When Nothing Is Going Right

Well I am back from a two-week, unplanned “vacation”.  Maybe it is longer than that.  I will check after I write this post.  Life got crazy on me and I just dropped everything to tend to the chaos only to get swept up in a whirl wind.  Only now I realize it was just me and my mind-tricks that made it crazy.

Homeschooling was not going as I felt it should be.  (Still isn’t) Since my expectations where not being met I was frustrated and soon my emotions evolved into anger.  It got to the point where I could think of nothing else.  Fear of judgement from others that I was having a stereotypical homeschooled scenario where kids just lay around and watch TV all day consumed me.  It felt like I had no control over the situation.  I yelled.  I took things away.  I made consequences.  None of it seemed to make any difference.

In the last few days I noticed I was feeling anger at others because I couldn’t write for my blog because of this mess.  Something was not working.  My method seemed wrong.  Surely it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Blaming others seemed crazy.  Sometimes I hear Dr. Phils words, “How’s that working for you?”

I realized that I was spending a lot of energy trying to control the situation and then I thought – this is it.  This is where our journey has taken us.  Lessons are to be learned.  Maybe I should just rest in the mess of it.  Accept this situation and make the most of it.  Kind of like when you choose the longest aisle at the grocery store but trying to change seems futile.  Well, you could stand there stomping your feet and complain about all the items the people in front of you have, how slow the cashier is moving, or you could just make the most of it.    This is where my family is right now.  The more I resist, the harder things were getting.  I needed to relax.  My girl and I are here for a purpose.

This doesn’t mean I accept the TV watching.  No, it just means I don’t fight against it so hard.  Like trying to swim against the current.  I still want to get out of the mess but maybe I didn’t have to work so hard to get out.

Accepting my situation allowed me to let go of my judgment over my daughter.  Then I could approach her with gentleness.  Sounds silly I know but it is true.  I am trying to fight our situation which is quite classical – a teenage girl wanting her independence and a mother angry that she is doing it all wrong, behaving more like a child than she was when she was a child.  I went to her and gently let her know where my boundaries where with her behaviour.   Every thing said very gentle.  Not spiteful.  Not like a benevolent dictator.  Just kindness.

It went over well.  Everything was calm.  Everything was sweet.  It’s not what you say but how you say it right?  She came upstairs, didn’t argue or complain about anything as she has been for the last 6 weeks.  She was sweet as apple pie with ice cream.  Patient as steady rain.  Marvellous.  My change of intention paid off.  Five hours later she would test my intentions, see if she could bend them, but I remembered my place.  I didn’t fight it.  It went over okay.  I held strong.

Now that I realize I was creating my own chaos I would like to return to the blogosphere.  My time away has rejuvenated me.  I am going to update my website and alter my “A Bit of Sunlight” posts as well as give more focus to my memoir writing tips.

Man it feels good to be back.

Homeschooling Conflict

Homeschooling this year is a struggle.  I feel faced with all my fears of traditional thinking versus what I feel is right.  There is a battle going on.  The result is me constantly contradicting myself with my children because I am struggling with these notions within myself.  I feel I need to get grounded.

Both my girls lack any goal or intention for the year.  My eldest, Sherese, who left school in her Grade Twelve year is doing nothing but watching movies all day, sleeping and announcing she feels sick whenever I ask her for something that might involve some motivation.  But then she will ask to go and see a movie in the evening or hang out with friends all weekend.

I know kids and families need time to adjust to this new way of learning when leaving the traditional school system but this seems particularly challenging.  So I went to my library to get some support from popular homeschooling books out there.  The first one just came in and it is titled If Learning is so Natural, Why am I going to School?  by Andrew Nikiforuk.  It opens with this quote and I felt compelled to share it.

“We need better government, no doubt about it.  But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.  We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations but can make necessary changes in themselves on their own.”

–  Wendell Berry

Day 2 of the New School Year – Part II

I follow the sound of the clinking spoon and see Emily sitting at the table eating cereal.  Simultaneously Craig comes up the stairs and tells me that Sherese has slept in and she wants me to drive her to school.  I go downstairs to see if I can avoid this by making her a lunch or breakfast.  This is not going to be enough so I concede to drive her.

I return upstairs to see Emily laying on the couch snuggled into her blue robe, eyes heavy.  “Other than being tired how do you feel?”

She is silent for a moment and then asks, “How do you mean?”

“How do you feel about your decision?”

