HS #292 A Homeschool Parent Teacher Conference
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An actual recording of the infamous “homeschool parent-teacher conference” (aka split personality overthink-a-thon) in my head. The teacher and voice in the back of our minds echoing public opinions and trying to checkboxes, and pigeon-hole potential will be played by me. And the voice of the bedraggled but hopeful homeschool mom is played by...also me. Listen, laugh, sniffle, and feel seen and inspired.
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Hello, and welcome back to another installment of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Wendy Speake, and I am one of the many hosts we have here on the podcast. Each week you'll hear from one of us inviting one of our friends to join for a conversation about this busy, blessed season as we educate our children at home.
Now, the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions. While we don't have the answer to every question, we know that all the solutions to every stress and every struggle can be found in the Person and presence of Jesus Christ and His living and active and applicable Word. We are so glad that you're here to join us for today's conversation, but before we start the show, I'd like to thank our sponsor.
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And now, on today's show.
Homeschool mom, the 10.0 version of the stay-at-home Mom, complete with antivirus software. Software, AKA PJs or yoga pants. The homeschool mom continues to work almost as planned with a low-grade fever into tissue shoved up each nostril, which, incidentally, is how I spent much of this week.
Hi Jennifer Cabrera, the highfalutin homeschooler here and I feel much better thank you. Nevertheless, the show must go on, and with a shameless number of cups of coffee and complaining each day, the show did just that. I snotted and snorted and homeschooled because homeschooling and learning happen anywhere, everywhere, and through all the ideal and not-so-ideal circumstances. And mom never gets a true break. Sick or not sick, whether on holiday or away on vacation, soaking in a tub or strolling the grocery aisle pretending to be alone on a moonlit boardwalk, we can't escape our minds. Sure, we can call off all the formal academic bits and let the kids binge on tech and Taco Bell. But homeschooling means we can be called to a parent-teacher conference at any waking and not waking moment.
Now, if you want more on the not-waking moments, check out the article on my blog titled Homeschool Nightmares. But today I'd like to invite you to join me in a highfalutin homeschool parent-teacher conference. The part of the teacher and all of her highfalutin good intentions and haughty aspirations will be played by me. And the part of the bedraggled but hopeful homeschool mom will be played by me as well as me. Now any similarities to persons and circumstances, real or imagined, in your own experience as a listener and homeschool parent are not coincidental but rather intended as a reflection of our shared struggles, er, I mean, determination. And now, without further ado, I give you a homeschool parent-teacher conference.
Time, 4:45 PM on a Wednesday somewhere between ‘thank heavens, we're almost maybe finally done with lessons for the day’, and ‘what the heck am I going to cook for dinner o'clock’.
Place, mostly in my head between waiting for kids to finish assignments, driving to activities, cooking, or picking up dinner, sorting socks, and drooling cross-eyed in the shower. Shall we begin?
Good afternoon ma'am. Thank you for joining me here in my office-in-your-head today. I'll keep things as short as possible. I realize as a homeschool mom you are terribly busy with many irons in the fire, quite literally, since I am aware that your tenth grader is in the kitchen as we speak, oxidizing iron from steel wool. And since we don't want things to come crumbling or burning down around your well-planned day, we should get right to the point. As should your 12-year-old who instead of completing his daily grammar exercises, is perfectly stacking the sofa pillows and reenacting the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 in your living room.
Yes, thank you for noticing Miss, uh, what should I call you?
Oh yes, my name is Miss you-genuinely-overthink, but please just call me Miss Overthink.
Alright, then Miss Overthink. Let's get this over with. Now I'm trying to decide what to feed everybody for dinner tonight and you're interrupting what's left of my brain power today.
Well, yes, so let's start with what happened today, shall we?
At the beginning of the year, we agreed that doing the math warm-up was essential to preparing your youngest son for his daily arithmetic lessons. I've noticed lately that you've been skipping straight to the lesson. Aren't you concerned he's losing valuable skills without mental math warm-up?
Uhm, well, sometimes I quiz them orally before we get started and randomly at the grocery store or times like, well, for instance, when I have them count the fruit flies that we caught in the vinegar that we placed by the fruit bowl. And then we make an exponential prediction of how many we will catch by the end of the week. Does that count for mental math?
