"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Was Wrong About Homeschooling

Can I confess something? I was wrong about homeschooling. I don't mean that I am going to stop or that I think its bad. I just feel guilty of a bad attitude about it. Just like so many parenting choices (natural birth, traditional vaccination, no spanking, giving an allowance) I think I've been too polar built myself a temple of superiority. Homeschooling works for us, its what we're doing right now. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it and sometimes I feel super empowered and like I have the world by a string. But truth...its still just real life and real parenthood and real school.
A peek into my childhood. There's my artist grandmother, my mama and papa, myself in the center, and my next two sisters...just halfway done with the family. I must have been around 5 or 6.
The trick is, I think I was wrong about the way I talked to my kids about school at first. I started out really us/them and very self justifying. I was excited and wanted homeschool to be amaaaaazing, and wanted so badly to be right (as we all do) and I was scared by my children and everyone else around me questioning my choices and demanding justification for schooling in some alternative way. I think the truth is, I have no perfect answers. I don't KNOW that this is the best thing ever, sometimes I do feel like my kids won't listen to me, sometimes I feel like its all too much to handle. I'm not homeschooling because its perfect or even because it is objectively the best choice ever. (Who can know that?!?) I'm homeschooling because, at the moment it seems like the best thing for us to be trying and because there are lots of wins for our lifestyle and family philosophy. I need to make no promises for the future and I need to tell myself, other people and my children that there are lovely, lovely people who come out of all the methods of schooling that exist.

When Ru got old enough to realize that all his little friends were starting to enroll in school he started asking me questions: "When will I go to school Mom? When do I get to ride the bus? Why don't I know my new teacher's name? etc." Its scary to look your little kid in the eye, listen to a thing they want and consider to be normal and tell them you have planned to do something else. Its scary when its owning Barbies or having giant lush birthday parties or eating junk foods daily or going to Disney World and its scary when its school. I don't want him to miss out and I don't want him to be sad and I don't want to choose crazy, pale, vapid things for my kids. I'm doing the best I can. I'm choosing what I think will be good. I also know how it feels to have your judgement questioned or have your choices raise eyebrows and induce condescension. Its tempting to take this fear and the desire to be right and turn it into a campaign to prove your own choice making superiority. I did that. I told my kid that what we were doing was better than anyone, I told him that he was so lucky, I told him that school was horrible. I told him other people were ignorant or blind to the genius of our own path. I'm sorry now. I realize I totally annihilated that one.

This year has been full of big lessons about acceptance, learning that shame is poison, getting rid of labels and seeing humanity, searching for love and cultivating it blindly until it overwhelms me with relief, hearing what people mean to say instead of what they really said, learning to value in everything, and owning my own dark side. Homeschool superiority is part of that. I've changed my rhetoric and had long conversations with my kids about it. I tell them the thing I like and didn't like about homeschooling and public schooling, I've talked with them about how they'll become more and more involved in making their own educational choices as they get older. I've talked about how good schools make good neighborhoods and good cities and good citizens and so they always matter...even if that's not where we attend. I've talked about how its important not to be unkind to other people because they are different from us. I've talked to them and to A about putting them in school later at some point, partly so that they see the other side of the fence and have a more well-rounded understanding.  I've talked about how you can choose something that is right and good and there can still be other rights and goods.

Two other things that have fed into this realization have been my sister and a homeschooling acquaintance changing her schooling plan. My sister Lockbox, was homeschooled and public schooled by halves like I was and she came out of her experience with a pretty different perspective. I love her and respect her and she loves and respects me but she has no plans to homeschool any future children she may have, she thinks public schools are great and thinks daycare sounds perfectly acceptable when wisely chosen. Its easy to demonize the other when they aren't your own dang family, living in your own dang house, being so dang nice and normal right next to you. Another thing that go up under my skin and bothered me was watching one of the local homeschooled teens choose to go to a brick and mortar school this year, her mother is an avid unschool advocate and has been very involved in planning and strategizing for homeschool culture and community in the area. Seeing her daughter make the transition brought back so strongly all my own feelings and memories of making the switch to a highschool myself. I remember all the social pressure to forswear my previous world, "You were homeschooled? Did you hate it?!?" And the concerned questions from everyone who was watching, "Are you bored out of your mind? Do you wish you hadn't stopped home schooling?" Watching this local girl, and chatting with her for just a minute or two I realized that what I wanted to tell her was the kind of thing I should have been telling my kids and other people all along. "You'll do fine. It'll be a little scary and there will be thing that you'll miss but it'll be exciting...and in the long run, you'll be so lucky to have personal experience with both worlds. Great people come out of all the schools there are. Your school does not define who you are...you do."

So yeah...that's where I came from since last year at First Day and where I am now. From polar fortress building to acceptance and vulnerability. I feel like it was way too long in coming and I can hardly believe that was me but both parts of the story are real and important and allowed. Then Me and Now Me both have value....speaking of acceptance. So embarrassing to see your own frail ego at work and see the painful, stupid things you said and the completely wrong things you told your children. Hard to swallow and own that stuff and also not have it turn into self-hatred or denial of your own mistakes. I've been talking a lot this year to my kids too about how I'm a work in progress with a heavy need for grace and forgiveness.

I tell the boys now: "I'm doing the best I can and when I learn something better I change and I mess up sometimes, that's why I need to understand when you mess up....I do it too and we all want to do better. Lets learn together." And they're amazingly forgiving and healing to me.

"Its okay Mommy. I get it. I know how that feels."



  1. I appreciate your blogs so much. I relate to you in so many ways. It helps to know that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings, making the road to individual acceptance and healing a little easier. The pressure I put on myself as a mother is relentless. I constantly have to remind myself that stepping back to look at life's bigger pictures is always a good thing, no matter what demons/mistakes it may reveal and how hard it is to face them. And, boy, it is way too hard... Thanks for sharing. Love to you and your boys. :)