Considering

comments: 90

ElkRockIs

Oh, hello my dear friends. How are you? We are all home today. Andy is in the garage playing guitar. Amelia is smashing something with the pestle and mortar (I dare not ask). I am cutting linen for the new summer cross-stitch kits. It is slow going and I don't think I've cut literally anything in parallel (I'm sorry). But it's getting cut, and that is something.

Thank you so much for the movie and TV-show recommendations! I am adding everything to the list. Many of them I have seen (because I love the genre) but many are new to me. Last week Andy and I together watched all of Godless, recommended by my friend Jolie, and wow, that was seriously intense. I thought it was amazing. (Very heavy on the sad, violent, and terrifying, though. Be warned.) Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey is in it. I think she is most soulful and lovely. I really like her. This week we're watching A Knight's Tale (which was recommended by many people!) and Ken Burns's The Civil War, and are trying to get into Poldark again. I watched Poldark a few years ago but there was one scene in season one or two that almost killed me and I never watched it afterward. But, so many good things on the list. Thank you again. I really appreciate it!

Today I've been thinking a lot about school next year and I'm moving toward a deeper acceptance of what our reality — everyone's reality — will be when (if) we start leaving the house: I'm considering keeping Amelia home, even if her school does physically open. I have been having this discussion with many of my friends, not just from our school but my friends from Oak Park and River Forest and my friends on Instagram and my best friend in Boston, and just all of us who have small children right now. I was really surprised to hear that many are considering home-schooling, if they have that option (and many people do not have that option). This is such an intensely personal decision, and everyone’s issues are so different. I will admit that I have never, under normal circumstances, considered home-schooling Amelia. But these are not normal circumstances. I suspect that our school's curriculum will include in-classroom teaching and online assignments. Online school absolutely did not work for us. Like, counter-productive disaster. I don't know if there's a way we could stay "virtually" in our class so that she can be connected with her people socially without actually doing the work (but doing other work, from whatever home-school curriculum I follow). I will definitely need a curriculum because I have zero teaching experience and, quite honestly, I will need structure and support and everything that would go with a tested program. I absolutely do not want to reinvent this wheel. I am researching several Montessori home-school programs (there are many!) and another literature-based one that my friend from school will be using with her kids. If we do home-school, we would definitely (hopefully) be returning to public school for third grade. (She's a rising second-grader right now).

I can't quite put into words exactly what school meant to all of us this year. The year before, when we went to a private Montessori pre-K-to-8 school and commuted a half-hour each way (and paid a lot of money), well — that was just actually a horrible year. I couldn't see exactly how miserable we all were (well, me and Andy, mostly) until we were out of it. I think it was also horrible because I had expected it to be so great. The school was great. Don't get me wrong — it is an amazing school (Franciscan Montessori Earth School). But traveling way out of our neighborhood; not having any classmates from our neighborhood; having a really gross, depressing, extremely irritating drive; having ZERO playground culture — all of those things wiped out every positive aspect. We just didn't know it would suck the life out of us like that.

