Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the HOMESCHOOLING Mom

Please give a big WELCOME BACK to MamaJulep, also known as Kathy Kennedy.  She wrote a rant about homeschooling last summer that rocked our world.  She's hilarious, honest, gorgeous and (gasp) homeschools her -- count 'em -- six kids.  Oh yes.  And she hasn't lost her mind... Yet... 


I haven't always been a homeschooling mama.  I've had my kids in school, done the carpool shuffle, been room mother, had a career, spent hours on homework and art projects, sold raffle tickets, bought teacher gifts and made hundreds of party favors.  I can't tell you exactly how I landed in Homeschool World, perhaps I was affected by one too many epidurals.  But I will say this, I'm glad we all have options so I can do this, and I can also put them back in traditional school any time I want which I think about every single day!  Homeschooling has been great for my family, but just like you, I have my own set of domestic enemies.

Privacy? Whuck is that?
Homeschooling means I am with all six of my kids every single hour of every single day.  I love my kids, but I really don't want to hang with them in everything I do.  Sometimes I wanna shower without being interviewed every six seconds.  And you’re in this hostage situation where you're wet and naked and your kids wanna move in and go number two while you're trying to get fresh and not stinky, and they need to know right freakin' now if you can help find the Wii remote.  Why now?  Are they scared I'm gonna wash it down the drain?

Remember how you felt during those last few weeks of summer and all you wanted was for that school bell to ring?  Well that bell never rings for me.  And every day we do the same thing we did the day before and it's like my kids have never met me and we all just got thrown together for the first time, and it's Ground Hog Day and I'm Bill Murray and it will never, ever be February 3rd. So I have to get real creative in order to find some time to myself.  The most "me" time I get is when I hide in my closet with a bag of Orange Milano cookies or a Lean Cuisine and I try and drown them out with Huey Lewis on my iPod.  And if I get on the phone with a gal pal, to get a life line to the rest of humanity, it never lasts long, because they'll re-enact the kitchen scene from Jumangi or a battle from Braveheart.

Appointments are super fun when you have to bring the whole gang! During my last pregnancy, all my peeps came with me to every flippin' OB appointment because all the sitters are in school. And you have no secrets because your sweathogs are with you all the time. You'll never hear about a homeschool mom starting a cult or running a crime spree because our kids get in the way of anything we try to do in secret, even crime. Unless maybe your homeschooled by Bobby and Whitney.

Discipline and Consistency
You know how kids get when you ask them to do chores, and you'd make a blood pact with them if they'd just do it for once for the love of Maude?  Add to that, asking them to finish their math assignment or wrap up that library book on Christopher Columbus before the library police come after us because our overdue fees are so high now, Mama's gonna have to give 'em a kidney next time.

And if you think homeschooling mamas are home basking in all that is education, and that we L-O-V-E diagramming sentences and multiplying improper fractions and memorizing state capitals, you'd be wrong!  I love a lot about what I do, but like anything to do with knuckleheaded kids, it can snap you in half and I can go from Julie Andrews to Eunice from Mama's family in a half a millisecond. And I think I have pretty good kids but I have to stay on them like a prison warden during school hours or they'll make shanks and bust outta there like they've got a hidden stash of airheads in the backyard. Oh wait.  They have,

If you're wondering if homeschooling is a good idea because it's economical, that'd be a "NO".  Not only does Mama have to give up a salary to stay home with her sweathogs, but she has to buy all their school stuff.  And if you think textbooks are high, try buying a few teacher's manuals.  Plus you'll need a globe.  And a microscope.  And refills of Xanax. 

So you try and barter with other homeschooling moms and trade out and make deals to keep from becoming "book-poor", but that can lead to another issue...Curriculum Envy.   Homeschool moms are just like every other mom group.  Most of us are normal and cute and awesome, but some of us are "There's a man on the wing of this plane" batsh*t crazy.  And they think their choices are best and they would never, ever, use that book because it referred to 'such and such' on page four thousand ten and reading that may make your child a psychopath.  Or a vegetarian.  Really? 

Field Trips
We have field trips, just like you, only with other families.  Rather than loading up a mass of kids onto big, yellow buses, with four chaperons, we have a caravan of SUV's and Econobuses with the whole freakin' family in tow.  We unload at the entrance with our strollers, diaper bags and kids ranging to the point that some of them are driving, and the attendant comes out and looks like he's about to call a DefCon Two (or maybe 9-1-1). 

It looks like the Brady Bunch showed up at the power plant with all their groovy relatives.  They're not used to us.  They're used to uniformed children, standing in line, with name badges and teachers with whistles and clipboards.  I want to give my six pack those opportunities, but it can be like taking your whole family to Walmart for the day and trying to do school there, with a bunch of other Bradys.  And we might experience another kind of meltdown at the power plant when your baby decides she's had enough and wants to nurse right now, and the big, burly men are watching you, biting their nails, hoping you won't do the unthinkable and whip one out.

