The Majors of Homeschooling

majors of homeschooling

With a new school year upon us, I want to steal a few minutes between lunch and tonight’s VBS to talk about some important things I’ve learned about homeschooling in the last four years.

And the fact that we are in our fifth day of VBS should mean you will show me some grace, won’t you, should the words and the thinking and the processing not work for me?

I’m the music director, and a girl can only hear those same catchy songs so many times before her brain erupts into a gurgling stream of nonsensicality…

I shall do my best, though, to bring to you what I feel are important components of homeschooling without losing my wordage stuff.

So let’s get started!

When you first start out in the homeschooling world, you tend to focus more on the minors. The question: “What do we need to run a homeschool?” brought different answers to my mind four years ago than it does today. I was desperate in those days to simply find a curriculum I liked, some sensory toys and puzzles, some educational videos, and DEFINITELY some vintage lunchtrays.

Today, I still like all those things…curriculum is good, toys and games are fun, videos are helpful, and lunchtrays are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL…but it is increasingly dawning on me that what I have always most needed to run a happy and successful school-at-home — the MAJORS, if you will — cannot be purchased at Mardel’s homeschool sale. Or, alas, even at Etsy.

In fact, they’re quite free.

And, in our home, they are absolutely essential; when I get the following things right, the “minors” fall nicely into place.

This list might vary from person to person, but the things that I’ve realized Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy NEEDS to stay open are as follows:

1.A belief in what I am doing.

I have been at very low points as a homeschooler when I am not valuing, deep down, the basic importance of education for my children.  Simple as that. Without seminars and daily peer encouragement from others who are enthusiastic about education, it is easy to become lost in the daily grind of checking off boxes and keeping the housework afloat and to completely forget WHY you’re doing what you are doing.

And when you forget WHY you are doing it, you can look up one day to realize that the “school” part of your homeschool has almost been lost. You’re not really schooling your kids, so much, as you are just keeping them at home.

If you are going to choose this route of home education, I think it is really important to develop a sturdy philosophy behind your decision, which will include some education for yourself about…well, education!

And in this discovery of “why”, I encourage you to get beyond the boxes that you’ve lived in all your life. Don’t just settle on educating your children because this is America and education is what is done with children. Don’t just do it because your kid is five and when you were five you learned the alphabet so you should probably teach your kid the alphabet.

Step back and observe bigger pictures. WHY is education so important, in the first place? How will “being educated” really serve your kids? What is the purpose in all this?!

There are many great philosophies out there, and you can draw from any or all of them, but Charlotte Mason has played a big role in my own philosophy. Her teachings just make sense to me, and I agree with her in almost every regard, which means that I can employ her tactics with a heart that truly cares about what I am doing.

It doesn’t take much to develop a genuine passion for your homeschooling operation and can be as simple as reading a good book — or even an article! — about why education is important.

On the brink of our 5th year as a homeschooling family, I understand now that I can’t homeschool because my friends are doing it. I can’t do it because it is popular in my denomination. I can’t do it because I’m scared to send my kids to public school.

I’ve got to do it because I believe in it, or I’ll not have the stamina to stick with it for the long haul.

2. A full-time job mentality.

Okay, this one has been a big deal in our house. It didn’t take me too long as a homeschooler to realize that, in order to maintain a constant atmosphere of learning in our home, I was going to have to make a job out of it.

In other words, my BELIEF in what I was doing (see: above) was going to have to dictate how I spent my day in a very intentional way.

Homeschooling is very simple in the beginning…as simple, really, as learning the ABC’s and counting to 10 and reading “Little Bear” and Mother Goose..but, like me, eventually you will arrive at the point where you have to make a real, life-altering choice: who is more important? Me or the kids? My Facebook account or our read-aloud time? My late wake-up hour or my son’s understanding of mathematics?

It has become ever more clear to me that I can’t live like a stay-at-home mom whose kids go to school outside of the home and still run a smooth and vibrant homeschool. That sounds obvious, right, but…sometimes we try to live that way!

And since I personally need rigid guidelines to keep me from floating adrift, this meant serious changes in our household. An early wake-up time which calls for an earlier bedtime (wahh!!!). A strict “no internet in the morning” policy. A phone going straight to messages because, from the hours of 8 – 12, I am at work. And then again from the hours of 1 – 3.

Use your imagination, here. What is it like for people who work outside of the home? Sure, part of the greatness about homeschooling is we don’t HAVE to live like people who work outside of the home…we can be flexible! we can learn as we LIVE! we can take our workbooks and do school on the way to the splash park!…but we can take a few tips from the professional world.

My daddy doesn’t sit in his truck and talk on the phone all day. He doesn’t scroll through the internet every 30 minutes, looking for updates. He doesn’t watch television, ever. From the hours of 7-3, he’s at work. I want the same to be true of me, even though I’m at home! From the hours of 8-3, I’m at work, doing worky things, dying to my previous life of non-work.

This sort of mentality makes ALL the difference in a homeschooling day and ensures that I am leaving my family open to endless outlets of education.

The great thing about this is, it doesn’t mean that you have to have your day rigidly scheduled. It just means that, for the most part, your head and your heart are dedicated to your homeschooling operation. You are “on the clock”, ready to read aloud, ready to answer questions, ready to train and teach and inspire.

3. Motivation and encouragement.

Oh my goodness…

I just want to start cackling hysterically when I contemplate what a lone ranger I was when I opened the doors to our homeschool in the fall of 2012.

I had read a few books, sure…two, to be exact…but…thaaaaaat’s about it. The daughter of public school, myself, and a college graduate with a degree that had nothing to do with education, especially of the childhood sort, I had only the vaguest ideas of what homeschooling even looked like and NO idea of how I was supposed to accomplish this gargantuan task of educating four children alone.

