Hi, I am Rita Cevasco from Rooted in Language and I am a homeschool veteran! I am also a speech-language therapist who helps kids become the best readers and writers they can be.
When I started homeschooling in 1999, I thought, “I’ll be the only parent who has opted out of traditional education mid-stream.”
Boy was I wrong!
I didn’t have great communities like Learning Well at that time!
I now share life with three adult kids who are intelligent, engaged and kind-hearted: Emma (26) and Moira (25) who are married professionals, and Vincent (20) who is in college. I have two wonderful sons-in-law—Zach and David! I have an awesome husband of 34 years who is ALL IN. The family culture we created during our homeschool years has morphed in ways I never imagined. No longer feeling responsible for EVERYTHING in our kids’ lives, Rick and I now get to be their audience, but we are no longer the directors!
I learned hard truths about myself as a parent and as a home educator. I was fabulous, mediocre, or lousy on any given day. Like all moms, I (still) feel guilt and regret, but also joy and relief. This parent-child dance we do–learning to lead, then letting them lead, all while tripping each other up—it’s messy! I recently read somewhere, “One step forward and two steps back is just a Cha-Cha!” I call that homeschooling… I call that laying a path.
THINK MONTHS, NOT DAYS
During my home schooling years, I found that planning day by day was overwhelming. Planning by months helped me prioritize experience-based learning and my love for bits and pieces of writing.
- September: We created photo journals of our vacations and art outside.
- October: We created costumes for history/Halloween, hiked, and enjoyed autumn.
- November: We wrote family narratives, did projects for Thanksgiving, travel, or for guests. We cooked and created family recipe books.
- December: We were all about the holiday–baking, writing stories, creating decorations, making gifts. A total art and music month.
- January: Poetry month—reading and writing poetry all month, year after year. This became a perennial favorite, adding poems to homemade poetry books, then presenting them to Dad for his birthday (also in January).
- February: Shakespeare month—reading and watching plays and movies, acting, and volunteering for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (ushers got to see the play for free)!
- March and April: We focused on science and nature—including projects, experiments, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. We wrote lap books and scientific method reports.
- May: This morphed into self-study month. I wasn’t an un-schooler, but appreciated self-directed learning as a critical ingredient for developing ownership and intellectual drive.
POST-IT NOTE PLANNING
I think my love for Post-It notes is rooted in our home school years…
Every week we would write what was happening for the week on Post-it Notes, then arrange them on our visual schedules. Some were pre-determined times because the world didn’t revolve around my kids. Music, art lessons, sports, and co-op were set. Then, teaching time with mom. Outings were added next. But independent work time was up to the kids. If they wanted to get all five math days done at once, go for it! If they wanted to put it off, let’s see how that worked out…
Any Post-It that was not completed would be moved to the next day. Just like real life, the Post-Its became a visual representation of work piling up. Post-it Notes showed the value of making choices.
Three different kids with three different personalities learned three different truths about themselves: Emma liked the autonomy of having control over her own life and accepted ownership.
Moira liked to work hard up front and enjoy free time later in the week.
Vinny procrastinated, but began to understand when and how to buckle down.
There are so many things we just teach our kids to do: use the potty, tie their shoes, make their lunches, etc. The shift from “showing them how” to “letting them discover how” was an adjustment I learned the hard way! I wanted my kids to THINK about how they THINK and LEARN about how they LEARN, but I needed to step back and let that happen…to some degree.
This “more of you, less of me” evolution varies with each child, age, and circumstance. I still struggle as I morph into each new version of Mom.
Like many, I would periodically panic that I wasn’t teaching my kids some critical piece of knowledge. And like many, I would resort to some schoolish-looking program. Inevitably, we would all abandon the curriculum mid-year.
When I bogged us down with curriculum and co-op commitments, we had no time for rich learning. I lived this problem, and I see it every day with the home school families I work with. Learning takes time, and the reason I home schooled was to reclaim time for learning with my kids. Yet, I kept finding myself in a schedule that prevented authentic, experience-based learning. Some schedules I could rework, and some schedules I could not. But one thing was for sure, I could abandon or revise any curriculum that bogged us down in busy work—the beauty of homeschooling!
It is interesting to ask my kids what they remember of home school. The take away is the culture we created. They loved the ideas, they loved reading and family discussions, they loved knowing every inch of the museum center, and they remember the librarians who knew them by name. They only remember the experiences, not the curriculum. They remember field trips and the adults who spent time with them.
