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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How We Came to Homeschool Part 3: Calming the fear and moving beyond

This is Part 3 in a series about how we came to our decision to homeschool. 
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While I loved the overarching promise of how PBH could enrich our lifestyle and family culture as one that supports and promotes meaningful work, I still needed to find my confidence in homeschooling in general, which was buried in fear that choosing to homeschool would deprive Roscoe of something crucial—information, skills, relationships, or experiences. I wanted to be confident enough to think outside the box of education as I've always known it. I wanted to see how far we could carry this homeschooling gig past kindergarten. I wanted to explore the data and I wanted to to know what is best in education.

You can read all about Project Based Homeschooling at the Camp Creek Blog, but the gist is this (excerpted from the What Is PBH? primer) :

Project-based homeschooling combines your child’s genuine interests with long-term, deep, complex learning. It is the part of your curriculum when you mentor your child to help him learn how to direct and manage his own learning.                                                  
PBH works with any homeschooling method, and it can be a way to unschool. It is the essential portion [you get to decide how big that portion will be] of your child’s learning life when you devote time to helping him do his own self-chosen, self-motivated work. 
  • You create a space dedicated to doing meaningful work, set up to both attract your child and allow him to work independently. 
  • You offer him an interesting variety of high-quality materials and tools. 
  • You build blocks of time into your routine for project-related learning, making, and doing — time when you are available to support and mentor. 
  • You become a trusted resource who will take him where he needs to go and help him meet his own goals. 
  • He provides the interest and the ideas, so his work is self-motivated. You help him keep track of his plans, intentions, and questions. 
—Lori Pickert, Project Based Homeschooling 



It was easy for me to see right away the logical connection between this approach and say, art or the natural sciences, but how would his interests organically arch to complex mathematics or the physical sciences like chemistry? How would Roscoe learn to read? Do homeschooled kids go to college, and how? Would Roscoe be a weird kid and then a weird adult? (I don't mean only in the sense of being different from his public or private schooled peers, but would homeschooling affect his affinity for meaningful relationships with co-ed friends and eventually romantic love?) What about socialization, and how much extra effort and added responsibility would be required to create opportunities for him to develop friendships outside the context of compulsory school days? What quintessential childhood memories would he miss out on by not attending traditional school? Would he be "well rounded", and is that even important? What opportunities are available to homeschooled kids for joining sports teams and other extracurricular activities? How would he learn a foreign language? Would he be satisfied later with the choices that we're making for him now?

At the same time that I worried about how I would facilitate Roscoe's academic experience, I also worried about how choosing to homeschool would affect my life. I had for the last five years assumed that when Roscoe turned five he would be off to school every day for much of the day, which would free up my time for another baby or a return back to full-time work, perhaps. Our commitment to homeschooling the boys would mean no school day away. Ever. Could I handle a pregnancy and another baby in addition to this new responsibility to homeschooling? What about my career, would I ever have the time or desire to go back to work? How would I carve out time in our schedule to pursue my personal interests and work, and nurture my need for time alone? Could I be a good mother and a good mentor? Would choosing to homeschool even further isolate my mothering experience? Would I be able to hack the homeschooling lifestyle—would our time together crowd out other (better) influences, and would it serve to magnify the less than perfect parts of me? What if it was a negative experience for all of us? And frankly, who did I think I was to take on both these roles, I know nothing about any of this education stuff!?

It was easy to feel overwhelmed by all the what-ifs, so before I got too carried away I bought the book Project-Based Homeschooling. I needed to understand the big and little ideas of PBH to know if it was truly a good fit for us. Through reading the book I fell in love with the method. I felt that if we were to choose to homeschool, PBH was definitely for us!

I began to furiously research every facet of doubt, worry, or wonder. I started a Home Education Pinterest board to bookmark articles on the topics that resonated with my thinking process.

