Our mailman leaves something to be desired. After he makes his rounds it’s not uncommon to see the neighbors out milling about re-delivering mail to the homes it was meant for in the first place. And if you’re expecting a package too large to fit inside your mailbox you’ll oftentimes find it balancing precariously on top of it, or in the ditch if it’s a windy day. I suppose we could file some type of complaint but I’ve come to accept that this type of service is on par with living in rural Arkansas. There is a reason that property is so cheap in these parts.
So it was a huge relief when I found out that UPS would be delivering Rinn’s school supplies, although Fedex would have been more entertaining as the driver is terrified of Tui. She has no reason to be as he’s more likely to lick her to death than cause her any real harm but it never fails that she is armed with a dog treat which she tosses out her van window as far as she can before she suicide sprints from the driveway to our porch and back. At this rate, we could both be headed to Tokyo in 2020.
What I wasn’t expecting is what was actually delivered; two rather large boxes. It looked more like we had ordered kitchen appliances on Amazon and less like the material needed to get a child through Kindergarten for a single year. What have I gotten myself into? The real panic started as I began unpacking them; finding nine slightly smaller boxes inside the two large boxes, like really intimidating Russian nesting dolls. This is too much, it’s all going back. Protecting you from paddling and shushing can’t possibly be worth all of this. Maybe that teacher was on her period. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I needed a nap.
The boxes were scary but I took a moment to remind myself of the reasons why I decided to undertake Rinn’s education at home and that all new things are initially overwhelming. Like when I first took him home from the hospital and realized that he didn’t come with an Infants for Dummies guide. I couldn’t exactly send him back. This is a little more than I was expecting, I changed my mind. I would have to apply the same reasoning to homeschooling.
I’m happy to say I talked myself off that ledge because the contents of those big scary boxes are actually quite impressive. Handwriting workbooks, counting cubes for math, a chalkboard, safety goggles for science experiments, textbooks for every subject, a tambourine for music, all of the necessary art supplies, the list goes on. Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA) left nothing out. Also, did I mention it’s all free? They also offer financial aid if you need assistance purchasing a computer or paying for internet. If you’re on the fence about homeschooling, don’t let money be a deciding factor. I say this now, fingers crossed I’m not singing a different tune when Rinn is marching around the living room with a tambourine. I’m just thankful it wasn’t a recorder.
Now, what in the hell am I supposed to do with all of this stuff? This is where I turned to Pinterest. Why not, it found me the perfect haircut, helped me throw an adorable cowboy themed birthday party and is always useful in figuring out ways to use up leftover pallet wood that wasn’t suitable for painting on. Certainly it would have a wealth of dummy-proof suggestions for a new-to-homeschooling mom. This is what I found:
1. “THE WORLD IS THE TRUE CLASSROOM”. -Jack Hanna
Jack Hanna is probably right but you don’t want to be scraping modeling clay off the kitchen table just so you can sit down for a meal without accidentally eating the remnants of the day’s art project and you don’t want to be frantically searching the house for your child’s copy of “The Story of Ferdinand”. While running from room to room might count as physical education hours it’s better for everyone’s sanity if everything is in one place.
Designate a space for school. The living room in our walkout basement has an awkward layout; divided by the couch, half was used for watching TV and half was used for everything and nothing simultaneously. It’s a large enough space for me to do yoga and work on painting projects while Rinn “dinosaur fights” the dog. I ordered two desks from Amazon (minimal assembly required, win) and placed them along one wall still leaving Rinn plenty of room to set up base camp while he pretends to conquer Mt. Everest as an “ice doctor.” It has plenty of natural light and the desks can be reconfigured to create a larger work space if anything we do in the coming year so requires it.
2. “A GOOD LEADER DOESN’T GET STUCK BEHIND A DESK.” -Richard Branson.
No, but a desk doesn’t hurt if you don’t want your legs to burn up from using your laptop on the couch. Which brings me to the second most notable thing. Apparently it’s imperative that your child have a desk. Again, you don’t want existing surfaces to suddenly become overtaken by markers and beakers but more importantly, you want to simulate for your child an actual school experience while providing a separation between the school day and normal life . This desk is where you’ll learn simple addition. The kitchen counter is where you eat lunch. This desk is where you do homework. The couch is where you watch “The Incredible Dr. Pol” and reenact birthing a calf.
While we certainly aren’t restricted to learning only at these desks, the floor is as good a place to read as any, they are there if and when we need them. And if nothing else, Rinn has really enjoyed having a drawer of his own to stash things in.
3. “GOOD ORDER IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL THINGS”, -Edmund Burke.
I lucked out here as my nothing-everything space has two large enclosed bookcases. After a little creative consolidation and performing a desperately needed purge of their existing contents (the local resale store now has more CD’s from the 90’s then they know what do with) I was able to make space for everything ARVA sent us.
Each subject has their own shelf and I even had a little room leftover to store extra supplies as well as my own textbooks that I found too useful to part with at the end of a semester. I picked up some magazine holders to keep the flimsier children’s books in their place and plastic baskets to hold science equipment and art supplies. We hung bulletin boards because every classroom I have ever been in has a bulletin board and I needed a place to display his “My Accomplishments” poster. If I have to put holes in the walls it might as well look nice.
Not only am I at ease knowing where everything is but this kind of structure will allow Rinn to find and retrieve his own lessons. And if I ever figure out the sorcery behind getting your kids to put things away, he can also put them back when he’s done with them. I assume as the year progresses things may get moved around depending on need and space but according to the 18 different Pinterest boards I consulted we’re off to a good start.
4. “TO BE YOURSELF IN A WORLD THAT IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO MAKE YOU SOMETHING ELSE IS THE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the pros to homeschooling is creating a more individualized education in a more personalized space. If what they say is true and I need to mount a larger than life whiteboard or display motivational posters than my current personalization is moot.
For now, the desks face a photo collage wall that I completed last year. Comprised of my favorite existing moments, mostly of pictures of Rinn (surprise), it should serve well as a personal touch. Nothing says to a person that this is your space like twenty-some photos of their own face. Also I changed the wallpaper on his computer to a photo of us. I would go ahead and start placing on bets on if, and when, he asks to have it changed to an image of a T-Rex or picture of him and his Papa because in reality I’m only his second favorite person. And I’ll probably fall a few more notches after I have to tell him that he can’t watch “Snake City” until he’s completed his homework.
All we need now is a globe and we'll look super official. In the meantime, ARVA sent us two inflatable ones (one of which will probably turn into a beach toy.)