Well, yeah, I suppose it could, but I've also noticed you are letting him do the practice problems all on a dry erase board instead of the lovely answer sheets that I helped you make copies of back in the fall. And on top of that, letting him pick even or odd problems instead of doing the complete 30 needed to ensure he is excelling and exhausted in math each day. What do you have to say for yourself?
Sorry. No, not sorry. I got tired of keeping all those papers around the house. Dry erase works just the same with no mess. Well, mostly. And I can catch each mistake as it happens in each new problem he attempts in real-time. Plus, I can only handle so much pushback and whining. ??? Well, I've got that covered. All the rest is busywork, right? I'm not ruining him. Am I?
Well, that remains to be seen, doesn't it? We'll find out when he takes the SAT or the ACT, I suppose. However, by then it may be too late.
Well, he seems to catch on pretty fast. I'm just afraid I'm going to burn him out on math, and he'll quit trying if I make him do too much busywork after proving he understands. He gets so grumpy.
As do you, I've seen. Have you considered how often you raise your voice with your children each day? Is this teaching them patience and kindness?
Look lady, I'm not proud, but if I were any quieter, no one would hear me. How kind would it be to let them sleep the day away and not learn a thing? We've got to get started and get done to get to the things they'd rather do. So yes, occasionally I raise my voice, but somebody must crack the whip around here.
Yes, well it is good to have their respect and attention, but I'm not sure tearfully whining to the children and blaming them for eating all of your chocolate stash and then not getting excited about your unit study on weather phenomenon is the most effective means to instill the love of learning.
Wait? It was you, wasn't it? You ate all my dark chocolates; didn't you Miss Overthink?
Ah well, I would never. Ma'am, I really have no idea what you're talking about. I am on the strict calorie intake we discussed after Christmas. Now about the waffles you made for the kids this morning no doubt sabotaged me again. So, if I might have had dark chocolate here or there or on my five-minute break once a week. Well, one shouldn't point fingers.
Well now if we can get back to the matter at hand, please. What time do you think is a good time for the kids to rise and begin their studies? It seems to vary daily around here.
See, I try to start earliest on Mondays, what with having piano lessons midday and swim team that evening, and then Tuesdays, I let them sleep in a bit longer, though I have to bang a spoon in a pot by nine so that they get finished in time for Civil Air Patrol that evening. And of course, well, Wednesdays, they spring forth mostly on their own, excited for outside classes and friends. And so naturally, after such a long day, we all want to sleep in on Thursdays and Friday. Well, we just go with the flow. Is that wrong? Should I be more time intentional or whatever the new baloney, I mean, the lingo is these days?
Well, maybe you want to enforce the use of those alarm clocks you bought them all a few years ago. Getting them to learn to be punctual, and time intentional will certainly decrease the stress of the day. Of course, if you make them get up at a certain time, you yourself just as well.
Oh, I mean, yes, you are right, though I have tried this many times. But I shall resign to do it again this Monday if that's not disrupting this week? Of course, when they do set an alarm, they usually turn it off mindlessly and I still have to flip the lights on and do my infamous rendition of rising and shine. And short of setting their rooms on fire, it's almost impossible to wake teens to the excitement of morning time at the breakfast table. Even waffles didn't work this morning.
Well, speaking of morning time, do you find it appropriate to be seen walking to your mailbox, checking the garden, or refilling the bird feeders in your nightgown? What must the neighbors think?
Well, I'm not sure I care what they think, as long as all my essential parts are covered, I'm not sure it's any of their business. Still, I try to be comfortably clothed by noon. No need for heels and lipstick. Miss Overthink.
Oh no, but the children are taking cues from you, and not all of life's work could be done in PJs and bare feet.
Oh, but when it can be, I want them to feel free to do so.
Well, so long as you remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Keep that in mind when you are taking them to group activities, doctor’s appointments, church, the library. You never know who you will cross paths with and want something from someday.
Absolutely. I've almost broken them by wearing the same T-shirt and Jean combo every Wednesday. I suspect it will be worn out long before their wedding day, and besides, I've got bigger fish to fry than their at-home attire right now.
Really? Well, so what is it that you do feel is your biggest hurdle right now?
