28 July 2011

Changes and Choices

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.  
~William Blake~
 A strange thing has been happening to me lately.  I am constantly re-thinking all the choices I have made in my life thus far.  I think I will blog about these as the whim hits me. 

Todays' topic:  Choices I have made in regards to my children education. 

Oh how idealistic we can be when we are young, when we are new parents, when everything in our lives is fresh and new.  

When a person has a baby, at least this happened for me, education was the furthest thing from my mind.  But around the time my eldest turned 2 and I was heavy with my 2nd daughter, it occurred to me that one day this child is going to have to go to school.  Panic ensued, as I never wanted to be without my daughters.  

I did end up enrolling my 2 1/2 year old in a Montessori pre-school that I eventually ended up working for, (to pay for the tuition and because I did not like being away from my daughters).  My youngest daughter would end up going there as well.  

Now had I been independently wealthy, the story would end here.  I loved Montessori.  My eldest (Carley) moved on to a Montessori grade school while my youngest (Catherine) finished up at the pre-school where I worked (and bartered for tuition).  Once Catherine was out of the pre-school and my job was over, I just could not afford the tuition at the Montessori grade school.  A change had to be made.  Public School?  Egads no.  Catholic school?  I was no longer a practicing Catholic so that seemed hypocritical. Structured school in general was not a choice I wanted to make at all.  Homeschooling, that's what it had to be.  

At that time I knew very little about homeschooling.  So I went to the library and checked out every book on homeschooling I could find.  I read about school at home, unit studies, relaxed homeschooling, unschooling, etc., etc.  I talked with other homeschool moms and eventually came up with a philosophy I thought would fit our family.  

First philosophy:  School at home.  I bought a full curriculum.  We sat at the dining room table and did X number of pages of work per day.  Started in September, just like school.  By Christmas I wanted to kill myself.  This style wasn't for us.  

Then we went to a relaxed school at home.  Some days we worked in books, some days we went to the park and the library.  Some days we watched videos.  But I still led the day and tried to keep some structure.  I also added unit studies into this, KONOS, which my girls enjoyed but it required a lot of work and prep on my part. 

As time went on the girls wanted less and less to do with structure, and we drifted into unschooling.  I did continue to buy curriculum for a time, but only  curriculum that the girls wanted. If one wanted a science curriculum, I bought it, if one wanted English, I bought it.  But it was up to them to decide to work on it.  I wasn't going to push them anymore.  During this time we also did Sonlight.  My girls really enjoyed Sonlight, because frankly, there wasn't much for them to do.  They read some books and I read some books to them.  And then we'd discuss some vocabulary words.  Both girls really enjoy books and reading, so this wasn't a chore for them. 

As my girls got closer to those tween years, between 10 and 12, they wanted even less to do with anything structured and frankly so did I.  Hormones were swinging wildly, we were involved in a co-op, and everything I had read about unschooling made me think the girls would be just fine if I left them to their own devices.  So I did.  Of course I was always here, willing to take them here or there, willing to help them learn something or figure out a way to learn something, they knew they could count on me for anything, but the learning was left up to them.  

When my eldest was around 12 she started asking about going to school.  I had already pre-decided she was never going to Junior high, 1) because I hated junior high, 2) because I heard horrible things about what goes on in junior high (bullying and sex) and 3) I still wanted her home.   Looking back, only one of those is really a valid reason.  

So I told Carley we would re-visit the school issue with high school.  I was hoping she would decide she loved home and me so much she'd never want to go.  I was wrong.  She starts her junior year of high school next month.  

I thought school was going to be a nightmare.  I thought Carley would hate it, that she'd decide to quit and come home (an option she knew she had whenever she wanted it).  She didn't.  She loves it.  Ok, maybe love is a strong word, but she really, really likes it.  She likes to be taught.  By someone other than me.  She likes to learn, the kinds of things they teach in books and schools.  She is a perfect student. During her previous two years in high school she has made the honor roll each semester. Not bad for an unschooled homeschooler. 

Now Catherine, my youngest, the one who I thought really thrived in unschooling, has also decided she wants to try high school.  She wants to see what it's like, wants to see if she's missing something.  When everyone around you is doing something, it makes you want to maybe try it too.  Especially if you are a teen. (Ok, we aren't talking about sex, drugs and alcohol here!) 

  There are also classes at the high school that Catherine thinks sound interesting.  Fashion and World History being two of them.  And while we could have learned Fashion and World History at home, somehow it just seems more interesting doing it with other people who share the same interest as you.  Catherine has the same option as Carley, she is free to leave school at any time.  She has already decided that while she may decide not to go full time, she pretty much knows she wants to stay in at least part time.

So my (eventually) unschooled daughters, whom I taught had the world at their fingertips and the freedom to do as they please and learn what they please, have in the end, decided the structure of public school is what they want.  Hahahahahaha.  Jokes on me.

But after having had some time to process it, I am now surprisingly Ok with it.  I made choices for them when they were small based on my own life experiences and research.  That's all a parent can do.  We do what we think is best.  No one knows what is best, it's all speculation.  We are not our children, we are not in their heads, they are not our mini me's.  We have to be comfortable as a parent, eventually letting our children be who they are meant to be.  And if that is someone wholly different than who we are, we need to love them anyway.  That's what it means to be a parent. 

I know homeschoolers who would be upset if their children didn't grow up and homeschool their grandchildren.  They take it as some personal affront if their children want to do something different. I also know homeschoolers who think I must have done something wrong to make my children want to choose school. I think I must have actually done something right.  My children are making the choice they think is right for them.  I am giving them the right to make that choice.   How many other teens ever get to choose the direction of their lives?  Most kids live with their lives planned out for them.  They WILL do this, they WILL go there, etc, etc., ad nauseum until they move out.  Yes, I made some of those decisions for my children when they were young, but now as teenagers they have the freedom to choose for themselves.  And it is a different choice than I would have chosen for them at this stage in their lives, but that is part of letting go. 

So now, 16 years after the birth of my first born, I am kind of doing an about face.  The daughters that I swore would never go to school, will both be in school this fall.  My kids are exactly where I didn't want them to be.  Isn't that funny?  

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  
~Author Unknown~

1 comment:

Momyerom said...

Great post! I'm often amazed at my life because it is extremely different than I ever imagined. Some changes were forced on me; other changes came after re-thinking my current state.

One of my greatest joys is watching my kids become confident adults. I don't always agree with their choices but that's ok. I raised them with the hope that they would become strong, independent thinkers. It shouldn't really surprise me that's who they are now!