Since that time, not surprisingly, my homeschooling career has been a pretty repetitive routine of “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.”

That ALL drastically changed earlier this year when I discovered — far too late, in my opinion!! — the Read-Aloud Revival, a bustling website chock-full of resources and motivation for the homeschooling mom.

When I first watched Sarah Mackenzie’s Periscope series on “How We Homeschool”, I was blown away by the ideas she shared. Here were simple things I had never even thought of, things that would make my life so much easier!

And then I started listening to the podcast, episode by episode, and it began to dawn on me, in levels, how crazy I had been to tackle this lifestyle without seeking out an education of my own, followed by frequent…and I mean FREQUENT…inspiration.

After I listen to a podcast on education, I am inspired. I have excitement in my heart to do what I’ve been doing, but to do it with vigor. I have POWER, because knowledge is power and the more moms and experts I hear from, the more ideas I have to draw from and the more capable I am to handle all the bumps that come up in our day.

I just had no idea how terribly thirsty I was to be taught. To have someone lead me. To have a voice in my ear, spurring me on.

If you are feeling shriveled up and alone in your homeschooling world, I would suggest that you are in need of food. Feed yourself by finding a cheerleader, whether that comes in a website, podcast, co-op, or mentor. There is simply no reason in our modern and connected world to feel alone in this. Which leads me to my next point…

4. A teachable spirit.

The fastest way, I think, to wind up in the homeschool graveyard is to think you’ve got it all figured out.

It’s easy, since these are your own children you are educating, to feel a weird temptation to put on an “I’ve got this all covered” front. I birthed these children. I keep them groomed. I’ve had them vaccinated. I CAN HOMESCHOOL THEM.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but perhaps…maybe?…we carry around this facade of capability because we are deep down kind of terrified that we are going to mess our kids up?!?! I know I have harbored that fear, too many times to count.

But listen, most of us don’t have teaching degrees. Most of us don’t know the first thing about teaching kids to read, write and do arithmetic. Most of us are homeschooling from a compelling conviction in our hearts more than a background in home education.

And that’s okay!

What is not okay is never admitting that we need assistance. Or forging ahead with our noses in the air because we don’t want anyone out there to know we are weak, or scared. Or keeping blinders on our eyes to the abundance of help, service and mentorship out there.

It seems counter-intuitive to our stubborn hearts, but we do ourselves — and our families — a world of good when we stop and say, at least to ourselves, “You know what? I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I NEED HELP!”

Believe me, help is out there. It might be from your homeschooling neighbor who has tried a different curriculum, a homeschooling veteran who knows her stuff (I love homeschool veterans. I NEED homeschool veterans!), a husband who might gladly take a class off your hands if he knew you were this close to losing it, a church lady who would help you clean your house once a month, or even from a refreshing book like Sarah Mackenzie’s “Teaching from Rest”. (a link to the book will be at the end of this post!).

Whether you have to actually leave your house to find this help is up to you, but one thing is necessary in the equation: humility.

Humility in homeschooling bring waves of refreshment to the heart that has grown weary of pretending to be masterful. It will keep you from comparing other homeschoolers to you (in an inferior kind of way), or you to other homeschoolers (in a superior kind of way). It will keep you from trying to force things that aren’t working for your family. It will keep you from living in fear when you could be discovering the world, with the joy of a forever student! And it will most certainly keep you on your knees.

When you start with a humble heart, your homeschool can only go UP.

5. A custom plan for YOUR family.

Dear ones, if you listen to one thing I say today, please make it this one.

A crucial turning point for our homeschool took place when I pulled all the square pegs out of the round holes I had been shoving them in and actually developed a plan that worked for our family.

Tell me, when it is time to plan for our kids’ wardrobes, do we go online and print off another family’s list and try to make it work for our family?

No, because that would be weird.

They might have more kids than we do, and we’d wind up with more clothes than we needed. They might have fewer kids, and we’d not have enough clothes to dress our family. They might have all girls when we have all boys. Or they might have a girl, boy, boy, girl, when we have a boy, girl, girl, boy. Their sizes would be different. Their climate would be different. Their budget would be different. Their style preferences would be different!

The same is true for a homeschool.

Going online and printing off someone else’s daily schedule can give you guidance, and buying a pre-planned curriculum can be useful, but expecting them to work, verbatim, in your house is not an idea that usually pans out.

I’ll be honest, it is borrowing trouble when I line up our “home academy” to a family whose eldest is a daughter rather than a son. Or to the schedule of a family with a type-A mom at the helm. Or to the plan of a family who relies on a co-op for their schoolweek. Or to the resources of a family that lives in the city rather than a tiny town with no stoplights.

Those families are not the Gore family. And when the Gore family tries to be the So-and-So family, the Gore Mama winds up in a puddle of self-loathing that directly effects her educational prowess, her confidence, and her SANITY!!!!

Now, I will warn you, crafting a homeschool that suits your family and fits you like a glove can take time. You have to scrap some things and try again. You have to adjust with the changing seasons of life. You have to learn as you go.

But when I peeled myself away from the idea that I could find a magical print-out that would solve all of my scheduling bumps and homeschooling problems, and began building, brick by brick, an infrastructure that could cradle and nurture MY family — with our specific needs, personalities, budget, schedule, priorities, etc. — I began to really ENJOY  homeschooling, like never before.

I daresay we began to soar!

And homeschooling, with all of these MAJOR components more firmly in place than ever, has never been more gloriously doable. I’m a fan.

~

Wow, I tried to keep that short, but there you have it! There are many more homeschool majors in my life, including the Holy Spirit and a good support system, but these are the five things that I wanted to focus on today. Is there anything you would put on your “majors” list? Did any of these principles resonate with you? Please share below! And if you want to hang out with me on Facebook and hear funny stories and go shopping and have tickle fights, find our page here!

