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Homeschooling – The Ultimate Escape Hatch

Homeschooling,The Ultimate Escape Hatch

I joke that the ONLY reason I homeschool my kids is so that I can winter in Florida.

Of course like all good (and inappropriate) humor, there’s a lot of truth buried within!

For 5 of the past 6 winters that we’ve been in America, we’ve been fortunate enough to spend at least a month down in beautiful, warm and sunny Naples, Florida.

Back in 2009 I had the idea to escape the brutal winter weather in Boston and drive down to Naples with my kids.

I found an unrented condo on Craigslist and made a lowball bid just 3 days before January 1st. Back then, I managed to spend only $2,300 for a 2 bedroom condo close to Vanderbilt beach, given that it was so last minute and that January is a less in-demand month.

A great deal, yes. BUT the ROI (return-on-investment) was even greater.

Winters are painfully long in arctic New England. My 5 and 3 year old wouldn’t be outside much for nearly 5 months had we not made the trip.

So the kids hit the park, the pool, and beach everyday, got the much-needed fresh air and made it 3 consecutive New England years where they didn’t so much as catch a cold. Missing the germ factories, aka “schools”, also helps a lot in this department.

But Mom and Dad also got to swim, comb the beaches, and enjoyed their fair share of outdoor exercise.

It was a truly magnificent experience all-around. Understand that I had endured decades of winter in the Northeast throughout my life, perhaps escaping for a few days to Florida or the Caribbean. While those little excursions certainly helped….they CANNOT compare to full-on SNOWBIRDING for a month plus!

We went again in 2011, 2012, 2013….and now 2016. We just arrived in last week. (In 2014 and 2015 we were living in London.)

Each snowbirding year has gotten better. We have good friends in Naples with whom we get to spend a lot of quality time. At this point we are familiar with a lot of the attractions and good restaurants. Altogether it makes it our home away from home – even though we own no real estate down there. In fact, we have rented a different condo each time.

Homeschooling…

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Oh, yeah, that.

Well it hardly misses a beat.

I get a Naples library card shortly after arrival for the whopping sum of $10.

The kids keep up with their singing, piano, and chess lessons via Skype. Of course their textbooks make the trip south as well. Math, chess, vocabulary websites are totally indifferent to where the kids logon from….so why not in sunny Naples???

I broadcasted my radio show last week from my PC like I never left. I keep up with my clients and students via early morning Skype sessions. And Inez, my wife, found an office .5 miles away that she can walk to and work out of all month long.

So what exactly are we escaping, besides the dour weather???

Well for me, as the primary chauffeur and train escort….I’m ESCAPING all those, from my perspective, dreaded ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES.

We had the most glorious, peaceful 14 months in London (2014-15), and it was so relaxing PRECISELY because we were liberated from weekly classes and activities.

I vowed that when we return to New York, that I would say “no, thanks” to every enticing, and they are enticing(!), organized activity for my kids.

HOWEVER, when this fall came my wife went nuts signing the kids up…

Dance, gymnastics, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, soccer, karate, and recently basketball.

This is all on top of their homeschool classes and activities and my burgeoning client workload.

I somehow survived the fall and the beginning of winter but at some point I felt really overwhelmed. That’s when I started perusing Craigslist and pushing for a last minute (March) Florida vacation/escape.

Here’s a little window into our first week:

So homeschooling will not only help you ESCAPE vastly inferior institutionalized education…

It can help you ESCAPE the snow, ice, and cold…

And it can help you ESCAPE your daily grind, your boring routines and your obnoxious neighbors, inlaws and all your local nemeses.

Our month, like life, will go by fast enough.

All the activities, all the “culture”(!), all the same people, and all that New York traffic will be there waiting for us when we get back.

But I’ll be able to cope better with a little more chi….and a precocious sun tan!

 

Dan (21 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.


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Forge Unbreakable Family Bonds, Homeschool

Forge Unbreakable Family Bonds, HOMESCHOOL

My parents may have brought me into this world, wiped my bottom, funded the roof over my head, fed me occasional scraps, sewed the patches on all the hand-me-downs I wore, and generally loved me to death.