But this school year, when we went to our neighborhood public K-5, was like a dream. Not necessarily academically, because I still prefer the Montessori pedagogy and know it would've been excellent for Amelia. (I will never stop wishing that public school was more like Montessori school.) But everything else about our school — the teachers, the playground, the other parents, the kids, my volunteer hours reading with the kids, the neighborhood, the five-minute drive, feeling a part of our community, having a mom crew, feeling like this thing that I, personally, had waited for for so (soooo) many years was finally happening. Just, the belonging. She felt it and I felt it and I loved it. She loves everything but I do not love everything and I loved this, for all of us. I won't lie. I cried at one point or another in the day almost every day for the first two months of lockdown, when everything just vanished. I just couldn't stop crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. It was fear, I am sure, but also grief. Grief for worldwide suffering and pain but also grief for our family’s inevitable risks as well as our smallest, most prosaic losses: Everything about our now-big girl’s daily big-girl life had just gotten started — and then it was all just as suddenly gone. She told Andy, quite brightly, that she wished she could drink milk out of a bottle again. She wondered aloud to me whether it was weird that she felt the urge to suck her thumb (something she didn’t even do as a baby). I didn't let Amelia see me crying, except for the one time we did a drive-by birthday party for our friend Jaxen, and when it was our turn to approach and I saw Jaxen and his little brother and his mom out front with her streamers and her signs and her giant smile I just burst into sobs, honked and waved furiously with my big red face about to explode, and drove on. But on a daily basis, when I wasn't crying (privately! I swear! privately! [mostly!]) for what had been lost, I was crying because I was just so moved — every time she'd get on a Zoom call with her teachers (ballet, too) and her classmates,  I was just so moved by the incredible efforts that everyone was making to keep all our kids healthy and happy and safe and emotionally connected during this time. Seeing all these little kids on the screen in their pajamas, eating breakfast, with dogs and baby sisters barging in, and computers not working, and Mrs. B being her calm, loving, insanely patient self, teaching them how to turn their microphones on, telling them how good it was to see them. I mean, I just could not stop crying. Amelia was not crying at all. Not even close. She's been thriving at home, says she loves being at home, says she loves being here with us every day, and she's such a go-with-the-flow person that I believe her and I literally think she's seriously forgotten what she's missing. Like — she lives completely in the moment.

So, yeah. Oregon's numbers are going back up. Part of me is devastated that whatever school will look like, it absolutely can't and won't look like it did. Part of me feels obligated to keep my kid home because I can, and thereby will make more room for the kids and teachers who will have no choice (because their parents don't have a choice) but to physically go to school. Part of me thinks it will be a great adventure for us to home-school, and really dig into something that could be wonderful (but without museums? without the library? will they still be closed? will they close if they reopen?). Part of me just wants to do whatever PPS says we're going to do and trust that they’ll make the right decision about how to proceed. And part of me just feels unsure about everything.

90 comments

I feel for parents of young children...so difficult. Mine are teen and up, and although I am fairly comfortable with my college senior returning to school (she will be living off campus with good friends) but unsure my comfort level with my high schooler returning - all day classes, maturity levels, pure density of students has me concerned, and this age student can navigate distance learning just fine. One is in a trade so he is working and being very mindful as he has risk factors.

I wish you luck and peace in this journey. I frankly found the black and white of shutdown less exhausting than the mental gymnastics around what to let them do vs not.

Christy Bellah says: July 13, 2020 at 07:58 AM

My children are grown and I didnt' homeschool, but I read a blog by an amazing woman who has homeschooled all 9 ! of her children. The Prudent Homemaker is the blog and she has a dropdown on homeschooling listing each year. I haven't looked further than that, but thought you might want to.

PS I love your blog and the glimpses of your life. I live in Oregon too!

Dana malloy says: July 13, 2020 at 10:34 AM

Alicia,
I have homeschooled each of my children at different times using SONLIGHT curriculum. We came from a Montessori background. there have been different phases in our lives that have pulled my children school , travel, ballet, other sports .The children have also returned with huge success to traditional and montessori schools .and two to college. The ages I homeschooled were similar to your dear girl. the most important thing gained in my years of homeschooling was confidence in my ability to know my child and how they learned. I have been able to guide , advocate, and have peace in their educations. I feel so blessed to have had the time with my children. It goes so fast. if i had to do it over I would have homeschooled longer.I also worked part time , My curriculum allowed so much flexibility, and the books were my dream education.

Additionally Charlotte Mason had a good curriculum, I adored her thoughts on childhood.
For the Children sake; by Susan Schaffer Macaulay is a good read.

Everyone must choose a course, what I know is you can change your your path , and they are only yours for a short time .
thank you for giving me such joy , been reading your blog for over 10 years.

Hi, I enjoy your blog tremendously from across the pond (in Wales). My children are now in their twenties but I just want to send you all best wishes during these uncertain times which will pass in due course. You have a sweet family and they must be a great comfort to you! Thankyou for sharing on your blog, I love the photos of your beautiful state. Wishing you all the very best!

