Monday, August 13, 2012

You're Free to Do Whatever Pleases You

ChrisinNY asks:
I am about half way through your book (really enjoying it) and rather than continuing to be bitter about my daughter's public, private, and public charter school experiences, have come to the part of the program where I am blaming myself for NOT homeschooling even though she begged me to do so. Any words of comfort (like the ones you whisper to yourself when you think your homeschool experiment turns out to be, ah...misguided? have unintended consequences?)?

and Catherine asks:
I've been wondering as I read your answers to the questions so far, how do YOU manage the homeschooling thing? are there days (weeks, months) when you feel like throwing in the towel? what's it like being the teacher AND the mother AND all the other things you do? do you need a long bath and a glass of wine each night? or is it so much fun and so interesting that you are carried along by your own enthusiasm?

To me, these are variations on a theme which keeps coming up so, Chris and Catherine, you shall stand in for many.  

Try to look dignified.  

Early on in the blog book tour, someone asked me why on earth I asked for questions that would make me look like an idiot. We'll let seasoned mental-health professionals plumb the depths of that impulse, but the first reason that comes to my mind is because I want everyone to feel welcome to this party. And more than any other topic I can think of, when a parent talks about the choices made educating his or her child, someone else is going to get their feelings hurt. Or feel judged. Or just generally feel awful. And when it's something like homeschooling -- which by its very nature can be perceived as a lofted middle-finger to how most people are educating their children -- it can seem very much as if I'm smiling smugly about how right I am. And if I'm that right, we all know what you are.

 I promise you, it's not like that.  

Homeschooling is an experiment, an experiment based on what we know about our child, what seems to be delivering the best outcomes, and what looks as if it might fit within our family. But so is the public school down the street, the charter school your friends helped create, and the private school Grandma and Grandpa help pay for your kid to attend. Some experiments work out. Some don't. If this one doesn't, I pray I have the lack of ego to figure this out in time to put Alice someplace where she's getting what she needs.  

Some days -- when she takes an online class and someone who isn't me teaches her something I couldn't explain nearly as well; and she shares a joke with an online classmate; and then we hang out together while she teaches herself Java on -- I think we're doing it right. Some days -- when I'm hiding in the bedroom by 7:30 and I've declared it "Everyone makes their own damn dinner" day -- I'm a little less certain. Some hours motor along in their own enthusiasm and joy. Others feel like I'm stuck in a production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night."  

So, do I worry? Oh, yes. Do I need a long bath and a glass of wine at the end of the day? No,but that's only because I'm more of a Benadryl person -- both allergic and insomniac. In those moments before I start to breathe and drift off to sleep, I do worry that we aren't doing right by the kid.  But the thought I hold -- the thought I give to anyone who needs it -- is that humans aren't designed to only thrive in perfection. We're more durable than that. I think a child who isn't entirely happy with his or her current state of being but feels confident enough to express that feeling and try to work towards a better situation with authority figures -- both emotional and academic -- learns a valuable lesson, something to use for the rest of his or her life.

And if they can't fix it? Working your best within a less than ideal environment is a lesson, too. Let the record show I would define Alice's current educational path as mostly manageable and sometimes very nice but still less than perfect. At some level, I have to have faith that what she's getting is enough.

Does that help?


Blogger 6512 and growing said...

Loved your article on home schooling on the Wall Street Journal website. The analogy of the music industry changing "overnight" is a good point. It will be interesting to see what changes in the school paradigm in the upcoming years.

Where I live there is a "shared school" program where home-schoolers can go to the public school 2 days/week. This program continues to grow, not because more home-schoolers are finding out about it, but because more people are finding the wherewithal to homeschool knowing they can get some public school support.

I look forward to reading your book!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh, we had those everyone make their own dinner times. Only I named it "fend for yourselves". And, um, it lasted all weekend. I cooked dinner Monday through Thursday and my two daughters fed themselves from Saturday mornings through Sunday evenings. I was a single parent, otherwise, I might have just passed the chore onto another adult. Because it says volumes about my cooking that the girls actually *preferred* fend for yourself days.

However, we did do TGIF at local restaurants. So we all got really good food at least once a week. We've all survived. And both my daughters are much better cooks than I am. Maybe it was all that practice they got growing up. :)

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

Thank you so much for answering my question, and for reminding me that kids are resilient and imperfection is normal! As my 8-year-old told me recently, to cheer me up as I rewrite my thesis, 'Perfection is impossible. Just do your best'.

4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Does that help?"


6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn, Thanks for this post. My 12 yr old daughter is headed back to "real school" after 3 yrs at home. I loved our time together and hope her time was well spent. At home she was like a wilting flower. She has become almost too introspective and fearful. I think she may need to see and feel the world around her (within the confines of a small parochial school). I still believe in homeschooling but now understand that no educational path is perfect. Some children need different options at different times in their lives. We are now setting off on a new experiment! And I will continue to worry no matter what educational path we are on.... Lyn

9:34 AM  
Blogger CC (for Counselor Cynthia) said...

I saw a review of this book in "People" magazine and immediately downloaded it. I read it right away and in short order -- delicious read! I blogged about it on my own blog, I have a nice group of followers, so I hope they follow my suggestion for enjoying this terrific book! Cynthia

2:49 PM  
Blogger CC (for Counselor Cynthia) said...

Loved your book and blogged about it on my own blog,!

2:51 PM  

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