And find Sarah Mackenzie’s “Teaching From Rest” from my affiliated link by clicking on the picture below. I love this book, and I know you will too!

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Schoolmarmee’s Mid-Year Update: Homeschool Happens

So here we are, more than midway through our Adventures in Kindergarten, and I really thought it was time for an update. This “Home Academy” blog has been poorly neglected, but the reasons for that fit quite nicely into what I want to say today, anyway. Don’t you love it when everything matches and has a theme? I sure do.

Because, what I have learned foremost in my first year as a homeschool-teacher is this: homeschool happens.

Meaning, more often than not, there is not anything really noteworthy (or for that matter, blogworthy) about our days here, other than the typical beauty that is found in a life lived in simplicity at home.

I am not so creative that I have neat little craft ideas or recipes to share, and I am not such a pioneer in the field of home education that I have worldview-shifting philosophies to inspire and motivate you. Thankfully, there is a wealth of ideologies out there already that speak far more eloquently than I ever could (I’m looking at you, Charlotte Mason, xoxo), and my sisters on Pinterest have got the awesome snacks and tricked-out craft department more than covered.

But what I do have to offer is some gentle encouragement by way of transparency and honesty…

As much as I absolutely adored our first days of school, with the strict schedule and the novelty and the whimsy (and believe me, I wouldn’t change a thing about it!), as time has wore on, and as I have traveled through the very dark and difficult days of 1st trimester pregnancy misery, school hasn’t so much taken a back burner as it has simply found a way to fit into our life, whatever our life looks like on any given day.

And I think that’s what homeschool is all about.

One of the most notable benefits I have observed during our first year of schooling is that my kids are learning the great art of flexibility and self-education, as well as self-entertainment. As much as I would love to coddle them and max our days out with back-to-back colorful and educational activities, life just isn’t like that. At least mine isn’t.

It’s messy.

It can be hectic.

And it hardly ever goes as planned.

And so one of my very favorite things about the first half of our first year has been watching my Kindergartener, as he has learned his letter sounds and early reading skills and how to tell time, learn to live.

Here are a few examples of Gideon’s greatest accomplishments in Kindergarten thus far (in Schoolmarmee’s sort-of-humble opinion):

  • Learning to appreciate the library.
  • Learning to concentrate on school with one sister crying at our feet and one watching “Little Bear” in the living room.
  • Learning to accompany me and his Papa on church calls and to sit quietly and respectfully while we visit. I’ll share more on this in the future.
  • Learning to become best friends with his siblings and to help take care of them.
  • Learning to hold the door open for me and his sisters.
  • Helping me bake, helping Papa build things, and helping with cleaning and yard work.
  • Learning to listen sort-of intently to chapter books with no pictures. He even chose this over a television show today! Major score.
  • Learning to paint and draw from his imagination rather than always using pre-made coloring sheets.
  • Identifying and naming classical music selections and their composers and giving vivid descriptions of what the music makes him think of.
  • Growing in his love for his entire family and desiring more and more to do kind things for them.
  • Learning to come to us and confess when he has done wrong, before praying and asking God to keep “fixing his heart”. This is my favorite development of the year.
  • Learning to have good manners, at the table, at church, in the car, on errands, and at home.
  • Learning his first song on the piano.
  • Learning to read simple words and books.
  • Developing the foundational stages of his theology.
  • Memorizing dozens of nursery rhymes and songs, including some hymns that he really loves.
  • Learning to dress himself, if not appropriately, at least in an always interesting manner (and I have learned to just go with it).
  • Learning to dislike bullying and cruelty, to people and animals.
  • Learning to become friends with nature and find fulfillment just by being outside.
  • Working simple math problems, at his own pace and for his own enjoyment.

Notice I said “learn-ING” a lot; he is not yet master of any of those subjects, but I share all of these things for one simple reason: in all honesty, I wasn’t very terribly intentional in all of the above. And that’s what I mean when I say “homeschool happens”, because, as we live and move as a family unit, sitting down to read here, listening to music together there, and fleshing out the triumphs and trials of the Christian life in front of each other, we naturally grow. We learn. We develop. We flourish in the things we are good at and we learn to persevere in the things we are not so good at.

Yes, I have to “do school”. Unfortunately, I can’t just throw out a bunch of worksheets and say “figure it out.” And the only reason Gideon can name songs and composers is because I taught him. But my point is, the greatest school moments we have had this year took place when we were doing life, and when we, as a family, were enjoying the things we love.

Homeschool happens, you guys! Especially in the sweet, simple and flexible year of Kindergarten.

And all that was my very roundabout way of saying this: if you’re feeling down that your homeschool isn’t very organized and looks nothing like the schools in the land of blogs and Pinterest, take a moment to catalogue what your children have learned, and take inventory, not just on the hours of your schooldays and the number of projects on your wall, but on all of your moments and days together as a family, and on how your little man or your little lady has changed over the past year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be surprised to find that you’re doing more than fine, and learning far more than you even realized.

Every single one of you.

"Homeschool Happens" - encouragement for fellow less-than-organized homeschoolers.

…and Schoolmarmee Burns

So yes, I cried the first night of homeschool when it hit me like a doorjamb (has anyone else ever run straight into a doorjamb? It hurts…) that my baby is a schoolboy now.

But that was nothing compared to the tears I shed on the 2nd day of homeschool, this time of a very different (and much darker) variety.

Sometimes it dawns upon a lady with an unsettling and depressing clarity that she has limitations that are in need of supernatural healing and strength, and sadder still, that she is undeniably selfish.

Schoolmarmee was met with such a dawning before we were halfway through our 2nd lesson on the first Friday of homeschool.

