Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taking the First Steps

I won't lie to you, this post is mostly for me to document this moment in time, take a page out of our life to mark where it all started, and how it started. Maybe someday, another mom who is new to homeschooling will read this and find some peace in knowing that she is not alone, or crazy. Perhaps only I will see this, and in years to come will look back and laugh at myself for being so stressed out. In case you missed the previous post, we have decided to homeschool Crawfish Pie. Since Pre-K is not a state requirement, we have not gone the official route and notified the school board. We will however, be sticking to a curriculum, figuring things out, and finding answers to our many questions. If we mess things up along way, we will use our mistakes as learning experiences and laugh at ourselves as we move forward. Deciding to homeschool is a scary decision. There is so much information that comes at you, seemingly all at once, and yet you feel as if none of your questions have been answered. I read somewhere online, that it's like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant. And with that statement, I knew I was not alone and that everything would work itself out. All of my answers were out there somewhere, the flow of information just needed to be slowed down a little. So I took a few days off and then went back to work with a brand new outlook, and a plan.

 Identify our family's main concern with homeschooling. For us, the big issue was socialization. Our darling Crawfish Pie is an extremely social creature, making friends wherever we go. We had to make sure that there were plenty of budget friendly opportunities for her to interact with other kids her age. If we cannot solve this problem, then homeschooling will not work.

Address our main concern head on. We have exactly one year before Kindergarten starts, and in this time I must define a realistic solution to our problem that works within our budget and meets all of our needs. And so I set out on a mission to find friends. Not being a very social creature myself, this task scares the daylights out of me. But I am determined when it comes to Crawfish Pie, so I searched. And I searched. And I searched some more. I scoured the phone book, and practically crashed internet search engines. I signed up for every newsletter, joined every mailing list, "liked" half of facebook, "followed" many a blog, and possibly exceeded my limit of Yahoo Groups. And I suddenly found myself trying to drink from a fire hydrant again. For those of you that think homeschooling is a "one size fits all" bag of wackadoodles, let me prove you wrong now. The people, like the information, were scattered to the four winds. They come from every walk of life, they are stay at home moms and working moms, they all have different religious beliefs, they all have their own reasons for homeschooling, they follow different curricula, they socialize their kids in different ways, some spend tons of money and some spend very little. Their is a group for everything! Some of the groups are a bit too "our club is better than your club" and some even go so far as kick people off their mailing list if they bring the wrong snack for playdates (slight exaggeration, but those people are REALLY stuck up). Some of the groups are the most accepting people on the face of the earth. Truthfully, the homeschool community is an excellent example of "the real world".  With all the differences,  there is something that every homeschool family has in common:  they have worked harder than any other group of people I have ever met. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice to find your way out of a broken system and create a whole new one that works for your family. So even though there are several "groups" of homeschool families in our state, none seemed the right fit for our family either due to distance or group philosophy. I needed local families, but I had found none.

Calm down, and try again. This may be the most important lesson, and for me it is much easier to say then it is to do. After my feelings of doom subsided, something occurred to me: If I cannot find other families in my area, maybe they can find me. Please join me in celebrating the grand opening ( if you can call it that) of Homeschoolers of Acadiana! A facebook page that can be sent out into the world, through email lists and facebook suggestions and simply word of mouth. I would have made fliers, but facebook has a weird rule that a group must have at least 25 members before it can receive a cool web address, and is kind of hard to remember. This group IS NOT better than yours. . . but it just might be closer! This group does not care if you live within certain city limits. This group does not care what curriculum you use, or what style of homeschooling you choose for your family. This group is not "capped" at a certain number (really, what is the goal in that one? are you actively preventing your kids from meeting new people?). This group will not kick you out if you bring the wrong snack for playdates, or if you fail to show on park days. After a week or two on email lists, blogs, and websites, the group is up to 20 members (almost enough to have a cool url!). The families are nearby and I can not wait to meet them all! (Don't let me lie to you, I am terrified to meet them, I'm the socially awkward one remember. Crawfish Pie, on the other hand, will have a blast! What kind of mother would I be if I let my insecurities get in the way of her becoming all that she can be!) Not to mention, in talking to all these wonderful local moms (and also the crazy ones from afar) I have learned of several homeschool family organized activities to add to the painting lessons! Homeschooling is looking GREAT!!!

Define our homeschool. With the major concern taken care of, we now need to decide our "style" and which curriculum we will be using. Yep, we're talking about the fire hydrant again. There are several "styles" of homeschooling, some with their own curriculum. And several more types of curriculum that stand on their own. I have decided that for the time being, we will choose to be "eclectic" drawing on the more structured styles and having a set lesson plan in Language Arts and Reading/Phonics for every school day, but still having a balance with the "unschooling" style in other subjects so that Crawfish Pie is free to explore whatever she wants to in the world. As she gets older, we will switch to more structured days so that she will learn all the material needed to pass standardized tests, and eventually qualify for TOPS and other scholarships. Don't get me wrong, unschoolers do learn all that they need to, but their momma's must work twice as hard to make sure that happens and I am simply not that focused. 

Just do it. With our homeschool defined, its time to start teaching. We choose Lesson Pathways, mostly because it is free. The lesson plans start at the kindergarten level, except for the language arts which starts in pre-k. That really didn't bother us because Crawfish Pie already knows most of what we will be covering and shows an interest in the other areas. It is a really nice resource even if you use other curricula, simply for the cute activities and games that they offer. Our lesson plan is now ready for Monday morning, Crawfish Pie has been ready, mommy has not. The feelings of anxiety still arise every now and then, but I am also excited about this opportunity. I will give it my all, and I look forward to cherishing this time I have with my Crawfish Pie.

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