reinventing myself

September 19, 2016

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It’s time for the obligatory “end of homeschooling” post.

I have to write it, right? After twenty years of homeschooling, my youngest has walked down the road to the high school bus stop, and I’m no longer a homeschooler.

I’m no longer a homeschooler, after eight years of writing a blog with a homeschooling bent.

The funny thing is, I started writing a different post here, about the new approach I’m taking with my writing project and then it suddenly occurred to me: I should probably write about the end of homeschooling.

 Oops.

There are a few reasons why this slipped my mind. For one, my upcoming column for home/school/life is about (spoiler alert) how my three kids have chosen to go to high school. So I already covered some of this moving-on territory, though not for this space.

But also, I suppose I’ve already moved on mentally.

Oh, I have my moments. When T and I rode our bikes to our last homeschool Park Day in August, the last after more than eighteen years and approximately eight hundred and fifty Thursdays, I started crying before I’d even kicked down my kickstand. I’ve had plans for every Thursday afternoon for almost two decades. You don’t end that without feeling something.

I went to that group’s Not Back to School Picnic a few weeks back and sold stacks of our homeschooling books. Made over $100 (for more books? or, oooh, to apply towards new fall boots?) But those books! Some dated all the way back to my early 90s teaching days. The sight of them splayed on a picnic table with price tags bruised my heart a little.

And the library! Going there now to get books for myself, skipping the children’s section altogether! After years of maxing out my card’s 50-book limit! The thought of not browsing there or in the teen section for some gem to tempt a kid: kills me.

And that Batman history I started reading to T in the spring. We didn’t finish it. Will we find time between school and homework to keep reading? Would he even want to?

Sigh.

I haven’t even started clearing out the “homeschooling cabinet” in our kitchen, the one my husband has been ogling ever since I claimed it when we built our house nineteen years ago. (For a wine fridge? Really?) It’s crammed with glitter, clay, glue sticks, fifty zillion pens, dozens of half-used journals, a Play-Doh fuzzy pumper that hasn’t been pumped in years, and stacks and stacks of Mr. T’s notes, drawings and ephemera that I really need to sort through and chronologize. How will I bring myself to do it?

(Good luck with that wine fridge, sweetie. The glitter is going to find its way in. Mark my words.)

But mostly I haven’t been sad. After twenty years, it feels like time to move on, you know? And the word elated is not quite strong enough to convey how excited I am to have so much time to write.

I’m reinventing myself.

I cleared off the inspiration board beside my desk, covered as it was with the same photos that had lived there for years. I’m trying a new approach with my first memoir chapter so I clipped up photos of the older two kids on our first day of homeschooling. I clipped up some exercises on theme and “writing your partner” suggested by the wonderful Kate Hopper during our River Teeth Nonfiction Conference meeting. I clipped up Rebecca Solnit’s gorgeous 10 tips for How to Be a Writer. It includes these lines:

“Listen to what makes your hair stand on end, your heart melt, and your eyes go wide, what stops you in your tracks and makes you want to live, wherever it comes from, and hope that your writing can do all those things for other people.”

Made my hair stand on end. Made my heart melt.

I realize that I need to reinvent this blog somewhat, too. I will never stop writing about homeschooling here—it’s my vocation, the one that Solnit urges us to find in tip #5. And if I’m writing a memoir on homeschooling, well, it would be nice to maintain an audience of homeschoolers. But I also need to build a writing community, so I’d like to expand the scope of this space.

I’ve done some reorganizing. Gave myself a new tagline. Got a kick out of tweaking my calling card page and dubbing myself a “homeschooling veteran.” (How else to summarize all that time in those glorious trenches?) Rewrote my about page to focus on my writing; redirected homeschoolers to a new homeschooling page, where I’ve attempted to organize eight years of posts for new folks who happen by. I hope that my work here might keep helping people. That bits of it might, every once in a while, make someone’s hair stand on end.

