The other day I was reading about deschooling.  It is the idea that we all need to let go of the concept of learning that was programmed into us while we spent time in the educational system.  It is a time to decompress and rediscover our natural curiosity.

The theory goes that for every year of schooling and/or teaching you have done you need about one month to recover.  This really made me stop and think back over the years of my life and just how long I have been a part of the world of education.

I come from a long line of educators.  My mother, my father, my grandfather, my aunts and uncles... mostly educators and in all levels and, yes, even administrators.  It was almost expected, without even a second thought, that I would become a teacher.  I started school, just like everyone else, in kindergarten after years of day care.  I went my twelve years (plus one summer... curse you Algebra!!) and then headed to college.  I finished one year and then got married and traveled with my husband to Germany.  A few years later I went back to school and after another 4 or so years I received my bachelors in English and Writing with the intention of going to get my Masters in teaching.  But I didn't like what I saw in the high school classrooms.  What I found there was depressing and filled me with dread.  So I did not get my masters.  I graduated and within a year was homeschooling my children.

13 years later, I look back on a life filled with the educational system.  At least 30 years.  30 years.  According to the deschooling paradigm, I need almost 3 years to rediscover my natural born curiosity.

3 years.

I am really hoping it doesn't take quite that long.

Truth be told, I don't think it will take that long.  I do think there is value in the idea of deschooling.  It seems to me like a period of summer, where there is nothing to think about but what you are going to do that day.  Sometimes we need that.  Sometimes, as homeschooling parents, we need to step back and just be for awhile.  Charlotte Mason talked about it, calling it Mother Culture,

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”

Truth is, I want to relax and make our homeschool a more joyful space.  There are no plans to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I refuse to let my kids run amok and spend their days playing Lego Harry Potter on the Wii.  I don't think that would help in the least.  I like the idea of unschooling but I am not ready to just trade one method for another, one ideology for another.  

We are going to do our thing and the next few weeks or months will be dedicated to finding our very own groove.  Our very own homeschool.  And it better not take 3 years.  Just saying.

Why We Started Homeschooling

I wish I could tell you that homeschooling was always something in my heart.  I wish I could tell you that I started homeschooling because I wanted more time with my kids, I wanted to guide my children and give them an education they could never get in a brick and mortar school.

No.  I was afraid I wasn't patient enough.  I was afraid I would ruin their lives.  I was afraid they would fight endlessly and I would end up in a mental hospital.

The reason we started homeschooling?  FEAR.

Yes, isn't horrible?  I long to be able to say that our homeschooling journey started out of something much more pleasant.  And if you have ever heard it said, fear is the worst reason to homeschool.

My oldest was in 4th grade, my second in 2nd, and our third in Kindergarten.  I had a baby at home and had recently graduated with my Bachelors.  The idea was appealing... this homeschooling thing.  There was a group at my church and they did such cool things.  I kept flirting with the idea.  I started following Catholic Homeschool groups on Yahoo.  Tony and I talked about it, but I was worried for all the reasons I mentioned above.

We had moved into one of the best school districts in our valley.  We thought things were going to be great.  And we were very very wrong.  Our oldest was coming home crying because people were talking about having sex.  Yes, 4th grade folks.  My second grader had been held in at recess because she was writing with her left hand.  Yes, folks, this was only 13 years ago.  She was also struggling in math and when I asked her teacher what I could do to help at home... I was told, "nothing."  NOTHING.

And then one day our kids came home late from school.  My husband and I, had agreed to let them walk home from school even though the oldest was home sick.  It was only a block through our neighborhood.  They were 5 minutes late when we headed out the door to find them.  Thankfully they were walking up to the house.  But what we heard changed our lives forever.

A volunteer at the school had told one of our kids that she had seen them walking to school with me and lived very close to us.  She told our daughter that her dog had just had puppies and she should come and see them on the way home.  And my daughter went... with her younger sister.

