The Art of Homeschool Maintenance

by Jeanne Faulconer, Standardsville


Originally published in the September-October 2001 VaHomeschoolers Newsletter.

In the old days when I taught riding lessons, I had some incredible moments of communication and clarity with my students. They were moments when my feeling for the rider and the horse was so perceptive that I could give the precise guidance needed to create just the experience I wanted for the student. They were moments made possible because the rider was so tuned in to the lessons, her focus and energy allowed her to reach new levels of skill and art. Some people call it “that Zen thing” or that “one-with-the-universe” feeling, or just a time when everything “clicked.” I don’t get it much with my kids, and I’m challenging myself on it. A few times stand out when it has happened.

Recently, thirteen-year-old Kevin and I were cooking dinner together. Somehow in the midst of the stir-frying and the grilling, the moment became swollen and elevated, and we were totally relaxed and in rhythm as we cooked and talked. He knew it as easily as I did.

Last spring there was a particularly crystal blue day, and the boys and I headed outside. We picked our spot of asphalt in the apartment building parking lot, and I began reading Greek myths aloud as they circled me on their scooters. The metal wheels were noisy, and the three boys’ pushing feet should have been distracting for all of us. But they were listening, scootering and listening. Although I’m sure we presented a strange picture, we were connected and in the moment.

It happens sometimes in the car. We are each other’s captives there, and the questions that roll out of my children’s mouths are endless, building, and from every angle. If I allow myself to stop worrying about the gas tank and our list of errands, I sometimes feel myself descend into the wise, patient and interesting person I wish I were. We begin to finish one another’s sentences, anticipate the next question; it’s happening.

I really don’t expect this kind of moment to come every day. But sometimes I feel so far from the possibility. I have taken responsibility for educating my children, and yet often when I lie in bed at night, the most memorable moment of the day is the fuss about who is going to clean the toilet. Not only is it not profound, it is not even close.

Part of the problem, I tell myself, is that these moments abounded for me in pre-kid life. Like, not being a gifted singer, but really nailing my part in close four-part a cappella harmony—when it gives you the little chills. Or reading a novel and being absolutely transported to that time and place—as several hours of “real time” slip by unnoticed. Or the period I was studying physiology in college and the Krebs Cycle suddenly became intelligible and elegant for me.

My days with my children do not have the calm atmosphere or uninterrupted time that seem to provide the fertile ground for these epiphanies. The three-year-old is yelling “shut up,” even though this is a phrase we don’t use. My blood pressure rises. The thirteen and eleven-year olds are either baiting one another or wrestling raucously or singing pop songs at top volume. There are the cut fingers, hurt feelings, lost socks, and clogged drains. The daily chaos, the mish-mash of living, seems unlikely to spawn those transporting moments.

I wonder, do other families have more of these? I read an essay about a mom dancing in her kitchen as she and her four kids prepare a meal together. If I pumped the music and we danced, the energy would be more than our family could navigate. I know better. And yet, I picture this homeschooling mother, with calmer children and/or more tolerance for waffles on the wall, creating the quality connections I long for.

Ah, but I tell myself, we do have a lot of middling moments, good enough moments when we’re all talking at once, or Kevin’s piano practice provides background for Nick and Patrick’s loud game of “knock-downblocks.” Times when we’re discussing the cover story of the latest issue of TIME magazine and Nick is shrieking and swatting flies with a bam-bambam. Times when I can’t find my sunglasses (or keys, or wallet) and the boys make me laugh with their crazy dancing and silly faces, so I won’t lose it altogether. No epiphanies, but some measure of connection in the chaos.

Some days, it is not enough. Some days, it is enough for them but not for me. I am grateful to be offered so many of these “some days” since my children are not separated from me for school. I can keep trying, searching and wondering in the many hours we spend together. One of the things I wonder about most is how the sum of this homeschooling experience is so much greater than its parts. How, even without the “Zen thing” rewarding me regularly, I continue to know that muddling through with the kids at home is best for our family. There’s life and learning in here, even though it’s sometimes messy.

And occasionally I catch a glimpse of something that leaves me hopeful: one of the boys transfixed by a book or returning breathlessly from a walk with a stream of new discoveries to discuss. As Patrick said on a recent camping trip as he stared into the fire, “This is the life.” Indeed.

About the Author

Jeanne Faulconer homeschools her three sons in Standardsville.

Originally published in VaHomeschoolers Newsletter (now the VaHomeschoolers Voice), a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!

VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information

VaHomeschoolers Voice is a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!

VaHomeschoolers Voice prints selected articles, news, and letters related to home education and Virginia homeschoolers. Opinions expressed by individual writers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers. Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.

Permission to reprint content from VaHomeschoolers Voice may be requested by contacting the Voice Editor. Reprinting by-lined articles requires permission of the specific author in addition to permission of the editor.

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