For several years on my blog’s birthday in July, I called readers out from lurkdom to say hello, to wish my blog a happy birthday. And, oh, how I loved hearing from everyone—longtime readers, new folks I’d never heard from, real-life friends. The last time I did it was in 2013, on Wonder Farm’s fifth birthday. The last few Julys have slipped by, and I’ve felt a little guilty about begging for comments, especially since I don’t write here as often as I used to.

But in this new place of reinventing myself, it sure would be good to hear from you. I wonder who you are: fellow homeschoolers? Fellow writers? Parents with progressive ideas about education; educators? New readers, old friends? Former classmates?

Are you my mother?

Won’t you say hello, and tell me how you found your way here? It would be good to know that I’m not alone as I clear the boards, empty the cabinets, shuffle things around and reinvent myself.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie Pomeroy September 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Well, Patricia, you already know how I found you and what we have in common, but most people reading these comments won’t. I found you years and years ago, when my now-13-year-old was probably about six (!), before he’d taught himself to read through his love of Garfield comics and taught himself to write through his passion for video games. I stumbled across the blog because I Googled something like “I feel guilty I’m not a good Waldorf homeschooler” and found your post “All My Waldorf Guilt.” I should have known that a woman who both aspired to Waldorf homeschooling and yet couldn’t (and didn’t even want to) really pull it off was my kinda gal.

Since then, your blog and replies have talked me through so many dark nights of the soul and helped me trust the process of following my kids’ inclinations. Your book Workshops Work changed the way I facilitate kid writing groups. And we’ve also cheered each other on and supported one another as we work to grow as writers and carve out space for being creative.

Sniff. I am so glad I found you and your blog. I honestly don’t know if I could have done this homeschooling thing for as long as I have if I hadn’t discovered it. It helped me break free of all my Waldorf guilt, not to mention all my “I’m not good at unschooling either,” guilt, and start to embrace the weird way my family does homeschooling, warts and all. THANK YOU with all my heart. Can’t wait to hold your book in my hands some day, love.

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patricia September 19, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Oh, Carrie, your comment made me cry! You are one of my favorite examples of how blogging can help people find kindred spirits out in the world. Do you realize that you’ve left more than 100 comments here?! I had no idea until I went back to search for your first comment, to read it again, and saw all those others! What a gift you’ve given me. I could never have done this blogging thing for as long as I have if I didn’t have readers like you making me feel that it was all worthwhile.

I love that we have accompanied each other through homeschooling, and through our writing as well. I am so thrilled about your book, and all you’re teaching me about how to get a book published. (I need an update on where you are in the revising process!) And to think that I remember you writing about how you and B were just getting interested in Charlie…

Your first comment here makes me laugh as much as it did when I first read it. A snippet: “I don’t know how I stumbled across your “My Waldorf Guilt” posts, but I read them at just the right time, when I was experiencing a great deal of guilt about my inability to create a predictable rhythm in my house and my general resistance to woolen crafts and talking about math operations as trolls or whatever Waldorf people say you’re supposed to do.”

Math operations as trolls! Hahaha!

Thank YOU, dear Carrie, for giving me so much of your time, your thoughts, your worries, your heart. One of these days I will finally get to meet you, and I’ll give you the big hug you deserve! Until then, xo.

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Stacey September 19, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Way back when I had a two year old and I found your blog. We’ve gone through homeschooling, public school, homeschooling, and now finally have landed at a Sudbury school. Through out all these transitions I have loved watching your journey not so much as a homeschooler but as a Mama and a writer. There are many homeschooling blogs out there, but that isn’t what I come here for it’s your voice that has inspired me as a person.

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patricia September 19, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Hey there, Stacey! Yes, you’ve been reading here for a long time–thank you! It’s encouraging to know that you still find something here, regardless of whether or not you’re homeschooling. How exciting that you have a Sudbury school nearby for your boy! I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of them, but have never seen one in action. All the best to you!

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Jessica Gilkison September 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Excited to read about your transformations, Patricia. We connected near the end of your homeschooling days and you quickly charmed me with your words and presence on the page. I hope to take another class together and/or connect directly about and through our writing. Keep on!

