My oldest daughter will turn 17 years old in a couple of days. It seems like just yesterday that I was bringing her home from the hospital so filled with wonder and joy at this new life we had created. I was so young then and my life as a mom was just beginning. So often people say to enjoy this time because they grow up so fast and now here I am and I understand deep within that this is true.
Our journey as mother and daughter has not always been an easy one. During her time in school my oldest was often very unhappy and as a result so was our relationship. I didn't know how to relate to her and there were miles and miles between us. There was lots of yelling, fighting and tears.
So , so, so many tears.
To be honest my oldest daughter is the sole reason that I decided to homeschool. I give her all the credit for giving me the insight and courage to take the leap from the mainstream. I once told her thank you for helping me be a rebel ( after spending most of my life as a rule follower) and she said- you aren't the rebel mom- we are. LOL!!
For those of you have been following along with this blog you know that traditional school was a disaster for her. We tried it all from public, to gifted , and even private school. There were so many years of parent teacher meetings, ongoing conversations with the principal and school psychologist about how to engage her in learning. There were a gazillion behavior programs implemented and failed , rules and rules and I am ashamed to say bribes. Pretty much all of these efforts only served to re-enforce my daughters feelings of low self worth and not fitting in. and making us feel as complete failures in parenting.
I remember a time in 5th grade when she refused to go with me to a parent teacher conference - (the teacher had wanted the kids to join in on the discussion.). I arrived at the conference ready to hear once again about how she was not performing up to her potential, I braced myself for hearing the words about what was wrong with her, how she wasn't doing the work and let me tell you the teacher did not disappoint. Her teacher shared about how my bright kid who could score a 99% on state testing was not doing well in school. And despite the lack of clear solutions, I sat through an hour of the teacher telling me how my daughter needed to step up, that she couldn't get away with this, how someone had to send her a message that this was not acceptable and how she would fail middle school at this rate.
I was told of 12 missing assignments, 10 missing assignments and tales of lost homework and incomplete work.. The teacher expressed how perhaps what I needed to do was to take away my daughter's art- the one thing she truly loved- until she shaped up. My blood boiled at that idea! The nerve. It was clear that as much as we had no idea how to change things- neither did the teacher or the school.
When I got home from that conference, I found my then 11 year old daughter curled up in the fetal position on top of the dresser in her closet.. She had clearly been crying and nervously asked me what the teacher said. She told me that she could never go back there, that the teachers hated her and she would never fit in.
That was the moment that we decided to homeschool though it would take 2 more years for us to finally pull the trigger. We were scared of the unknown but knew in our hearts that something needed to change for fear we would lose our daughter.
Looking back I do have regrets like we all do. I wish I would have listened a little more, done a bit more research into what gifted really meant especially when it came to underachieving and emotional intensity. Surely I could have read all the books on giftedness my mom gave me but sat unread waiting for me to have a little more "time". I wish I could have had the guts to be a rebel a little bit sooner and perhaps I would have saved us some of the struggles we had to go through those next few years before we were ready to let go of the fight of staying in school.
Mostly though, as I sit here thinking about the fact that in 3 days I will have a 17 year old young adult in my home, my lovely daughter growing up before my eyes, I am filled with a wonderful sense of gratitude and peace.
You see, I am so very very lucky. I am filled with comfort in knowing that we saved our relationship and have had the past 5 years to get to know each other all over again. Yes, I am sad that we lost all of those years and I definitely wish I could get them back. Still, I try and focus on what we do have and hope that sharing my story saves a few other parents and kids from following in our painful steps. .
What I want other parents of gifted kids who are struggling in school and are wondering about how they will handle homeschooling high school to know is this, Today instead of teenage strife and rebellion, we have had time spent together. Instead of anger, yelling, and tears we have had long conversations and hours and hours of learning and adventuring. Instead of worrying and fear we have comfort in knowing we are lovingly supporting our daughter into following her passions and blossoming into who she truly is.
Together with her sisters we have built beautiful memories from our weekly field trips (we have gone on over 200!!!) , enjoyed leisurely park days with no where to rush to, we have watched endless movies, and gone camping with our friends when everyone else was at school. I have loved watching the relationships between her and her 3 sisters grow as well in ways that would not have been possible if she had stayed miserable in school.
The title of this post was homeschooling high school and I suppose this is what it means to me. For us, high school has been less about academics and more about life. It has looked like helping my oldest figure out what her goals are for her future and facilitating finding the resources to make that possible. It has meant honoring her as a whole person, who just happens to be a teenager. Our focus has been on helping to light a fire in her belly by helping her strive for internal motivation and not forcing her to complete work or assignments only because it makes us feel better or reduce our own fear.
