Yesterday was the first of many “endings” for me here in this house…at least until we return. 😉 You are all familiar with me sharing home tours and pictures of our home design, but I’ve been keeping a bit of a secret for the last three years. It has been a bit of a challenge for me to blog and create beautiful spaces because our home has been being used for something very important…it has been our own little one room school house.
If you’re new to the blog, you may not know that I am a homeschooler, and have been for the last decade. Wow! That sounds like a long time when I say it out loud! 🙂 Our decision to homeschool was made during a chaotic kindergarten year attending our brand new neighborhood school that was trying to figure out what they were going to do with the 1200 students that they had to teach. It was a mess. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to make a change. I had a 2 year old at home and a 5 year old that needed a better learning environment. I also had a husband that worked 24/7/365 as a young lawyer at a big law firm. We were already on what most would consider an “alternative schedule” compared to most young families. The kids stayed up really late every night in hopes of catching a few minutes with dad, they slept late in the morning to make up for late nights, and we had to be completely spontaneous and ready to go at the drop of a hat if we ever had any hopes of taking a vacation, going to a movie, or grabbing dinner together. We were flying by the seat of our pants. Being tied to an 8am-2:30pm schedule really wasn’t working for our family. Fortunately, homeschooling has a fairly large presence in OC and the more I researched the more I became intrigued by alternative schooling options. My idea of homechooling was never a vision of the kids and I sitting around the kitchen table together all day doing workbooks, I wasn’t sure I had the patience for that. My vision was more of creating my own small private school of sorts. A small group of kids, a great teacher, a happy, friendly learning environment, and a super flexible schedule. Pulling Andy out of public school after that Kindergarten year was scary for me. I felt very insecure and uncertain of whether or not I was doing him a disservice by removing him from the system that everyone else we knew was a part of and that both John and I were a product of. It was what we knew.
I had many sleepless nights wondering if I was doing the right thing and, more importantly, wondering what in the world I was going to do now that his education and personal success was resting squarely on my shoulders. If he failed, it meant I failed him. The feeling I’ll never forget though is the feeling of freedom I had that following September morning when everyone headed back to school and we were not with them. Suddenly I felt like the world was our classroom and we had the incredible opportunity to go and see and do and experience life while learning all along the way and even more importantly, spending time together doing it.
The next many years was series of experiments with co-ops, independent classes, tutors and individual learning. We took zillions of field trips. We used Disneyland as a teaching tool riding rides like Splash Mountain to learn about dramatic structure : exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. We did experiments, we traveled to new places and experienced history and culture. I don’t want to make it all sound like it was perfect. I was stressed all the time. I worried that I wasn’t teaching them enough. I got frustrated. He got frustrated. It was very tiring…but has also been very rewarding. By the time Ash was in school I had things running a little more smoothly…and I was tired. I had them both in a co-op 3 days a week and it just wasn’t working well. By the beginning of her second grade year I knew that I had to come up with something else. That’s the thing about homeschooling…whatever you are doing you are constantly changing. I used that year to let her continue at the co-op while I formulated a plan. I kept having a nagging feeling that now was the time for the little private school I had envisioned to come to life. We knew a couple of amazing families with kids Ashley’s same age, and I knew a phenomenal teacher that was looking to work part-time. I took a leap of faith and pitched her my idea. I was SO nervous. She loved it and was completely on board.
There were some hiccups as we created the plan for the following year. Some families that had initially thought they would join us had changes in their family situations and had to back out very last minute. I was a wreck. I had committed a year’s salary to the teacher so that she could feel comfortable joining me in this experiment, and I wasn’t going to let her down, but once the others backed out it shook my confidence in my ability to make this happen. It was a VERY stressful time. Even with all of the bumps along the way, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to press forward with faith, so I did. I always make an effort to try and see the Lord’s hand in my life on a daily basis, but there are a few occasions where He is SO present and the blessings are SO specific that I would have to be trying to avoid them in order to miss seeing them. This was one of those times. After pouring my heart and soul into the creation of our little Home’S COOL Academy and feeling like it was going to fail, at the last minute it all fell seamlessly together and has worked like clockwork for the last three years. It has been an absolute dream…better than I could have imagined or engineered on my own, without a doubt.
For the last three years, every week for three days a week, our home has served as a school for the most perfect little class of 6 sweet students. Yes, it has been a challenge at times to give up the use of my home that much, but the amazing things that have resulted are definitely worth the sacrifice. I have been fortunate to have the MOST amazing teacher turned wonderful friend who dedicates so much time and energy into creating an incredible learning experience for her students. The families that have been a part of our journey are the most kind, patient and flexible people.
We have all grown together through the years and grades…sharing ideas and choosing curriculum. It has been an amazing experience…so much so that our little school is continuing on without us next year. With the impending move the classroom was packed up today ahead of spring break and while we will finish out the school year here in CA with them, our home will no longer be the classroom.
As I walked around the house while the kids were at recess today taking pictures of the things that I have walked by for the last three years, not paying much attention to, I realized just how much I will miss the piles of shoes at the front door when class is in session. I’ll miss the friendly greeting from Katie each morning as she walks in the front door, the backpacks and lunchboxes lining the hallway and counter tops. It will be quiet around here without the sounds of laughter in the backyard during lunch, hearing poems recited and stories told downstairs on the couch. Next year Ash will give school a try in Utah. I’ll miss our Thursday lunch dates, my everyday errand and crafting buddy. It will be hard for me to have an empty house, especially after having one that has been so full.
It’s not all hard to give up. I am excited to bring my real kitchen chairs back into the kitchen and trade them for the white folding chairs that have been surrounding my table for the last 3 years. I’m excited to bring the throw pillows back into the family room and replace the decorative items that have been traded out for pencil sharpeners and white boards. You can expect more recipes and crafts now that I have my house back and more design pictures…ok maybe after the move and renovation. 😉 Moving on to a new phase of life can be exciting too!
It may have presented a slight design challenge to be a design blogger while at the same time turning our home into a school, but homeschooling has taught me to think outside the box and not to be afraid to do something different. It has given me TONS of time with my kids and that is priceless. It has shown me that I can do hard things and things that seem really scary. I know its not for everyone. I’m a big believer that each family has a different set of needs and should do whatever is best for them…and that what is best for each of us can change from year to year. This kitchen that I love so much – with it’s folding chairs and all – has been the heart of our home and the heart of our little school, which makes it that much harder to leave…but I can’t wait to design a new one. 😉 It will undoubtedly be the heart of our new home where we will create new memories and make new friends. It is going to be hard, but I know I can do hard things.
Have a happy day!