Well, the biggest thing on my mind lately is that I feel I'm running out of time. My oldest two are going to be high school juniors soon. They've just been accepted to an honors dual-credit college program. And while I'm so amazed and proud, there is so much I still want to teach them, read with them, discuss with them, laugh with them. Heck, even argue with them cause I do love it all, even if I yell and complain sometimes. Well, a lot.
Well, now, this is beyond my realm of planning, judging, and curriculum opinions. All this real-life learning stuff. Well, it can't be put on paper and quantified. It's so unlike the checklists and standards I read and claim most important, the ones I worry you with. But I must say it is shocking you were able to get them into such a prestigious honors program, what with all the curriculum hopping, swapping, and dumping that you've done throughout the years. To me and other possible onlookers, you seem to be floundering about, but perhaps, and I don't admit this lightly, I was wrong.
Wow, did that hurt?
A little actually?
Well, I do feel like such a confusing hot mess at times. I'm trying to personalize their education to the max, so if things weren't working out, I tossed them and tried something else, or added food because you know, boys, food. I must have done something right.
Well, speaking of throwing things out, you said you purchased some of that more extravagant Fandango curriculum as an investment that you would use on your younger child when he was of age. And well, your online shopping carts suggest otherwise, hmm?
Like I said, personalized education. And it seems I was wrong for justifying those purchases because I was glitter eyed by all the pretty pictures and fun yet ridiculous, time-consuming extras I didn't admit that we wouldn't use anyway. And so now I have to find what will work best for my third child who is an entirely different species of a learner. Speaking of which, do you know any writing programs for kids who hate writing? Something that won't end in a pile of grouchy preteen goo and parental migraines?
Well, yes, I do. We vote in writing by Jennifer Cabrera, the highfalutin homeschooler. Perhaps you've heard of her? Well, it's a writing vocabulary and an illustration journal that has been known to rouse the excitement of even the most reluctant of writers.
Huh? She sounds familiar. And brilliant.
Well, now you see, you want to make the most of your time left with your oldest. Let's talk about that reading together part. Why is it that you are still reading aloud with your sixteen-year-olds? By this age, most teens are just assigned chapters and given review quizzes. Certainly, you could have more personal time and maybe a teacher workday if you just left them to read it on their own. Think of the laundry and cleaning that you could get done.
Whoa there, Donna Reed. Truth is, I like to experience the book right along with them, see their reaction and also, I'm lazy. See, if we read it together at the same time, I know exactly what's going on in the book, we can discuss difficult passages, big words, outrageous plotlines immediately. It really saves time in the long run, and we can snuggle. Well, not really. They used to snuggle. Well, now they brace for impact when I come at them with open arms and terms of endearment.
Well, that all makes sense and sounds cozy, but shouldn't they learn to discern it all on their own at some point, especially since they are going to be taking some college courses next year?
Maybe? Well, probably. But won't their professor want to elicit discussion on what they've read? And mine will be practiced in that area, and I'll still be here for reference. I might even read it along with them still.
Ha! Helicopter much?
What did you say to me? It was you making me feel guilty for letting the seventh-grader listen in secretly to our reading of The Great Gatsby last month. You said he was too young, and it would ruin it for him when he had to read it in high school. He understood every word and schooled the older two on a few of those fancy imagery-filled metaphors.
But now what will be on his reading list in tenth grade? He's ruined for all the books he's snooped in on.
Oh, please, lady. Have you seen the walls in this house? Books. Books from miles. Think how much more literature I can stuff in him if he keeps eavesdropping for the next two years. What I read with him and then his high school years, all the more we can add to his repertoire. And besides, my second favorite place in the universe is a bookstore.
Well, what's the first?
Home. Duh. I'm a homeschooler.
Ah, speaking of whom, it's possible that you are keeping them home too much. Now I know we agreed to put the socialization issue to bed years ago, but do they get out enough in the real world? Are they ready for this college dual credit atmosphere? Does your youngest child make friends too easily because he never had to compete for line leader? Did he learn to loathe kids younger than he? To fear kids older? And how cool it is to pretend to hate Lima beans? Ma'am, are you growling at me? Basically, what I'm asking you right now and I see it's making your eyes twitch is this. Do you feel they can maneuver life without sending out homeschool flares, signaling weirdness and naivete?
