It occurred to me that with all the mememememememe of me singing I have not taken much time to blog about parenting or home schooling. I know some of you only started reading this because of my TVE newsletter so all this self talk may feel like I am a master at bait and switch. (oh please someone besides "First Wife" catch that hidden innuendo which I am intentionally avoiding so as not to offend, and not be offended if you do catch it).
The kids and I are in our spring mode... Funny how you discover modes even when you think you are re-inventing yourself year after year. Our typical yearly pattern is to buy stuff in late August and plan stuff and make vows to do even better and "really buckle down this year" and then go gang busters from Sept-Halloween. Halloween - New Year's we do more creative things and try to squeak out the basics when guilt commands it. Then we come back with renewed enthusiasm in January which lasts till about April when we start sort of loosey goosing again. Summer is the time to do the stuff we did not do much of before, so this summer they will be taking Science and art at a College for Kids Program.
The new thing this year is that the kids have been getting up every day and putting in 2-3 hours ON THEIR OWN before I am even willing to see the sun. Because they are motivated to home school and know that my attention is diverted (let me count the ways) they have stepped up to the plate and structured their own study time. Every day they hit all the subjects with the grade appropriate books I have supplied (reading, cursive, grammar, math, science and history). It is sort of boring to me in some ways because we are not building it from the ground up with toothpicks and silly putty or digging in the back yard for it, but frankly, it is all I can muster this year. Grade, correct, instruct where they missed it, keep my eyes open in case something in our life piggy backs on what they have been learning but mostly just ask, "did you do your BLAH? Any questions?"
That is very different from the way we used to do it. "Hey kids, look over here, let's go to this, how about a that?" and lots of co-ops or workshops with other home school people in subjects we may or may not be as interested in personally. It is a strange thing to have my children take the reins from me and learn things without the filter or funnel of my experience and interest. It happened with my oldest too but that was a little different. Also he started out in Public School so by the time I got him in fifth grade he could already find more information on his own than I knew how to access and he never felt particularly inclined to ask my permission to learn.
With these two who have always been home schooled, it felt more collaborative. I mean, I practically taught them everything they knew for the first few years. Once they learned to love to learn and could read fluently, it all changed. I guess that is the price to pay for teaching them to read. My 3 year old is actually interested in reading and even plugging along at an appropriate pace with the phonics book. I like it, he likes it, it is just a game we play together. It is so amazing to watch your children "get it" and start reading. But it is also the end of my reign as the source of stories and filter of information. Once they can read, they can begin being shaped and transformed by the information they experience and no mother any where can stay on top of all that.
The mere fact that I feel any desire to do so has been the start of an epiphany. As I watch my oldest son becoming more solidly himself and less rigidly our family (or rebellious anti-family) I have to marvel at the ways he is different from anything I could ever have known, let alone planned for him to be. In some cases I wince as he dashes dogma, politics or etiquette against the rocks and smashes them to smithereens in front of my eyes. But in other cases there is just this settling in of his own world, his own time, his own self that expands my understanding of life exponentially. It makes me want to be more solid in the remnants of my own world, my time (which is fading to make way for this new generation) and my self. I never intentionally abandoned any of this, nor do I feel regret for having done so, but I am more acutely aware of the necessary schism between the generations. (This is a good time for the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song to start playing in the back ground..."teach your children well...")
As I think this through with you, I realize how much this realization has impacted my approach with the others. I used to feel like I had to be in every moment with them to shape and protect and inform them about this world. I felt personally responsible to foster their innate potential in the perfect nature/nurture synthesis. I never took credit for their success (that just seemed inevitable if I did my job right) but I did accept responsibility for all their missteps (as a dropped ball on my part some how). I did not realize this was my approach but upon reflection, this has been my compass and my barometer and at times my task master. I think now that is a dumb way to go about shepherding little people with a will/mind/life of their own.
To punctuate this life lesson a poignant metaphor is being played out in our house right now. While my back was turned parentally (while in LA) my husband took the kids on a hike. They ventured off the path. They got poison oak. They are itching and miserable. While comforting them, there was still this "not on my watch" smugness about the whole thing. In 21 years no child of mine has gotten poison oak. I know better than to let them venture off the path. In fact, I was annoyed that no one listened to me cause if they had, they would have known to stay on the path. Now, I did not particularly fear poison oak, it was rattle snakes and tarantulas I was worried about (yep we have them). But this is bad and avoiding the snakes and spiders would have kept them safe from poison oak too. Yet my husband, the one who teaches kids to ride bikes and looks away while they explore their world without feeling tethered to the peril lurking, has allowed my kids to throw sticks in lakes, climb trees and share this horrible itch with the friend who came along with them on this adventure. The rash will fade but the memories will not. Sometimes you have to stray off the path and figure out what you think of the path. Moms, (I) am not very good at this part.
So while I re-evaluate my road to raising healthy people and ease up on the clutch a little; I am concerned that I will steer them wrong or fall asleep at the wheel. And yet, as someone who follows her intuition in life, it seems the right way to go. I will try to stay alert though, and be prepared to make a U-Turn at any safe, authorized opportunity. After all, I think that is probably the very best skill I can model for any one.