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patricia September 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Hi Jessica! Once again, the magic of the online world to help us find kindred spirits! I know we’ve both been busy with our writing, but I hope we can connect again. I owe you an email! (And I’m so envious that you got to study with Beth Kephart!) xo.

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Nothing By The Book September 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm

I think I stumbled across your blog when I was first trying to find my feet in the blogosphere–and I wasn’t sure what sort of blogger I was going to be. Mommy Blogger? Unschooler? Writer? Human? And I loved the authenticity and unpretentiousness of all your writing. I don’t read every post… but I’ve always loved popping in to see what you were up to… where you were going…

And I’m so excited to see where you will go next!

After… I think we’re at 10 years of homeschooling now if you count kindergarten, and my math still sucks, I’m not sure how many we have left to go, another 10 because of the age of my little? — anyway, I’ve found me-and-my-on-line creative playground go through several reinventions already. It is so fun… and freeing. And scary.

Goodest of lucks. xo Jane

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patricia September 19, 2016 at 10:30 pm

Jane! So good to know that you’re still coming by–and still working at your own fun projects! Thanks for taking the time to say hello. Keep swinging higher and higher in your online creative playground!

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Kat September 19, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I’ll miss your homeschool posts here, but looking forward to following your next adventure!

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:22 am

Oh, Kat, I’m sure that homeschooling will continue to factor into my posts here. It’s too much a part of who I am, and who my kids are. It’s been fun to get to know you on the SEA Homeschoolers page. (For all you homeschoolers, that’s the Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers page on Facebook. A great group and very active! https://www.facebook.com/groups/seahomeschoolers/ ) I so appreciate how often you promote my work there–and how you spread the love of writer’s workshops!

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Gloria September 19, 2016 at 4:37 pm

I am a homeschooling mama and I feel like I am on the other side from you, just beginning and reinventing myself as a homeschooler. There is something about your writing that makes me rethink so much of what I had already decided – some many other blogs sound pushy about what they do, but you, your writing, it is different and I often find myself rethinking my set opinions – not always changing them, but to be pushed to rethink and still come out with your original opinion, that’s something too. I read your old homeschooling posts while nursing my youngest on a regular basis and I am trying to learn as much as I can from them. So thank you for writing. When I first read you were writing a memoir I was very excited – now I am impatient, so if you want to quit the blog and focus on that, I’d understand 😉

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:32 am

Gloria, your comment is so gratifying to me. At some point I came to believe that I could help people most if I simply shared my story. That sharing my own story might get people thinking–and that their thinking is likely to lead them to where they need to go, much more than some how-to writing from me. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do–and it’s why I really, really want to get this memoir written. I believe there’s a need for such a story. A way for homeschoolers to get a window into watching another homeschooling family struggle and evolve, so they can find their own way. I will get it written–but I’ll be here too! No worries about that.

I’m grateful to anyone who reads through my old posts, and I’m so happy that they’ve helped you think about your own family. As I work on the beginnings of my memoir, I think back to my early days with my family. It was exhausting and required so much of me–but what an enchanted time it was! I wish you well in your own beginnings! Kiss that nursling of yours, and keep reinventing yourself as a homeschooling mama!

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Gloria September 20, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Thanks for your kind words Patricia. I look forward to reading wherer your journey takes you next.

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Jennifer September 19, 2016 at 5:49 pm

I found you in … let me think… 2010? We started homeschooling November and it lasted three years. My mom died, my attention was splintered. One child went to middle school; the other went to 5th grade. Neither have turned back home. More discerning about what I value. Grades? No. Don’t wave grades at me. Tell me what my child is passionate about in your class. I don’t feed off the numbers.

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:39 am

Hey there, Jennifer! It always tickles me to see readers from “way back” show up here again! It’s also helpful to me to see that what I’m offering here might appeal to parents who aren’t homeschooling. Because, honestly, I feel like I’m writing for a certain type of parent, and it isn’t necessarily a homeschooling parent. It’s the sort of parent who is open to discovering who their kids really are, who doesn’t get caught up in the stuff society says we should worry about, like grades, extra-curriculars, yadda, yadda, yadda. I think that’s you, swatting aside those grades! Thank your for continuing to come back here, and for saying hello!