I homeschooled 2 of my kids for 1 year with an online charter school, and my 3rd kid did it for two years. It was a great time, we learned a whole lot about each other and I enjoyed the curriculum. When we decided to go back to "regular" school, they had no trouble at all getting back into it. They were ready for more friend time! And tired of mom bossing them around all the time... I think one year of homeschool isn't anything to worry about and you guys will have a lot of fun together and she'll be just fine getting back into things for 3rd grade. Good luck.

Alicia~ I home schooled 2 of my girls until high school and the third through graduation! I used a variety of approaches/curriculum- I guess I would consider myself an ‘eclectic’ home schooler leaning towards unschooling. I never used Montessori, because it was a little too structured for me personally, but there are A LOT of Montessori resources available online, so I’m sure you could find something that would feel like a good match. IMHO, no matter what approach you try (and I’ve tried many, and constantly reinvented our hs experience) you would be FABULOUS at it. You already have a natural and delightful curiosity that you have passed onto Amelia, and you guys already do so much great creative, constructive stuff- you really are always learning! And it’s good that you know so much already about what you feel comfortable with-you would absolutely hit it out of the park!

Good luck and love to you and yours on this strange and beautiful journal of learning, loving and life!
Su from Philly:)

Kristen Seiff says: July 14, 2020 at 09:18 PM

If you are homeschooling, you might consider looking at the Waldorf curriculum. I have been a public Waldorf inspired teacher and wish I had raised my daughter with this curriculum. It is art centered and developmentally appropriate. There are several Waldorf home-school blogs and websites. As a public school teacher, I understand your concern about sending your child to school. I also appreciate your thoughts on keeping you child home because you can and some parents do not have that option. Thank you for that idea. I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around how to teach and "hold" my 25 3rd graders while being 6 feet away.

If you and Andy are fine she will be fine. Pray about it and follow your heart. My youngest of 3 was home schooled. He's 20 now. Just got married in June. And has very good values I believe he wouldn't be the man he is if he would had been in public school. You will and are be a great teacher, since the moment you first held her in your arms you were teaching her. It comes natural, just as you both are her loving parents.

I have always thought what a wonderfully perfect homeschooling Mom you would be. You have already created the most idyllic childhood for Amelia - the stuff of storybooks - and you are already educating her so perfectly. You have all the resources and the relationship. You will put her ahead, not behind. The most important thing for children's emotional stability and healthy development is to feel safe and secure and loved and you give that to Amelia in spades. I homeschooled all 4 of my children through to university (law, classical flute, nursing, and the youngest is considering engineering). It was the most fulfilling part of being a mother for me. All the other losses that you are grieving are the same for now no matter what you do. But they will come back and you will be able to choose school later on if that is what you want. But right now, as you see, Amelia loves being at home and she feels safe and happy and undisturbed. Online interaction with friends is a fun novelty. Sitting in a room, all wearing masks and being told to stay away from each other and the teacher would be frightening. Your grief is rational and well-founded, but you will create a happy haven of delight in learning in your beautiful home and you will treasure this special time with her. Museums and orchestras have already put so many wonderful resources online. The daughter of a friend has set up a barre and ballet flooring in her house in Arizona and is "attending" ballet classes in St Petersburg, Russia!! As academic resources I would recommend the series of texts called, "What Your --- Grader Should Know" by E.D. Hirsch. They cover topics in all subjects with just enough information to stand alone but that function as the foundation of further independent study. The program that we loved was based on wonderful story books that you use to teach all aspects of the curriculum, and was called "Five in a Row". Examples of the stories used are "How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World", "The Story About Ping". Once you see how these stories can be used to teach science and Geography etc, you will make use of other picture books in the same way. Two of my favorites that I used in this way are "Cocoa Ice" and "Marguerite Makes a Book". Embrace this school year as a happy adventure. Sending you love and encouragement. Clare

I too have a 7-year old and being away from school and routine was difficult for him. I eventually adjusted when I stopped trying to be the teacher and implement the school’s distance learning plans. Like I gave up at the two month mark. When we started trying to hang out with neighbourhood kids outdoors (riding scooters and such) it was a long process of reintroducing the social skills after I had been the primary playmate for so long. It was worrisome but seems fine now.

