Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

United States


New Year's Resolution: To Learn How to Suck with Grace

alec vanderboom

In a few hours, I have my first home school review with the State of Maryland.

Ever since my husband and I heard the first nudging to "home" school for kindergarten some nine months ago, I've sat in dread of this review. All of my poor friends have spent months listening to me verbally roll my eyes at this meeting. I cried during the five hours it took me to assemble a portfolio of Hannah's work on Saturday night. Then on Sunday night, I feel into sin. I screamed at my kids for dragging the chocolate King Cake into their bedroom and picked a fight with my husband when he tried to ease my nervousness with hugs and words of comfort.

All of my sin is because I'm a baby. I don't want to go to a meeting with a State Official telling me that "I'm doing it wrong."

My Mother is an Education Professor. "Doing teaching right" has a far, far exaggerated place of importance in my mind. Home schooling has revealed a definite tendency towards perfectionism in my life.

There's no way to be "perfect" in this portfolio review and that lack of a standard is driving my pride crazy. I couldn't find a specific checklist on how to "pass" this review. Even the basic guidelines contained in my meeting letter such as, "make a list of your textbooks," is problematic for me.

As an unschooler, we don't use textbooks. We don't have worksheets. For my Science Class, I'm bringing a Audubon Magazine article about Venus Fly Traps because that what we do for science class. I read a fun article about endangered carnivorous plants and then we all jump around pretending to eat flies with our arms and make up theories as to why the Venus Fly Traps are losing their populations in North Carolina.

I don't know how this is going to go over with my Portfolio Reviewer. It might go over well, but it might totally miss the mark especially since, I tend not to be the best "recorder" of all of our spontaneous fun science conversations.

Besides, kindergarten isn't really supposed to be about unit studies on carnivorous plants. It's supposed to be about learning how to count. Somehow, we've gotten stalled on anything past the number 9.

My daughter, Hannah, doesn't get the whole "number placement" thing. She doesn't see any pattern yet from 0-9, and 10-19, or 20-29.

I've got the sweet Decimal Street from Math-u-See with the tiny green house for the ones and the blue apartment building for the 10s and the red castle for the 100s. Yet Hannah doesn't get the rule that only nine people can fit into the "ones" house and then when another friend comes to stay they all have to move into the 10 place and leave the ones place empty with a giant zero.

Hannah does like math rules. She thinks that if a friend is coming to stay, they can all hang out in the green "one" house. "The green family doesn't need to move into a new house, Mom! The little girl isn't coming to stay. She doesn't need a new bed. The little friend is just coming to play for a few hours!"

Hannah likes to do math Hannah's way.

"You do math your way, I'll do it my way." That statement has been repeated often during this semester. Curiously, the lovely teacher on Math-U-See does not have any guidelines for the great "why do we all have to count the same way at the same time?" going on in my kindergartner's head.

We've stayed stuck on the parallel play during math time for a few months now. As a result, our portfolio has pages and pages of Number Street, with detailed drawings and my cut-out pictures of "numbers of Popsicles" needed for the ice cream truck. Hannah has people, horses and flowers numbering 11, 13, and 27 hanging out all in the "ones" house. Whether this meets the criteria of "regular and thorough home instruction for the State of Maryland" is anyone guess.

The State Reviewer might tell me to give up and start giving out math worksheets. Oh, and please give more tests and informal assessments. (I'm really bad at the recording and testing where we currently are thing.)

Also, I'm pretty sure we flunked the physical education section. Because in hind sight, I did a "here's the playground go play," which is more recess than a "progressive program in cardiovascular fitness" which counts a P.E. Honestly, we didn't even get recess nearly enough because I'm a bookworm who hates the cold. Bundling up the 18 month old, finding the missing gloves and hats, and locating that one missing shoe never seems worth the effort. So mostly we stay inside and let the kids jump around on our couch and swing on the door handles. I'm not sure this honestly qualifies as "gymnastics."

Teaching is humbling work, because it's too vast to do well or perfectly. It's a lot like parenting or being a spouse.

My priest has told me to "do the work the best you can and hand the rest over to God." Today is the day to test my virtue of obedience.

Today is the day I listen to some criticism, not as "punishment" but as a source of direction in my life.

I would never choose to be vulnerable like this to someone in authority such as in this home school meeting. But humiliation often leads to the virtue of humility.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. He leads his servants in the ways they need to go and not where they want to go.