Okay, this post is going to be a personal one…I hope that is all right! My family’s experience with homeschooling is more akin to a figure 8, or an infinity sign than a linear journey. What do I mean?
My family, including myself, my husband, and my three children are some of the most independent people I know on the planet. We began our homeschool journey eight years ago, just after my mother passed away. My kids were ages 10, 7, and 4 at the time. We kept it going for three years. At the end of that time, I realized how much I loved dreaming up curriculum. There were so many resources I could never find out there; I wanted to be a part of the solution. I had a California history curriculum, California Out of the Box, in my head, and I had to get it on paper. Foolishly, I thought I could homeschool three kids and write a book. I found out my expectations for myself were in no way realistic. My three kids went back to school for two years. At the end of that time, my middle son, who is very shy, we felt would benefit from homeschool. We moved him back into homeschool for sixth grade.
Thus, our second round of schooling at home began with him, from grades six to eight. His last year, eighth grade, ended in June 2021. With fifteen months of our time including pandemic homeschooling — with no co-ops or regular social meetings — it was a hard year. Was it great for anyone? Not really. During last year, my also father passed away, which threw me for another loop. Both of my younger kids decided they wanted to go back to full-time school this year, entering in grades six and nine.
Hear me stretching my arms up and cracking my knuckles. Free time and no one at home! Yay!
Except — and there are always exceptions and surprises, aren’t there? We began homeschooling initially when my eldest, my daughter Camille, was in the fourth grade. Thanks to her friend Eli, who knew about aerial silks, they found some local classes began taking lessons at a gym in Los Angeles. (See the photo above that features a still from a short movie Eli’s mom shot with some of this first silks footage. View the embed at the bottom to see the nine minute video.) On and off for seven years she continued lessons. For high school, she attended an awesome arts conservatory school called CSARTs. Located in Duarte, California, this school had both performing arts (music, theater, dance) and visual arts programs. It was a wonderful school, filled with engaged, college-bound, arts-oriented students and families. Interestingly, when she was in ninth and tenth grade, she would say: “Mom, I do not want to go to a four year college. I want to enroll in a circus arts program.” Circus arts. Circus arts?
We decided to gauge her level of seriousness by having her enroll in a five week summer intensive at San Diego Circus Center (link) the summer after eleventh grade. If she loved it and wanted more, that would be important for us to know.
Homeschooling…life…and homeschooling once again!
Was she done with the aerial arts?
What do you think? No way! We finally realized, in her senior year, that she was serious. Fortunately for us…we homeschooled before and knew it’s an option. Though she only homeschooled for three years (grades 4-6), she completed 2 years of a private middle school and 3 years in the awesome public arts conservatory. I wondered, should we leave it all to try a new gig?
I have to say, leaving the free public charter arts school was so hard for me. Why was this, I asked myself? In my innermost self, I am an artist. I really am. For middle and high school, I also attended visual arts programs. But, I am a pragmatic artist also. (That’s the side that always brings me back to earth.) I came to see what she wanted differed from my own experience and hopes and dreams. As good as the conservatory was, it was not for her at this time. She is her own person — striking out in new and different directions. We joined an independent study program so she could complete her last year of high school as easily as possible. Fortunately, her full-time high school prepared her well for California’s A-G college path high school requirements. This year she will have more time to take advanced trapeze and lyra classes at Cirque School Los Angeles and Womack and Bowman (link), and build her reel for cirque program applications that are due in winter. We are so grateful for the flexibility offered in homeschooling!
What could you expect when you homeschool your kids?
One thing I want to prepare you for — your kids might take a different road than you travelled. We always say this might happen. But, when you are walking with your son or daughter, and there comes that fork in the path, they might take the path that diverges from you. It can feel shocking, and you might feel grief.
If they do take this other path, what is necessary for you is to adjust to your teen’s direction. Try to understand it for yourself, and help them become knowledgeable about what kind of future and options they can expect to find. Is there schooling for their path? What are the typical wages and income levels? What is the broader community like? One way I embraced this idea: When I was redecorating our downstairs bathroom, I picked a circus theme. I hung some of my daughter’s art work and purchased a red, theater-style curtain-like shower covering, and purchased some cirque bathmats. In my redecorating effort, I was really just trying to get my head around it.
I have come to realize that sometimes a part of the reason we homeschool in the first place is because we too want to explore other options. We know there is a bigger world out there and we are open to exploring it. Heading down this path of discovery along with you—your student has perceived in you openness to color outside the lines. At some point, your child might want to throw away the coloring book all together! By choosing to homeschool, you just might have given your student an aspiring amount of freedom. Embrace it. Encourage it. And let your teen be free!
Many thanks to Chris Strother for the beautiful pictures on this page. She produced and shot the movie above! She is a fellow artist and a faithful friend; always capturing what we do not yet see ourselves.