When I compare this to Vinny, who chose traditional school, guess what he recalls? He remembers the teachers who were passionate and cared about him, he remembers writing poetry, he remembers interesting projects, his favorite books, and the rich discovery-based learning experiences.
They all remember a few facts, but mostly they remember what they created.
OUR HOMESCHOOL DAD
Most families I met during our #homeschooling years had varying degrees of husband/spouse involvement in home education. I naturally discussed all ideas with Rick and he naturally engaged, because that’s what we do as a couple. But initially Rick’s role was one of audience and support staff.
But year two taught me an important lesson about myself as a teacher. While I always liked being a student of math, I hated teaching it. Rick, on the other hand, loves math. He was always saying to the kids, “Isn’t it cool how math has only one right answer? It’s perfect that way!” I brought my passion to language arts; he brought his passion to math!
Rick teaching math brought balance to the force. I had someone with whom to share the immense responsibility of homeschooling; he gained an insider’s perspective on the trials and tears of teaching. We problem-solved together because we both had the same struggle with any given child. We shared our breakthroughs.
Sharing teaching is like sharing parenting: it only works if you respect and trust each other. Even when I disagreed with Rick’s choices, I would think, “Who knows who’s right?” We both meant well and we were both flawed parents. We both needed to be told when we were losing it and we both needed encouragement. The one thing we held onto was the value of telling our kids we were sorry when we were wrong.
Finding people with a passion for their field of interest was so critical to my children’s growth. Tracy Molitors was integral to our home school because of her passion for art. Tracy had this “If they come, we will build it” philosophy. My kids knew that she would help them create any idea they generated. If it involved paint, clay, or cardboard, Tracy knew no bounds! My kids explored mediums, periods, styles, and techniques. She helped me create experience-based learning.
It is not surprising that Tracy and I are now engaged in a joint venture at Rooted in Language creating experience-based language arts activities and books! For every teaching idea I share with Tracy, she still responds with: “I can make that…”
It was a gift any time I invited others to teach—people who embraced their area of interest and added their talents to the mix. We also paid for Bravewriter courses because they were excellent. In this way, we believed we were creating a high quality private school. We could hand-select teachers with genuine passion for their subject!
Of course, money was tight! I wished we could have taken advantage of every wonderful lesson and camp. I wished we could’ve taken more vacations to round-out our learning, but we only managed that a handful of times. We couldn’t afford everything. But we hand-picked what mattered, and paid our “private school” fees.
We engaged in our co-op for mostly social reasons, but we engaged with passionate people for deeper learning!
REGRETS & GRATITUDE
Boy, do I have homeschooling regrets! Is it because I am a mom, a woman, or just Rita? I have far more guilt than my husband does. Must be nice!
I regret the days I lost my head. I regret the times I bogged us down in busy work just so I could make myself feel better. I regret that we didn’t see more plays, go on more picnics, and spend more time outdoors. I regret we didn’t buy a dog sooner. We all regret we didn’t take more vacations. I regret the times I was pulled into emotional arguments, even after promising myself I wouldn’t let that happen. I regret the times I should have gotten my kids counseling or professional guidance, but money felt too tight. I regret the times I didn’t follow my gut. I regret that I didn’t make my son spend at least a few years home schooling.
However, I once heard that we should start every day listing three reasons to be grateful. Every time I do this, I can’t stop at three!
I am grateful that: we jumped off the traditional school treadmill; learning meant going deep into ideas; my kids developed solid reading and writing skills, using bits and pieces of writing (of course) and are now lifelong learners.
I am grateful that my kids view home as a positive place to be; we had more time outside and in nature; we took a risk when we decided to homeschool and it paid off (my kids agree).
I am grateful that my kids all view homeschooling as the best education option—even my son, who stayed in traditional school.
I am grateful that my husband trusted me and supported this endeavor (emotionally, educationally, and financially); I could adjust my work around my family, allowing Rooted in Language to grow from teaching kids, to teaching the parents who teach kids.
I am grateful that we invested in life-long relationships!
Thank you, Rita, for your amazing wisdom and inspiration!
Don’t forget to check out Rita’s site, Rooted in Language and her book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers & Writers Through Deep Comprehension.