BUT they failed in one regard – they failed to really bond with me.

After nearly 20 years they still can’t correctly pronounce my wife’s four-letter(!) first name and they haven’t ever known much, if anything, of what I did and thought.

Like the old long distance phone commercial said, if it wasn’t for sports, like many sons, I wouldn’t have much to talk to my father about.

My mother….she could never bring herself to even read my blog posts – that’s how curious she was about my life. Yet I had thousands of virtual strangers more interested! And despite our outrageous success, she still doesn’t get homeschooling either.

It went both ways of course. I knew very little about them and their life stories.

I simply wasn’t interested. Our family life orbited around the kids, i.e. school and kids’ sports. That was the extent of it.

My wife and I didn’t start out homeschooling so that we could forge tighter family bonds. Our motivations, to the extent they weren’t merely instinctual, were rooted in academic acceleration.

BUT what a wonderful bonus we have enjoyed through our evolving relationships with the kids!

Homeschooling from day one has lavished us with both quantity and quality family time to an extent that’s not even remotely possible in the context of institutional education.

Educating our children outside the system has given us infinite touch points for deep connection. Just to give one small example, chess….my kids and I have learned chess together. We play each other often; we gang up on our online opponents; and we’ve sat side-by-side in tournaments together. We’ve been profoundly frustrated and upset over tough losses and we’ve shared in a few major triumphs together.

Another good example would be web design. My son and I not only learned how to master WordPress together, he rapidly passed me and has become my bona fide tech support team for almost everything. So as far as I’m concerned, the long, frustrating hours we spent together, crashing our websites and debugging our voluminous coding mistakes represented not only bonding QT….it was a great investment from a business standpoint!

Because we aren’t enslaved by a school calendar and schedule, the kids can stay up longer when my wife works late to get in that extra QT that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

And they are so well-behaved, I can bring them to clients’ houses and they’ll sit there, for hours(!), while I do my consulting and teaching. Note – they are still only 9 and 11 years old. (How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t homeschool because I have to work”???)

Seldom a day in public goes by without someone remarking to me how well-behaved they are to be sitting down and reading quietly. In fact it just happened today at the doctor’s office, again. The impressed identified herself as a middle school teacher to boot!

Well it doesn’t just happen. My kids would be just as wild, just as disobedient, and just as incapable of entertaining themselves as any other kids today if it wasn’t for the intention, priorities, and parental discipline we have instituted over the years.

Again, we’ve invested the time and energy in our relationship with the children AND that is precisely why they comply. They respect us and the hierarchy is not inverted as it is in so many families today.

So many parents genuinely believe they can’t homeschool their children because “they would never listen to me.”

I do my best to explain that is a serious problem on its face; it will only get much, much worse into the pubescent/teen years; AND that the only solution with a chance is, to their utter consternation, spending a LOT MORE TIME with the kids. The only solution is to start homeschooling them, now.

The fact is, school is a WEDGE between parents and children – and it has been for generations now.

Homeschooling precludes that division because it encourages, if not FORCES parents to learn and grow WITH their children.

I plan on, and have planned for being close to my beloved children for the rest of time here on Earth.

What about you?

 

Dan (21 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.


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Homeschooling and Marriage: Four Ways to Find a Good Balance

Homeschooling is a wonderful blessing, and I’m so glad we’ve made that choice for our family. But it’s very easy, as a homeschooling mom, to be so caught up in the kids and curriculum choices and learning and teaching and driving kids around and…that our marriages suffer from lack of time and attention. At the end of the day, by the time books are put away and supper is cooked and cleaned up and kids are heading for bed, I really don’t have much energy left to finally have time to spend with my husband.

Even though it is sometimes difficult to make time for nurturing our marriage, I know it’s an important thing. Marriage should be a top priority. So how can I balance being a homeschooling mom and being an attentive wife? Here are four things I’ve found to help me work toward a good balance.

Homeschooling and Marriage: Four Ways to Find a Good Balance

Homeschooling and Marriage: Four Ways to Find a Good Balance

 

Include husbands in decision making.

