Monday, October 17, 2016

Why I Don't Read Much About Homeschooling Anymore

Ramona, when she was three. 

(I originally posted this three years ago):

I have a confession: I don't read much about homeschooling anymore.

Not because there aren't a million inspirational, wise, funny, interesting homeschoolers out there (there are, and you should definitely read them.) And not because there aren't terrific books, and stories, and ideas. They're all over the place.

And it's not because I've got everything figured out. I don't. I have my own blind spots, failures, regrets, worries, selfishness, and pride.

It's just that, well, I've got it figured out.

Not IT. Not "Life in all of its glorious meaning and the perfect way to live, breathe, and homeschool, parent, and exist on a day to day basis without stress or strife, pride, or judgement."

No, no, no. No one has that figured out, people.

The "it" I have figured out is my style. My strengths and weaknesses. My husband's style. My daughters -- their styles, strengths, and weaknesses. We took that stuff and ran with it, knowing the years would go quickly, there would be gaps, standards may have to be lowered, a la Dave Barry, that it will not be perfect, and there would be times I'd think I couldn't do it.

The "it" I know is this: one of the reasons we started homeschooling was to treat our kids as individuals, and individuals don't fit neatly into pre-cut boxes labeled "homeschooler." They will not uniformly love math, grow up to be astronauts, priests, or nuns, get certain scores on ACT tests, or live their faith and their lives so perfectly that they will be mistaken for the Blessed Mother. Not all homeschoolers will love reading, play sports, or even enjoy the company of other homeschoolers (because that depends on what kind of individual that other homeschooler is, right?)

My kids are just individuals. They're just people. Sometimes they're as weird and different and out of the mainstream as their dad and I are; sometimes they flow with the mainstream quite nicely. Sometimes they are helpful and giving beyond belief, sometimes they are selfish. Some days they're blissful and feel blessed, some days they are sad and feel put-upon.

Hey...they're just like me. They fit neatly into the box called "Fallen Human."

And homeschooling is just one way to educate fallen humans. It's a way we love, to be sure. It's a way that I think can work beautifully, despite its challenges, for a lot of people. But I also know it's not for everyone.

It is, however, a way of life that has allowed Atticus and me to stay focused on our main goal in life: relationship.

Our relationship with each other.
Relationship with our kids.
Relationship with God.

To sum it up, I guess the only thing I have figured out is that I love this busy, weird, individual life we're living, and I know that there's not a singly perfect way to live it. I long ago let go of caring what our homeschool looks like to the world. We know it's working out (in that fallen, messy way), and that's what counts the most to us.

Thanks, Atticus, Anne-with-an-e, Betsy Ray, and Ramona, for caring as much about our relationships as I do.

And now? I'm tired, so I'm going to have another cup of coffee. Because I have a huge blind spot when it comes to whether or not I've had too much caffeine.


Liz said...

It does take awhile to come to that particular point and recognize that we are educating persons, not teaching curriculum. Even when you've embraced the idea, it's easy to be lured into thinking that great SAT scores, scholarships, honors society memberships, great GPAs mean more than they really do. When I am dialoguing with this generation of homeschooling families I have to point out that achievement can look very uneven at some points without it having a final negative impact on a person's life. My son was a horrible speller, it did not matter what program we used or how hard we worked on it. I finally gave up on spelling and worked on vocabulary when he was about 7th grade. That year he made an enormous leap in spelling, and so did our pastor's son. It was developmental for both of them, it had zilch to do with curriculum. Yet he was still not a great speller. He went to college totally spell check dependent, and I felt pretty guilty about that. Sometime between then and the time he graduated he became easily the best speller in the family and my efforts and all my fancy curriculum had not a thing to do with it. Talk about bursting a self-congratulatory bubble. My daughter was horrible with maps and history. The only history she ever learned was in historical fiction books. She did great on the map skills portion of the achievement tests, so only I knew how truly bad she was at it. It got really underscored the summer she was 19 when we were lost on our way to Defending the Faith and she was trying to read the road map for me. I asked her whether we were heading north by the directions she was giving me. She responded by asking whether north was up or down on the map. We had studied that particular topic multiple times, but somehow it never stuck. Today she is teaching her own daughter, and one of the most fascinating subjects for them is history, and I think she's getting better at maps too. Sometimes you just have to look at things from a much, much, much longer perspective. I think the same thing is true of faith issues, not just for them, but for us as well. Just when you think they've got it all figured out they come up against a hard rock and struggle. Just when I think I've got it all figured out I find that the one song that is speaking to me the most is "Holy Darkness," and my biggest success of the week was that I got through Mass without dissolving into tears for the first time in 6 weeks yesterday. Not the day, but at least Mass. Regarding homeschooling, I still know the things I got right, and I also painfully know the things I got wrong. Life is like that. I can point out the things I got wrong in all different areas of my life, and frequently, like with the spelling and the map skills, it's the areas that I actually tried the very, very hardest. I actually did read a homeschooling book last week (Abby recommended it), and it confirmed much of what I already believed about the importance of teaching persons, not just subject matter. I honestly believe that God in his parenting of us is more interested in relationship than perfect achievement, at least I sure hope so. I also think that He takes the long perspective, that it is okay I didn't learn some lessons by 20. Some of the things I did learn by 20 were things that needed to be unlearned or abandoned totally by 25. I honestly believe that we need to be as willing to take the long perspective with our kids, our spouses, and even ourselves. Oh and BTW when my kids both found college calculus an easy A it was a total mystery to me, and not a reflection on my skills in teaching math (which were minimal at best). There is an awful lot that I don't understand about how humans learn, and why they learn what they do. There's an awful lot I don't understand about grace and faith too.

Danae said...

Karen, I really loved this post. Liz, I really appreciated reading your comment and your point about taking a long-term view!

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks so much, Danae. And Liz, yes, I really appreciate your contribution to the discussion. I agree with everything you said.
"I honestly believe that God in his parenting of us is more interested in relationship than perfect achievement, at least I sure hope so," and "There is an awful lot that I don't understand about how humans learn, and why they learn what they do. There's an awful lot I don't understand about grace and faith too."