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:40 am

P.S. I’m sorry about your mother. Homeschooling through that would be hard. I can’t imagine. xo.

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Janet Reynoldson September 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Hi Patricia,

Old friend here, ok, not THAT old, but we go way back! I am thinking back to the time when you and I visited a homeschooling friend. H was very young and the girls were younger. You concentrated on the idea, went with it, and now you are in the ranks of “homeschooling veteran.” My happiness abounds for you as you transition, reinvent, make the most of an inevitable, awesome time of your life. I will follow as always, ever inspired by what you say, and how you put your actions into words! Love that about you.
JR

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 11:04 am

Janet! I have absolutely gone back to that meeting in Portland with your homeschooling friends, while writing the first draft chapter of my book. I remember the mother saying that one of her daughters had been seriously ill the year before, and that they hadn’t done much in the way of homeschooling other than going to the library. The recent teacher in me thought that was nuts! But now, of course, I totally get it. Homeschooling allows a family to focus on what’s really important–and kids can also learn a heck of a lot by simply reading. I remember playing with the idea of homeschooling after meeting with them, and getting the one book on homeschooling I could find in the Portland library system in 1994! But at that point I decided it was too “out there.” It took another year or so for me to come back to the idea, and to gather up my courage to do it. So thank you, dear friend, for setting me on that path! (I think we went to meet the F’s because you were the one more seriously considering homeschooling. Funny how things work out, huh?)

I’ve loved being on this parenting journey with you. You and Dave were such touchstones for me–fellow people who wanted to parent a little differently than the culture at large. Just think of that photo of big-headed H with your girls: it’s worked out pretty good, huh? Love to all you Reynoldsons!

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Zane Kathryne Schwaiger September 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Hi Patricia! I found you years ago . . . 5 or 6? I have and love your book on Writing Workshops. I homeschooled my two girls for three years; then they went to school for two years; and now we’re homeschooling again (with baby brother now too!). I love your honest writing and I appreciate following along as your children graduate into their adult lives. It is very inspiring for me as a mother of three still mostly little ones (my oldest is 11). Thank you for sharing your homeschooling and writing wisdom. I am writer too — so I enjoy reading it all! All the best to you as you venture into your next chapter. — Zane

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 11:08 am

Hi again, Zane! You are so good about coming back and saying hello! Congratulations on that baby boy–and on homeschooling again! It’s so good to hear that my writing has inspired you. There’s something very satisfying in knowing that my own journey might be mingling with the journeys of new, young homeschooling families. I love that idea. All the best to you and yours!

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 11:13 am

P.S. I just visited your blog again–it’s gorgeous! I love the photographs. They bring back so many good memories for me–the silk scarves, the books, the adored third child, so much younger than the other two. You are inspiring me in reverse. 🙂

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CathyT September 19, 2016 at 7:47 pm

Hello again, dear friend. I can’t say when I first “met you” but I do feel that I have gotten to know you over the years as you posted so many details of you and your kids’ life journeys. I have always thought it touching that you respond to your readers’ comments. I wish you well and will continue to follow your blog, regardless of how infrequent new posts are. I am looking forward to your book as I have 2 post hsers and 2 more pre-teens to go — you are an inspiring writer. BTW, my 22 year old train nut kid just moved back to pursue his other dream related to photography after 18 months working for a tourist train as a brake man and fireman!

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 11:27 am

Hello CathyT! You are one of my special, beloved commenters, one who comes back again and again, one I feel I’ve gotten to know through our small back-and-forth conversations. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. It’s been neat to have a reader with fellow grown homeschooled kids–and it’s been fun to hear where your own kids’ post-homeschooling paths have led! How interesting it must be to have two “sets” of kids as you do. In some ways I felt like I had that with T–he came so much later than his siblings, and in many ways I was a better homeschooling parent with him. I’d learned a lot by the time he came around! You have an even bigger gap, which must be so interesting. I hope you’ll keep coming back and sharing what your kids are doing. I love, love, love to hear it! Thank you so much for your dedicated reading over the years. xo!

