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Homeschool + Marriage

In the spirit of Valentine's Day (love) and Black History (re-imagined education), I wanted to talk about my love story with both Mike and re-imagined homeschooling. 



The Beginning 

Cincinnati, South Jersey, Brooklyn, Virginia (D.C. area), Maryland, Brooklyn (again) 


Mike and I almost didn't happen. 


Mike and I saw each other at a football game in 2000. We liked what we saw, but folks were standing in the way and purposefully stopping our interaction (teenage things). We met at a movie theater months later - I was coming from a double date. He was going into a group dating situation. But there was something so magnetic. I gave him my number - he still has the paper ❤️. He called my home phone, and I never picked up. We've been over this - I was a social human who would go home and become a hobbit. So he gave up until a friend convinced him to try again; this happened to be one of the days my father was (in his words) "sick and tired of being my answering machine. I needed to pick up the phone." 


Thank God I did. He was terrific; the rest is history - we were married by 23 & 24! I had a stinking blast and the most lovely marriage (for me) - this isn't a highlight reel; it's truth - I wrote about our marriage, culinary, and educational adventures in my blog (Eat, Drink, & Be Married - 20 & married in NYC). I will elaborate more in a different story. 


 

Motherhood: 

Jersey City, Clifton, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Decatur, East ATL 




Neiko 


We had our first baby on our sixth anniversary (7/28/2013). The first year was a breeze; the second was a lot harder. When he was born, we had a nanny. The situation was an absolute disaster. So, Mike worked from home & stayed home with our son 2-3 days a week while I taught at a charter school. Mike & Neiko's days were so structured and seamless - Mike was able to get everything accomplished. 


But when Mike signed up for coaching middle school basketball and I got off from work and needed to do the afternoon and evening routine with my sweet boy 🥴 my structure with our sweet baby wasn't as tight, and I felt overwhelmed and weak. Mike couldn't relate. There was tension. The summer previously (my summer break), when Neiko and I spent the summer together every day outdoors and nomadic, was the best time of my life. I couldn't understand why, after work, our evenings felt so hard. 


So we made a rough but necessary decision - I quit my teaching job for an educational job where I could work from home and stay with Neiko (part-time). This season began what Neiko called "mama school" and once again created for us the flexibility to be nomadic.  


Noah


Mama School continued until we moved to Philly, and I got pregnant and super sick the entire pregnancy. Neiko (three) went to the best school (for our family) five days a week. I was the room mom and spent many days at the school. It was the perfect balance for that season. I always planned to teach or work at the school my boys attended. 


But then we moved to Cincinnati, where we had Noah Bear. Family and a part-time program now surrounded my sweet Neiko. He loved it - it's still one of his favorite years. My sister-in-law, mom, mother-in-law, and a dear family friend watched Noah at home as I often worked in the same room, taking a walk or going upstairs. Never too far from our baby Bear (who would scream if he couldn't smell me, hahaha). 


By this point, I fell in love with having my boys close to me throughout the day. So, when we moved to Atlanta because Mike had a job he couldn't refuse, we made a bargain, and Mike agreed on a Waldorf school for Neiko.


This was a change because Waldorf and progressive education had been a "no" for him for years - Mike is all about a traditional education. Hearing Neiko would enjoy a play-based (only) education at five years old was not his cup of tea. But I was so drawn to the Waldorf education my cousin had introduced me to - part-time hours, art, nature, gentleness - I had to try it, and Mike would be traveling all the time anyway. Noah went into a part-time permaculture class, and Neiko into Waldorf. 


An education steeped in nature, gentleness, and arts education was in our lives forever - there was so much beauty and nature. And as much as I loved it, with both my boys being the only black boys in their classes - I knew there had to be a better fit.


 

Time For Learning:


Mike took less than three weeks to get cold feet on the Waldorf decision. Our families and friends did not help 🥴😅😂. But by August, I was signing us up for a program that allowed me to teach Neiko at home. This program was Time for Learning. And boy, I could not be more grateful for Mike's push for structure. 


There are so many stories and educational journeys between 2018 and now, but one consistent thing is T4L. The program helps me stay organized and create enough balance in our household.  


This tool allows me to access state standards and plan lessons accordingly. I get to be incredibly creative within (well needed 😬) perimeters. Regarding Math and other classes best taught by the program, we have the boys work from the site and create supplements. Because many of their assessments are taken on T4L, I can keep track of my boys' progress in each subject, which is handy for our homeschool portfolio. 


Although I create most of our lessons and materials because it gives me the creativity and the flow I crave, it is also steady and provides the "schoolishness" that offers Mike what he needs. 


 

The Conclusion



Our push and pull - me leaning towards complete fluidity and flow and Mike needing structure and discipline has been incredibly challenging in our homeschool season. If I'm honest, we have experienced more tension around homeschool education than anything else (outside of that second year of parenthood) in our 23 years of love & nearly 17 years of marriage. 


I yearn for a revolutionary education (similar to unschooling) experience that centers on beauty, nature, identity, and love. On the other hand, Mike wants structure, discipline, academic excellence, outsourced programming, and exposure. 


My body and mind has also gotten used to and enjoys the consistent creative and academic flow of an educator. Whereas our life calls for me to have balance.


But the blessing to the tension is that we are working together. We are operating together for what we know is our path: a homeschool lifestyle. We are building and creating together, which means we have times of doubt, power struggle, fear, and, as Pastor Roy says, "intense fellowship." Through this process, we learned meeting in the middle was nearly impossible, so we had to come together and imagine and create something unique to our household.


In the last month or two, our homeschool flow has been the best it's ever been (beautifully structured); our communication has improved tremendously. We are on the same page, and our homeschool flow meets the needs of everyone in our home, but this is a consistent conversation and a space for steady work. So we will continue to pray, be diligent, lean into God's grace, and take it moment by moment - pivoting when needed. 


Until next time, Shalom.

Shelby S.




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