Gideon wasn’t so much being bad as he was being a normal and wiggly and self-absorbed little boy. The problem was (as is the norm) that I had set my expectations too high, and, during our week of preparing our homeschool sans children, I had conjured up blissful images of a Home Academy wherein my children sat on the edge of their seats, brows furrowed sometimes in concentration, sometimes in wonder, as a world of learning was opened up to them via my creative heart and eloquent tongue. There would be lots of laughter and order and tranquility and movie-quality moments, and my children would arise and call me blessed before we sat down to the extraordinary lunches I discovered on Pinterest (and then actually made).

But mostly, I expected that they would be grateful for all the hard work I had done and respectful of the amount of love and time I had poured into preparing our homeschool for them…

but I wanted a gratitude that 5- and 3- and 1-year olds don’t know how to express.

Unless they are characters in a book or on the big screen.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for my high hopes to be violently dashed, and before I knew it, I was frustrated up to here with my students who wouldn’t know a good teacher if she was staring them in the face and who were absolutely undeserving of their tricked-out vintage homeschool room. (Not really. But that’s what I was thinking for a bit).

Don’t get me wrong – Gideon had plenty of fault in the matter, and was being as stubborn and mind-gamey as I was being unreasonable. And Rebekah and Betsie weren’t cooperating much, either…

but I am very ashamed at the way I lost my temper and yelled in anger at the human gifts God has entrusted to me.

I banished the lot to their nursery upstairs and called Mr. Gore on the landing of the staircase, crying.

“What’s wrong?!” he exclaimed, after the telltale silence on my end of the line.

“I don’t know if I can do this…” I sobbed.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m just not very good at this…” I whimpered.

“What?” he repeated.

“Oh…everything,” I wailed, “teaching…training…disciplining…being a Mom!!”

Because, worse than my disappointment that my life was not going to be a picture book, was the renewed awareness that I have a really hard time sometimes living for others. As excited as I was about our new routine and our new venture of home education, there was an underlying sense of dread that my days could not be spent doing what I wanted to do, that I was “chained down”, in a sense, to the decision we had made to homeschool for the next couple of decades, and worst of all, that the root of that morning’s frustration had more to do with my own sick and selfish heart than it had to do with the actions of my childish children.

Gideon occasionally peeked out the door to see if I was still crying, his eyes doleful. No matter what he has done, or how badly he has behaved, he hates to see his Mama cry. He slipped past me on the staircase and went downstairs as I continued to seek counsel from his Papa.

Mr. Gore is always good medicine, for he knows just how to encourage me while still giving me a good dose of tough love. He is always understanding, but never indulgent, and as he led me in truth, he helped me to remember that what I was doing was a praiseworthy and important thing…before reminding me gently that if we were going to choose this route for our children’s education, I must continue to work hard at living the gospel out for our kids and to mortify the sin that had been creeping into my life. (I had confessed to him earlier in the week that I had been sharp with the children more than ever before, and how much I hated it).

We hung up the phone and I sat there quietly sniffling, gathering myself, redirecting my focus, praying for forgiveness and grace…

I heard footsteps, and Gideon began to climb the stairs tentatively, a piece of paper in his hand.

“Here…” he said, shyly.

I took the paper in my hand and looked at it. It was a heart and it said “I love Mama”.

“I’m sorry I acted that way.” Gideon said.

“Gid…” I interrupted him, “I’m sorry. I should not have yelled at you like that.”

“But I was having a mean attitude,” he said. “That’s why you yelled at me.”

“Well…” I said, “We were both wrong. Do you forgive me?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I forgive you, too,” I said, “Our hearts are so broken, Gid. But God is going to keep fixing them and teaching us how to follow Him.”

We embraced, and sat there together, our hearts healing as we rocked back and forth.

So we had our movie moment, after all, even if it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But we also discovered another facet of homeschool that I had yet to consider…the art of learning to live in harmony and to treat one another in the way that God commands, 24/7. And there on the staircase, I accepted the challenge of the lifestyle God has compelled us to live – the real one, not the one I had fabricated in my fluffy daydreams…

The breaks from each other will be few and far between. We will have ups and downs, peaks and valleys. We will have triumphs followed by miserable, miserable failures. We will be learning about the world and history and language together, but in the process, we will be on an intense journey of sanctification as a family unit. After our blissful week of preparation and our euphoric first day of school, reality had set in, and I’m glad. Because I think the best way for a Schoolmarmee to run her school well is to crash and burn right off the bat before swiftly handing the reigns back to the God who takes hearts of stone and turns them into hearts of flesh; I am confident that if our homeschool will turn out to be any kind of success, it will be by His grace and, for His glory alone. I pray that, more than book knowledge and cultural smarts and classical music appreciation, we will learn to love and to love well, beginning with one another.

And they say that home schooled children lack socialization and people skills…

On the contrary. I have a feeling that, by graduation day, we’ll be pros in the department of human relations.

Schoolmarmee Crashes…

Our first day of school was a breeze, but during all the planning and orchestrating, I forgot to mourn the fact that my baby boy is in Kindergarten…
until tonight. I just cried a river in my living room.

Mrs. Gore, Facebook, September 6th, 2012

~

I have to admit, our first day of school was somewhat idyllic, and for the better part of the day, I was floating on the good vibes that had surrounded our entire week of preparation and celebration, and was 100% pleased by how our morning had gone. And since we spent the rest of our day at my Mom and Dad’s house in the country, by the time we returned home late that night, our house was still spotless, ready to welcome us fluidly into Day 2 of our Home Academy adventure.

