April Garcia is a homeschooling mom and a poet, though she once cared little to do either.
Having experienced homeschooling herself for five years growing up, April had sworn she would never homeschool her kids.
“I lacked the patience, and I just didn’t want to,” April says. “I looked forward to my kids starting school and getting out of the house so I could have some time to myself.”
However, after spending half a school year remotely teaching her kids through the school district during the COVID-19 outbreak, April was quite surprised to realize she enjoyed teaching her children at home.
“As it turns out, after all those years of saying I’d never do it and was anti-homeschooling, it was something I actually did want to do,” April says.
Now, April has homeschooled her children for two years and has encountered some struggles. For instance, two of her children wanted to go back to school.
“By the end of the first year, they realized how much freedom we have to do what we want when we want,” April says. “We have our own schedule; we don’t follow anybody else’s schedule. We learn what we want to learn, but we don’t minus what Texas requires because there are certain subjects the state of Texas requires.”
Another concern that plagued April during that first year of homeschooling was her own self-doubt.
“I spent that entire first year stressing whether or not I was doing it right [and if] my kids [were] learning anything,” April says.
However, about halfway through the school year, April began to see the fruits of her labor when she saw her children making real-world connections from their curriculum. Seeing how much her children learned and retained from the previous year, April became more confident in her ability to homeschool her children.
Homeschooling her children has provided many beautiful experiences April believes she would have missed if her children were in school, such as being present for the moments when her children learn something new. April also takes great joy in hearing her kids talking about the subjects they learned during school hours and seeing them take a genuine interest in their studies.
“When my kids were in public school, I never knew what they were learning about,” April says. “They didn’t talk about what they had learned. If I tried to ask them, I would usually get an ‘I don’t know.'”
April joined a local homeschool group to make sure her children had the opportunity to socialize. One of the fun events they attended was a Halloween party, where her kids surprised her with an unexpected connection they made between their schoolwork and one of their Halloween costumes.
“During our first year of homeschooling, my second son got a Thing 1 or Thing 2 costume,” April says. “Well, the joke they came up with was, ‘Oh, thing! You’re a noun! You know, person, place or thing.’ I was like, ‘Holy crap! They’re actually learning something!’ So, the joke became, he wasn’t Thing 1 or Thing 2; he was a noun for Halloween.”
Regarding her role as a poet, April began writing poetry during her first year of high school in 1999.
“It was the corniest ‘roses are red, violets are blue’ kind of poetry you have ever heard,” she says.
Although April had used poetry to express feelings, she had never taken an active interest in poetry until a college English professor’s encouragement and mentorship ignited a real passion for it. Her English professor, Marian Haddad, is a published poet, so April decided to show her some of her work to gain a few tips.
The beginning of the mentorship was rough for April.
“When I first started working with her, she was very blunt,” April says. “At first, it was so hard because you have such an attachment to your writing that, in your eyes, it’s absolutely perfect. There’s no possible way anything could be wrong with it. I was not used to constructive criticism, so, in my mind, she’s just bashing my work, and I’m thinking I just completely suck at this. So, I’m sitting there trying not to break down in tears. But eventually, I got used to it.”
After taking years off from school after having her second child, April returned to college and majored in general studies with a concentration on poetry.
Submissions were one of the challenges April faced with her poetry. Initially, the process was disheartening.
“When I started submitting poems and getting all these constant rejections, I thought I must really suck,” April says. “Nobody wants to publish my poetry. But I learned through my mentor there are a ton of people submitting their work and trying to get published. It’s not just a few people. So, you should expect more rejections than acceptances.”
Since 2008, April has had nine poems published. Her first two publications came through a contest held by the Laurel Crown Foundation during an annual art and poetry festival in her local area. April submitted poetry in 2008 and 2009 but did not win either competition. However, the organization considered her poems honorable mentions and published them in its anthologies for those two years.
April had a third poem published by Lantana Review through her community college in the spring of 2009. After transferring to a university, April had three or four more poems published through the institution’s online journal for creative writers, The Penmen Review. April’s poem “Giving Birth” also made it into the university’s first anthology.
Through her university classes, April studied many forms of poetry, including the sonnet, free verse and erasures (also known as white-out, black-out and cutout poetry).
After gaining a broader knowledge of poetry forms, April had a couple of white-out poems published in Unlost Journal.
“The first submission was complete nonsense,” she says. “It was a page I took out of one of the Minecraft novels. It’s such a weird poem, but it’s so fun! I absolutely love it.”
One of the poets who most inspires April is E.E. Cummings.
“His poetry is so chaotic,” April says. “A lot of poetry is very neat and tidy, and his poetry is kind of all over the place. He’s the first experimental poet, if you will.”
Of course, the most influential figure for April was her English professor and mentor.
Though April loves her poetry, she struggles to find time for it because most of her time and energy goes into raising four children, including one toddler, and homeschooling three children in different grades.
“Within this last year, I’ve tried to make my poetry more of a priority again,” April says. “I’ve attended a couple of online free writing workshops with a fellow poet and finally attended my first Zoom meeting with the Poetry Society of Texas.”
With all the things going on in April’s life, it is difficult for her to find balance.
“I feel like there is no balance; it’s just chaos,” April says. “The most important thing I was told when I made the decision to homeschool was, ‘You can homeschool, you can have a clean house and you can have dinner on the table every night, but you cannot have all three.’”
One of the primary sources that help April balance her roles is the support she gets from her family. Her children help with chores, and her husband helps with dinner.
Though April struggles to find balance, she does have her future goals set in stone. April aspires to publish a poetry book one day. She also plans to homeschool all four of her children through high school.
April’s advice for other moms looking to homeschool their children is the same advice given to her when she first started: “You can homeschool, you can have a clean house and you can have dinner on the table every night, but you can’t have all three. Homeschooling is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is hard, but it is very rewarding. Your homeschooling can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t feel you must do what this family or that family is doing.”
April is content with watching her children grow and learn from home, and any poem she gets published is considered a win for her.
“‘She can be both’ means she can be whatever she wants to be,” April says. “She’s not confined to one thing. I’m not just a daughter, wife, mother, Christian or poet. I am all of these things. Nobody is just a woman. Everybody is so much more than that.”