The Courage of My Contradictions

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.



Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, I'm Catholic Why?, Oh Mother, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Socialization, Why Homeschool?

7 responses to “The Courage of My Contradictions

  1. what amazing timing this post is for me. I was sitting down to write my own “just get out of the way” post about parenting. I have a hard time with that when it comes to my dd. I like her to stick to this little bit of shore I have all carefully mapped out – and meanwhile she is out there sailing. As she gets farther from my shore, I have days when I’m able to let her go and wish her a happy journey for wherever she chooses to go – and days when I pin her down and won’t let her move an inch out of my comfort zone.

    who knew parenting would be quite this hard?

    from one free-spirited control-freak to another, ((hugs))

  2. I love the Gide quote! I’m going to use that, for sure. It’s nice to hear your perspective. I think homeschooling is great, but am going to try pre-school a few hours a week, so that I can get some work done…sigh. Gotta work–economic necessity.

  3. Btw, looking forward to perusing your blog when I have some more time! I just started a new one


  4. So what would that look like?

  5. You mean it wouldn’t look like platitudinizing on my blog?! 😉

    Good question — after this very long day preceded by no sleep (sick Victoria) I will have to get specific.

  6. This is a great post! I swear you are living in my house, including the description of the father figure.

    We have three boys, ages 7 to 2. All blond, all little brainiacs. And we definitely have homeschooling days like you are describing.

    I’ve morphed over the years from free spirit to excruciating organized and controlled, because keeping multiple plates spinning requires that. But the free spirit is in there somewhere. And the days I can summon enough power to resurrect her actually end up being the better ones here.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.


  7. I think those two–the “free spirit” and the “take charge”–are the two strongest aspects of my personality as well. Where I run into trouble is that I have a third aspect that totally conflicts with those two. It’s the comfort-loving, content, laid-back side. So, though I’d love nothing more than to take charge and steer the ship to new shores, I also think the shore we are on is pretty sweet, so why not relax and enjoy it. I think I end up confusing my kids a lot of the time with my mixed messages. Not to mention my poor husband.
    Let me know when you get it all figured out, ok?

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