It was straight to bed for the children, and in a short amount of time, Mr. Gore and I had collapsed into our favorite chairs to watch another episode of “Parks and Recreation” (season 3). I should have been thrilled. The day had been lovely from start to finish, the house was as perfect as it had ever been, and all in all, things could not possibly have gone better during our homeschool debut…

but that’s when I realized I had zoned out and missed the first 3 minutes of our sitcom.

Why?

What was I thinking about?

What could possibly distract me from the 20 minutes of humor that I had been looking forward to all evening?…

My thoughts, by this point spiraling out of control.

Gideon.

Gideon is 5 now.

Gideon is in SCHOOL.

I am a teacher now.

I am the lone teacher, janitor, cook, nurse, and daycare provider in my house every morning for…

the rest of my life!!!!

Gideon is in SCHOOL. What happened to my little baby? How am I going to survive him growing up? Why is life so cruel?!…

“Wait!” I said loudly, “Pause it!”

“What? Huh?” Mr. Gore (dumbly) asked.

I put my hand over my face.

“I have no idea what’s going on.” I answered from behind my fingers.

“A cook-off. Remember? They’re having a cook-off.” he replied, gesturing to the TV.

“No. I have no idea what is going on…I haven’t seen one bit of this episode.” I said.

“But…” Mr. Gore hedged.

“Can you rewind it?” I asked, my hand still over my face. It felt safe in there, like I could hold it together if I just kept my hand over my face.

“What’s going on? I’m confused…” my husband asked, suspicion in his voice. He can always tell when I’m about to lose it.

“I just…I just…I just…” I tried to speak…

but it was too late, and the words blurted out in a rush, followed by a Lucy-ish wail, “GIDEON IS IN KINDERGARTEN!!!”

What followed was a 5 to 8 minute rush of tears and blubbering about the quick pace of life, finished up by a confessional wherein I owned up to all of my doubts and fears concerning homeschool, in general, and my capability and selfishness, in particular. Mr. Gore fetched me a tissue and did a decent job of keeping his smirk hidden, listening patiently until I got all of the hysterics out of my system.

It was not pretty, folks, but then, my tears are never really pretty. I hold them at bay until, like a dam bursting forth, they come crashing down and drown me and Mr. Gore in a pool of lament and misery and drama, and yes, a bit of humor; my husband has always called me a caricature of a real person, and we always find something to laugh about, even when I cry. Before too long, we were giggling and back to watching our TV show, although I may or may not have continued to drown my sorrows via the giant glass canister of Multi-grain Cheerio’s in my lap. I can’t remember for sure, but I might have been eating them by the handful (also not pretty).

The morale of this story is, like I mentioned earlier this week, Kindergarten is a rite of passage for youngsters in America – it’s a HUGE deal – and I think it requires a moment of mourning, whether you homeschool or not.

Sure, Gid the Kid went out the back door to leave for school and came in the front door to start school…

but he still went out the back door.

Our First Day: A Moment I’ll Never Forget

At 7:00 a.m. on September 6th, 2012, I woke up to my new schedule, butterflies in my stomach, lists of to-do’s racing through my head…

It was 2 hours until schooltime and I had a lot of juggling to do to pull off our first day of homeschool in the manner I had dreamed of for months and months.

How was I going to get everything done in an orderly fashion? We were used to just puttering through the day until naptime, doing a little of this, a little of that…

What in the world was I going to do with Baby Betsie? After months of eating every non-edible object in sight, she had started to become trustworthy again…only to learn how to climb. Nothing is safe from her reach now, and most of it still goes in her mouth after she scales the table to fetch it.

And, most importantly…when would I find time to blog? (answer: well past my bedtime).

But this was no time for second-guessing. We had much to accomplish, me and my Mister, and even if the day was kind to us and went by slowly, Gideon was too excited to be put off for long. With a 9:00 a.m. deadline, I bathed, I groomed, I drank my coffee, I read my Bible and prayed, I led the kids through their new schedule, I made the bed, I made breakfast, and, sending the children upstairs with Mr. Gore to tidy up their room, I put the last finishing touches to my wardrobe and to our schoolroom. Straightening the large round rug in the middle of the room with my toe, I looked at my domain, glistening and gleaming from the overhaul it had received earlier that week, the smell of crayons and chalk feeding my enthusiasm….

I took a deep breath.

It was time.

Throwing my heavy bathrobe over my clothes, I tightly cinched it with a sash and called for Mr. Gore and Gideon to come downstairs (while Miss Sunday was left to “baby-sit” Betsie in the Betsie-proofed nursery).

Gideon was all smiles as he came down the stairs – he had been waiting for this day as expectantly as I had. I fussed over him and told him to stand with Papa for a first-day-of-school picture…

And then I began to reveal the plan that I had envisioned over and over again in the past months…

“Okay, Gid! Go grab your backpack and put on some shoes.” I said.

“Where am I going?” he asked, confused.

“To school!” I answered.

“But I am at school!” he laughed.

“Nope…not yet,” I replied, my heart doing crazy hyper things in my chest. This was the moment I had been most looking forward to, more than the party, more than the schoolday, more than anything…

We went on to explain to Gideon that, after telling us goodbye, he needed to go out the back door, walk through the side yard, go to the front door and knock. Then he would be at school.

His expression was priceless, and I knew that we had hit the jackpot with this idea. The novelty and fun of this adventure resonated so deeply with our little 5-year old boy.

After gathering his things, he told his Papa goodbye, but before he turned to me, he said “Oh! I need an apple to give to my teacher!!”

This child is truly mine, for that was the final detail to our day that I had completely forgotten. A red, shiny apple lay drying next to the kitchen sink, forgotten in my excitement. Me and Gideon may have many faults, but we are very faithful to the roles we choose to play…

Apple in hand, he turned to me where I stood beside the backdoor, a vision in white terrycloth. I knelt down beside him, and, licking my finger, began to scrub at the remnants of cinnamon toast now stuck to his face…

I took his face in my hands, and memorized him, kissing him, hugging him, and telling him all the things Mamas of Kindergarteners get to tell their children: “I love you!” “Be a good boy for your teacher!” “I hope you have fun at school!”

