This fall we will be homeschooling our girls. This has been a big decision for our family, one we mulled over…and over…and over…for a good while.
For the past few years, Aria attended a lovely Waldorf school in Northern Virginia. She blossomed under the care and direction of the instructors there and the things Keith and I learned through parent meetings and other sources there have transformed and strengthened our parenting skills. Ani, who attended a Parent-Child class with me last year, also grew in her time at the school. We all loved it – the community, the philosophies, the day-to-day experiences. It was truly a blessing for our family.
As much as we loved it, attending the school was not without its sacrifices. We drove a long way each morning and because of that our mornings were quite hectic from the time we woke until we headed out the door. We ate convenient breakfasts in the car because we didn’t have time for the girls to linger over their food (and they do). Ani and I stayed in the area of the school until time to pick up Aria and on winter days, when we didn’t have plans and it was too cold to play outside for long and we’d already done all the shopping we could do for the week, we spent a lot of time just waiting in the car. That’s tough for a three year old.
Tuition, too, was a big factor for us, despite the assistance we received from the school. In exchange for the wonderful education, we sacrificed a bigger home (we were in a 2-bedroom apartment), a yard or locale near a park or bit of grass, the chance to get a dog, dance classes for the girls, yoga classes for myself. These sacrifices were worth it – we very much believe in the importance of our daughters’ education and in the experience they had at the Waldorf school – but they were realities.
Early this year, when first thinking about this fall, I thought I could make it work, doing the long drive with the three girls, fighting traffic, juggling the infant nursing schedule and the needs of the older two, figuring out activities or places to go across town for myself, a baby and an active but tired four year old as we waited for big sister to get out of her longer day. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how hard this would be for our family. We would all be exhausted and that much car time would be excruciating for all of us, even more so if Aurelia was anything like her biggest sister was as a baby in the car (Aria hated it; thankfully, Aurelia does well so far). We’d gotten to the point that the sacrifices we’d be making outweighed the benefits.
Keith and I have thrown around the idea of homeschooling in the past, but I always thought it would be too challenging in such a small space. I couldn’t even consider it when they were both very young. As I started to realize we needed another option, however, I also started to consider this idea more fully. I didn’t want to give up Waldorf education for my girls, but I did want an easier, gentler life for us. I began researching curricula and found a wealth of information and resources for Waldorf homeschoolers. I found local Waldorf-inspired co-ops that would afford myself and my girls the community we will surely miss without the constant contact with our school and also some dance classes we’d finally be able to afford for the girls. It began to sink in that this was not only possible but likely a very good choice for our family and for the first time in weeks, months, I began to feel some peace about our future.
Then, suddenly, we needed to move and that sense of peace was thrown out the window as it became clear that our lives were changing more than we’d imagined – not only would a new baby arrive soon, but a couple weeks later we’d set off for a new home, in a new city. It was to be a good move, though – we’d have a house, with space for the girls to play, room to spread out a bit and, excitingly, there would be a Waldorf school around the corner.
We thought briefly about changing our minds. After all, traffic and a long commute is no longer a concern. Cost still is, however, and some of those sacrifices we were making last year are just too much to continue with three little ones. More than that, though, I think we need this time together after the upheaval of the summer.
Several people have questioned our choice to begin homeschooling, especially with a new baby. I admit, the thought is daunting, especially right now, when I’m deep in the planning of our year and looking forward to starting our lessons in a few short weeks. But, I also think this will be good for us – give us a chance to regroup after a chaotic and unsettling few months. It will allow us time to reestablish a rhythm, spend quality time together and explore this lovely new city we’ve suddenly and quite unexpectedly found ourselves in. We won’t be alone. The homeschooling community is vibrant here and we have already connected with a co-op that will support us, supplementing our lessons and giving the girls a chance to experience a bit of farm life each week, while also making friends in this new place.
We have a lot to do before our year starts. We are still unpacking and organizing the house, trying to create space to live and breathe, in addition to setting up a classroom of sorts. I’m collecting a host of supplies and preparing lessons and learning a few new skills, like the Waldorf style of chalk drawing and how to play the pentatonic flute. I’m nervous and I’m sure there will be a decent number of chaotic moments along the way, but it feels like the right decision for now.
That’s what this is, a for-now decision, not a forever one. If it’s not working well, we’ll do something different. We have made connections with the Waldorf school here – Aria attended summer camp there – and we plan to attend many of the community events they offer, both for support for our home lessons and choices and to build relationships. Hopefully we’ll occasionally visit our old school as well. In the meantime, though, we’ll be home so much more – we’ll get more time together, healthier breakfasts (crockpot oatmeal will be a possibility!), much less time in the car, fun activities, and we’ll have more residual income, while still following the Waldorf philosophies we have come to hold dear.
We are embarking on a new adventure here at home, one that will hopefully bring us closer together, allow us more choices, and help to move our family a bit farther in the direction we are trying to go. I’m looking forward to it.