See these angles, studiously working together each in their workbook? No, this is not a posed photo, but it lasted a total of four minutes.
As soon as she got here, with her two sweet younger kids, my kids got off the wall. 3 yo was running around yelling, 9 yo was interjecting and I was having a hard time carrying on a conversation. Her kids clung to her. I suggested going down to the basement, where the toys are. Her kids would not go without her, which is totally understandable since mine were behaving like wildebeests. I got around to showing math (about the only subject in which we follow a curriculum) and she started telling me about the reservations that she has, but we did not get far. My kids started jumping and sliding down a mattress. 9 yo started fighting with the younger ones. 3 yo screamed into her baby's face. I tried telling her that this is not the way she would want to be treated, and she should not treat others like that, but she ran away laughing.
This lady looked at me and asked two pointed questions: is there any place I can send the kids for a bit, and do I get out to do anything on my own? The answer to both questions was no. I told her that I am not the best spokesperson for homeschooling at the moment. She had a look of someone not sure why anyone would be doing this in the first place. And I could not explain why this makes sense. I started trying to summon some of our better moments, but I kept getting interrupted by sulking 9 yo. As a final salvo, he removed the pedal off the baby gate, locking us in the basement. There I am, fumbling with the gate, while she is patiently waiting next to me...
Ooh, this was quite embarrassing. So why am I doing this? My kids have no middos, slack off, do not do their schoolwork and do not allow for a grown-up conversation.
Yet, just as I am despairing, everything gets flipped.
At dinner, 7 yo mentioned how he would like to have African Grey Parrot as a pet, since it is so smart and you can teach it things. He was planning to teach it mathematics, and everything that he knows. I probed what all this knowledge included, and he said something about Hashem. 9 yo said that African Grey has intelligence of a 6 year old, so he could be taught to think about Hashem. I said that animals cannot know about Hashem and cannot be taught such abstract ideas. That lead to a question: what does every kid at the table know about Hashem? 3 yo first demurred, but then said that we daven to Hashem. I asked her why, and she said, that's what we are supposed to do. 7 yo passed, saying that he is asking questions, not ready to answer. 9 yo said that Hashem created everything, and is in charge of everything, and was always here and knows why everything is the way it is. 7 yo wanted to know how Hashem was there before the world was here, and all of a sudden we are discussing dark matter (all of this while I am trying to feed the baby).
I got that distinct feeling of satisfaction, this is what homeschooling is about: a nice open dinner conversation, everyone is engaged and comfortable sharing or passing, religion and science freely mixing, and my children expressing ideas about G-d on their level, each of them true.
3 yo all of a sudden piped up: "Speaking about G-d... G-d bless America!" We were listening to that in the car earlier today. The boys cracked up, then 7 yo asked: "Why should Hashem bless America?" That led to another discussion about religious freedom. 9 yo knew that it is part of the Bill of Rights, and no, I did not teach that to him, he must have read it on his own. I also explained how Jews are not free to practice in every country, and this makes America special.
In a nutshell, homeschooling is tough. There are so many things to despair about, and so many things to feel good about. I just need to work on getting us more towards those feel-good moments.