He hugged me back, his smile of wonder now a permanent fixture on his face, and Mr. Gore and I waved at him as he began his solitary walk to his first day of school.

I shut the door, the old-fashioned shop bell we bought at Victorian Trading Co. jangling above me.

It was showtime.

I untied my robe and dropped it, revealing the “teacher” dress I had ironed the night before, an Anthropologie gem my Mom had bought for me last Spring with a little bumblebee print, topped with a black cotton cardigan. Slipping on my t-strap wedges, I ran on tipey-toes through the kitchen, letting down my hair as I ran. I couldn’t stop giggling and suspected that I was smiling like a 5-year old at Christmastime (yikes…I was right).

Mr. Gore and I followed Gideon’s progress by the office (schoolroom) windows, and within seconds, I saw his shadow pass by the living room window, followed by a little knock.

Mr. Gore got into position with the video camera, this time facing the front door rather than the back.

Smoothing my hair one last time, I crossed over the entry rug and opened the door. Gideon looked up at me, dazed, his smile somehow huger than it was when I had last seen him…

“How did you DO that?!” he asked in awe.

“I’m your teacher now!” I said, laughing. “Welcome to your new school.”

“But this is my home!” he laughed.

“Nope. This is school now…” I said, my smile matching his as I scrubbed his hair and touched his little face once more. I was dying to scoop him up and hug the living daylights out of him.

“This is for you!” he said, holding out his apple. Laughing, I accepted it, sealing this new phase of our relationship with the most timeless token of scholarly affection known to teachers.

We posed for a school picture, my student and me, our first of hopefully many. Whether the sheen of tears in my eyes is from laughter or sentimentality, I’m not sure…but probably both.

and with that, our Home Academy was finally in session.

I shared the following later that night on facebook:

Gid was hilarious today and somehow managed to be the class clown in a class of ONE. Public Schools…you should thank me for keeping this one at home.

But really, I’m the one who is thankful. I will admit that I have broken down into tears several times in the past week (tears of frustration and doubt this time rather than sentimentality or laughter), but if homeschooling provides memories of God’s grace like the one above, then I am positive…

we’re going to do just fine.

Twas the Night Before Homeschool

Somehow, someway, we did it.

By the time my Mom brought our children back home at 3:30 this Wednesday afternoon, our home had been transformed from one of disorder to order, from cluttered to organized, from haphazard to….unhaphazard, from unschoolish to schoolish…

and in the meantime, my vocabulary was obviously shot; I am one exhausted puppy, and even my words have gone to sleep.

But regardless of the fact that it is nearly 1:00 a.m. and our first day of homeschool starts in the morning, and unconcerned over my current state of brainlessness, I’m hopelessly atwitter, and I simply cannot go to bed until I record just a tiny bit of this day for the future and wiser Mrs. Gore to shake her head at with an indulgent smile over the gungho and enraptured state of her former self.

Would you like to indulge me, as well, oh internet people?

(Thank you).

I can’t imagine what my son was feeling as he drifted off to sleep tonight.

For there is major change in the air…

He came home to a house that had been rearranged to proclaim from nearly every corner that the rite of passage that a nation full of Kindergarteners experienced this past month is also available to him, regardless of the fact that his schooling will look markedly different than most of the children who live on our street. And I suppose that was why I labored so intensely over this occasion, aside from wanting to show off for my blog; I want Gideon to look back someday and remember the day he stepped into the world of education. I want him to feel a little more grown, a little more special, and most importantly, a little more in love with the world God made for us to enjoy.

Heaven knows I allowed him to be a baby for as long as humanly possible: when he left for Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house on Monday night, he was still sleeping in a toddler-sized bed and spent his days watching cartoons and playing soldiers and dress-up and digging in the dirt and making thoughtless messes and occasionally throwing fits…

but when he came home this afternoon, a new (twin-sized) bed with new bedding sat in his favorite corner of the bedroom, a new backpack waited to hold his very own school supplies, a box of new school clothes updated his closet full of too-short pants and shirts, a new schedule had replaced the laid-back and lackadaisical one that had dominated his days for the past 5 years, and even his Mama had been transformed into a lady more polished, more organized, more responsible…

And I didn’t realize it until now, but it was time for this change, for all of us. Time for us to step it up a notch. Time to grow and learn and take on new responsibilities. Time for some order. Time to step into a new season in life.

Time for a new adventure, but one that will take place in the familiar and cozy walls of our home.

We kicked it off with a family back-to-school party in our dining room this afternoon – I’ll be sharing pictures in the very near future. And now just one more sleep remains until school is finally in session.

Any fear or uncertainty concerning my readiness or capability just cannot be entertained…

for there is a little boy sleeping in a big bed upstairs dreaming about his first day of Kindergarten, and he is counting on me.

Schoolmarmee Gets Ready and Gets Set…

Mr. Gore and I have spent the last 24 hours preparing our home for what feels like the biggest day of my life coming up on Thursday…

the first day of school!!!

My parents have been planning on keeping the children for us for 2 nights so we could celebrate our anniversary (on June 11th), but things kept coming up, and the date kept getting pushed back…

but then the stars seemingly lined up and we used our baby-sitting card for this Monday and Tuesday night. What was initially supposed to be a romantic staycation at home turned into a bit of a work holiday, but we have had such fun together as we have enjoyed the luxury of working and thinking and planning without interruption, and completing projects in our home that have been on a waiting list since at least 2011.

