April 16, 2012

on homeschooling

The hardest part of homeschooling, for me, at least, is that you have to be both the parent and the teacher. I know that parents are always teachers. You are, of course, your child's first and best teacher. But when you homeschool, you have to be the person that teaches the mom kind of things and the person who teaches where to move the decimal point in addition versus multiplication and when to use a preposition kind of things. And that, that combination, that can be hard. Not always, but sometimes, some days it is the hardest thing in the world.

It seems like that wouldn't be that difficult, doesn't it? After all, I was a teacher, I know how to teach those things. But when you are mom and teacher, the line get blurred and patience is tested, because the relationship is pushed in ways that it normally isn't between parent and child. It's something that I struggle with.

I had great hopes, at the start of this year, that homeschooling Briton would help me hold onto him just a little bit longer, that it would pull us together in a way that wouldn't be possible if I sent him off to school everyday. I wanted to create an extraordinary year for him, an environment where he would flourish, where he would learn to love the subjects that he generally didn't. Where we would be partners in crime, taking on this town.

In some ways, I think we have accomplished that. We have seen a lot. We have done a lot. I've watched his excel in writing and reading and art instead of being stifled by a curriculum that didn't quite match his needs. But given the chance to start again, I'm not sure I would choose to go the homeschooling route. Academically, it's a good fit for Briton, socially it isn't, family dynamics wise, well, it's a toss up.

When we first came here, first jumped into the local homeschooling community, I was amazed at the sense of welcome, the sense of understanding. Everybody homeschools differently, and everybody understands that. I got a few odd looks, a few disparaging comments, about having one child in school and one not, but mostly people seemed to simply shrug their shoulders and move on. But the longer I am here, the more I see that there can also be an inflexibility amongst homeschoolers. It's hard to discuss the difficulties of homeschooling for one year because, just as most "traditional" schooling families would never dream of homeschooling, most homeschooling families recoil at the thought of sending their child to school. So I fall somewhere in no man's land, not quite a homeschooler, not quite a regular old parent of a school aged child. With no one really to go to on those days when I flounder.

The end of the year is coming up fast, and I'm still undecided over whether this year has been a good thing or a bad thing for Briton, for all of us. Some days it's incredibly fun, wonderfully gratifying. Some days I want to rip my eyeballs out and lock myself in a padded room. And I know that that's parenting. That's life. But somehow adding homschooling to the mix seems to amplify these feelings, forcing them into extremes.

Questions come from all sides right now.

Will you keep homeschooling? No. Maybe. I don't know. It depends where we will be next year.

Have you liked homeschooling? Has Briton? Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know. Ask us tomorrow, because you'll get a different answer.

Would you do it again? No. Yes. Maybe. I don't know.

Where are you going? I don't know.

What are you doing? I don't know.

How do you like New York? I don't know. The coffee really sucks but on the other hand, in the past three days I've seen a bad ass play, eaten a lox and wasabi sandwich that knocked my socks off and took my kids to the Statue of Liberty. And people ask me for directions all the time, so I must at least look like I know what I'm doing, right?