Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lessons in the Living Room

Jeanette White is a freelance writer and editor living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She and her husband are homeschooling two daughters who are adopted from China.

“I just cannot picture Jeanette as a mom.” That’s the first thing my brother said when he heard I was adopting a baby girl from China. I was surprised enough to jot down his comment in my journal.

But in a way, I understood. He saw me as his latte-addicted, career-obsessed journalist sister who considered indoor plants a huge commitment. I didn’t know the front of a diaper from the back and didn’t care.

Fast forward several years: My husband and I have two little girls, 5 and 6, and our lives have been totally and wonderfully changed by theirs. When I quit my job downtown awhile back, they helped empty my desk and blew kisses to the tall brick building as we walked away. I now work part-time from a home office (a.k.a. former nursery) with one daughter’s name still in animal-shaped wooden letters on the door.

When someone—anyone—shouts “Mom!” in the grocery store, I spin around. I’ve washed my best clothes with crayons and sent embarrassingly enthusiastic emails about potty training. I stifled a shriek and smiled when my youngest daughter handed me a bright blue newt tail, still wiggling.

These days, my barista’s name is Mr. Coffee.

If all that doesn’t sound like total-immersion motherhood, try this: My kids won’t be going to school this fall. When their friends board the bus for kindergarten and first grade, they’ll be meeting me in the living room for lessons.

We are joining the growing ranks of home-schooling families, and while that may raise eyebrows among some friends and relatives, I couldn’t be more thrilled. In fact, like a lot of eager, rookie home-school moms, I’m not waiting until fall to get started.

That’s partly because I’m excited, but to be honest, it’s also because I’m a little nervous. Will I be good at this? Will my daughters grow and benefit in all the ways I envision? Am I depriving my kids of an important rite of passage by keeping them home? Can I juggle the roles of mother, teacher and professional writer—an integral part of my identity? Without driving my entire family crazy?

To paraphrase my brother, can I picture myself as a home-school mom? (I don’t even own a denim jumper, but that’s a stereotype we’ll talk about another day.) I know I’m not alone in this adventure. I’ve even met quite a few home-schooling families with kids adopted from China.

I’d love to have you join me on my journey into the rapidly expanding, ever-changing world of home schooling. I’ll share the ups and downs, successes and stumbles, great curriculum, helpful websites and other education resources I come across.

I’m especially excited about the opportunity to make it part of our routine to dive into Chinese history and culture, from ancient times to the present. Over time, we’ll include everything from basic history and geography to learning the language. We’ll even dabble in Chinese cooking. In fact, we have a history chapter on ancient China coming up pretty soon. Time to start gathering materials.

I hope those of you who’ve been down the home-school path before me can offer advice, encouragement or words of wisdom. Chances are, you can save me a step—or a misstep. And so, here I go.