In hindsight, I honestly can’t think of a better way to kick off the schoolyear, and I am shocked at what we have been able to accomplish without the children underfoot.

Maps have been hung, wire baskets have been drilled into the wall, the furniture has been rearranged, groceries and supplies have been purchased, the yard has been mowed, presents have been wrapped (that’s right…in Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy, we don’t do school without a few presents!), and tomorrow afternoon after the children’s naps, they will come home to a house that is ready to educate and to inspire and to celebrate!

Honestly? I could weep and sing and run and dance all at the same time.

I haven’t been this excited since Miss Sunday’s 3rd birthday party.

You see, I love my kids. And I love being home. And I love being home with my kids. And I love school. And I love clean houses. And I love celebrations…

And tomorrow through at least Friday will be a conglomeration of all of the above, to the point that I am doubtful that I will be falling asleep anytime soon. Especially since I had a Dr. Pepper at 7:00 p.m. (I knew better, but you can’t eat Chinese food during your staycation without a Dr. Pepper…). I feel like Leslie Knope the night before the Pawnee Harvest Festival, surveying my handiwork and my realm with a manic smile. Even the most negative cynic could not bring me down tonight…

And while I am almost positive that I will someday look back and chuckle at my utter naivety concerning the monstrous task that is ahead of me, I am determined to walk confidently and optimistically through this week, to grab the homeschool bull by the horns, to be a cheerful and chipper Pollyanna, and to entertain the notion that even this time-consuming and self-sacrificing act of voluntarily being the homeschool teacher to at least 3 children will be as beautiful and as lovely and as enjoyable as I imagine it will be.

I’m sure there will be days when I wake up late, when will I feel selfish and want to watch “Live with Kelly” instead of teaching, when all 3 kids will be crying at the same time, when there will be nothing to eat for lunch, when I will be up to my neck in laundry, when I will wonder if I was an absolute lunatic when I decided to homeschool…

but today? I am full of hope and gratitude, for only God could have brought me to this place, and so I know full well that He will continue to work in me, even as I teach my children how to read and write and – Lord, help me – do arithmetic.

I have another full day of cleaning and baking and prepping and grooming tomorrow, and then, once naptime is over and my Mom brings the kids back home…its the day-before-school cookie and present party!! Depending on how my day goes, I’ll either be baking Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Whoopee Pies or sending Mr. Gore after a box of Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cream Pies.

I’ll let you know how that goes…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some mopping to do!

Schoolmarmee Prepares Her First Lesson

It is a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The children are mostly asleep (I periodically continue to hear thuds upstairs), and I am sitting alone at the dining room table, a stack of file folders, some college-ruled paper, my favorite pen, a good pair of scissors, and my new homeschool curriculum scattered in front of me.

I’m atwitter….

For in exactly a week and a half, I will finally have the opportunity to introduce my beloved 5-year old boy to an uncharted and exciting world of learning, beginning a new adventure for our entire family…

Homeschool.

Kindergarten!!

And I – Schoolmarmee – will finally be introduced to the world of teaching.

{Schoolmarmee = Schoolmarm + Marmee (the endearing and gentle Mother from Little Women), and this is who I will strive to be as I rule my homeschool with a firm hand and a soft word. And as teacher of this school, if I fail, I can still force my kids to call me this! Win win.}

Since our first day as mother and child in 2007, I suppose Gideon and I have been learning together. I have taught him to be civilized and to keep a lid on his temper, and he has taught me how to be patient and humble and long-suffering; we have taught each other how to love and how to forgive and what it means to be bound to someone by unbreakable chords.

And so it is only fitting that we begin this new journey together; he’ll be learning to read and write and do arithmetic, and I’ll be learning how to do this homeschool thingy. As ever, we will fail at times, we will succeed at times, we will be grouchy at times, we will be happy at times, we’ll have trouble communicating at times, and we’ll be on the same page at times. But we are in this together, and though his sisters will follow behind him in the years to come and I’ll do Kindergarten all over again, I just know in my heart, this year is going to be special.

My excitement is palpable. As I sit here (admittedly, a bit dazed by all the instructions) perusing my new schoolteacher books, I can’t help being transported back to my first day of Kindergarten. I was terrified to leave my Mama, and I have been told by eyewitnesses that I cried and clung to her legs, shy and scared and unused to being anywhere but home and with anyone else but her. But after the trauma of that first day (or week? Weeks?) wore off, my memories grow much brighter: the excitement of new assignments, my very own desk with a place for my books, a cubby with a little hook to hold my embroidered bag with the carousel print, the smell of pencil lead and erasers, my sweet teacher and her vibrato singing voice, the feel of  sticky Elmer’s glue on my fingertips, the brightly colored cut-outs on the wall, fat crayons and rulers and pencil boxes…

And today, sitting here preparing for my first day of school, it is all coming back to me in a glorious rush of nostalgia and sweet childhood academia.

How glad I am to be in Kindergarten again, and I vow to make this year as special for my little boy as it was for me.

I have no idea what lies ahead; there is a fear in me that I am naive in my excitement and that this venture is going to be much, much harder than I am expecting. But one thing is certain: my heart has been called to our little school at home, way back when my first pupil was growing in my tummy. And though almost 6 years have passed since that conviction was first born in my heart, I have never been more certain about anything in my entire life…

And I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share my journey here at Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy. It means the world to me to have you alongside me…

But if you’ll please excuse me, I’ve got a lot of work to do! This curriculum, sadly, isn’t going to organize itself.

Mrs. Gore’s Academy – an Official Welcome

I have been keeping a writing blog for a year and a half, sharing my family’s “diary” of life and life abundant at Mrs. Gore’s Diary.