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Amy September 20, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I love the reinvention process. You do yours and I’ll do mine.

xox,
a long-time reader (and probably a ne’er again homeschooler, too).

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Hey there, Amy!

I’ve come to think of “homeschooling” as a philosophy and a way of approaching parenting, that can still hold when kids go to school. So maybe we’re both still “homeschoolers,” right? And part of that philosophy involves reinventing yourself all the time. It’s sort of the point of the thing. (You and I are homeschooling ourselves, at the very least.)

I really would love to see you in person again one of these days. I know you and Molly see each other–maybe I can invite myself along one of these times? xo!

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Jennifer September 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I’m a fellow home educator, on the beginning end (my daughter is 7 and this would have been her 4th year in the UK education system). I look forward to your posts and save reading them for when I have a quiet moment in the evening. It always feels like a little gift when the “wonder farm” is in my inbox.

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Ah, Jennifer. What a delight for me to think that my words are “a little gift” at the end of the day for a busy homeschooling mother! There is a lovely sense of continuity in that. Thank you.

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Sarah M September 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I’ve been reading for years, though I can’t remember exactly how I came across this space. I’m a homeschooler, this is our 5th year, and I’m also a writer, though my blog doesn’t show that much (my notebooks at home do), and I suppose, also a ‘parent with progressive ideas on education’. 🙂
The bit about breezing past the children’s section, though? Caught in my throat. I don’t know if I can bear that when the time comes. I may have to become the storybook lady at the library with pockets full of stickers and tootsie rolls.
Sarah M

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Hi Sarah M! Yes, you’ve been coming round here for a while–thank you! And you also comment on the home/school/life blog as well, I believe, which is wonderful. (I wish they got more commenters there. There’s some great work getting shared on that blog, fellow homeschoolers, including posts from my dear friend, Carrie Pomeroy, the first commenter here! Check it out! Subscribe! http://homeschoollifemag.com/blog/)

I know–the library! I feel like one of my most important roles as a homeschooling mother was book-gatherer for my children. I can’t give it up. I still send the grown kids book recommendations, and everyone still gets books for Christmas…

Keep writing in that house in the middle of your street, Sarah! 🙂

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Alanna September 20, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Congratulations–what a milestone! And how thrilling, to be able to use all this newfound time (and mental space) to write.

I’ve been coming here since 2012, back when my own children were very small and I was considering homeschooling. Though both of them are now at the local public school, we incorporate a lot of home-based learning into our family culture, and I’ve been very happy to find so much inspiration here over the years, especially in your approach to teaching writing. Your blog also gave me the nudge I needed to start taking my own writing seriously–your post “If you want to help your kids with writing, you need to write yourself” came at just the right time to set my own creative spark aflame. The same day I read it, I started dreaming up ideas for the book I’d always wanted to write… and now here I am, finishing up a draft of my fourth novel.

The lovely Rebecca Solnit quote you shared–which will likely end up clipped to my own inspiration wall–most certainly applies to the stories you share here. Your thoughtful, non-judgmental voice is always a breath of fresh air, and I can’t wait to read your memoir!

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patricia September 20, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Oh, Alanna, so nice to hear from you again! Of course I remember you writing about being inspired to start a novel after reading that post–and now you’ve finished a draft of your fourth?! I’m so impressed (and honored that I played a small part in it.) I love how inspiration just keeps going back and forth here! Have you shared or published your novels? Or are they just for you?

I hope you clicked over to the complete Rebecca Solnit list. As a writer, I know you’ll appreciate both the tips and they way she writes them.

Enjoy your young family, and keep writing those novels! (Those are mutually exclusive for most people; good for you for pulling them both off!)

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Alanna September 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Thanks, Patricia! Well, only one of the books so far is completed and polished (I’m working on a series, and decided to go through and draft them all so that I know where the plot is headed before digging into the hard, long work of revision). I’ve been pursuing traditional publication of my first novel, which has been a long struggle, and I’m not entirely sure what will happen to it in the end. But every day I realize how much joy I find in the work itself, and how lucky I am to be able to spend time writing about things (and characters) that I deeply love.