In January I met with Roscoe’s preschool teachers to discuss his personality and learning style, his strengths and weaknesses academically and socially, and to get their perspective on what they thought would be the best learning environment for him. Public school, Waldorf, homeschool? While I was excited about the opportunities that homeschooling offered to our family as a whole, was it the right fit for Roscoe? I wanted to hear their perspective on everything.

Then, in an effort to learn more about what homeschool looks like in real life, I had coffee with several local homeschooling mamas to hear what the experience is/was for them, what methods and curriculum they used, how the decision played out for them over the years, what their children thought about it then and now, and what their kids are up to these days. Every meeting inspired confidence in the process, and encouraged me to take small steps in my own journey.

In February I enrolled in a 6 week online PBH Master Class that bridged the gaps in my knowledge about the method and the nuances of its implementation. I joined the forum and had direct access to Lori for all my specific questions. While I initially thought we would "unschool" through exclusive PBH, I realized that we want to also incorporate some academics after the kindergarten year.

Last month I attended two introductory sessions at the VAHomeschoolers Conference, Homeschooling 101: Homeschooling for the Non-Homeschooler, which helped me to see how my family fits in statistically with the larger homeschooling community, and Beginning Homeschool an overview of the law and getting started. I'm already looking forward to attending the full conference next year.

It has been a steep learning curve and while there have certainly been days when I felt like I was having an identity crisis, through my research and exploration of our decision I am feeling very comfortable and confident to trust myself, and trust my kids, as I always have in my role as their mother.

I don't know what is the best environment or approach to education, but I do know that traditional methods are not the only way to instill a love of learning, or to help children become strong thinkers, learners, and doers for success in a life of their own choosing. Homeschooling is one option in the patchwork of educational choices available to us, and to choose the best method of education for my kids, and for my family, feels as deeply personal as any other parenting decision that I've been charged to make so far. Roscoe's memories of his childhood and of his learning will be just as good as mine were, they will just be different. Yes I sometimes wonder if I am cut out for this, but I don't want to choose not to homeschool based on a fear that I am not good enough. I feel called to the challenge, and I am motivated by the potential rewards of negotiating and navigating authentic and lifelong relationships with my sons. There are few things more important to me.

Just as I trust that the boys will become skilled thinkers and learners, accept and work through their mistakes, and ultimately find out what they are good at and what inspires them, I trust that I will find my way as their mentor. I'm giving myself permission and opportunity to learn and grow alongside them. I doubt this first year will work out exactly as I imagine. I don't think it will be easy, but parenting never is! I truly hope that homeschooling will be for us everything that it promises to be, and that we will forever homeschool but our intention is to take it one year at a time and always remain sensitive to everyone's needs.

Next up, Part 4: Looking Forward to Kindergarten

10 comments :

  1. Love this recap of how you got to this point. You have sooo many amazing resources available to you! Will you be doing "preschool" type lessons with M as well?
    Also, just out of curiosity, is the "bold heart life" like an established movement that you are pursuing or a phrase you coined for this new life path?
    Thanks for sharing - I find it all truly fascinating...and motivating as well!

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    1. Hi Nicole! I don't plan to do anything special with M for next year. We'll keep doing our regular fun stuff that we do together, and he will remain for two more years in the preschool that the boys currently attend.

      As for the BoldHeart life, I have been trying for a long time to figure out how best to describe or capture our life and my writing here, with different taglines or a new blog title. Nothing has really fit or stuck with me. But I finally figured it out! The Bold Heart Life is my own. I thought about renaming the blog, or even starting a new one (I did get so far as to create one on wordpress recently) but in the end I can't quit MarblesRolling :) I wanted to keep all the writing in one place, as the whole story has unfolded here! Now I'm in need of a redesign!

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  2. I love how thorough this has been. You echo so many of my thoughts.

