Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What Downsizing and Moving to the Country has Taught Us

From as long as I can remember after the children were born, I had this dream; we would move out to the country, have land and animals. We would plant gardens and raise our own food. I would own chickens and collect fresh eggs every day. My kids would run wild in the pastures, free to get dirty, and free to yell and play. We would escape the wild hectic life of living in suburbia. We would escape the clutches of home ownership debt. We would free ourselves from the oversized house that by nature of it's size kept us so far apart from each other. We would live free. Free to make memories and spend time together, free to enroll our children in whatever pursuits they desired since we would no longer be house poor. Free from the anxiety of "what if" my husband lost his job, or we had a major medical expense or whatever. We have learned so much in this past two years. Some of it great, some of it not so great.

We have learned that we can live with less. Not only can we live with less, but we don't really miss what we no longer have. There might be a few things here and there, but cutting down from 3,200 sq ft to 1,700 will really make you take stock in what things are important. Not only did we have to get rid of some things we already owned, we had to stop buying so much. Christmases, and birthdays are now about a few really special high quality things and family experiences than about one million cheap things. I like it.

We have learned how to live in smaller spaces
. Let's be honest, in a house the size of ours you aren't ever going to be more than a few steps away from someone. On top of that, the girls are sharing a very small room. Having a large back yard has definitely been helpful, but there are things that have been harder to adjust to. I really miss having a dedicated school space. We have a room, but the size makes it difficult to keep it clean and organized and so many times we just end up in the dining room. My husband misses his office where he could keep all of his vintage computers displayed and his electronics in whatever order he pleased. I miss the kids being able to keep their toys in one room and their sleeping arrangements in another. I miss my living room having no TV because it is in the entertainment room.I miss my house looking clean even if there were a few things strewn about. There are also things I love. My small kitchen means that from anywhere in the room I can be one step way from the stove, the fridge, and the sink all at one time and even when my house it at its messiest, it rarely takes more than a few hours to clean from top to bottom!

We have learned that people are going to judge us.
Friends, family, strangers, we have gotten it from everywhere. There are those who don't understand why we sold our big beautiful house to move to this small one. There are those who judge the location. There are those who judge how we chose to go about getting out of debt. There are those who took our moving as a sign that we were in debt and had to sell. There are also those who have supported us and even those who have lived vicariously through us. There are others who are working towards doing the same things we are doing. We have just had to learn that no matter what life decisions we make, someone is always going to have their two cents.

I have learned that I need to be around people. I am extroverted. I gain my energy from being around people. Not necessarily with my house full of people but just near them. It makes me feel good to know that I can get up, walk a few feet in any direction and find a person. I know not everyone is like that, but I am. I miss being able to call up a friend and visit. I miss being able to "run down to the store". Everything is such a massive undertaking here. No one wants to visit us here and because of the children's activities I rarely have the energy to drive to them.

We have learned that living in the country is not as cheap as you would think.
Overall the move has been good for us financially, but it has not been as big as we had hoped. Price of propane are off the wall and the first winter we were here we didn't quite realize how fast we would go through it. Let's just say we learned to love our winter clothes and the fireplace after that little experience. Also, because everything is so far away we spend quite a bit on gas.

We have learned that we are not country people.
This is the hardest one to admit. This was my dream. Yeah, I romanticized it a bit. I was naive, but many many families do what we have done and love it. I had lived doors down for over 10 years before I got married. I knew what things were like and I didn't mind it growing up. We went into the decision informed and felt good about it. We hate that we dislike it, but we have come to terms with the fact that our lifestyle just doesn't suit it. We want our children to be able to participate in activities they enjoy, but where we are means that we are constantly traveling or sitting at those activities. I sit for 3 hours 3 days per week at the gym with my other two children while my younger daughter does gymnastics. Why? Because she loves it and the drive to and from our house is too far to allow me to go home during the practice. I know what you are thinking, but our children enjoy their activities enough that we have decided to prioritize them. Besides my own drives, my husband is driving 1.5 hours to and from work each day and it is exhausting him. We have learned that this time is going to be seasonal for us because of our busy lifestyle.

