J is for … Just bear with me. Don’t judge me. If you don’t like my writing style, just stop reading now. Yes, I use a lot of words. I like words, I like writing, and I like it when others read what I write. But I get it … we’re all busy. Not many have time to sit around for hours reading 1200+ words about The Letter J. But really, it couldn’t possibly take you as long to read it as it took me to write it, and it only took me a couple months, so just get on with it already. Then leave me a comment at the end! I mean it!
J is for … juggling. Our lives as homeschooling parents aren’t that much different from those of public schooling parents. Parents are parents, regardless of whether we’re working outside the home, inside the home, homeschooling or public schooling, whether we gave birth to these children or adopted them, whether they are little or big. We all set priorities for our families, then figure out how to go about meeting our goals and staying alive. Just like juggling, most people can only juggle a few things at once without dropping a ball, while others have honed this skill to the point where they can juggle three roaring chainsaws with a few butcher knives thrown in for fun. In this circus we call “life,” I’m not the master juggler. I’m better suited for the role of tightrope walker. I’m just trying to not fall off!
J is for … Jungle Jim’s. Have you heard of this store? It’s officially called “Jungle Jim’s International Market.” We homeschoolers often joke about how going to the grocery store can count as “school” because we can teach the kids their math lessons there, but let me tell you: Jungle Jim’s is the bomb! Jungle Jim’s could quite possibly be an entire curriculum. Let me tell you why:
- It’s huge! It’s so big, you need a map to get around. Map reading skills? Check!
- It’s divided by geographical/cultural regions. You could conceivably study any country, then go to Jungle Jim’s to find food (and other paraphernalia) from that country. Or, conversely, you could go to JJ’s, choose a food, any food, then go home and study the region it hails from. Either way, you can check off both geography and “social studies” (or world cultures). Might as well mark off reading and writing, too, if you can get your child to do a report on the country of their choice.
- Want to study the food pyramid (or whatever shape they’ve made it today)? Give your kids a list of the different groups, then let them try to fit everything they see into a category. Let them plan a well-balanced meal, the meal plan for the week, or how to feed x number of people on x number of dollars. Nutrition, family planning, life skills … Jungle Jim’s is the curriculum you need.
- Do I really have to tell you, my fellow homeschoolers, how to turn a store into a math lesson? Probably not. But you should know that at Jungle Jim’s, you could teach anything! From preschool counting (to one million!) and recognizing numbers to percents & fractions, estimation, probability (what’s the probability of us getting out of this store without buying any candy?), to budgeting money.
- You can take them to the fresh fish section and teach science. Walking the store could count as phys. ed. (Chasing toddlers through the store eliminates the need for a gym membership.) Make them identify the prepositions needed to describe where to find a particular item. Talk about adjectives as you consider the way to describe 10,000 different kinds of hot sauce. They can even practice their handwriting as they make a list of all the items Mommy bought that were not on her list!
Our closest Jungle Jim’s is two and a half hours away. That is one grocery shopping trip that officially counts as a field trip! Whaddya say? Agreed?
Alright, moving on …
J is for … judgement. Or judging. Or judgy. (Not a word, Spellcheck?? Whatever.) I clearly recall the day a neighbor was trying to convince me of how odd her other neighbors are because they homeschool. Let me be more clear: her “other neighbors” are her own family members! She ruined our friendship with her pronouncements … if she’d talk like that about her own family, what would she say about me to others in our community, especially when I revealed our own decision to homeschool? Then there was another, at the last public school my children attended. We had already made the decision to homeschool, but weren’t telling others. I was scared to my innards of the judgement of my friends! When this woman started spouting judgments of those who homeschool and how they just do it because they’re lazy and want to get out of testing, I did my best to defend those who choose it for other reasons, but it was soon plain to see that she would not be swayed. I shut my mouth and wondered how in the world I’d ever be able to navigate the world of judgy people after announcing our little surprise.
We all know judgy people. In fact, we all ARE judgy people. Isn’t that why we homeschool? We’ve made a judgement that this school choice is better for our family than any of the alternatives. Isn’t that why certain people are our friends and others are not? Isn’t that why we use certain curriculum and not the others? We are all making choices constantly, and many of those choices require that we make a sound judgement as part of the process. However, sometimes we fall into a more negative judgmental persona … where we see ourselves as superior to others because of the choices we’ve made. This is a two-way street when it comes to homeschooling … we are judged based on our choice to homeschool, and we often judge others for their decision not to. Or we’re judging our homeschooling friends and acquaintances based on their choice of method or curriculum or church or parenting style. I don’t really think we can get away from the habit of judging others (we are humans, after all), because that is part of figuring out who we are as individuals (or individual families). What we need to change is our habit of verbalizing our judgments. My way is not necessarily a good fit for you, and vice versa.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It takes a lot of courage to homeschool. Unless you come from a homeschooling family, or are already somehow connected with a homeschooling community, finding supporters of your decision can be like trying to find something on the internet in the 90’s. You search, you ask around, you read articles and books that might point you in the right direction. Eventually you find someone, and your circle grows from there, but you won’t stop juggling judgy Janes who want to break you down. Stand up, load up the kids, and bravely embark on a field trip to Jungle Jim’s for a full day of school work, some fresh fish, and a new hot sauce. You can thank me later.
Hey! Don’t make me say this again! Leave me a comment! (Please?!? Pretty please?!? Aww … you’re so kind! Thanks!)