    Here is something I've always wondered--probably because I feel this impulse in myself:

    Have you read/heard about any feelings of resentment...or, maybe not resentment but frustration...on the part of the homeschooling parent when her child doesn't go through the lessons as planned? Or feelings of distaste thinking about how child-centric our society has become to the point well-educated people are now devoting themselves entirely to the most time and emotionally intensive rearing of children our planet has ever seen--encompassing everything from education to environment to medical decisions to every detail imaginable? (Wow, that last question is heavy-hitting; but it has been tugging at me for a long time and finally getting an outlet today.)

    And still I'm not sure if those questions are even quite right for what I mean. I'm thinking of my own time I've invested, doing all the research and gathering obscure supplies and sinking hours into preparing for my child to approach the art project/literacy lesson/etc. with complete awe and wonder. And then she's over it in 5 minutes or something spills everywhere or it just isn't the same level of engagement I had anticipated. I find selfish but true parts of my thinking become resentful of her lack of appreciation (ha--it's ridiculous I know!) and also sickened by my own "self-sacrifice" of pouring myself entirely into my child at the expense of my own interests and ambitions. Is it healthy for her to bear such a great burden of my attention, time, and energies? Is it right for me to do this with her at the exclusion of perhaps bringing my skills and talents into a venue where they can benefit her as well as others (helping in her school, fund-raising for better facilities, etc.)?

    Is this making sense?! It sounds kind of crazy.

    Anyway, for me, I've had these feelings of resentment or being a bit repelled by how much over-the-top outpouring I am doing for my child. I see this kind of over-the-top parental involvement across the board in our society. I am part of this phenomenon! I've read so much about how our schools and communities are losing so much from people who "opt out" of the systems, especially education, that need voices to represent all kids and demand changes as needed. Instead, so many of those talented, articulate people like yourself or many of my friends are focusing inward--nobly so with the best of intentions, but also to the detriment of supporting their communities and strengthening schools for everyone, especially those children at disadvantages.

    That is my own biggest hesitation in approaching home schooling for our family. Could I really get over the martyr/emotional stuff if our family opted to pursue this path? Am I doing my community school a disservice by not working to make it better and instead turning just to my own child's experiences?

    Are these any of your thoughts or problems you've seen with other families?

    Thanks for being an outlet for this complicated question and for sharing your journey with us.

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    1. “feelings of resentment...or, maybe not resentment but frustration...on the part of the homeschooling parent when her child doesn't go through the lessons as planned”

      “feelings of distaste thinking about how child-centric our society has become to the point well-educated people are now devoting themselves entirely to the most time and emotionally intensive rearing of children our planet has ever seen”

      “I'm thinking of my own time I've invested, doing all the research and gathering obscure supplies and sinking hours into preparing for my child to approach the art project/literacy lesson/etc. with complete awe and wonder. And then she's over it in 5 minutes or something spills everywhere or it just isn't the same level of engagement I had anticipated. I find selfish but true parts of my thinking become resentful of her lack of appreciation (ha--it's ridiculous I know!) and also sickened by my own "self-sacrifice" of pouring myself entirely into my child at the expense of my own interests and ambitions.”

      just butting in to share my two cents :) but all of the above is solved by mentoring your children to be self-directed learners. you don’t do all the research and gathering supplies — they do that work themselves. it’s their self-chosen, meaningful work. you mentor them but you don’t micromanage. you help them work independently.

      rather than devoting yourself entirely to your children at the expensive of your own interests and ambitions, you help them pursue their meaningful work while you pursue your own. you build a family culture of supporting one another.

      it works! :)

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    2. Thank you for providing that insight! I didn't think about it that way. It is overwhelming to think of all the steps involved in preparing all the years of learning (which is where my head goes) so thinking of turning it over to the child instead would be such a more manageable way of approaching this.

      If you also have feedback about the second issue I'm still dwelling on (the turning inward to educate only one's own children versus using energies to better education systems for many) I'd love to hear it and get out of my own head! :)

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    3. Ahhh! These are such great (big and important!) questions. You don’t sound crazy, just thoughtful and engaged and making your way through your process. I’m totally with you.

