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Snow Days!

Okay, I admit it. I really, really wanted a snow day yesterday.

Back in the day when all my older children were in public schools, snow days had little appeal for me. Snow days meant less sleep. (My kids have snow radars that wake them up early to go play.) Snow days meant extra laundry from the multiple trips outside to sled and build snowmen. Snow days meant having to pull something together for a lunch I had not planned. Snow days meant a lot of noise. No, I wasn’t a big fan of them.

But now things have changed. I am now homeschooling one of our 8th graders.  A snow day would have given me a break from lessons also. And a snow day would have given me a chance to do some tweaking of our curriculum. For this homeschooling mom, a snow day is a teacher in-service day. I still have to deal with less sleep, noise, lunch and extra laundry, but I also squeeze in some time to review lesson plans and progress.

I never, ever, in a million years imagined I would homeschool. When a good friend announced her plans to home school a dozen years ago, it made sense to me. Her daughter had Celiac disease which made school risky for her health, plus my friend had a degree in elementary education.  “You are doing the right thing,” I told her, “but I could never do it.” My list of the reasons I could not home school was long- not enough patience, not organized enough, not enough patience, and so forth.

Our children did very well in the local schools until my middle son reached middle school.  He tried. His teachers tried. We tried. But three quarters of the way through his sixth grade year, we all knew it wasn’t working. My son is wired in fascinating ways. Highly attuned to his environment, the middle school was just filled with too, too many sounds and distractions for him to function. Each day he had to choose between behaving well or learning something. He simply didn't have enough energy and self-control to do both.

The school system was wonderful. The teachers and administrators offered many ideas about how we could try to change things up to make them work for my son. But ultimately, there was another issue- our relationship with our son. My husband and I believe strongly in backing up the teachers who work with our children. So if you get in trouble at school, you are in twice as much trouble at home. Our son was almost always in some sort of trouble at school, so he was always in trouble at home. Plus, we had the added trial of homework. After a long and tiring day at school, my son honestly did not have the focus necessary to do homework, but we had to try or risk his failing. It was a nightmare. That scared me also. How could I do 6 hours of academic work with him during the day if we couldn’t even handle a couple of hours of homework in the afternoon?

It turns out very easily.

With homeschooling, I am able to tailor the school day and lessons to our son’s temperament. Since he is an early morning person, lessons start between 7-7:30 am. Since he needs movement breaks, I can send him for a jog around the house if he starts getting frustrated or losing focus. And since the other three children are in school, there are only the two cats to distract him from his work.

I won’t lie. Patience for me is still a skill to be learned. Sometimes I am the one who goes outside to walk around the house a few times. I struggle with how to get our son’s lessons done while still keeping the house running and habitable. I miss being able to help with field trips for the other kids. It would be nice to have lunch with just grownups every now and then.

But homeschooling has brought more joys than challenges. Our son is learning. Since we can go at his pace and constantly change things to work around his learning style, he is mastering skills. When he does badly on an exam, we repeat the lesson rather than moving on to the next chapter.

He is finally growing. With less school stress and no homework (it all gets done during the day) we have been able to cut back on ADHD medication. This has meant a return of his appetite (and how!) and a major growth spurt. It has meant so much to him to now be the same height as his twin sister instead of 6 inches shorter.

I now have time in the afternoon to help our other children with their homework and personal issues. Before home schooling my afternoons revolved around helping him with his homework, and the other three were left to their own devices.

I enjoy learning right along with my son. I like the challenge of helping him connect with the lessons. I like thinking about the philosophical implications how I choose to teach certain subjects. (For example, should American History be taught on its own or as part of the larger history of the world?) And I am delighted to have the “thrill” of snow days back- even if they now mean less sleep, noise, lunch, extra laundry and lesson plans.