It’s been four years since we started homeschooling. Four years and a few months ago we started down an exciting path of learning about homeschooling, learning about educational theories, learning about types of giftedness. We had the usual issues of dealing with skeptics, figuring out what the change would mean for our family life, but that was more an adventure than a chore.

Eventually, the excitement wore off. That was a good thing, really. Homeschooling wasn’t a battle we had to fight or even a wheel we needed to reinvent. It was just what we did, like eating three meals a day — some great meals, some bad ones, a lot of unmemorable ones.

The honeymoon ended, but we were happy with the mundane reality of doing whatever the day called for. It was a nice break from feeling like salmon swimming upstream.

Then, somehow, happy everyday-ness started to feel like a rut. In addition, after four years of homeschooling it became clear that wonderful as homeschooling is, it’s hardly a panacea. Children still hit puberty. Intense children are still intense. Intense parents are still intense. I developed a lot of sympathy for the teachers who didn’t know what to do with my kids — neither do I. Nor do the kids — it’s lovely for people who can manage their intensity and whatever else life hands them with minimal support or guidance, but that’s never been me or my husband, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s not my kids either.

So I’ve been considering school. School, where someone could deal with the intensity for a while. School, where someone else could create structure. School, where my kids couldn’t be fighting with each other over nothing!

It didn’t take long to realize that for lots of reasons traditional school wouldn’t be happening for Violet. It’s Just. Not. A Fit. It’s not a giftedness thing so much as, well, a lot of other things that are really her business.

But for Victoria I thought it might be a great idea. If nothing else she would have the opportunity to make friends without a domineering older sister around. Yeah, yeah, it’s great that homeschooled kids can be in mixed-age groups and be great friends with siblings, but now that we’ve done that for a while it’s clear that not all children benefit in the same way from that situation. And someone else could try giving her instructions and see if she listens to them!

But once we started discussing school as a real possibility, I could see the potential problems — vacations were just the beginning! We struggle to deal with the asynchrony of her interests and abilities in a homeschool setting — her handwriting and math skills are not anywhere near the level of her science interests. Would she be getting the foreign language education she wants and we want for her? She gets frustrated with the noise and roughhousing of the kids at our homeschool co-ops — wouldn’t school be more of the same, for more hours of more days? And she just plain doesn’t like most kids her age. Where her sister has always been eager to act like a younger, crazier child, Victoria really doesn’t enjoy it. She wants to go sit and talk somewhere quiet, or “enjoy nature.”

I’m not saying school would be a *bad* place for her, but I can’t see how upending our current family style to accommodate school would offer enough benefits to be worth the effort. It wouldn’t seem to address any of the issues that are making life tough for her, and us.

The thing about being a salmon swimming upstream rather than a lazy sunbather floating contentedly down the river is that it requires intention. When the struggle ends, the mindful intention can slip away eventually as well, and when you find yourself with a punctured innertube in rocky rapids, it’s much easier to freak out than it is to find that mindful intention again.

So I’m recommitting, bringing myself back to that beginning place of learning, shaking things up, paying close attention because new things are happening. It’s a lot of work, a lot more work than it was four years ago, to haul my mind back to what’s happening right now. As far as I can tell, however, it’s probably more pleasant work than the terrible grind of the alternatives.



Filed under Gifted Ed, Oh Mother, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Why Homeschool?

6 responses to “Recommitting

  1. lapazfarm

    I have to do a mental evaluation of our journey every few years or so, also. Actually I think a whole lot of us do. It’s a good thing because, you know, things change. We change, our children change, our situations change, etc. so the solution that works so well at one time may not *always* work so well. Add to that the newness wearing off, which always dampens the excitement, and the grass starts to seem so much greener over in the public school play ground.
    I also realize that (as you’ve noted) homeschooling is not a panacea, but then neither is traditional school and all the reasons we left school in the first place have not magically gone away because our homeschooling has grown stale.
    So, I have solved this dilemma for myself (at least for now) by doing a fairly regular (3 or 4 years) re-evaluation, followed by a much-needed re-invigorating shuffle. I go from unschooling to more structure or vice-versa. Change my setting (either a major move or just a furniture re-arrange) or my alter my focus (more art, writing, or science, etc) or vary my methods (notebooking, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, etc). This, so far, always seems to help.
    But, you know all this already, so I’m not sure why I’m writing this here. I just was thinking that I’d share that I have been where you are and will be again, I’m sure! In fact, I’m doing my re-shuffle right now. Going back to some notebooking and CM style stuff next year. We’ll see how long that lasts for us slacker unschoolers!

  2. shaun

    Hmm, maybe we need to move to Florida and back again! I could stand a little warm weather break!

  3. Wow, I could have written this post today. We’ve only been at it two years, but I find the intensity (of all of us) so hard to deal with some days. Everyone wants to be in charge around here and it’s very hard to find a method that works for very long (other than complete unschooling, which doesn’t work for me). I’ve thought about school too — but who else would understand them like I do? You’re right — the alternatives aren’t great either. Just imagine all the advocacy you’d have to do at school to get the right fit.
    Good luck with getting some new inspiration. Sometimes it helps if I imagine them as future presidents or brain surgeons or Nobel prize winners — then some of that intensity and self-determination seems a bit more tolerable, lol.

  4. Heather Gray

    I go through the same thought process and, as you know, I come to the same conclusion.

  5. inneedofchocolate

    I read your post thinking “it’s so nice to know other people feel the same way”. Being home with my intense self and two intense girls feels like it’s going to overwhelm me most days but I also know that school would bring another set of challenges, ones I don’t think we could meet as well as the challenges of homeschooling.

  6. I was wondering where you’d gone. Glad to see you again. Hope you find a new stream to swim in, one that works for all of you. It’s essential.

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