Saturday, September 13, 2014

on switching things up

It’s started again, that crazy ticking that rules our lives from September to June.  This year I’m actually ready for it.  Summer was so packed with fun and freedom that it’s given us all a taste for structure again. 

I have four kids in three school this year.  It’s going to be a different kind of year and I’m counting on taking most of September to reinvent ourselves, to make us fit more smoothly into this new routine.

We’re doing something super different this year with Hazel….ready for it?  Home based, online school through K12 and the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield.  Yep, that’s right, I’m kind-of-sort-of a half-way-home-schooler and I’m pretty excited about it.  IMG_3251

Hazel on her first day of {virtual} school

All year last year I was worried that Hazel wasn’t in the right place.  She was stressed and a little insecure and just not herself for a lot of the year.  I kept feeling nudged to change something up for her, but I didn’t know what it should be.  She was in a great accelerated program in the public school system here, but the pace wasn’t right for her, the social dynamic in her class wasn’t great (same kids in the same class every year) and she spent a lot of her energy worrying about kids following rules (how did I produce such a rule follower?).  And on top of that, she often described her life as “too packed.”  It took me a while to figure that one out, she really wasn’t over scheduled and her homework load wasn’t that bad.  But then I realized that her brain is just always bursting with ideas, with a desire to know and explore and create, and between homework, practicing and family dinner there just wasn’t time for her to live out all that was inside of her. 

So, we started exploring options. I’ve been wanting to try homeschooling ever since I became a mom.  There’s something so appealing to me about being my children’s educator, about watching them first hand as they grasp new things, meet new ideas, form new connections.  I loved what we did during our six month stint in England, we all felt alive as we learned together.  But Jeff was a little worried about me being structured enough to really get home school right (what? me? not structured and organized? ha ha). I agreed that he had a pretty strong point :).  Schooling your children is a scary thing to take on, I so admire all those amazing moms out there who do it, and I do know there’s are so many great homeschooling resources out there that could help me pull it all together.  But in weighing our options we decided to try this k12 thing.  My brother and sister-in-law do it for their oldest and they’ve loved it.  It seemed like a good fit for us because it’s still very structured and school driven, there’s still a teacher, a daily schedule, some virtual live classes, but it takes just a few hours a day and would give Hazel a LOT of ownership, let her go at her own pace, leave her time to pursue all of those creative ideas bursting out of who she is. 

So after deciding if this was a real option for her we decided to hand her the reigns, let her decide.  She was the one who would have to live with the consequences of this, she’s the one who would have to drive it, push herself, work hard at doing something different and we realized that the only way she would be happy with either school option was if she chose for herself.  So, Jeff and I took her on a little walk and explained that we’d found another option for her for school.   We described what it was, helped her think through some of the pros and cons and then told her that we trusted her to make this decision.  She spent a few weeks thinking about it and talking to people and researching and praying.  She really weighed both sides and thought through all it would mean the best she could.  She took that decision seriously! 

When she finally decided that she wanted to go for it with K12 I was as nervous as could be, but she was certain and unshakable.  She knew it was the right thing.  I worried to myself about how this would affect our relationship, if she would be missing out on important social learning, if she’d learn enough, if she’d push herself, how we’d fill in her extra time.  And then, my dear sister-in-law advised me to calm down, to back off, to let this be Hazel’s year.  To really give her the reigns.  To let her own this.

And, even though I’ve had to make myself back off lots of times since this all started, I think I’ve done a pretty good job at letting her really drive this thing.  And the change that has come over her has been astounding.  My kind, happy, creative, soul searching Hazel is back.  That angry, stressed out, sullen third grader went away and has emerged as a hard working, driven, easy going, thankful 4th grader.  She is psyched every morning to log on to see what she has to do for the day.  We work together on some of the stuff, but she does a lot of it on her own and she whizzes through most of it, giving her time to explore the long list of things she’s interested in.

Sure, we’re still kind of in the honey-moon phase….I’m sure we have hard hills ahead in this new path we’ve chosen.  And we’ll certainly have to tweak things around as we go.  But we feel like we’re on the right path again.  We’re going in the right direction. 

Sometimes it just feels so good to switch things up.  To take the reigns and choose to do something a little different.  It reminds me that life doesn’t always have to be lived the way everyone else is living it.  It’s important to stop and evaluate and then work to find the changes that will make a difference to us and to our children.  It has taken some guts to make this big change, but it feels right and oh so alive to do something that takes guts! 

Because a big part of life is about owning our experiences.  We are the ones writing on these pages.   And sometimes when things get messy we’ve got to turn to a blank page and write something totally new.




  1. Hi...I have always been a quiet reader of your blog and just wanted to say that this post moved me. I have four little girls under six, and my oldest has always worried me in many of the ways you described today. I have this same idea in the back of my head should we ever get to that point, and I love the way you described the decision making process. What an awesome job you are doing nurturing Hazel. Best of luck on this new endeavor!

  2. How exciting for your Hazel....I applaud the sensible and thoughtful way you have reorganized her educational journey. It is unfortunate that the schools of today are troubled, and unable to provide learning and social/emotional experiences that allow children to thrive and reach their potential. You had a challenging decision to make, and your arguments pro and con, are on point. It is gratifying to learn that Hazel is so much happier and productive.

  3. This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing. My kiddos are so young, but I'm already toying with non-traditional-school ideas, and this is a great one.

  4. Saydi, you did it!!! Or should I say, Hazel did it! YAY!!! Wishing you all the best for this school year!

  5. So glad Hazel is happy and it's working! Hooray! You have the greatest perspective about it. xoxo



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