Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning at Home: Part 6 of 9


...schooling is about more than school.  I think this point has been made well enough already.

I think this is actually the conclusion that most h/schoolers reach at some point in their journey, whether articulated or not - and I guess that makes sense because otherwise we might not undertake the monumental task of schooling our children at home.

This wasn't as obvious to me, though, for a long least, not at a heart, deep-down-gut level.  I'm also a little slower than most!

You see, I was the girl, during my growing up years, for whom the school system was designed.  I was:  Smart, at least in an academic sense; a very good student; verbal and articulate; in possession of decent writing skills; friendly and good at getting along with diverse groups of fellow students as well as with teachers and professors; willing to follow someone else'e lead in terms of being taught via curriculum; willing to be led.

I was an academic at heart.  I am still an academic at heart, I think.  I love writing and philosophizing and being with students and teachers, and learning and mulling things over, and cramming for exams.  One of the greater sources of joy in my life has been healthy debate - the back-and-forth of ideas with the sole focus exercising one's mind to the best possible outcome(s).

I would have loved h/schooling my children in a manner similar to how I was taught.  In fact, that's essentially what I've been doing at home with Matthew for the past few years:  Following grade-level curriculum, for the most part, and doing lots of other stuff on the side during all of our extra time.

But, as I've stated, it hasn't been working as well as I might have hoped...for any of us.  We had, frankly, one really good day of h/schooling last winter.  One.  It was a Friday.

When, a few months ago, I decided to call it quits on school as we knew it, we were all (hugely) relieved that the pressure was off.  I don't think I could have handled another day.  When Matthew's natural curiosity started to come back, I discovered that, although school had stopped, learning did not.

That that's the thing I've most had to grapple with since we ceased school as we knew it...that when schooling stopped, the learning began.

You have no idea how hard this has been for this true-blue academic who just wants to dive into curriculum and a regular schedule and just go about doing home.  I've been hanging on with tooth and nail to this ideal notion that I'd envisioned for our at-home schooling.  I don't want to change this.  I really don't.  I'm not sure that I can do something different...that I am capable of changing as much as I need to change, being so much out of my comfort zone.

But I'm the best bet my kids have.  Geoff and I are the best bets our kids have.  They need me/us, quite desperately, to climb aboard a different train and take them on a new type of learning adventure.

I am scared.  Truly.  A couple of weeks ago, I experienced something that I can only liken to what I imagine a panic attack to be like.  I woke up at 2 in the morning:  Sweating; heart racing; breathing so hard that I couldn't catch my breath.  I sat on the edge of my bed, breath lurching through me unevenly and my body rocking back and forth as I tried to gain a measure of control.  All I could think about, obsess about, even in my sleep, was about schooling my children and panicking because I can't do this. I just can't.  I am so terrified of messing this up.  And the stakes are so high.  I get only one shot at this.

If I'm my kids' best bet, what happens if and when I screw this up?

Though philosophically I'm happy to think through pretty much any idea you throw at me, I've discovered that I'm not one who wants to think out of the box this much...I don't want to be that h/schooling parent who goes off some kind of deep end.  I'm just not her.

Our family is already different enough and always, always visible and memorable and watched and judged:
  • H/schoolers;
  • Adoptive family;
  • Trans-racial family (and therefore doubly watched and remembered);
  • Christians;
  • Employing (or attempting to employ) a developmental parenting style;
  • A traditional nuclear family unit where the dad goes to work and the mom stays at home with the kids.
I'm already waaay too out there for my comfort, being this different from the norm.  It's just too much.  I'm tired of being the different family.  I'm tired of always being watched and judged.  I'm breathing a little hard just writing this and knowing where I'm headed.  I'm not creative enough to do what I need to do and I'm scared.

And then I remind myself, as I sometimes do my children when they want so badly to try something that they are nonetheless scared to do...I need to put my wings of bravery on...otherwise known as big girl panties.  I'm gonna do this thing for the sake of my kids.

I'm puttin' on the big girl panties and forging ahead.

Where're we headed?

Well, we're venturing into the world of unschooling.

(to be continued)


  1. Hi Ruth,
    I'm really looking forward to seeing how this unschooling project will unfold for your family. As someone who has also made that unschooling choice for my family, I also bring all kinds of enthusiasms, questions and concerns to the table. Although it actually comes pretty naturally to me, that has its own potential pitfalls and worries. What might I be missing because of my own blindspots? Am I just doing things this way because it's easy for me? Etc. etc. Looking forward to more posts and conversations.

    1. Interesting how this is so natural for one person and not for another...and interesting that for you this is easier than doing school another way, whereas for me it's more terrifying than anything!

      You're my calm in the storm, Tammy.


  2. Hi Ruth,
    The roots of the word "scholar" and "school" is from Latin: schola... which meant leisure! Not leisure like fooling around and laziness... but the privilege and pleasure of leisure from boring manual labour, leisure (and time and space) to engage in learning, conversation, thinking, the life of the mind and spirit, etc...