanted to be when I grew up?
A school teacher.
Yet I found myself “home schooling” our at-the-time 3rd and 5th grade daughters during the 2015-16 school year.
I never thought it was a good idea to home-school my children. Almost everything about me makes me ill-equipped for the job. I’m adverse to schedules, don’t like to plan ahead and didn’t attend regular elementary school myself, a product of an amorphous boat-life home-school upbringing.
The couple of weeks before embarking on our world trip in the fall of 2015 had been a mix of wild excitement, cautious anticipation, fear, doubt and what the hell was I thinking?
It always takes an old, truthy friend holding up the mirror to reflect a real wake-up awakening! I was sitting at a seaside park in the north county of San Diego with my college buddy, letting him know how mushy these past couple months without regular work and a schedule had been. I lamented, how was I going to be able to handle hands on, every day with my girls, the reason I actually took this sabbatical from work.
Mind you, this was the fifteenth day of a mommy-daughter trip to California and we were on our way to the airport. I explained to Nat that I had a lot of ideas, projects, perhaps a coffee table book or even some filmmaking along the way, as we traveled around the world.
He kindly, gently said, it’s ok to just be with the girls, connect with the family, teach them and slow down. Wide-eyed, I replied slowly, not wanting to admit it, “that’s hard”.
He stared me down, “since when did you ever shy away from hard”?
Ok, so there it was. The mirror. I do like hard. I like the climb as much as the glory atop, I like the being lost as much as the getting found. Tenacity is my favorite word.
If you followed our #wheelersroundtheworld journey, you saw, read and experienced a different side of me.
I traveled far beyond the professional into the deeply personal, authentic, exploratory, spontaneous and perhaps insane trip around the world as mother, spouse, teacher, leader, adventurer and seeker. I traveled so far and wide I almost completely stopped my regular blog upon my return in the fall of 2016. I had seen so much, I was satiated—and spent so much time with my family, that I wanted more. I didn’t feel the need to keep yammering away as much. I wanted to not miss the slow/fast burn dichotomy that is motherhood.
The days are long, but the years are short does not only apply to toddler years. I still lambast myself for rushing past those baby years, like a nation of people hurling past one another for toilet paper, we forget to slow down long enough to feel our universal vulnerability and shared humanity. We forget to notice when we’re rushing past, instead of feeling into and touching down. We forget to appreciate what we actually have when we let stress and worry be our predominant emotions.
During the most widespread time of social slow down our modern world has ever known—even though they are sometimes mean and scary quaranteeners—my time with my girls is precious.
As many of us non-teacher teacher-parents and guardians face this daunting home-school task, I have nothing especially super inspirational or motivational to share except that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I was a selfish, impatient big jerk about “having” to teach.
We were two thirds into our world adventure in Nepal exactly 4 years ago this week, at a lovely boutique hotel in Kathmandu, sucking it up inside for one of our marathon learning days with wi-fi. We would often travel for days and weeks, getting little to no work done because we didn’t have decent wi-fi, then make up for it by hammering out two weeks of work in two to three days.
In this moment, the word-nerd, grammar-freak in me erupted so ferociously. It started with please don’t ever confuse a verb with a noun again. Which was returned with the YOU’RE THE WORST TEACHER EVER.
Which leads me back to, do you know what I never wanted to be when I grew up?
Sometime homeschooling looked and felt like this:
Sometimes homeschooling looked and felt like this:
I used to waver regularly between wanting to be free to follow my bliss and following my girls as they follow theirs. I used to also be attached to doing things “the right way”. What I’m realizing in the face of this epidemic, is there is no “right” way. There’s the loving way. There’s the patient way. There’s the room for mistakes and taking accountability way. There is inspiring our children to rise to their personal style of learning and discovering what growth and achievement means to them (not us). There is compassion over compliance. Curiosity over (only) lesson plans.
How do we engage our children as lovers of learning? How do we drop into this time with family to deepen our bonds?
That’s what our epic year of travel was all about. It was about letting my blog be late, not looking at my phone so much. Playing by their rules. Hell, just simply playing more.
Could it be that’s a lesson of our social slow down and physical distancing? To follow our childrens’ lead a little bit. I find that if I indulge my daughter’s wish to play yet another game of pool, to have smores, to watch Jumanji, their urgings for more ease.
This is the first time we’ve all been together, slowly, chilling, eating all of our meals exclusively together since our epic adventure. My great adventure these days consists of walking the dog every morning and photographing the same tree. When we arrived at our family’s summer home in the mountains last week, spring had not quite sprung. Every day, I’ve been noticing the smallest wonders of nature in technicolor and magnificent magnification; droplets of rain clinging to branches and then dripping to the damp ground below, bare limbs waking up from winter and sprouting fresh leaves and a symphony of birds singing, chirping and cheering for life.
Every day is an opportunity to begin again. We’ll make mistakes, prioritize dumb shit and then return to the basics. Over and over. Reset. It’s never too late to start the day over.
I feel for so many who not only have lost their jobs and their sense of security and on top of it are struggling to juggle home life and home schooling. Perhaps you feel like you’re losing your minds, too. Give yourselves a break. Find the adventure of small life all around you. Play hide-and-seek, eat your meals outside (bundle up if you have to) or wait until after dark if it’s too hot. Make smores, walk somewhere you haven’t explored before, dance to music you love and play together.
Each night we rotate our “evening family plan”. One of us decides what we are all going to do for the night. This fulfills my need for adventure (not sure what’s coming next when I’m not “in charge”) and it meets each of our needs to “be seen”, heard and have a little bit of control in these uncertain times.
We are charting new paths here. The most important education are kids are getting right now is learning how we, as adults, adapt to change. How we show up with grit to get the things done and grace to let go what really is not needed, and what we cannot control.
Finally, our favorite dinner practice is something we began during our world trip when the girls would be bickering or complaining about who-knows-what, I’d have them stop.reflect.be grateful.acknowledge.
Consider adding this to your daily family practice. Each person shares two things they are grateful for and acknowledge one person for something specific. The person who starts gets acknowledged last. After you’ve been acknowledged, you share your gratitudes and then acknowledge someone else (who hasn’t been acknowledged), until everyone in the family has been acknowledged.
You could also do one gratitude, one thing you learned today and one acknowledgement. Everyone is acknowledged once. Of course, if you didn’t get to acknowledge (appreciate) someone you wanted to, you can always tell them any time of day or night! It’s always the right time to share your gratitude and appreciation.
Be patient with yourselves. Make room for mistakes (yours or theirs) and take accountability when you make a mess of it all. Most of us were not made for prolonged stays at home.
Let the new school begin!
For engaging, social justice and life-inspiring films and books check out my previous blog: https://jillwheeler.com/2020/03/28/movies-to-watch-and-books-to-read-thatll-change-your-life-for-good/
Please reach out with any questions, comments, feedback or you’re in need of some counseling and/or coaching support, kindness and air hugs.