Big Shift = Homeschooling + I am their teacher

What are we doing?

A month or so ago, Laura and I made a very difficult, yet very empowering decision. We decided to pull our kids out of charter school and start home schooling them. We’ve come to realize that the immediate difficulty behind this decision for us, after MANY late night conversations, is that it is completely different than almost all the parents around us. We feel like crazy people, we are odd ducks quacking in a completely different direction than most of the rest.

There were several things that continue to buzz in the back of our heads:

  1. We given up two “chance of a lifetime” spots at The Museum School 1, an amazing charter school here in Atlanta / Decatur
  2. We’ve taken full responsibility of our kids education, this year and beyond, which excites us more than it terrifies us
  3. We’ve aligned ourselves with a great 4th grade and 1st grade curriculum, Oak Meadow 2 and many books about homeschooling and de-schooling
  4. We’ve joined a couple homeschooling groups to help us make this work and have drank the homeschool cool-aid (natural sugar from fruit juices, of course…just kidding, get me the baking sugar!)
  5. We’ve been the crazy ducks many times before and survived beautifully

Why are we doing it?

We had enough last year. There was too much screen time, too many Zoom meetings to manage, too many random f!@#ing logins, and too many teary eyes as the digital worksheets just didn’t make sense. I personally couldn’t watch another minute of my son making fart noises at the Zoom camera as the class did the same. I couldn’t observe my daughter’s proud and strong shoulders slumped over because she just couldn’t follow the online instructions. While it was silly at first to have kids wander in and out of my work Zoom meetings, I quickly realized it just wasn’t working for them OR I. Laura was in the same boat.

Last year, we finally told the school that we were done “checking in” and turning in assignments. We bought the few grade relevant workbooks that were still on the shelf at Target and did these with our kids every morning. With Grayson we did 100 reading lessons and with Juliette we sped through fractions, storytelling, and basic 3rd grade science stuff. It was at our pace, and by OUR pace, I mean the whole family’s pace. While we tried to get most of it done before noon, we were flexible enough to get it done by the end of the day. We added some piano lessons and the much needed Spanish lessons over Zoom, but outside of those, the day to teach them was ours. We went on field trips, learned things all day, went on walks/hikes/bike rides, went fishing, learning about bike mechanics, baked brownies, stained the driveway, planted vegetables, cleaned wounds, and hugged a lot. We could get most of our professional work done as well. Controlling time was our key.

We are also not a fan of “teaching to the test” (ie, we hate the idea). Juliette, in 3rd grade, was in a pass/fail year which petrified her. Loads of stress was placed on her learning so that she would pass versus the more sensible objective to make learning joyful. Granted, much of the stress Juliette felt was self imposed, yet cognitively, how is she supposed to cope with this “cliff’s edge” failure looming over her education. She doesn’t have the tools or experience to manage with this type of stress.

Laura was a Montessori kid and we’ve always been intrigued by the Waldorf teaching method. Public school, private school, and school in general has always left us wanting more, wondering why so many things are missing from education. What don’t school’s teach the creative and productive processes? Why don’t schools teach basic financial planning? This pandemic helped us see a path that was always in front of us, yet we were just not prepared to take.

Fast forward to this school year. There was not an option on the table for us to continue teaching them in this fashion while still being enrolled at TMS. We gave up our spots at the charter school in order to pursue something that we feel is much better aligned to our lives. All changes are difficult, this one is quite large for us.

Fortunately, both Laura and I have careers that can be worked from home. She is a Certified Financial Planner™ and I am a User Experience Designer. While a majority of her work has been done face to face in the past, she’s been able to move all of her clients to phone calls + Zoom. My work in UX has been remote for years, off and on. Last year while working as a UX consultant, adding our kids to the mix was definitely never part of my WFH past. Trying to get through multitudes of rough pencil sketches, user interviews, and synthesizing research while supervising a 5 year old and 7 year old was more than just a challenge at times, it was impossible. While worked didn’t slip, I could see that my patience with them did, which was not fair.

A change for them had to happen and we found ourselves somewhat ready to take this leap.

Now what?

I will be adding the role of Homeschool Teacher to my resumé starting this year. Yes, it is a full time job for the 2020-2021 school year. It’s one that I have not trained for, yet my innate patience, “heart of a child” as Laura put it, and my joy around creative iteration, process management, and problem solving might prove to be some of the right ingredients to get this job done. By no means am I comparing myself to the teachers that handle 30 kids at a time, they are super people. To those single moms (and dads, but mostly moms) juggling kids and a job, you too are incredible. If I could, I’d teach your kids as well and give you the chance to focus on your career.

We took school to the lake this week.

Laura is taking on the income reigns at the moment and while it stresses her out, I am completely confident in her ability to build and grow her amazing financial planning empire. She’s already grown an incredible practice! Watching her work, grow, and build upon her wealth of knowledge across several industries leads me believe that there is NOTHING that can stop her. I’ve got the kids, she IS going to bring in the warehouses 3.

Teaching Juliette and Grayson will be my priority during the day while Laura continues her practice and works on her big financial planning project starting in October 4. I will continue to build out the Empathy Decathlon 5 for Empathy Lab 6 in such a way that allows me to dedicate my days to the kids. While I won’t be making money through traditional 9-5 client UX work, I am planning on creating a revenue stream helping people practice empathy through the Empathy Decathlon starting in September/October.

I am grateful that I am an odd duck with Laura and that our odd duck kids are willing to waddle along with us. I am confident we will be okay because we’ve made difficult and odd decisions before. We’ve put money away for rainy days, we’ve focused on our family unit, and we continually strive to do the things that make our hearts and souls thrive (even if it’s temporarily scary and painful).

Class at Stone Mountain’s Quarry Exhibit

Closing side note

It took me 4 days to write this because learning how to homeschool (de-school) and actually doing it is exhausting. I am only on week one and it’s been more amazing than it has been stressful. They are sponges, full of energy, and powered by curiosity. It’s amazing to watch them when they are on and miserable to watch them when their cognitive levels are low. Finding flow to teach, learn, and adventure with all of these waves is my goal. Find flow with my niños.

Referenced links:

  1. The Museum School – Charter K-8 school in Avondale Estates, Georgia
  2. Oak Meadow – K-12 Curriculum and Distance Learning
  3. warehouses full of money” from Jen Sincero‘s book, “You are a BADASS at making money”
  4. Laura D. Money – Laura’s mission to help middle income American’s master their finances
  5. Empathy Decathlon – a 10-skill practice that empowers a more empathetic life
  6. Empathy Lab – my lab that is producing the Empathy Decathlon as it’s foundational product

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