All About Allia
Or how I named myself after the kitchen sink. I am a happy-go-lucky homeschooling mom of 8 children, ages 4-27. We love to eat, laugh and learn. And yes, our house is a bit of a mess, despite our best efforts. So when I was searching for a justifiable first name to go with my nickname, “Allie”, I happened to glance in the only place I look most often, the kitchen sink. And there, beautifully inscribed, was my new first name: Allia. I should mention that I needed a new name that would end in a vowel instead of a consonant. It is much more difficult to yell at a vowel.
We have been homeschooling for 6 years and have enjoyed our ups and downs. I am thrilled to be able to share our adventure with you and I hope you will enjoy sharing your experiences with us. Let every day be a Happymess!
Creating a Happymess
We are a chaotic family of 8 children, two adults, one dog and one fish. We came about both our family and homeschooling through a circuitous route. Originally I was a single parent with one child, working full time and totally stressed about how to pay the bills and raise my child. I was fortunate to meet my amazing husband, who had two children of his own. We began our fantastic relationship, with only 3 slight interruptions, the three kids. My husband and I were thrilled with our instant family but our children were slightly less impressed. Each of them was, naturally, only concerned with how this new union would affect them personally. We worked hard to create a “natural” family.
What we, as parents, failed to realize was that the animosity and competition between the three children was, in fact “natural”. Within a year we had our first child and finally we had a child that belonged to everyone. The animosity and competition still remained, although somewhat abated. Every couple of years or so, we were blessed with another child and soon we found that we had created a bountiful family of eight children, all of whom belonged to everyone. After so many years, and much effort, we have finally created a dynamic family filled with love, laughter, and yes, the competition still persists.
It turns out that a family is everyone, all the children, the parents, the friends and the pets. It doesn’t matter who is related to whom or how we all began. What matters is that we now share the same history, holidays, passions and frustrations. Our life with one another has created our “natural” family.
Surprise! Happymess meets Homeschool!
In the same manner, our homeschooling adventure sneaked up to surprise us in the middle of a perfectly ordinary approach to education. Our three older children were lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of private school education. We found some schools, and some students, to be better than others. Significant time was spent in re-educating the children during after-school hours. Finally, they graduated from both high school and college. We had fulfilled our roles as parents and stepparents. A collective sigh of relief was given by all.
The next group of (5) children embarked upon their education, and all seemed to be well. Our daughter was ensconced in a local Catholic school, but each day she was increasingly miserable. We tried everything, but were unsuccessful. Ultimately we were indirectly blessed by a bout of pneumonia. Our daughter was unable to attend school for several months, during which time I taught her myself at home. I learned two things from this experience.
The first thing I learned was that it was much easier to teach my daughter myself than it was to worry about her every day. In fact, it was incredible easy and straightforward. I obtained the lessons, taught the material and she learned it. School done. We took all the fight out of the educational process. The second thing I learned was that there were so many fantastic, amazing and beautiful things that I wanted my daughter to know about our astounding world. She wasn’t learning any of them at school. Still, we were hesitant. Weren’t all children supposed to be in school? Third grade ended and we began our required summer homework.
That summer I decided two things. Math was important and our daughter would complete her entire assigned math packet. Well, let me tell you, that was the most worthless bit of math we have ever attempted. We spent hours, yes hours, on that math and at the end of the summer she may possibly have known less than when she started.
We had one project that required finding specific numbers in magazines, then cutting out the numbers and gluing them on the page. Of course the magazine numbers were tiny and every time a puff of wind came through the window the little pile of numbers would be blown across the kitchen floor. My daughter would cry frantically as she chased the bits of paper around the kitchen. I would hopelessly try to rescue a few precious numbers. Then we would try to glue them to the page. The paper numbers were so small that they would stick to the glue stick and it was almost impossible to peal them off and stick them on the page. Math learned? I think not.
I also decided that it was time for her to learn how to write a proper essay. That was probably the beginning of my downfall. My daughter read Heidi (unabridged). After many weeks of struggling I managed to teach her to write a thorough, albeit elementary, essay on the main points of Heidi, the orphaned and resilient child who chooses her gruff grandfather over her more civilized, and emotionally remote relatives. The final piece was two typed pages, complete with a heading, date and title. We were ready for a great fourth grade year.
Day One: the children hand in their summer homework. Many children did not complete their math packets, no loss whatsoever from my perspective. My daughter hands in her “summer reading essay”, to the great displeasure of her new teacher. She was called up to the front of the class and publicly reprimanded,
“How could you write two pages?”
“Huh?” My daughter is uncertain as to where this is going.
“If I had to grade two pages for each of these 25 students I wouldn’t have time for anything else. You will now do the assignment the way I want you to do it.”
Whereupon, my daughter was sent back to her desk with the required materials. She was given three pictures of school buses. She was instructed to color the three buses. The first bus should have the name of the book (Heidi), the second bus should have the name of the main character (Heidi) and the third bus should have the name of the author (Spyri). Then my daughter was instructed to hang her three buses on string from a metal hangar. She brought this concoction home from school and my husband and I promptly took her out of school. By September 7th I officially became a homeschooler. It was time for me to learn on the job (quickly). And so, the fun began…
Not the Boys Too?!
Of course, we still had our 3 younger sons at a local boys private school that my husband had attended as a child, and for which he was on the Board. Lovely. We wouldn’t dare homeschool our boys, now would we? I should mention that my husband’s parents, particularly his father, were vehemently against the whole homeschooling idea. How would they be socialized?! One thing my father-in-law believes is that life should be difficult for boys so they can grow up to be strong men. I can’t exactly argue that point although it does seem a bit archaic. Must we really “rough” up our boys so that they will be ready for the “tough” world? Well, yes, there is some validity to that point. But still I didn’t believe that “school” was the best venue for learning.
Our next son took matters into his own hands. He wanted to learn. He expected that he would go to school and learn new material. In second grade he began to complain to his teacher,
“When are we going to be finished with review and start learning new math?”
The teacher confided in us that they had finished “review” and that she was sorry to say but he already knew most of the material that would be covered that year. It was only September. We went into hyper-mode. We visited the school, we created an action plan, special visits from the “math specialist”, math packets tailored for him, etc. The result was that, at a full private school tuition, our son sat in the back of the room completing math packets on his own, which mainly consisted of self-directed “math games”.
Third grade. We began the year by taking our son, and daughter (see above) and infant son, out of school for a multiple week tour of Europe. Why do math packets when you can visit the ancient ruins of Greece and Rome? It was a fantastic trip and he was still ahead in math.. By the end of the year we decided that he too would not return to school. My father-in-law was furious. My husband was anxious. How could I convince them that our son could be normal when he was spending so much time with me, his mother? Thanks a lot, guys. The answer was obvious: sports, lots and lots of sports.
Inside-Out Never Felt So Right-Side Up
And so we began our inside-out lives. Now 6 years into our homeschooling adventure we have found a working rhythm. We study all day long, at home, within the confines of our family. At three o’clock our outside lives begin. From 3:00 until 8:00 at night our children participate in an array of “after-school” activities. Currently they are involved in ice hockey, theater, ski racing, baseball, flag football, tennis, paddle, choir, boy scouts, and a few other programs. They are being “socialized” at the end of the day, instead of the middle of the day. We have a big advantage here: no homework. Other families cannot go from activity to activity as their children must spend hours each evening doing homework. Our kids work all day from 8:30 until 3:00 and are therefore free the entire afternoon and evening. This schedule seems to create a much more harmonious home life.
Welcome to Homeschool Happymess! We hope you have as much fun as we do!