I flipped.  What!?!  How many times had I talked to them about safety, the warning signs, and strangers.  But this lady worked at the school.  She wasn't a stranger.  When the lady told them the puppies were in her basement, that was when my daughter's warning system kicked in and they booked out of there.

I called the school.  I was assured the lady was safe.  She passed the background checks.  They would give my daughter a new volunteer to work with.

My husband looked at me.  I was truly panicked.  She may have passed the background check but that could simply mean she had never been caught.  Tony told me, "You have been talking about it.  Let's just do it.  Let's homeschool them."

I called the school right back and pulled them out.  I had to go back to the school and get all their things.  The 4th grade teacher looked down his nose at me and told me I would be back next year.

But we didn't come back.

It has not always been easy but it was the best decision we ever made.  I had more patience than I thought.  They fought less.  I did not end up in a mental hospital... well, not yet anyway.  And I sure hope I didn't ruin anyone's life.

God always has to smack me upside the head to get me to actually listen to Him.  I am working on that. You see, we started homeschooling out of fear, but that is not why we kept doing it.

We kept homeschooling because our relationships blossomed.  Because I wanted better for my kids.  Our vision changed, our dreams changed, and life became full of possibilities.

In the last years the vision has been changing and I admit, God did smack me upside the head again to get me to move into this next stage in our homeschooling lives.  But, you know what?  Life really is full of possibilities and room to grow.  Maybe even more now than before.

Welcome to Beneath the Mulberry

I have made the wild and crazy decision to relax.  

Homeschooling has become a challenge and while I am not sure I am ready to fully commit to unschooling, I do feel content with the decision to let go of the reigns, to embrace a more adventurous and unconventional way of learning.  Yet at the same time, I am very scared.

You see I have 9 children.  I have been homeschooling now for 13 years and only now am I coming to realize that there must be a change.

A few years ago I tried unschooling, but I was not brave enough to stick with it and honestly not very pleased with some of the results.  Life and the challenges of having teenagers made my resolve weak and shaky.  I went back to the old way.  The old way that never worked.

Years and years of jumping curriculum and methodology, too afraid to commit to just being ourselves, led to unhappy children and a very unhappy mama.  My relationship with my children grew strained and that was not the goal in bringing them home all those years ago.

So here I am, starting a new blog and a new adventure.  I am inviting you to come along on this journey with us and see where it might lead.  Here you will find our learning adventures, my attempts at relaxed-schooling, and, let's face it, probably quite a bit of yarn.

This blog will be a journal of sorts.  A place to embrace a slower way of living, enjoying the moment, and not worrying too much about those things that are beyond my control.  It will about letting my children bloom and grow, about letting me bloom and grow too.

Happy Easter!

Oh my.  I don't know about you all but I am so happy it is Easter.  My Lent was very Lent.  And I learned more lessons than I imagined or really cared to learn.  Even up until the very last day, challenges abounded and I was more than overwhelmed by it all.

Easter was a blessing.  A chaotic, sugar induced blessing.  The words of Saint John Paul II played in my head all day, "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”  

The morning started with a beautiful mass surrounded by the people I love.  My husband barbecued tri-tip (so that was one thing I didn't have to think about!),  we had mashed potatoes (that my son started for me), deviled eggs (which Becca made), and asparagus wrapped in bacon.  We have two pies, Paleo Key Lime and Against All Grain's Lemon Meringue.  

The best part was just being able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of Lent and the celebration of our Risen Christ!

Portuguese Sweet bread.  I didn't get any  Poor me.  Evil GLUTEN.
I used lard, doubled the yeast, and added lemon zest.

Books the kids got:

Playing with Becca's Nintendo Switch

"Hey dad!  Don't worry!  I caught the Easter Bunny!!
Becca and her wonderful man Kris.
We were so blessed to have them both able to come and spend the day with us!

Some of the eggs were just too obvious to find easily, I guess.

And some people were more interested in dandelions.

Hope you all had an amazing Easter.  

Here is to a beautiful and blessing filled season!

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