Have you ever looked back at your life and been in complete awe of how it has unfolded? I know I have…a lot. If you had asked me ten years ago what my life would look like a decade later, I would never, in a million years, said it would resemble anything like it does.
A wife…no surprise, we all knew I would be with Daryl forever.
A mom of two…not really a surprise either…I love kids and actually taught for years before having them.
A professional photographer running a thriving studio and traveling all over the place…nope didn’t see that one coming.
A homeschool mom…wait a minute…really a “homeschool mom”? Where the heck did that come from? Aren’t you supposed to wear a dress all the time and have hair like Loretta Lynn if you are going to do that? (Nothing against Loretta Lynn, after all, I really did love her hair when I was little but that is a whole other topic)
So yep, here I sit with my crazy…never a dull moment…full of laughter…amazing life. Maybe the universe, God or whoever the heck is running the show does indeed have a sense of humor. Most have one of three questions when they meet me or drop me an e-mail. The questions go something like this:
- “How in the world do you manage to run a business and homeschool?!”
- “Are you nuts?
- “You what? Oh really? What about socialization?” (every homeschool parent hears this last one at least three times a week 😉
Walk with me –
It all started my daughter’s first year of kindergarten. It turns out I had passed down a terrible trait to her – Dyslexia. We knew that chances were one of the kids would end up with it. As I mentioned before, I used to teach before having children of my own. One of the things I taught, once upon a lifetime ago, was Reading Recovery. Who better to teach reading than someone who had a huge struggle learning to read herself?
I LOVED my kids school…loved it! Small private catholic school. Amazing teachers and families. But I knew that what she would need was above what they could offer. The same was true as for our public school system. It wasn’t the future that I wanted for her. I can remember sitting in the car crying with all the guilt of the world, knowing the struggle that was ahead of her, recalling the feelings that come with dyslexia/learning disabilities. Remembering the self confidence issues I experienced throughout school was enough for me to know I could not put her through that if I had an option.
And I did have an option. Homeschooling.
I had only been back to work full-time for the year she had gone to school full-time. I have had the studio since she was a baby, but always worked it part-time. My business exploded that year. I was shooting for 2 magazines with 20+ magazine covers under my belt. I traveled to Mexico and Jamaica to shoot weddings. My career was well…a booming career. Could I really give up my career and go back home to not only be full-time mom again, but also add the title of teacher? How would I not completely mess them up?
Daryl and I spent a good 6 months researching the option. Our son was having issues with anxiety in school and was so unhappy. He had been begging to homeschool since he started kindergarten. I had previously spent time teaching him before K and he remembered it as “so much fun!”. So we knew he would love it. But Haley we knew would be harder to convince…she loved her friends and the social part. What girl doesn’t?
When we decided to take the plunge we said we would do it for a year. Get everybody straight and on track. I would put my business back to part-time. Only shooting 2 days a week and working evenings. And then life happened once again the way it always does. It turns out homeschooling wasn’t even close to what I thought it would be. I was sure that we would stick out like a sore thumb within our area’s large homeschooling community. We do not belong to a church currently…just never found one we liked after we moved across town. I dress rather trendy most days. I work outside the home often out of the area/state. I do drive a mini van so that was on my side! right? Let me tell you there are a lot of stereotypes that I have found to be soooo wrong.
The first thing I did was join as many local Yahoo forums with other local homeschoolers as possible. We joined a co-op for additional classes (kind of like kiddy college..they get to take various classes through out the year). We joined homeschool gymnastics and softball, took field trips even went to homeschool skate days at the local roller skating rink. Before we knew it,we had friends! The kids soon had all the same friendships and even more activities as they did in traditional school. It was NOTHING like what I thought it would be. And here’s the kicker – they were learning! Haley actually started to read! Granted, she is no speed reader but she is doing great! Adam…well he has actually skipped half of third grade and jumped to fourth early. With homeschooling, the best part is I can meet them where they are with their curriculum. If they aren’t “getting” a subject we stay on it until they do.
So when the choice had to be made whether to go back to traditional school or homeschool again this year, the kids made the call and “Homeschool!” it was.
The women (and men) that I have met via homeschooling are hands down my heroes. They are some of the most amazing, strong, intelligent people I have ever been around. They push me to be a better person, mother and friend. I could surely not have gotten through the last few years with out their support and help in answering all of my gazillion questions. Are there a few nuts in the bunch? Uhmmm yeah, but show me a group where there are not. It has been an amazing journey for sure, one I will remember fondly.
About the career….we parents give up so much for our kids don’t we? When I mentor new photographers, especially women, the first thing I tell them is your family HAS to come first. Your kids are going to grow up and they are going to leave the nest. Your camera will still be there. You only get one chance to give your children a fantastic childhood. There are NO do-overs. Make sure they have good memories. Memories are what are going to get you and them through life’s bad days.
I am a strong believer in the theory that if you do something, anything, for the right, authentic reasons and with a positive attitude then only good things will come from it. This theory has yet to fail me. A happy spirit goes along way in life 😉
I was positive that my business would dwindle away. I mean how much could I actually do with only two days a week to shoot? The business has been just fine. I made sure my pricing was correct (this was huge) and time management has been key. My clients are AMAZING. They have been so supportive. I have been floored by editors that have gone out of their way to work around my schedule (God bless them!). I have had clients tell me to bring my kids, that they would rather the kids come with than for me to NOT do a session for their kids! Granted, I have yet to really do that because I do want to stay professional but just the kindness and understanding with the offer leaves me speechless (that doesn’t happen much..lol!)
Yes the universe puts these roads in front of you and Lord only knows were I will be 10 years from now. But I know one thing for sure – my family will have some amazing memories…amazing. My children are each other’s best friend. They are the sweetest kids I know and our relationship is strong from all the time we spend together. Our home will always be their “soft place to fall”.
Do you have to homeschool to create fantastic family memories? Heck no! It isn’t always about quantity of time but quality.
So a photographer can not make a post without pictures…it would just be wrong! I recently made a video for our family of some of the field trips from the last 6 months or so and thought “what the heck”, why not share it with the world? Keep in mind these are my family’s snapshots, so not always the fanciest, but you can have a glimpse into what life is like in the Mccuiston Academy:-)