Cafeteria Duty
My six pack has an early breakfast because they wake up like they just came off a hunger strike.  Then somewhere around 9:00, they're back in there, pilfering, yanking, stockpiling.  I'd like to close the kitchen long enough to run the dishwasher and see the floor!  By 11:00 they're back in there like zombies. And it's like feeding Hobbits and I'm their waitress and they never, ever want to leave the diner.  I wanna put the kitchen in lock-down mode and plant a gorilla in front of the fridge and put up a "no unloading zone" sign in there.  But then I wouldn't be able to get to my orange Milano cookies or shot glasses. 

And getting out in the world involves a military maneuver of car supplies like ice chests of water and capri suns and boxes of chocolate chip Cliff bars and pretzels, because for Mama to take us all through the drive through, we'd have to stop off first at Eddie's Pawn Shop or the Plasma Center.  And no one wants us to come in their restaurant.

Family can be super crazy because they love you and don't really understand what you do all day.  And you get snippy comments about how their kids are in "real" school, like mine are in clown school all day.  But the same crew will call and ask you to deal with stuff they don't have time for, but think you do. Because you're kids are probably watching Dora for Spanish and Diego for biology so you can Facebook or something (okay, maybe sometimes).  So you get asked to go check on grandma, or plan the vacation, or look up a damn phone number because "I'm d r i v i n g"... (oh, even yesser, quite often!). And if you were in the middle of teaching something, it's now lost because the attention span of a kid is somewhere on the same level as a flea.  So I hope that phone number was for an attorney, because you're gonna need one when I file that restraining order.  But for now, I'll just disconnect the phone or move to another state or go in the Witness Protection Program.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the lifestyle we have.  I love being there when my kids have *finally* figured out something they've struggled with, and it is hard, but no different than the other hard "Mommy" stuff.  No where else could you listen to your teen give an oral report on Oliver Twist while your toddler dances around her naked, singing "Don't Stop Believing."  And nothing, not even my domestic enemies, could ever stop me from being a Homeschooling Mommy!

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. MamaJulep is awesome! We homeschool our two barely teens while working full time. Challengeing? Sure! Hilarious? Yep! Its so totally worth it when you figure out that your kids looks to you for advice and guidance and not some "pimply thinks their sheeet doesn't stink 13 year old" at school. Bring MamaJulep back for more!

  2. Homeschooling mom of 7 (soon to be 8). Right about everything, but mostly the kitchen. I can't get breakfast cleaned up before they're wanting to know when they can eat again. I can't even walk THROUGH the kitchen without, "Can we have a snack?" But I wouldn't trade any of it. Best thing ever.

  3. Love this! I thought I was the only one prying children out of the snack cupboard every 5 seconds! And why, WHY do they suddenly have a lost-in-the-desert, can't-possibly-do-another-assignment-without-SUSTENANCE moment on their second-to-last assignment, *exactly* when I start cooking lunch? What IS that?! You'd think I'd been starving them! But no. They'll actually hold.me.hostage. by refusing to have a working brain until they have something crunchy in their frantically-working mandibles. And then? They use that working brain to try and get out of doing any more school work. Last assignment of the day? Oh, that one takes at *least* as long as all the rest of them put together, and frequently involves tears. It's like they have a proximity alarm for doneness, and when it goes off, so.do.they.

  4. I am in awe of mothers who can homeschool successfully. Love my kidlets to pieces, but there is just no way I could do that. Keep up that great work MamaJulep & have some orange Milano cookies on me :)

  5. I don't homeschool (I'm one of those crazy Montessori moms), but I do have 6 kids (enough with the dang gasping and eye-rolling, people! Large families are EVERYWHERE! and Mama Julep is soooo right!!!

    We want to hear more from Mama Julep!!

  6. Absolutely spot on!!! And I only have two, but the kitchen thing made me nuts... I finally did put it on virtual lockdown, and now feel like I accomplish something other than food prep/cleanup on a daily basis.

    But don't forget the other enemy... the ignoramus who thinks because you homeschool you never, ever, let your kids do anything "social."

    And yes, it's best thing in the world for us, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

  7. *sniffle* I absolutely love you thank you so very much for being the totally awesome homeschooling mommy that you are and letting everyone else in the entire world know that we're not total freaks and really we're just like everyone else!!! (Yes, I know - that was a deliberate run-on) So often am I looked at like I'm freaking crazy for homeschooling my 4. Then, I meet an awesome voice like yours and remember I'm not alone. You rock!

