Wylie has been investigating the idea of public school ( I wrote a little about it a few weeks ago.) While no decisions have been made yet, it's led me to do a lot of thinking (and some panicking, if we're being honest). But also, a lot of questioning. The quiet, in my head, late night, self-doubt questioning that tends to happen when a large part of how you've defined your life is suddenly suspect to change. Over the past five years of homeschooling I've been (mostly) confident that our relaxed, mainly child-led homeschooling is what's best for our kids and our family. I've stood by my gut feeling to not force reading before they are ready, to allow lots of time for imaginative play, creative self expression, and to allow the kids a large say in the scheduling and follow through of their responsibilities. I still feel like those choices were good ones-- most of the time.
But damn, there's nothing like a school official evaluating your child to make you doubt all the teaching and guidance you've done over the past 6 years (10 if you're counting from birth). Even when those officials are kind and understanding, and seem to respect homeschooling choices. I feel this huge judgement being thrust on me, and suddenly feel fully responsible for what my child knows (and doesn't). Do teachers feel that same sense of responsibility for thier students' knowledge and performance? I'm sure to some degree, but I'll bet its different. I find myself being (quietly) critical of what he hasn't worked on enough, blaming him (never aloud) for not focussing on it, and myself for not pushing him harder to work on his weeker skills. I've been feeling like a failure for not pushing enough, not being structured enough, and feeling disappointed in my kid for his weaknesses instread of celebrating his strengths.
And it sucks, because the reality is, that's the whole reason why we chose not to send our kids to school. So they could revel in the skills they do have, learn what they need to at thier own pace, and keep the passion for learning and discovery they had as toddlers. So they can grow up to be curious, life long lovers of learning (oh the alliteration!) who are happy about themselves and with the choices they make.
I'm kinda done with the whole self-doubt bit. So here's what I'm choosing to think about instead:
Or, we can choose to celebrate who they are, right now. Maybe they are not strong readers. Maybe they are not people who enjoy crafting. Maybe they are not athletic, mathematical, musical, funny, compassionate, good writers, lovers of animals, _____ (fill in the blank), maybe not. But surely they are original. Surely they are each the sweet babes we held in our arms, carried on our backs, fed and clothed and bathed. Surely they are the same souls that stared into our eyes unblinking as we cradled them in their first moments with us.
Our choices and opportunities in our society seem nearly limitless, it can be overwhelming. But if we treat ourselves kindly by limitting choices (as we did for our toddlers) we can make it easier on ourselves. Because in the end there are really only two choices. We can choose to be happy, or not. And if we are happy with them, then it seems more likely they will be happy with themselves. And isn't that really what we all want for our children in the end. Despite all of our hopes for success, a fulfilling career, healthy relationships, etc. Isn't what we are really trying to say is, "I hope you are truly happy in your life". ? I think so. And shouldn't it start right now? After all, childhood is just as much a part of their lives as adulthood.
So, my New Year's resolution for this year, is to choose to be happy. To be thrilled with who each of my children is in his/her entirety. It will not make them who I want. It will not make each day easier (maybe a little?) But surely it will grow happier people. Which is really what the world needs.