And yes, Rebecca Solnit’s list in its entirety is such a gem. I will bookmark it and return to it on those days when I need a little fresh inspiration!

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patricia September 21, 2016 at 9:08 pm

It’s all about the joy in the work, isn’t it? I was at the AWP Conference in April, and several first-time published authors said that while publication was exciting, there was nothing like the time before that, when it was just them and the work. They spoke of it as a sacred thing. We are lucky, Alanna!

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Jody September 21, 2016 at 7:05 am

Hi friend! This is such an inspiration. I’m always amazed by the way you thoughtfully express your experience. Your reinvention Strikes me as relevant to empty nesters, partents who’ve set aside other work for their children, mid-lifers and anyone else who is conscious enough and brave enough to make change. I look forward to watching your journey. Keep inspiring people! Xoxoxo

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patricia September 21, 2016 at 9:05 pm

Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor? Mr. Rogers just popped into my head when I saw you here. Thank you, dear neighbor! (And I hope you had a very happy birthday yesterday!) xoxoxo right back!

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Alexandra Dekerf September 23, 2016 at 7:07 am

At the moment, I can’t remember where we connected for the first time but you have inspired me for many years via the magic of the internet !
I find it just as inspiring that we are both on a new path . I hope we can encourage each other!

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patricia September 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Maybe we connected on Twitter? I do remember you commenting on my Instagram photos when we were in Paris, and telling me about visiting there when you were a girl. 🙂

I keep admiring your bullet journals. They’re gorgeous. I hope we can keep encouraging each other too! Thank you for linking here on your blog today! Off to say hello there…

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Kirsten September 27, 2016 at 9:18 am

Hey Patricia, you know me: I lurk here and swoon over your writing. I can honestly say that it has, at various times, made my hair stand on end and made my heart melt. I love hearing about how you do what you do, and those lovely children you’ve mentored into wonderfulness! I’ll still be here, listening with interest. x

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patricia September 28, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Hey there, Kirsten! Yes, of course I know you. Although I wouldn’t call you a lurker–you’ve been leaving comments for years now, and I thank you for that! (I also love seeing what your kiddos are up to on instagram. Those lined-up yoga dollies killed me!) You are always so kind and insightful, and I’m lucky to have you reading along, there across the pond. xo!

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treen November 13, 2016 at 6:10 pm

I’ve commented only a couple of times, but been reading a lot longer. I have no idea when I found your blog, but the how was I think I was searching for how-to-teach-kids-to-write advice. The homeschooling advice has been, and continues to be invaluable. I’m looking forward to seeing your transition, since I’d like to make the same one eventually. (But I still have a long way to go – youngest child is 3.)

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patricia November 14, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Thanks for saying hello again, Treen! I hope I’m still able to offer you something valuable. But once a homeschooling mama, always a homeschooling mama, so we will always have that common ground. Your youngest is three–you have so much fun ahead of you! I am happy to be where I am, but I envy you too. xo!

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Alison December 29, 2016 at 10:07 am

Wishing you well for this new phase, and congratulations on all those twenty years of input and love. Not sure how I found your blog originally, but I enjoy sneaking back every so often to see what’s new. I enjoyed your comments in the more recent post, re the white space and enjoying short form writing. I love short stories, poems – it’s a bit like telegrams, where it all has to count. And after all that reading of your posts, we finally made it to homeschooling too. I have in my head that experience of T’s where he wrote the periodic table of superheroes – and I hope for that kind of experience for my boy too. A x (PS steeling myself for when my youngest moves on fully from picture books.)

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patricia January 2, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Oh, hi Alison! Yes, of course I remember you! (Are you the same Alison who likes my Instagram photos? 🙂 ) I’m so thrilled that you ended up homeschooling! You have so much fun ahead of you. The periodic table was fun–who knows what your boy will dream up?! That’s my favorite part of homeschooling–watching kids unfold as people. It’s so fulfilling (and sometimes challenging) to watch it happen, right up close. Thank you for saying hello again. Happy 2017 to you and yours!

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