She wants to go to college and wishes for a full 4 year experience so while she tried out a community college class once, she knows she doesn't want to start there and transfer in to a larger university as a junior. We have allowed her the freedom to meet high school standards in her own way.
Watch history movies and read books for history- YES!!, Take that online sign language to fulfill your foreign language requirement- go for it, dabble or dive deep in Coursera classes just because you are interested- you have plenty of time. I cracked up when she signed up for the history of extraterrestrials. I mean, if you can't take a class like that when you are 16- when can you?
Math has been a bit harder because she doesn't love it but she has gotten there in her own way, in her own time. We don't force or push. I don't collect assignments or grade her work. We believe in developing independence and self motivated learners but of course help in finding the tools they need to be successful. She has a tutor and has been studying for the ACT. She treated it like a full time job and with the luxury of no homework she has been able to do so with focused attention but not stress and overwhelm.
We have watched her passion in art grow into areas we didn't even know existed from painting and sketching to game design and digital 3-d art and even jewelry making, crafting and pottery. For the past few years she has worked as an assistant art teacher and gained so much life experience in working with parents, organizing kids , and deepening her understanding of the business side of being a professional artist.
Mostly, homeschooling highschool for us has been a journey of amazement and awe in watching our child unfold into a warm, caring, and beautiful young lady. She has helped us to to let go of what we believed was true and be open to learning and growing- outside the box. With her gently (and sometimes not so gentle- HA!!) pushing we have changed and shifted ourselves and that is truly a gift.
I have come to learn that for us homeschooling highschool is not really about academics, It is certainly not about curriculum even if that is part of the experience if it is needed to reach our kids goals. Instead I believe that homeschooling high school it is about the relationships. With ourselves, our families and our teens and if we stay focused on that, everything will turn out just as it should be.
Today I celebrate my daughter on her birthday and I take pride in the mother she has helped me to become.
Enjoying Europe with Dehesa Charter School Fall 2015
A few days ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a local workshop for parents who are considering homeschooling this next school year. As the parents arrived I could tell that they were filled with a mixture of ......curiosity and excitement sure but to be honest.....yes- more than a little bit of fear.
Could they do this?
What would others think?
Could they get their spouse on board?
Would their kids fall behind their peers?
What about college and transcripts,
and well being a success in life?
As our evening unfolded they shared with me their stories about why they felt that leaving mainstream school was the best choice for their families.
There were 2 moms who said that they had always thought about homeschooling ( but had not yet done so) and 1 who had homeschooled on and off but for the rest of the 15 other families- this was something entirely new and unexpected.
They told stories of kids who were not getting challenged in school, of kids crying everyday- not wanting to go, of tummy aches and and constant worries. They shared about the bright light of curiosity starting to dim and of happy kids starting to seem well.....not so happy. They shared stories about kids with reading challenges that were falling behind despite support from the school and other kids who were extremely bored and not engaged.
A couple of parents shared how homeschooling was the only option for their kids with health issues which made school a potentially unsafe place to be and while homeschooling wasn't their first choice- they were willing do it for the sake of their child's needs.
After I left the workshop- I felt inspired to continue to support others on this journey, to offer a safe space to share the struggles and the accomplishments along the way.
I know firsthand that it can feel like a very lonely place to be at times especially when everyone in your local area is doing the school thing and you suddenly find yourself outside that circle staring in. You may feel isolated when others don't understand or seem to care.
It is a strange experience when your neighbors are talking about homework, parent teacher conferences or school issues and you are planning what curriculum to use next year, or your next field trip or learning adventure.
I promise you are not alone. Most of the parents in our community didn't come to homeschooling because it was what we always wanted to do. We didn't question that school was the logical next step for our kids, in fact if anything we tried to ignore the signs that maybe it wasn't going to work because we wanted so badly to believe that it would.
We love our kids desperately but we also looked forward to the break that school would provide us to catch our breath or explore our own interests.
Listen, our kids are intense, asynchronous, emotional little beings. They push us to our limits and force us to find a strength we didn't know we had. I need to make something clear for fear that you may misunderstand..
For those of us raising emotionally intense, creative souls -
homeschooling isn't really something we CHOOSE....in fact , I think it is
pretty safe to say that homeschooling CHOSE US. It is what we do because it is what our kids need and somehow by a miracle almost we are able to rise to the occasion.
Sometimes parents tell me that they could never homeschool their kids because they are too intense, they'll never listen to them. They question how they would they ever get their kids to learn if they were the teacher when homework is already such a battle. I understand since I have been blessed with 4 of these strong willed driven little fireballs.
