I am really a schizophrenic homeschooler.
I am just too many conflicting personalities rolled into one person, which means one part of me is always doubting the other.
Part of me is a free spirit. A special kind of free spirit, I admit. No one would mistake me for a flower child or bohemian; I guess I wear my patchouli on the inside. But a big part of me puts very little value on security and familiarity. This has long been a quote that resonates with me:
One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time — Andre Gide
I found this while I was writing my dissertation, and it helped me stay curious and open to new conclusions rather than doing my research and interpretation with a particular end in mind. I think of this quotation often and bring it to bear on many parts of my life. The sentiment behind it has long been a guiding principle for me. It’s the reason I’ve been an independent contractor all these years, a factor in our decision to start homeschooling, a step in my eventual conversion.
On the other hand, part of me — in fact, closely related to that Christopher Columbus explorer part of me — is a very take-charge, git ‘er done, “if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself” kind of person. This personality works well for homeschooling in a way — I very rarely feel cowed by experts (though I can’t say I never do). If anything intimidates me, it’s knowing that *no one* really knows what to do about a lot of things.
The downside of this personality type for homeschooling is that I am frequently tempted to get in there and learn for my kids, or get them to wrestle their learning to the ground in a way that seems sufficiently aggressive.
I felt this pull today, strongly, as I listened to the girls play, frankly playing in a way that really annoyed me and seemed immature for Violet — though there was really nothing wrong with it. This follows a week of doodling in the history books, doing short, cursory piano practices, and general dawdling.
So while I often say that I love homeschooling because it lets my bright children be both advanced and age appropriate, I find that I’m not always feeling it. Violet in particular likes to play and be crazy — anything for a laugh. The other day at co-op I had to tell her to take a garbage can off her head! Even I struggle to reconcile that part of her with her super-brainy side — and I’m married to her anything-for-a-laugh, loves-to-cross-the-line, cares-not-for-social-mores, super-brainy father. (You might suspect, moreover, that if I would marry that kind of man and have that kind of child, I might not be a paragon of normalcy myself.)
Apparently when it comes to my children, I would rather not lose sight of the shore. I don’t want to discover new lands. Like millions of parents before me, I want my kids to grow up and be strong and happy, and I am not willing to take a lot of risks with that.
Today I had to backtrack with Violet and tell her that I am glad that she’s a kid, and that I like homeschooling because I want her to be a kid for as long as she *is* a kid. And I mean that . . . mostly. I also told her that I think she is a great kid, and I mean that too. Both my kids are great, but they have big personalities and big ideas that put my history as a free-spirited risk-taker on the line.
I was reminded of a homily from a few weeks back, about how one of the best ways we can comply with God’s will is just to get out of the way — the presider was speaking about the dogmatic church and the overzealous believer, but no doubt that applies very well to parents too. I think I’m getting the message that it’s time to pull up anchor and loose the sails.