I’m the primary decision maker when it comes to choices about our homeschooling. I research curriculum. I sign up for co-ops. I plan the extracurricular activities. I’m the one who has the time to do this, so it falls to me. My husband cares about what we do, but he doesn’t have an interest in all of the particulars most of the time because he isn’t here during the day.

But, every once in a while, we talk about the way things are going and discuss what’s working and what’s not. Even though he isn’t there every day while we do school work, he often has a great idea about curriculum or about what a specific child needs to be able to break through and learn something he’s struggling with. Or sometimes I’ll ask him about joining a new co-op or a new homeschoolers group. He can have some really good input about whether or not it would be a good fit for us and how it would work with our schedules.

Taking the time to talk to him and ask his advice and opinion can go a long way toward making him feel a part of what we’re doing every day. I understand that he’s in a whole different world as he goes off to work every day. But I want him to feel a part of homeschooling because it’s a large part of who we are as a family. And when I make him feel included, it strengthens our marriage and his relationship with the kids.

Have set bedtime routines.

It’s a fact. We can’t have time alone together until the kids are in bed at night. Even now that our kids are older and don’t need us to micromanage their getting ready for bed. they’ll pop in and out of our room with questions or to tell us one more thing. We quickly learned that to protect the time we have to spend together, we have to have established bedtime routines.

Our routines change with the season of life we’re in. When the kids were younger, a bedtime routine included baths and story time and kissing goodnight as we turned out the light, leaving the room with the expectation that kids would stay in bed and not get up and down. Now the routine means that we have a certain time that kids are to be in their rooms, without electronics and without popping in and out of our room.

The routines can be flexible, and they can shift and change as kids get older or as night time activities change, but the important thing is to emphasize to the kids that we want to protect the time we have at the end of the day to spend together. This shows the kids that our marriage is a priority.

Establish a regular date night.

Going out on a regular date night is something we’ve tried to do throughout our marriage. What this date night looks like has definitely varied throughout the seasons of our parenthood. And we don’t have a set night of the month or a set destination or plans for our night out, but we try to make time for one on a regular basis.

We’ve gotten creative on our date nights. We’re blessed to have family in town, so we’ve usually had family members to come over and stay with the kids once a month or so for a night out. Occasionally we’ve traded off nights of babysitting with another family. There are times we’ve taken the youngest baby on date nights with us because I was nursing. And there are times when we didn’t have a sitter or couldn’t leave the kids so we put them to bed or set them up with a movie and then picked up take out from a restaurant and had a date night at home.

The point of date night isn’t to always go to a fancy restaurant or dinner and movie. Lots of times we have no extra money to spend, so we do something as simple as walking around Target for a couple of hours. The purpose of date night is to make our marriage a priority, to stop what we’re doing and make time to spend together.

Leave some margin in your day.

This is the hardest suggestions for me to follow. I’m a doer, and I tend to pack as much into a day as possible. We can get school done, attend co-op, head off for a dance class, and still make time for cooking supper in the afternoon and then cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom before bed. I get all these things accomplished and feel pretty proud of myself for the day.

The problem is that after completing this crazy, busy day, I have nothing left over. I’m so tired and done in that all I can do is smile at my husband as I roll over and turn out the lamp for the night. I’ve run and run all day, and at the end of it all, I’m done. The message this sends to my husband is that I don’t care enough about him to leave time in my day for him.

When I make wise choices about our day’s activities, I can leave some margin, some breathing room. And in that time at the end of the day, when kids are settled in and we have some moments to spend together, I’m not exhausted. I have energy left over, and I make it a priority to spend time with my husband.

 

Even with all of these good intentions, there will be seasons of life that are busier, weeks where we seem to just wave at each other in passing. But by being deliberate about doing some of these things, we can make our marriage a priority, and we can achieve balance between being a homeschooling mom and being a wife.

 

Leah (15 Posts)

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. Her days are filled with being a mom, homemaker, and teacher. In her (very rare) free time, she enjoys blogging, reading, and reviewing books and curricula. These days she’s learning the joys of being a mom of teens. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.


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