teenagers

Moving to the Passenger Seat

When your homeschooler starts to become more independent, your role as a homeschool parent changes. Love this!

I am so pleased to welcome Molly Dunham to the home | school | life blogging team! When we first started homeschooling our daughter, her blog (now archive-only) was such a resource and inspiration for me. I’m thrilled to read her thoughts on homeschool life again—and I bet you will be, too.

 

We circled the parking lot several times before settling for a parking spot a block away from the library. So many station wagons and minivans signaled that today was preschool story time. It had been years since I loaded my preschool aged children into our Volvo wagon to make our weekly trek to the library, where we’d sit on carpet mats on the floor of the community room to hear our favorite librarians read out loud. 

“It seems like just yesterday that we were going to story time, and now you’re driving me to the library,” I said to my daughter as she parked my Subaru.

Times change, cars change, roles change. And just like people tell you when your kids are young, it happens so fast. My little girl is now taller than I am. She has her driver’s permit and has claimed her own set of keys to my car. In a few weeks, she will be done with high school, two years ahead of schedule. In a few months, she will get her driver’s license and begin taking classes at the local community college. If all goes according to her plans, she will also get a job. These are the events she’s been preparing for the last ten years of homeschooling, but it’s hard to believe they’re scheduled on this year’s calendar.

Even though I have one child on her way to college, and another child who has opted to attend a traditional middle school after homeschooling throughout the elementary grades, I am a homeschooler at heart. Some things don’t change. As my kids have grown and chosen their educational paths, our classroom has expanded beyond math at the dining room table, science at the kitchen island, PE at the park, literature via audiobooks in the car, and field trips to historical monuments. Learning together has become our family culture, and I imagine our shared education will extend far beyond their graduation. I look forward to the lessons they have in store for me. There’s so much to see from the passenger seat.


Lines of Communication with Teen Unschoolers

How one mom uses technology to stay connected to her teen unschoolers. Good ideas here! #homeschool

There are emails in my inbox from my children this morning. My son has sent a link titled, “Best Worst Game Trailer Ever,” and my daughter, the middle kid, has sent an email titled, “How Utah Solved Homelessness,” and “TV Return Dates.” My latest email exchange with the oldest is titled “21 Things you can do in London that are Free.”

This habit of emailing each other throughout our day has grown, I think, from something my husband started. He sat down a couple of years ago and made a list of things he heard the kids bring up in conversation often. He created a list of Google Alerts for himself with keywords based on those topics and the alerts became fodder for email exchanges with the kids (and me — he outlined my interests, as well). At first I was perhaps a little skeptical of his motives, but I soon saw how often those exchanges started spilling into our conversations, sparking exchanges we might not have otherwise had, and how many times an idea or concept picked up in this manner turned into a whole family dialogue.

Even better, the kids began responding in a similar fashion. When they came across something they found amusing, enlightening, or curious, they’d send an email titled, “What do you think of this?” or “Something we should consider.”

It’s become another way for me to peek inside their universe at an age where kids are often accused of being less accessible. I may not know every detail, but in this small way I think I am gaining a greater understanding of what captures their interest and imagination. I don’t always understand what draws them to the things they are drawn to, but these glimpses have opened my eyes to things I might not have noticed on my own. I learn a little something with each note and what evolves into conversation helps me understand where a topic ranks in importance.

Many of these exchanges burn out quickly, while others have become subject of daily conversation between a few of us and sometimes all. I like the point of contact that fits between schedules that are increasingly filled with job and school obligations, something our lives were free of for so long.

These email exchanges are indicative of our changing roles. We serve as the primary resources for our children less and less with each passing day. More and more, they are teaching us, showing us the things we need to learn to keep up with this ever-changing world.


In the Autumn of Unschooling: Shifting Gears for High School

Pinning this for later: Great read on what unschooling high school looks/feels like. #homeschool

When the kids were younger, September was a month of settling into a new routine.After summer 4-H activities and nearing the end of the summer farmers market season, we looked forward to making plans for fall projects and defining just what it was that we wanted to accomplish in the coming year as the days grew shorter and the temperature dropped.

New routines don’t feel like so much of a joint effort anymore. I’m feeling, in fact, like the month of September snuck up on me. Our family has managed to wrap up a summer full of 4-H, quite a bit of travel for the kids, farmers market events, extended family gatherings with cousins one-two-and-three generations down the line, and we’ve celebrated the middle kid’s 17th birthday.

What has changed?

I find myself asking if it is more the kids or me. As they’ve gotten older, my routine has slid toward working more and hanging out at home less. A defensive mechanism, perhaps? A way of keeping myself from hovering? A reaction to the fact that I realized, at some point, my kids would benefit from a little less mom time?

Five years ago I took a job as the farmers market manager (part-time summers, somewhat less than part-time through the winters) and what my vendors have been reminding me lately is that the kids were there, near weekly, helping out. My youngest learned to count change by sorting the market money bag. The oldest helped by plugging the numbers into the accounting program for the first few summers. She also became the market’s official photographer for events. They carried corn and watermelons for shoppers and were often there to ring the start of market bell.

“Haven’t seen your girls all summer,” a vendor said to me on Saturday, and, “That boy of yours, I barely recognized him. He’s gotten so tall.”

