I know just a little about apple trees because we had them growing up, and we still try to go apple picking every fall. So, I was confused when my greenish yellow apples started prematurely falling on the ground. They were small and did not look ripe but I tried one. I expected it to be tart, but it was sweet, kind of a golden delicious. It was not a very tasty apple. I could tell they were far from ripe, but still they fell.
My 5 year old picked and ate them every day. I was worried he might get a stomach ache from eating unripe fruit but he he LOVED them so I let him go for it. One day last week he brought me one and I gave it another try. I don't know what it was that finally tipped me off, but as if a veil had been lifted, I realized why the apples did not taste right. They are pears. Immediately after realizing WHAT I was eating, this strange apple became a delicious pear. In fact, these are the best pears I have ever eaten. I never knew that pears were supposed to be drip-on-your-shirt juicy.
This is the first day of school kind of. My middle son and I started community college last week. He has taken off on the piano and is preparing for a music degree in conjunction with his high school diploma. But his other classes will be taken through a charter school in which he and my 5 year old are enrolled. They do not officially start school until the second week in Sept.
My daughter, who is part of a home school program affiliated with our local school, was supposed to start today but she does not meet with her adviser until next week and we have some issues about which math book she should begin. She wants next year's I want her to finish last year's. This was a stupid, tired argument last night. I wanted to win more than I wanted to appreciate the way she likes to start fresh. I won...which means we both lost. Today was over 104 degrees and we had all kinds of activities planned, none of which involved books. So we either started or didn't start school today depending on how one defines a school day. It was kind of a sucky apple, but not a bad juicy pear, kind of day.
I have been struck by how this apple/pear analogy sums up my idea of successful home schooling (or even parenting). I was so fixated on what I thought the fruit was supposed to be, that I completely missed out on the pleasure and bounty of all those delicious pears, practically falling on me, as they wore out their welcome on the family tree. Only after I accepted it for what it was, did I enjoy what the tree had to offer me and the rest of the world. The pear never changed, but changing my expectation of the pear turned it from strange to perfect.
I have been at this parenting game for 23 years. I should REALLY know this by now. I have long known, I did not get the moldable, blank-slate, kind of kids. The model I received have a deep agenda of their own that must be honored or it wilts and drops to the ground (in the case of my middle son), or just rolls away from me and becomes a little rotten (in the case of the others).
My 23 year old, because he is my 23 year old, is loudly, proudly, not a whole lot like the "mini-us" we thought we were shaping him into when we were rookies. His world view seems to be vastly different from ours. For instance, what scares or motivates me politically, inspires a mixture of scorn and pity from him, a fact he made public on my FB wall this week. (Thankfully, the part that he does retain from our parenting style is the ability to say things in jest so they don't sting as much). I am proud of him, even when I feel perplexed, scared, or hurt by the ways we differ. Funny, how talking back and writing on walls has become a virtue, instead of a "time-outable" offense. I really like that he can form his own opinions from his experience, education, lifestyle, and peer group. I love that he trusts me enough to disagree.
For the most part, my misconceptions and missteps to date have yielded juicy fruit in all my children, a fact I do well to remember as I head into a new school year with the idealism of Fall. There is THE PLAN and then there is that stuff we actually end up doing. In hind sight, both are good. I hope that I will be able to strike a healthy balance between mapping our course and allowing the terrain to motivate us to forge new trails - using the character and demeanor of my children as my compass.
...and a little child shall lead us... While I am wringing my hands over the best way to establish a "rite of passage" for my kindergartner's first day, he is blithely reading at about a second grade level. I think it is time I wake up and smell the pear.