It’s the second week of March and we’ve had a brutal winter. With more snow and cold weather in our forecast, I thought it would be a good time to remind folks of another March day, back in 2012 when temperatures reached 80º F. A group of local homeschoolers headed for Lamoine Beach (one of the many benefits of homeschooling is the unexpected field trip). So there we were, white as ghosts each one of us, with our bathing suits, sunscreen, beach blankets and frisbees enjoying a mid-week day frolicking in the ocean. Actually, it was more like frolicking BESIDE the ocean, as we quickly learned the waters of the Atlantic were beyond bone-numbingly cold. The kids remedied the situation by building ‘hot tubs’ in the sand. They dug and dug and filled the holes with ocean water, which warmed easily in the sun. I wonder how other homeschoolers in the Northeast enjoyed that freak-of-nature hot spell in March of 2012……….
It’s quite a jarring thing to live with a homeschooler who pine’s for school. My daughter from age six had begged to go. That year we just said no. The next fall she was still asking and so we decided to send her for “specials” once a week, art and gym. After a month or so she was asking to go full-time. We had a trial week which went well for her and the teacher, but I was still uncomfortable with it. We had many concerns about the long school day, the lack of creativity for our artsy daughter and trying to juggle school with homeschool. Unfortunately during her trial week my daughter was witness to two fights involving a bully, and that pretty much sealed our ‘no’ decision for that year.
But the rest of that school year she was not happy at all with homeschooling. Her room was a mess, she constantly complained of boredom. I tried my best to make it more fun and involve more of the things she likes. We started an Arts Class for homeschoolers in an effort to meet more homeschooling girls her age. Up until then our homeschool world involved a gaggle of boys. She also did gymnastics, homeschool science classes, piano and Spanish lessons. But none of this was enough to meet her needs.
This past August, when her and I sat down to formulate her fall homeschool goals and schedule, she put her head on the table and moaned that she wanted to go to school. It was then that I also realized that I had been bracing myself at the prospect of homeschooling her for another year. At this point it really felt like the right time to let her go. So, at age 8, she is attending 3rd grade. There were quite a few considerations before this decision was made. Most of them had to do with my daughter’s needs. As hard as it was to admit, my laid back homeschooling style did not match her driven need for constant activities and schoolwork. As a result it made her unwilling to homeschool with me and her brothers. She also wanted lots of girl friends. She was relentless in asking to go to school. When it came right down to it, the decision was easy. Send her. Now she is happier, more organized at home, is always talking about school in a positive way, has a good relationship with her teachers and has new friends. And at home the reality is that homeschooling is better without an unwilling participant.
There’s still a part of me that hopes at some time she’ll change her mind and homeschool, but for now it’s working out. As homeschooling parents, a decision to send a child to school is monumental and entails a careful balance of family values and the needs of the child.
As homeschoolers, we have created a cozy homeschooling environment for our family that sits off the mainstream. This is relatively easy when kids are younger. But as they get older and their need for more social activity increases, we find ourselves mixing in more and more with ‘everybody else’. In our family this first happened through sports, but it can happen in almost any segment of life. Suddenly your secure homeschool world is laid bare to everyone. What exactly DO people think when you say you’re a homeschooler? You know they’re thinking something because often they’re not saying anything! It’s easy to say, “I don’t care what others think” but at this stage your kids are involved, too. After hanging out with the other 97% for a while it seems as though they’re just like us – families making tough decisions and working hard to raise kids in a challenging world. The more we touch each other’s lives. the more we can learn from them and about ourselves.
We survived our worst ice storm in Maine thus far. Our yard is an icy wonderworld and we just regained power the day before yesterday after nine days without. It was a difficult adjustment, especially not knowing how long we’d be without electricity. After about 5 days I gave up hoping it would come right back on and starting making the best of it and working hard to organize our new lifestyle. It actually make life more simple. No internet – no emails, facebook, youtube, Ted Talks, internet banking, library checks, shopping, etc. It’s amazing how insidious the internet had become in my life. Yes it makes some things easier but is it really all necessary and beneficial in the long run? When it was all said and done, our needs seemed pretty simple: Water, Food, Light and Warmth.
We woke up daily with water on our mind. Water management was the utmost topic throughout the nine days. Our closest neighbors, who are off the grid, shared their drinking water with us. We visited my parents 45 minutes away three times to shower, do laundry and fill up our 18 gallons of water for toilet flushes and we also melted quite a bit of snow. I did the dishes once per day and cracked out the birthday plates/napkins/plastic silverware to lessen the dish load.
Food was a bit of a trick. After 2 days we put the fridge food in coolers outside where it fluctuated between frozen solid and thawing. Everything in the deep freezer in the unheated workshop amazingly stayed frozen solid for 9 days. So every time we needed something from the ‘fridge’ we had to go into the woodshed or the porch. I tried not to do any cooking at first but with a propane stove the only excuse was that it created too many dishes. But once I got into the ‘doing dishes once per day’ routine I didn’t mind the huge pile up too much. When it was time, we heated up about 2 gallons of water. One for washing and one for rinsing. Maybe the dishes weren’t pristine, but luckily it was rather dark. Cooking supper early in the afternoon, before darkness set in, made it much easier. I could just heat things up later.
Which brings us to light. Whoever created headlamps must have been a solitary soul because wearing a headlamp blinds every being in your sight. I missed the lamp shades and grew to be irritated by our bright flashlights and camp lights which shone so brightly. I learned that using Mark’s work light, shined up at the white corner walls and ceiling gave us the most reflective light. I took down all the paper snowflakes my kids had taped to the windows and removed the Christmas Tree early as it was blocking a window of light. Having snow outside was very helpful in reflecting in lots of light. But after 5pm it was dark outside and we found that winding things down early worked well, and we went to bed all at the same time. We did read to the kids for a while before bed with the camp light behind us. Because of the light situation we ended up sleeping more, which I think is natural for this time of year.
As for warmth, the wood stove heats the main part of the house and sends enough to the bathroom and kids’ rooms to keep the pipes and kids from freezing. The wood is from our property, cut and split by my husband, which is something he works on throughout the year. It was definitely colder in the kids’ bedrooms and they didn’t play there during the day. We had Christmas morning up in our bedroom which is above the wood stove so the warmest place. But at night the kids were snuggled in with extra blankets and didn’t complain.
Everybody kept talking about generators and what kind we should get and how much we need one. However I am at the point in my life where I don’t want to find new ways to use fossil fuels. I want to simplify and we did well enough without. Well enough so if we ever had to go without for longer it would be OK.
And despite the fact that we are the last to get power back, we still have the desire to stay out here – where sometimes we cannot even get out our road. Some may think we’re crazy but I think we are the lucky ones. To survive and thrive when mother nature throws her hardest curve ball gave me a pretty good feeling and strengthened my connection with nature. And to live where the water is pure, the air is fresh, and it is quiet and beautiful makes the hardships all worth while.