First of all, Miss Overthink, I'm in a constant battle to stay home. The title homeschooling sounds correct in theory but is a real misnomer in practice. Field trips, outside classes, music lessons, Civil Air Patrol, driver's ed, friend's parties, theatre productions, karate, swimming, groceries, doctor's appointments, mindless trips to the ice cream shop, and constant quick trips to the store for things like one grape and a teaspoon of iodine for science. These are just the beginning of my struggle to stay in pajamas. But yeah, I still wonder sometimes if they were exposed enough to stuff. I mean, if you're going to ruin a kid, you might as well keep them home and do it yourself. But should I have someone offer them drugs, steal their homework, and tell them crude stories while they wait in line to go to the bathroom? You know, just so they're prepared for? Oh wait, that's not the real world either. You know, I really don't have time for your nonsense right now. Once again, you are ruining my four minutes of free time with these nonsense worries.
Well, I just have one more topic to hit upon. It is getting late, and I do need to get to analyze your morning breakfast options again. I saw your stash of fruit loops, frozen waffles, and Jimmy Dean sandwiches. Perhaps you should cook a nutritious omelet and whole wheat...
Uhm, you had one more topic?
Um, yes, now though you are clearly tired and overworked, the kids are doing pretty well and so far, so good. Do you worry you aren't doing enough? You said so yourself, time is going quickly and there's still so much you want to cover. Are you enough? Have you short-changed them in any way?
I do worry sometimes and thanks for bringing it up again so I can re-evaluate and lose some more hair. That's your specialty when we have one of these meetings in my head, but after the events of the past year of pandemic politics and the more the facade of the education system rots away like a portrait of Dorian Gray. Ew. We could read that senior year. Anyway, I realize what I've given them is so much more and dwarfs whatever they could have possibly missed. And what have they given me?
Do you need a tissue, ma'am?
No, it's just the fumes from the kitchen chemistry.
Well, don't get all drippy on me. Emotions and soul searching aren't my thing. I'm all about checking boxes and pigeonholing potential. I simply want to know if you regret any decisions or lost time.
You know one big regret I have is talking to you so much.
That's why I never have. Of all the impertinent...I have been nothing but helpful, simply pointing out your potential failure so you were aware and could consistently re-evaluate decisions and not waste your...
Yes, you clearly mean well. I think. But instead of coming to you with your judgmental checkboxes and tired public opinions, I should have turned to prayer. Worrying over every little lesson, lazy day, tough episode, fitting in with even other homeschool kids. And if I was doing enough, am I enough? Well, I should have just continued to do my absolute best and pray that God gives me the strength and fills in all the holes. See, sometimes I don't turn to you, Miss Overthink, though, are not near often enough. Sometimes I look in the back for a Bible verse to tell me what to do. And while you've been pecking at my head the last half hour, I just found this jewel. Do not worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Philippians 4:6. And this lets me know I have better things to do than chat anymore with you about shoulda, coulda, woulda.
But one last thing. I want you to know that though time has gone by so fast and I'm sad to see the end of my homeschool journey with my oldest fast approaching like many do, I won't ask where the time went. I know exactly where it went cause I was right there with them every step of the way.
Oh, that's very sweet dear. And that sounds like a great new poster that we could have made to hang up a dining room wall and maybe edit the grammar and wordage you use because I'm not quite sure it could be correct and maybe could be improved upon. And I think we should look at some new grammar alterations.
Oh, begone, Brunhilda. You have no power here.
And there you have it. Another parent-teacher conference to tide me over into the next mob madness attack hits me. I'll try and keep my brain from roving over every possible worry and be more intentional, asking God for the help I need, continuing to try my best, and then let it be.
And now I'm off to make one of my teens play Skip-Bo with me while we watch old movies, and I say embarrassing things that one day they'll love me for. And I'd love to hang out with you too. So, if you happen to be going to the Texas Great Homeschool Convention on July 8th through the 10th, make sure and search for me. Come to one of my talks. I'd love to meet you and laugh along with you.
So, until next time stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. As always, you can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe to the podcast, and if it was especially meaningful to you, share it with your friends via email or social media. This is just another way we can all encourage and love and support one another.
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