We have had to learn to be joyful even when we weren't necessarily happy. We are wildly aware of how blessed we are, truly. We have often reminded each other on our rough days that not only are we safe, in a good home, surrounded by family that is healthy, have a stable income and free to do many extra activities, but that we actually chose to be here. When we step back and really look we are able to at the very least experience joy even when we were not necessarily happy.

Here we sit two years in and while I sit in the sunshine watching my children do exactly what I described above and loving it, I can't help but contemplate whether this adventure turned out like we had hoped. If nothing else we have had to really take a step back and look at ourselves. We have found some amazing parts of us that we really enjoy, but in honesty there have been some parts that have not been as they should. The experience has been one of growth and even though this isn't looking like a forever home, I am not sure I would have changed if I could.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

But I Can't be with My Children All Day Long Every Day!

  I have heard it too many times, "I could never be with my children all day", "My child fights me while doing homework there is no way I could teach them all day", and every variation of the two you can imagine.

  At first the statement confused me. I have never been away from my children so I have no experience with what it is like to have several hours a day, several days a week without them. I wondered what made us and all of the other homeschoolers I know different. I wondered why suddenly at 5 parents no longer wanted to be around their children for long periods at a time when quite a few of them had just spent the last 4 years being there.

 Most homeschooling parents who pull their children out of the government school system or even a private school struggle with the idea of being together all the time and don't get me wrong, there is some major togetherness that happens with homeschool. Sometimes that togetherness causes conflict, but overwhelmingly it is a joyful experience for most homeschooling families. So what is going on here?

First, it is normal. This one won't go for all families, but my own, having homechooled since the beginning of my children's formal education, just doesn't know any different. My kids did not suddenly become a separate part of me at 5 and so when 6, 7, and rolled around, we just carried on as usual. This is normal for us.

For those that pull out of the system, there is usually an adjustment time and maybe even a bit of de-schooling, but in general, homeschooling is such a natural extension of parenting and life that it takes no time at all for it to become normal.

Second, I am the one teaching my children how to behave. When children are thrown in with other children we get to witness a real life "Lord of the Flies" with kids fighting for top spot in the pecking order. There will be children who reach the top, there will be children in the middle and there will be children trampled on by the school yard hierarchy. The kids will be teaching each other how to behave and that is never a good thing. My children are pleasant to be around because their main influences for proper behavior are adults. My kids don't bully, don't care about who has the coolest clothes, don't make fun of those different from themselves, aren't disrespectful to adults or mean to those not popular. Why? Not because they are perfect, but because I am able to constantly train them on appropriate behavior. Because they are not in the everyone for himself world of the classroom. Because they are interacting extensively with adults who have (for the most part) learned how to behave! The Bible tells us that the heart of a child is foolish so imagine sticking 25 of those foolish hearts into a room and expecting the result to be well behaved children. It just isn't going to happen.

Thirdly, they don't have to bring school work home after putting in a full day at the school. I mean seriously, who wants to spend all day long doing school work and then have to do more when they get home? Where is the time to play and relax? If you have to bring work home do you not complain? Does it not sometimes make you cranky? Comparing homework to homeschooling is like comparing a day at the beach to a day doing hard physical labor. They are just not the same. My kids get to do school when they are refreshed and then they get to be done. There is no working for 7 hours and then bringing home another 3-4 hours worth of homework. I would complain about that too!

Last, because they aren't constantly exhausted.
None of these parents seem to take into account the chronic sleep deprivation that kids suffer from these days. A quick Google search will bring up any number of articles on the taxing schedules that traditionally schooled children carry. If my kids were up at 5:30am to catch the bus, spending large amounts of the day sitting, then coming home with homework plus having sports practices until 9pm or later only to get up and do it all again tomorrow, they would be cranky too. Because my children are well rested and get plenty of time to break during the day, they generally stay in good moods and are much more pleasant to be around.

This is not to say my children are angels. They are not. We have had plenty of days when I would have almost considered putting their sassy hineys on that big yellow box on wheels, but I know that once I calmed down, I would be chasing it down and bringing them back home.
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