I’m in Canada and our COVID situation is much different than yours (though we don’t know either if kids will be physically back in classrooms in September) but I wanted to direct you to the report from Toronto SickKids Hospital that unequivocally says kids should be back in classrooms. It’s compelling redacting from our country’s top Pediatric and infectious disease doctors - one of whom is my neighbour and who patiently responds to my daily inquiries.

In part:

"The impact on the mental, behavioural and developmental health of children not going to school, not being exposed to in-person teaching and not being with their friends and peers is something that myself and many of my colleagues in pediatrics are literally losing sleep over," Cohn said.

I home schooled my five children for 25 years. This is the perfect age to inspire and set the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Public schools get through the required subjects and stop.

Read and read more. Go outside as much as possible. Socialize with all age groups safely and teach her to value everyone and their stories. Play and let her lead you on adventures. You will have a wonderful year with wonderful memories. They really do grow up too fast. Wonder and explore, live and laugh, take time and run fast, but most of all ponder your blessings!

I’m an old, retired elementary school teacher. My take: keep her home. There’s nothing at school that’s more important than your family being alive at the other end. 💗💗💗

You sound like a wonderful and absolutely magical mother so this is definitely not meant as a criticism of you personally. I just see more and more parents moving towards Oak Meadow and Waldorf right now and it is concerning to me. The very idea of "earthy" and "natural" are colonial constructs. I find the way Waldorf romanticises the past is extremely problematic and ignores the fact that the American Landscape is a direct product of Indigenous skill and technology. I love Beatrix Potter and Elsa Beskow but those are some extremely white books. I just hope you will add some more balanced perspective and more varied and diverse books as well. I just think people need to think a little more about who $45 crayons exclude. Can Waldorf or Oak Meadow truly be inclusive spaces and diverse communities when you are automatically cutting out individuals without that kind of spare income?

Again, this is not a critique of you and you may have already thought of all these things but I just hope that the curriculum represents the beauty and diversity of the world we live in now and not just a romanticized and false portrait of nature.

Jean Cogdill says: July 25, 2020 at 01:22 PM

Things are definitely different aren't they. You must know, that you are not alone in your feelings... out of the blue I too cry... and to be honest I can't always understand why. Now admittedly I am a crier.... I can cry just talking about crying.... lol. But, I think with the world once again angry (it seems) at everyone, it's hard to not feel sad. Don't we all want people to love and be happy with everyone. To share that love and happiness with all that they come in contact with. I admire your wanting to protect and take care of your daughter of course... but you know, when I read your blog I and think about that you are concerned about how you are going to teach her for the next year. Honey... all I see is your teaching her! You teach her by your helping her learn to discover new things.... playing in the dirt and dress up and cooking. Learning to do crafts; you are they best example of that. I don't often comment on your posts mostly because I read them and just go ahhhhhhhhh. I enjoy reading it and seeing all the lovely pictures you take. I attended 3 High Schools growing up... John Adams (Portland, Ore. now gone), Brooklyn Center, Minn. and then finished up at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. So I tend to miss Oregon. I still have family there; a son in Sisters, mom in Eugene and brother in Veneta. But, honestly reading your blog brings it all back... the warm Summer days... and the rainy Summer days, the sweet smell of blackberries when they are ripe. The rivers beautiful sounds... (speaking of which there is a guy on Youtube in Portland who is a scuba diver that he and some other guys dive into the local and not so local rivers etc... and find cars that have found their way into the water. They get them out and are helping the environment by getting rid of them. It's neat! Sorry.... it's called Adventures With Purpose on YouTube). Anyway...
Thank you for all you do. You are a wonderful example to everyone... especially you daughter.

So moved by your words and taken right back to 9-11. I was working in an elementary school. Our principal had TV's on in the lounge and workroom. Teachers covered for one another so they could steal 5-10 minutes to watch it unfold, then scurry back to their classrooms bright eyed and bushy tailed to teach and be available for the kids who were blissfully unaware of how changed their world would be.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.