  8. I homeschool and I felt like she was describing my life! But I would not trade it for anything :)

  9. I had to laugh at this post! It sounds like something my mom would "rant" about. I am the product of a homeschooled family! I am the oldest of 5 kids. My mom homeschooled all of us K-12th grade. My mom now explains to me how difficult and rewarding it was to have had the opportunity to teach us all at home. I am so thankful for her dedication to do so. It has made me the person I am today! Keep it up Momma Julep! Someday you will look back on all the work,(No privacy),craziness and see that it was soooo worth it!

  10. I MISS homeschooling. Of course, I identify with all of these, and yet I want to go back to it...though I probably won't get the opportunity. Thanks for this trip down memory lane (what little I have left), Mama Julep!

  11. *sigh* am in love. My husband and I play with the homeschooling idea. But it scares me beyond belief. And I only have 3. I fear I'm not consistent enough. Or smart enough. Or funny enough. Momma Julep is all these and more!

  12. Thanks for this laugh, I really, really, really needed it...now I have to get my 9-month old away from the crayons, get my 5-year old to stop blowing her nose long enough to write a few more numbers, get my 7-year old out of the snack bin and back to his sentences, and get my 9-year old to stop cracking jokes long enough to finish his book report. I love homeschooling! :)

  13. Love it! Also, the whole "complete lack of any privacy, alone time, or space to breathe" is why the idea of me home schooling is absolutely terrifying.

  14. This post made my week.. I come and read this blog to get a sense that I am not the only mom out there on the bottom of the list for "mother of the year".. So this homeschooling post came at the perfect time that I was beating my head up against the wall trying to get my twin teenagers to do their damn work!.. I will be the first to admit that hiding in the bathroom with the door locked just to get away from them and my 2 year old has worked. Probably because my closet isn't big enough and there isn't a lock.

    So thanks for the little break now back to the grind...

  15. New to your blog. Love it! Thanks for the brilliantly humorous look into real homeschooling life!

  16. Man, I get so much crap for teaching my three year old at home ("You mean, he's not in PRESCHOOL?!?!? How will he get socialization?!?!?"), and we haven't even reached primary school age. I'm not teaching him out of some beef with "regular" school or for any crazy-sheltering, keep-him-from-the-evil-world reason. I just...really LIKE teaching him, and he's really responding. I only have two (the other's a baby), and the school-at-home is going so well (um, so far)that I'm thinking hard about keeping it up, long term. Any time I bring that up, I can feel the people around me tighten up in disapproval, and it drives me up the wall. He's not even four yet!! And by the way, outside of regular play with other kids, how "social" does a three year old even need to be? *sigh*

  17. I was homeschooled, and so I see the other side of MamaJulep's life: homeschooling is the definition of awesomesauce! Rock on, Mama Julep!

  18. My answer to the "socialization" thing is this... how social are they in school, when they're being told to "Sit down, shut up, do your work?" A bunch of the schools here don't even have recess, and at lunchtime for some they aren't even allowed to talk. So where are they getting socialization?
    My kids talk to ANYone (frightening in some ways, but awesome in others), and the 'normal' school kids look at them like they have 3 heads when they try to strike up a conversation.

  19. Ah, yes, the homeschool jag...we are on year one and I wouldn't trade it for anything, even the return of my shredded sanity.

    Not having the food problem yet, but we have a pretty well-established snack routine (breakfast when we get up 8-ish, snack at 10:30, lunch at noon-ish, snack at 3 or 3:30, dinner at 6:30) Beyond that, the rule is you can take from the bowl of fruit in the middle of the table if the cores/peels et al end up in the compost. Any other snacking outside of snack/meal times, any wandering bits of fruit end up stuck to mama's socks...the fruit bowl goes into LOCKDOWN (cue the ominous music). We go through a lot of bananas and apples :>

    For the delection of those homeschooling mamas who have not seen it before: the bitter homeschooler's wish list: http://www.secular-homeschooling.com/001/bitter_homeschooler.html

  20. Interesting article, but you lost me with the incorrect grammar.

    I also wonder why you do it with all the negatives? Where's the positive side?

  21. I homeschooled our two for six years before deciding to take the leap back into public school (for many good reasons). I can completely relate to Mama Julep.

    People who assume your home-educated kids aren't socialized just aren't thinking it through. Home schooling isn't house arrest for the kids! (Although on the most difficult days, I felt like it was, for ME.) We are not part of a cult nor are we fanatics of any stripe. (In our case, homeschooling was the best way to address our son's special needs - he has Asperger's, and we were able to help him socialize and develop social skills in smaller, controlled groups. He's doing awesome socially now.) We are not super-moms out to guilt-trip the rest of the non-home-schooling world. (Well, most of us aren't. We all know someone who thinks that their way is best/only way, and the rest of us are foolish, misguided and pathetic at best, and depraved and stupid at worst. We're really just moms who are doing what's best for our kids and families at this point in time.)