I promise you , you can do this. You are stronger than you think you are. Let go of the fear, the doubt and the uncertainty.
You have a community of other parents who get it waiting on the other side ready to lift you up and guide you-just when you need it.
You got this!
Upcoming Local Event:
Sunday April 17th 6-9pm
Newport Coast, California
Homeschooling 101 Workshop
Cost: $20 OC Gifted Meet Up Members
Join me as I share about my journey through public, private and eventually homeschooling with my own gifted children ages 5, 8, 13, and 16. I will be providing tons of valuable information on getting started homeschooling in California as well as answering your individual questions. Each participant will receive a workbook with everything you need to begin the journey.
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our local meet up group to RSVP- link at www.ocgifted.com .
I have a confession to make. I have a problem with spinning my wheels- if you are a parent of multiple kids maybe you can relate. I have such good intentions but lately I find myself wasting time and not being very productive. I used to be so organized - I mean I am a professional coach afterall - but something's happened to my brain. It got all murky and fuzzy and somehow I sort of lost my way. It got worse as I had more kids and now with homeschooling 4 it is amazing I get anything done at all.
This past week I had this growing sense that I was reaching the point of overwhelm or being burned out. I couldn't really put my finger on what was bothering me but instead of fighting it and pushing through like I normally would do, I decided to listen to that inner voice that said I needed a break. I completely cleared our schedule which with 4 kids ages 5, 8, 13 and 16 is no easy feat. I cancelled all our appointments, told the soccer coaches we would not be at practice and let go of the pressure to go anywhere at all. I set up a playdate for each day this week so my kids would still have something to look forward to and asked the moms to just drop off so I ( and they) could get some time to ourselves.
Let me tell you it was heavenly. I spent the first day planning my daily rhythm and cleaning up my to-do list and then I got to work. I cannot tell you how much I got done.
started poetry tea-time with kids
scheduled a workshop I host on getting started homeschooling
caught up on laundry
cleaned my carpet ( just bought an awesome new machine!!)
washed the couch slipcovers
organized my photos
cleaned up my computer
set up coffee dates with a few friends
wrote a newsletter for my gifted group
ordered groceries from Amazon Fresh ( Can I tell you I just LOVE this service)
downloaded photos from my phone to computer
contacted a bunch of potential piano teachers
created a monthly meal plan for April
ordered throw pillows for my new to me ( bought on craig's list ) sectional
ordered a towel rack for the bathroom- it broke over a year ago! ( yikes)
Wow! I must say I am impressed with myself. However, I don't share this list with you to brag. I share because in the midst of doing all of this- I realized that I felt more relaxed and at peace than I had in many months. Why is that? As you can see I wasn't spending my week off lounging- I was actually pretty busy.
I'm realizing that part of living a spacious life is living life with intention and purpose. Most of us have our schedules so filled to the brim that we spend our days just doing the next urgent thing that is right in front of us and never getting to the things that will bring us the most peace and joy. We long to have a life well lived but we are slaves to our schedules. As a result, during those rare moments when we actually do have a few minutes, we spin our wheels, randomly check facebook or watch mindless television.
I want to live my life differently than the mainstream and set an example for my girls. It is important to me that we eat a mostly whole foods diet, cook from scratch, read aloud voraciously, learn something new everyday, spend lots of time in nature, play board games together and explore the world around us. I want to have weekly date nights with my husband and spend quality time with friends. I definitely want to have more fun. Sounds pretty awesome , right?
This week taught me some valuable lessons on slowing down, getting focused and finding the balance between being productive and relaxation. I am sharing my list below so that you can begin to implement it into your life and hopefully find the success that I did. As always, I am available for private coaching if you find you need a little extra focus and support:) Just fill out the contact us form and we will set something up.
Top Ten List for Being Organized for Homeschoolers ( and Everyone Else Too!!)
1- Create a Daily Rhythm and Post It
2- Write Out Your To-Do List Daily with No More than 7-9 Items
( I Keep a Master To-Do List Separately)
3- Only Look at Your Daily T0-Do List As You Work On Tasks
4- Do Chores First Thing and Get Kids Involved ( Even 5 year olds can empty trash cans)
5- Order Groceries (Amazon Fresh) and Supplies Online ( Target Delivers Free Over $25!!)
6- Create a Monthly Meal Plan and Post it
7- Let Go of As Many Commitments as You Can
8- Delegate (I hired my 16 year old to work on my photo project for example)
9- Reduce Mindless Television and Internet Surfing
10- Get Plenty Of Sleep ( I find at night is when I waste the most time)