      I have heard of some mothers feeling resentful and frustrated in instances when their homeschooled children weren’t interested in or were having a hard time staying focused with their lessons. The beauty of this method though, as Lori points out above, is that when we are engaged with our kids in truly child led work then these sorts of challenges work themselves out. If the child isn’t interested today or tomorrow in doing a particular thing that is OK because his work serves to fulfill his own inquiry. Perhaps this sort of approach could be incorporated for some portion of the time you plan to set aside for schooling?

      As an aside, your feelings of resentment, under-appreciation, self sacrifice, frustration, etc. resonate with my general experience as a mother at different times—we have all been there. When these feelings surface, when I am challenged for patience, or tired, or feel like I’m giving too much, then I take that as a sign that what we’re doing isn’t working and I have to find change. When I ask "Am I giving myself enough? Am I adequately meeting my own needs for rest, play, or solitude?" The answer is usually no. I have found that self care is huge, and as I view PBH as an opportunity to simply extend my mothering into the domain of education I'm even more attuned to planning ahead for ways to ensure that I take care good care of myself. I know that I will have to start the journey in order to see how this aspect will evolve.

      While parenting in the early years (at least!!) can feel thankless, one theme that I found hopeful and inspiring while meeting with other mothers over their homeschooling stories was that even though they felt they were walking an untraveled path all those years, and perhaps even the kids themselves had doubts for how well they would be prepared for high school, or college, eventually, there were moments of clarity later on when the kids finally did transfer to public high school or were accepted into college and they were able to look back and articulate to their moms, “hey, even though we’re enjoying this high school experience we’re glad we were homeschooled up to this point,” or they had new found confidence when they realized that yes they could thrive academically at the college level after all.

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    4. I had to break this into two posts:

      So here’s my take on how best my talents can be put to use. In public health, for example, there are a lot of recommendations that exist to capture the highest risk populations, but the recommendations are applied to everyone in order to protect the health of a few. I have a master’s degree in public health and I totally get this approach, and I appreciate it. However, I know that these blanket practices can sometimes be harmful to the individual while they may protect the community (we see it in birth and maternity care all the time). Do I have talents that could serve my community school? Sure! But I am choosing to wholeheartedly invest my time and energy in myself, in my relationships with my kids, in my kids’ education, in our way of life, etc. When it comes to my family and our short time together, I feel empowered to make decisions based on what I think is truly best for the four of us. In birth, in parenting, in education, in life. And I don’t think that choosing to homeschool means that you can’t also contribute to your community schools.

      There is a great grassroots movement blooming here in Richmond where parents of toddlers have adopted their neighborhood school to improve it in time for their kids and their neighbors’ kids to attend three or four years down the road. It’s very inspiring and if we thought that public school was the best choice for us, I would absolutely join them. I think it’s an awesome effort. I would love to participate in ways that make sense for us.

      I hope this is in some way helpful and I just want to add that in parenting there is often the notion that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things (did you read the article: If you send your kid to private school you are a bad person?), but the truth is that we live in the gray. And no matter what you choose you do have the freedom to change your mind or make small adjustments to make it work better! Good luck, I would love to hear more about your journey as you take off.

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    5. Thank you for your detailed responses! That made so much sense to me and--you're right--when I think of days when I felt frustrated or like I was making self-sacrifices, then I know my needs haven't been met. I suppose the education piece is very similar. I'll be so interested to see how you begin to balance homeschooling with your own personal needs and if, really, anything does change as much as one would guess.

      The Richmond "adopt a school" thing sounds amazing! What a fantastic idea!

      From reading here so frequently, I admire your self-described bold heart approach and your willingness to dive headfirst into a thoughtful, well-examined life. Excited to read more about this...and all...your journeys.

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  3. enjoying reading about your journey. :) that photo is fantastic!

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