Periodically, I would share our dabblings in homeschool. My son was 4 and, although he had not yet officially begun his education, we were having “homeschool” parties at my Mom’s house on every holiday, doing “schoolwork” (learning to use safety scissors), reading “schoolbooks” (mostly fairy tales and children’s books that I ordered through Sonlight’s P3/4 curriculum)…basically just sticking our toe in the homeschool water to see if we liked it. If it suited us. If it was our cup of tea.

Guess what?

We did. It did. It was.

And so as our first year of homeschool approached rather rapidly, it began to dawn on me that I would like to have a place to share homeschool ideas and encouragement without bogging down my non-homeschool readers with a gazillion posts about…well, homeschool.

Enter “Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy”. Here,  you will find ideas, resources, homeschool events, humor, and mostly, encouragement, as I skip (or slog? Who knows?!) through our first year in the homeschooling world. As Mrs. Gore’s Diary keeps me pretty busy with all the words and the blither blather, the posts here will be shorter and less polished, with more information and helpful hints than grandiose life lessons. And the best part? I’ll be forcing my sister-in-law, Amy, to participate in this blog, something I am positive you will all thank me for later.

Also, if you have been a regular reader at Mrs. Gore’s Diary, you’ll notice that the first 10 or so posts on this blog have been copied and pasted from the archives. I wanted to keep all of my homeschool experiences together in one place, but from this post on, everything I publish will be new! And exciting! And hot-off-the press!

As with everything I’ve shared on the blogosphere since 2011, I am wildly happy to have you alongside me and am so grateful for your listening ear and your sweet encouragement. I can’t be positive, but…I think we’re going to have a lot of fun here.

If you would like to receive updates from Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy, you’ll need to register your e-mail address. If that is too big a commitment, however, you can always find me through the “Home Education” tab at Mrs. Gore’s Diary. Thanks for reading! Oh…and Happy Homeschooling.

Mrs. Gore’s Peace Treaty on Education

photo property of Amy Jackson
{First shared at Mrs. Gore’s Diary on August 25, 2012}

This is Mrs. Gore, coming to you today not as the preacher’s wife, or as Mother Hen, or as an opinionated (and unpaid) editorial writer.

For on September 6th, 2012, I will bear a new title, one that I have been looking forward to enjoying since I first felt the flutterings of human life in my womb.

On Setptember 6th, 2012, I will become…

Schoolmarmee.

Get it? Schoolmarm + Marmee (the famous mother from “Little Women”) = Schoolmarmee?…see, this is why I should never be a comedienne. My jokes take WAY too much explaining…

Even though that’s not really a joke. I’m really going to make my kids call me that when school is in session.

Anyhow, I digress.

On September 6th, 2012, I will put on my fake glasses, I will ring my giant school bell, and homeschool classes at Gore House will finally be in session.

To say I am beside myself would be the understatement of the school year. I LOVED Kindergarden and I’ve been trying to get back there for 25 loooong years.

The only thing that gives me pause in my excitement, however, is this little white elephant in the room. (I have the distinct feeling I didn’t get that cliche right…it’s just “elephant in the room” isn’t it? And a “white elephant party”…meh. Whatever.). And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed it…

Have you ever felt that little thread of tension that seems to be all wrapped up in discussions on education, especially among believers?

Anybody?

Let me explain: It seems at times that homeschoolers can’t mention anything that takes place in their school life without being met with unsolicited opinions and questions concerning homeschool in general, especially on the hot mess that is Facebook. On the other hand, I think many public schoolers feel judged by the homeschooling community for not keeping their kids at home, which might lead to a lot of these sometimes-heated-but-more-often-than-not-passive-agressive-in-nature discussions.

And so before our very special first day of school comes, I thought it might be nice to put together a little somethin’ that might bring a little peace between the home schools and the public schools and the private schools and the charter schools…

~

A Peace Treaty on Education, written by a Homeschooling Mother

Let us love one another and spur each other on to love and good works, even when it comes to our choice of schooling. I promise to cheer for your child to win the public school spelling bee if you promise to “like” the picture I share on Facebook of my child making a homemade bird feeder.

Let us be kind in our speech about the “other side” even when we are surrounded by our closest friends who happen to share our convictions about schooling.

Let us keepeth our opinion to ourselves, unless asked for it.

Let us not challenge or argue with one another on social media unless we are brave enough to have those same discussions or ask those same questions face-to-face. And if we are that brave, let’s just not do it, anyway.

Let us always assume the best, and refuse to jump to conclusions that we or our children are being judged when someone mentions “an advantage” to their particular choice of schooling.

Let us remember that how someone else chooses to raise their child is very personal and private and does not need to be dissected by someone else, nor is it deserving of even an offhand comment.

Let us remain involved in each other’s lives regardless of how we view education. Every parent has different convictions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate and support one another and show interest in the lives of each other’s children.

Let us be quick to listen and slow to speak, and keep an open mind whenever we do happen to engage in discussions concerning education; sometimes we might be surprised at how our convictions can change. This is, after all, what happened to me!

Let us pray for and encourage all schoolteachers, whether they are teaching a classroom full of 3rd graders or a daughter and a son in their kitchen.

Let us acknowledge that strange and socially awkward children come from home schools, public schools and private schools, as do the most influential and likable and sensible and charismatic in our society.

Let us refrain from turning an educational preference into a war of Christian faithfulness, and look at the entire scope of a person’s life before we decide whether they are or are not evangelistic or devout.

Let us not allow our personal convictions and opinions to prejudice us against children from any school, but determine to make them feel included and loved and encouraged, no matter what.

And most importantly, let us always bear in mind that the outside world will know we belong to God by our love for one another. If we lose that love and kindness over issues of education and parenting, we have also tragically lost the gospel.

~

Dost thou hereby pledge to adhere to this most peaceable treaty on education? Pass it on!