The School Years

As I lay down my pen at the end of a new short story draft, I again have to acknowledge my strong affinity for mother-son themes. This makes me think of my own son, my eldest, who seems to hunger near-constantly for time one-on-one with me.

He lost a great quantity of mommy-and-me time after his sister was born. Now they both fight for me. It’s a survival instinct, I’ve been told, a scrambling for resources. Both my kids know that they rely on my care and affection and they’ll shove the other aside for it. During our group cuddle times, for example, they’ll both try to hedge the other one out by covering my body with theirs and excluding the other sibling.

I began my slow entry into homeschool last week. I bit the bullet and ordered a curriculum because I’m not ready to write my own lesson plans, no matter how simple that might be for the kindergarten year.

The homeschooling foray began when I made my family regulars at the local library branch. Both my 5-year-old and my 21-month-old have learned to hold out their arms when I appear struggling under a new load of books. (Personal experience recently taught me that they cut you off at fifty items checked out at any time…but the librarian waived the block on my account when I promised I’d just returned a stack of books in the book drop. Yeah, I sound like an addict. I know.)

My son has been regularly asking to have me read him “a book I haven’t read before.” I’ve gotta say, reaching this stage and moving beyond the “read it again! again!” ad nauseum stage is a mental reprieve. A hunger for new knowledge is rising within you, my son, and I’m so excited to explore it with you.

Painting the Sun in his Solar System kit.

Just one week into homeschooling–it’s only kindergarten, so it takes a short while to cover our subjects and most of it is fun educational books, a little math and reading lessons.

My daughter isn’t so sure she approves of the new attention her brother is receiving. I’m helping her transition by giving her lots of cuddles, a short bit of play-time with Mommy before school with her brother begins, letting her draw on scratch paper while we do math worksheets, and feeling grateful on a daily basis for the invention of non-toxic washable markers. Seriously.

I’ve met the beginning of school feeling empowered instead of overwhelmed and this is a total surprise. I’m witnessing my son’s excitement and my daughter’s curiosity and this beginning feels right and correct (and if I were in the book Jane Eyre, I might call it auspicious!)

You’re bound to see posts from me in the months and years ahead that strike a different note. I predict exhaustion, discouragement and the inevitable confusion that we all encounter when the road is long and the going is tough (I have to constantly remind myself that all things worthwhile are those we pay through the nose for…)

Why did you decide to homeschool, Elise? I’ve been asked this question many many times. Firstly, I’m committing to homeschool for just this year; I can’t foresee beyond that. Secondly, I was homeschooled through the 10th grade and I’m convinced it made a hugely positive contribution to my education and the development of writing skills that prepared me for my vocation. Thirdly, I believe homeschooling is the best choice for my family.

Coloring with her grandpa

My son’s love language (in the terminology used in The Five Love Languages of Children) is Quality Time. He’s one of the most rambunctious, curious, verbal and inquiring children I’ve ever met. His desire for devoted attention, someone to speak to him and listen to his thoughts and questions is a deep-set need that, when unmet, results in a boy with a rampant naughty streak and a high volume of vocal operation. That behavior also correlates, I unofficially suspect, to my elevated blood pressure.

Among the first things that I noticed when I began home-based instruction was that he’s become happier and more content. The mischief hasn’t evaporated, but my kiddo’s “love tank” is fuller and he knows it.

I’d expected the beginning of homeschooling to further threaten my sanity, at least initially, but that hasn’t been the reality. Gratitude surrounds and enfolds me as my own excitement rises, eager to learn side-by-side with my son, to watch this young man develop and store new information, to watch his potential blossom.

And so we enter the school years!

(Prayers for my own endurance, patience, and ingenuity are always appreciated!!)

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

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