Monday, January 28, 2013

Homeschooling as Integral Spiritual Practice

Every day of homeschooling is hard. Every day of homeschooling is brilliant and a blessing. A lot like parenting, or living life. It's a great lesson in spiritual awareness and committing to flow.

I read something recently about how we moms today feel guilt no matter what we do. No matter which way I choose, there is always someone there to tell me it is grossly insufficient. If I homeschool I'm selfish and don't trust anyone and have a self-righteous complex. If I send my kids to school I am failing them and letting my family be run by the government and giving my power away to a teacher.

What if it's not so cut-and-dried? What if we flux and flow - school for the purpose of being part of community (or whatever one's reasons), homeschool to center in family, half time school for both, adjusting to the emotional needs of everyone in the family as we go? Isn't that, after all, why most of us chose to homeschool - to respond to the varied needs of everyone in the family?

We moms, whether we work or stay home, homeschool or send our kids to school, we need to stop focusing on the insufficiencies and look at the deeper flow, deeper reasons behind what we do. And we need to allow that to flux as needed.

When we were thinking seriously about sending my daughter to school, I went into a deep depression. I felt like all I'd worked towards and everything that gives me value was going away. I realized how much I've put my identity and self worth into being That Mom: homeschooling, attachment parenting, earthy mama extraordinaire. Also, I didn't want my life to look like other people's. I am proud of how we are different, how we spend time together visiting farms, harvesting our own food, exploring natural areas in the middle of the city, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. But I was looking at school because I also feel like I fail at all that and my kids would do better with less computer time and more friend time. And how could I decide about school based on which action was the lesser fail? How could I decide between feeling useful and feeling free? As if either choice is so all-or-nothing?

We ended up continuing to homeschool, a day at a time, despite too much computer time, despite my temper that I struggle with daily. First because I couldn't find a school that fit our family's needs, which is the reason I started homeschooling in the first place. And second, and maybe most importantly, because my daughter doesn't want to go to school. She likes her freedom and she enjoys her one-day-a-week homeschool enrichment "school." I do too. And I see the deep value of homeschooling, the sense of self that my children get to grow without measuring themselves based  on test scores or the latest fashion. We get to ask - are my kids fulfilled? am I? do we feel loved? responded to? inspired? No batch of test scores measures this.

But I have homeschooling friends who have put their kids in school because they need to. One family needed the time so mom could work and they could get out of a bad financial situation. Another is sending her two daughters to school because they want to go. A third friend is contemplating school because she has found her calling and needs more time to pursue it, towards the emotional fulfillment and financial richness that this would bring her and the whole family. I applaud these friends for doing what their family needs, as I applaud all my friends who keep on homeschooling. It's all flow. Our kids can go to school for a year, or half a year, or not at all, and we are teaching them that we value their needs and desires and curiosity - and our own. 

For my family, valuing our needs and desires means continuing to homeschool a day at a time. Sort of like a spiritual practice. When you meditate, you take it a breath at a time. You keep calling yourself back to present moment and living in the witness. You have to keep calling yourself back. When you pray, you keep returning to that relationship with God, that wordless sense of purpose and rootedness that may be lost again in the next moment. Homeschooling, like any relationship that matters, is like that. And when you return to breath, or return to connection with God, you gain a little reminder of what it's all about. Same with homeschooling. When I have those brilliant moments, it all makes sense. 

It's less important that we religiously adhere to one path or another, and more important that we live a spiritual, living devotion to our deepest commitments. And then we can let go of the guilt of not being enough, and just look inside at that inner compass, that ongoing relationship, and open to both the blessings and the challenge.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our first poem and drawing from The Private Eye

We are using the book The Private Eye, a system of using a jeweler's loupe to examine natural objects close up, come up with analogies about what you see, draw the object, and use the analogies to write poetry and stories, and then to learn about it's scientific properties, again through the lens of analogies.

My seven-year-old created the following poem and drawing. This is the first time we have done the analogies part, rather than just looking at things through the loupe. We will revisit the same coral in a few days to come up with more analogies, explore it's properties ("why is it like a whirlpool/rose/seaweed? What does that tell us about it?") and write a story.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Free Ecology and Geography Curriculum

Kids for Saving the Earth has a free education packet, along with a "Conserving Classroom Calendar." The calendar has links on it that bring you to printable lesson ideas.

Another fabulous free resource for learning about the earth and our relationship with it are the classroom resources at Heifer International. They also offer a program called Read to Feed, where kids take pledges, raise money, and help other kids and families in struggling countries. Meanwhile, they learn about giving and service and about other countries. Compassion and education are important traits to teach in order to raise eco-loving kids.

The Rainforest Action network also has curriculum available, including reading lists, films, and a save-an-acre program.