Risked it all this week to begin a new homeschool year. No more home confinement, and thrilled!

adult blur books close up

We are thrilled to get back to homeschool this week! No more home confinement! I completed the program a few days ago, and we are celebrating a new chapter of our lives by giving all honor, praise and glory to the Father above.

As we’re beginning this new chapter, I’m reminded of my first days back to school, when I was my kids’ age. The smell of Japanese Cherry Blossom fills the mall while the Claire’s butterfly clips fasten tightly to my scalp. I pass by the poly blend shirts from Fashion Bug and the chunky shoes in the window at Deb. I’ve circled pretty much everything in dELiA’s catalog, praying for a body like those girls. The back-to-school season is upon us, and I’m like a kid in a candy store. 

If you’re 30ish like myself, you may cringe at the memories of these photos. I don’t recall loving this back then, but somehow now, this is pure nostalgia.

Raising boys comes with an unmatched nonchalantness

My boys, on the other hand, truly couldn’t care less about going back to school. If there is a clean enough smelling shirt in a pile somewhere, that is what they will put on for the day. I had no clue that raising boys would be such a wild ride! One minute we’re having fluffy afternoon tea and the next minute, I’m playing WWE referee because, ‘he won’t stop looking at me!’

It’s our first week of a new school year, and we’ve got fresh cookies for our first day. Everything is organized in its respective place, and I’m running around giddy like it’s my first day. I forgot our morning menus downstairs and ran to get them while our folk song was playing, nearly sliding straight into the wall in my socks! I got a laugh out of them, so it was a nice start to a wonderful week!

teenage boys eating cookies at dining table waiting for homeschool day to begin
See the joy radiating from their faces.

Coming home from prison

This year is different. Before I went to prison last year, I had been homeschooling my bigs using AmblesideOnline for our feast. When I was sentenced, I was taken away that same day in March. My family suffered for my actions. I had just finalized the adoption of our youngest two boys. Our home was being sold. My mother, who is in her 70s, mind you, was left to pick up the traumatic pieces of my mess. She says ‘it’s nothing but the Lord’ that got her through, and I know that is true. They were homeless for nearly 6 months, searching for a place with four children; two of which have special needs. They drifted from motel to hotel until she agreed to head west towards Colorado, so my family could help.

The time the boys spent away from family, friends, studying, church and me while I was away made me carefully navigate our time togther when I came home in December. My bigs had started at public school here late last fall. The kids weren’t always kind to the new homeschooled kiddos with a mom in prison. It broke my heart not being able to pull them out immediately. But with being on an ankle monitor, I didn’t want them to continue to pay for my actions. I wanted to begin healing our family, with God’s hand.

An abundance of love

I just loved on them. I spent as much one on one time with each of them as possible. Like Mama P, from The boy who was raised as a dog, I cuddled closer, hugged longer and held tighter than ever before. I used every evidence-based, trauma informed technique I could muster up to continue the healing process. I watched slowly as our family became recognizable.

I have held strong beliefs regarding homeschooling for several years. The current state of our country’s school system and affairs just solidified them. There was no doubt I would resume schooling my children from home, as soon as I could manage it. I knew I would be getting off of Federal home confinement soon. This opened the door for more adventures outside the home. So I scheduled our first week of school to be the week following my release from the program.

Intentional homeschooling with living books on a single parent budget

I began looking through AmblesideOnline booklists months ago, to get a better idea of which year to place the bigs into.  Since I am not allowed to travel yet and everything we own was placed into storage, we would start from scratch. Knowing I had many of the books in Ohio, I became frustrated. But I knew God would provide. If it was indeed His will for me to homeschool the boys, he would make a way. I just began to buy a book here and there over the last several months. This allowed me to prepare for the new school year, on my Café salary, without breaking the bank.

I planned out our first term with a nature study day and co-op in mind. It is three full days, year-round Sabbath schooling, with six weeks on and one week off. I’m an incessant collector of beautiful paper items, so it took two online homeschool planner purchases and one I personally designed myself in order for me to decide on which we would use for the year.

I chose Lynn Seddon’s Exploring Nature with Children Planner because its layout is so similar to how we plan to schedule our year. It has yearly, monthly, and seasonal planning sections. Plus, I can keep track of my terms with ease using the overviews. 

white planner laid flat showing weekly view homeschool schedule
The key at the top shows our color code for each child's readings, the lessons we do together and whether the readings could be read aloud, or listened to on Librivox, if need be. This visual is just for my planning brain. I use it for reference when I write each day's feast on the dry-erase board and mark off what has been done or move over what needs to be continued.

First day of school interview poster

I missed precious moments over the last year, and wanted to do something memorable for this school year. I chose to create our own First Day pictures by piecing together some fun questions and making a poster out of it. One of my main goals for the year is to be intentional with family traditions. This is one that I believe will be a fun one for us to recreate each year.

first day of school interview poster template

If you want your own copy to edit in Canva, here is the link. Feel free to share, so that others can make their own memories as well.

Finding community as an ex-convict, while being salt & light

I prayed and contemplated for several months on whether we should join a co-op or homeschool enrichment group. I wanted us to be involved with a community of believers, and make genuine friendships. Finding this sort of community has been difficult. Either people are vehemently atheist, the programs are a full day of traditional classes, or they are just too far. The lack of a Christian group in Denver metro that is Charlotte Mason inspired, had me considering starting one of our own. We did find one that is 30 miles north, and plan to spend the school year growing with them on Fridays. Keep us in your prayers as we navigate this adventure.

Scrolling through these Charlotte Mason homeschool groups on Facebook has been an eye-opener since the Holy Spirit healed my wounded soul.  I used to become so overwhelmed with despair and hopelessness when I would see these incredible moms sharing their ‘perfect homes and lives’. I was so busy trying to earn God’s love by trying to be the ‘perfect family’ that I completely ignored His Word. I didn’t consider the depths of His unconditional love. When the Holy Spirit gave me a clean heart, I finally understood. It is no longer about me or us, it is about Him who dwells within us.

So as we celebrate this year reunified and born again, I dedicate this new school year to being more like Him. 

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