Some days I feel I don’t see much of them either. My oldest seems to be having an easy semester. When she’s not in school, she’s working… saving her money for big plans down the road. She’s spending more time out with friends, studying… or whatever it is the college kids do these days.

The middle kid is also on campus, for only one class, but it is five days a week, and she works in the office for her dad the one day I’m not there. We took a break together at lunch yesterday to review the state’s guidelines for high school graduates. We then went to the university’s page for incoming freshman. She’ll have no problems getting in. She could be “done” in fact if we chose to look at things that way. In the spirit of being thorough, we decided to add a Crash Course/Khan Academy chemistry unit to her transcript. I volunteered to sit beside her as a student, too. I’m looking forward to the time together.

My son took on a two-half-days-a week babysitting job in the summer that has morphed into three-more-or-less-full days this fall. When I worried that it was too much time, too much responsibility, he talked me into letting him give it a try. I still worry, but he is finding his way, and we are keeping the lines of communication open about it. In addition to the babysitting job, my son remains dedicated to daily “edu-pack” time, his self-titled selection of topics/themes/lessons that has evolved from what I once urged as a daily things-to-do list. The last I looked, in included things like DuoLingo lessons, a history series on YouTube, and daily time on Khan Academy. In addition, he has signed up for a German cooking class, and has been studying the area technical school catalog, trying to decide if there is a certificate he might like to apply for (he has learned that high school students can begin taking classes at minimal cost their junior year of high school).

I have moments where I ache to have it all back again… days centered at the kitchen table, rolling out egg noodles for lunch as little voices take turns reading out loud from the latest Harry Potter novel. Last night middle kid made pizza for the whole family. Tonight we each ate what was found in the refrigerator as we arrived home, varied leftovers as varied schedules permit. Last night’s pizza maker has her nose in a book, and it’s not the same book I saw her reading a few hours ago. My son has retreated to his room, feeling the need for some alone-time, I suspect, after another full day of babysitting. I crawl into bed without seeing the oldest. Hubby and I have a conversation about it. Should we ask her to check in more often? We hear the key in the lock as we drift off to sleep.

September will soon turn to October, and I will be doing my best to balance keeping out of the way, while spending all the time I can manage with them.


Driving Lessons: A Homeschool Mom's View from the Passenger's Seat

Driving Lessons: A Homeschool Mom's View from the Passenger Seat

My youngest just got his learner’s permit for driving. His sisters coached him through studying for the written test. I felt oddly removed from the process. I offered to help him study a couple of times, but he said, “No thanks, Mom. I’ve got it.” He passed on the first try.

Getting the permit was only step one, of course. He needs me for the next part because his sisters aren’t yet “of age” per Kansas law to be in the passenger seat while he learns to drive. So I am handing over the keys and wondering why it isn’t easier. I’ve been down this road twice. My oldest gets in her car at least once each day now, and I don’t always know where she is going. Middle kid is well on her way. She is three months from being a driver without restrictions, and in my mind (which is where it really counts) we are pretty much there, as well.

But here I am… actually making excuses for why my son might not want to try driving at highway speed for the first time today…  the cold weather, the holiday traffic, the glare of the setting sun on the window… the fact that I just want to get there quickly (I don’t even speak this one out loud).

For the holiday weekend, I took my son and his sister back to the place of my birth for a two day visit. The roads in western Kansas (as opposed to east-central Kansas where we live now) are flat and straight and meet each other in tidy, perpendicular lines.

“These are the roads you need to learn to drive on,” I told my son, when the bulk of the trip was behind us. “There are no surprises. You can see the next car a mile or more away.”

He did drive a bit on those roads, but he didn’t see them as superior. He said, after a couple of miles, that there was a kind of hypnotizing quality to driving in such a straight line. We came upon a cross on the side of the road, less than a mile from my father’s rural home. It can be easy to forget that believing there are no surprises on the road ahead isn’t necessarily the way to live.

I would like to say that after so many years of unschooling, it is easy now to trust, to embrace the sometimes jerky starts and stops, the sudden braking when you thought you were accelerating and vice versa. I would like to claim I have learned better, but I am still guilty of embracing those old straight roads of my past. I am tempted to say to my son, “Just let me take you there. I will do the hard part. I’ll keep driving; you just tell me where you want to go.”

Driving is one of those milestones that has stuck as a reminder to me of just how close we are to the other end of things – fewer years ahead of the intense, time-together, days filled with each other than there are behind.

The thing about this lifestyle that we have chosen is that it is so fluid, so ever-changing, and while it was often easy to see, living day-by-day, that unschooling was a good fit for our family, I’ve had to remind myself now and again that not knowing exactly where we were going and how we were getting there was okay.

Driving is one of those milestones that has stuck as a reminder to me of just how close we are to the other end of things – fewer years ahead of the intense, time-together, days filled with each other than there are behind. Perhaps, because he is the last of my children, I feel the sting of days gone by more sharply. I find myself in a questioning place… What is my role here? How do I contribute now?

I am handing over the keys. I am riding in the passenger seat. I will soon be standing outside the car, waving as he drives away. Knowing. Trusting. Believing that he will master any surprises on his own road, in his own way. That has been the point all along, after all.

Today, he did not ask directions to our destination, and I did not offer. He took a new road, one different from our usual path, and he got us there all the same.