    Keep on keeping on, Mama Julep!

  22. I don't home school, but since we're a military family, it is something I've thought about. My oldest is 7 and was tested (3 times now) to have a genius level IQ and I don't know how to handle it at times. I will say that homeschooling got a bad rep when I was a kid, because a lot of kids who were home schooled did end up being anti-social. Correlation is not causation, and they may have been anti social no matter what, but I think its about a whole lifestyle, not just schooling. Thanks for the read!!

  23. MamaJulep, you are a saint among mommies. You have more patience in your pinky toe than I have in my entire body. Rock on with your homeschooling and Huey Lewis in the closet! Woot!

  24. @Anonymous: I've been appalled by the grammar I've seen in communications coming home from public school teachers that friends have shown me.

    And there are more positives than I can write down in a quick comment, but here are a few I encountered yesterday:

    We all slept in till 7, ate breakfast, then the kids got started by 8:30 while I cleaned up breakfast. No rushing around getting everyone out the door "in time." Some of us didn't get out of our jammies till noon.

    We can make doctors' appointments at any time of the day and not worry about missing work, class, a test.

    We finished by lunch - an entire day of school work done in 3 1/2 hours.

    If we want to do 5 days of school in 4 days, we can, and then take the fifth day for a field trip, and essentially get 6 days done in a week (I know this isn't an issue in some states, but here, we have to document 180 days of school.) In fact, one week, my son was finished with the whole week, except for math, by Tuesday.

    I actually get 180 days of INSTRUCTION done every year. No Valentines day parties, no weeks of test prep, no 1/2 days that count as full days so teachers can go to inservices, no snow days (although we do get those for fun, and then make up the work the next day), no throw-away weeks because the kids are too hyper right before vacations. And I finish my books every year.

    I know what my kids are learning every day. I don't have to rely on them to answer the question "What did you learn/do in school today?" only to find out how they're progressing every 3, 6, 9, or 12 weeks.

    There's no line of demarcation between school and home. I don't have to fight them to do things that seem like "school" (reading, for example) because that's just the way life IS around here.

    We set our own schedule every year. Which means taking vacations the week or two AFTER Labor Day when it's still hot, but everyone else is in school, so we get off season rates, and the places are EMPTY! And even taking off the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas if we need to.

    And the kids' favorite: NO HOMEWORK!

    Those are just a few I encountered yesterday (started thinking about this year's vacation plans - that's why I included the last one.) There are more, especially those that warm a mother's heart and are hard to put into words. But the stated ones are those that most people understand.

  25. I had to laugh at this... I was homeschooled K-Grade 11, the oldest girl in a family of 7. I remember being young (probably 8 or 9) and trying to figure out why in the world my mom took such LONG showers or baths. I just couldn't for the life of me figure out what she was DOING in there.. In reality it was probably only 45 minutes every other day, and I realize now that this was basically the *only* time she had a closed door between herself and her kids..She was probably finding her sanity!!

    I loved being homeschooled, for the most part. The worst part of it all was being middle-school aged and having the public school kids give you weird stares because they knew you were "the homeschooled girl".

    The BEST parts were the long family driving vacations, getting our math done through calculations involving our fuel consumption and the distance traveled between towns. Having the kitchen right next door to our study room and all kinds of snacks available for distraction was always fun, and having mom decide that playing in the snow is more important than bookwork was always exciting. Being able to have some say in what we learned and following our passions and interests and actually getting credit for it was also a huge plus:)
    I would not be the self-motivated, goal oriented woman that I am if it were not for my mothers patience and commitment to my education.

  26. Homeschooling mom of 3 kids here. For all you moms who mention people asking you about "socialization", my reply is simply... "they are not puppies".
    My favorite is when other moms either tell me, "I could never do that" (referring to homeschooling) OR OR OR when they actually ask me if I'd be willing/interested in homeschooling THEIR kids. I barely want to do my kids whom I love by default, seriously?! If you don't want to be with your kids 24/7 - 365 why would I want to be with your kids like that??!??
    I am a bad HS mom... Why? I don't teach Latin, we don't start before 9:00am in fact we normally haven't eaten breakfast by 9:00am. I am bad at punctuation, sometimes I don't check my kids workbooks and sometimes I can't stand to hear my kids talk to me.
    BUT, I love my kids and I wouldn't have it any other way.
    They constantly amaze me with the brilliant and thoughtful things they say, jokes they make up, and their gentle sharing way. The fruits are worth the labor.




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