“Relieved actually.”

Craig walks down the hall, dressed and ready for his day.  He leans over me sitting on the couch and gives me a kiss.  “Try and convince her to go to school today?”  I will do no such thing so I just smile, acknowledging I heard him.  He seems to feel he needs some control over this situation and I have no interest in talking with him about it first thing this morning.

He turns to Emily, “Are you going to school this morning?”  Emily looks at him and an awkward smile starts to grow on her face.  She doesn’t want to give him an honest answer.  She is nervous.  Not getting an answer from her he says, “You should try it again.  One day is not enough.”

He begins to walk to the door but turns and looks at me one more time before leaving.  His gives me his squinshed up face with head tilted to the side look that says you know my way is best Dear.  Not acknowledging it I say, “Have a good day Dear.” and he is gone for the day.

Sherese follows his departure catching the bus a minute or two later.  It is just Em and I.  Well Teela is still sleeping.  Our first day back at homeschooling.  Bring it on.

Later that day …

Craig returns home from work and I am surprised to learn that he has a full-fledged plan for Emily to learn science this year.  I had planned during the day that I was going to put my foot down with him this year.  I was not going to go through another year of us debating the value of child-led learning.  He doesn’t understand it or believe in it and I do with all my heart.  It works best for Emily too.  Now Sherese, if she drops out and does correspondence well Craig can have science up to his chin with her.  She loves structure and wants a Regular Grade Twelve Diploma.

“Dear, you are brilliant, possibly even a genius, but when it comes to knowing how to educate our children you are behind.  You are old school.  You have a one way thought process.  You are too logical and base none of your ideas on intuition.”

Perhaps I didn’t handle this right.  I was not very smooth.  I was distracted baking brownies with Teela and caught off guard at how determined he was.  I thought I could tell him to back off and he just would.

Later that night he shares with me his plan of Emily doing 20 hours a month of science including science experiments and reports. My goodness!  I actually laughed at him.  I laughed at him for about 30 seconds until I realized his face just dropped.  I hadn’t been aware of the amount of enthusiasm he had on his face until my laughter drained it right out of him.  He was so excited sharing his well laid out plan, he even said he created a document for it, and I laughed at him.  Shame on me.

Over and over again in our discussion he kept saying two things.  1) he doesn’t have a say.  So he does want to be involved.  and 2) he doesn’t understand.  He says we never explain to him how or why Emily left school in the first place.  In all honesty he is partially right.  Partially.  We have  tried a few times but sometimes words get squiggle like the tape in a cassette player on the way into his his brain.  He can’t actually understand some of the words I say.  When you start talking about intuition or using words to describe it he doesn’t understand.  Emily is an artist and she thinks differently than him.  He doesn’t understand that either.  Words used to try to describe the differences get all twisted and blotted out like that wrinkled cassette tape film.

(I once knew this guy in high school who was brilliant.  Very smart man.  He was dumb enough to let one of my friends pierce his ear though and as we tried over and over again to explain to him how to use a Q-tip and peroxide to disinfect it he could not understand so we just did it for him.  This is my husband.  Not literally but in his ability to understand something.  Give him the Chinese version of a manual to take apart and put back together a car stereo – he can take one look at the diagram, have it memorized and do it.  Ask him what his gut intuition is and he has no idea what you are talking about.)

We bickered and battered for some time.  All friendly and amiable but in disagreement.  He believes everyone love science and I tried to explain to him that not everyone loves science the way he does.  I also feel that science is learned or understood differently through an artist’s mind.  I see it as art before I see it as something cold, hard and solid like he does.  Finally I gave him a post from the author of Free Range Learning.  I let him read that and went to collect my brownies from the oven.

I read a few homeschooling blogs and in every case both parents are in agreement with the path taken.  Did they start off that way? Are there any homeschooling blogs out there where parents are not in agreement?  Please let me know cause I feel like I may be the only one!

Day 2 of the New School Year

I wake to silence.  I don’t hear the shower running.  Yesterday I woke to noise – the shower,sounding like a waterfall on the other side of our bedroom wall and the kitchen was full of clanging and slamming doors.  Today it is silent.  Something is off.  Yesterday I had to adjust to the realization that it was the first day of school and that was why my house was alive.  Today I adjust to the idea that Emily is not going to school anymore.  That explains part of the silence.  Not the whole part.  Why don’t I hear Sherese?

The bed bounces roughly and I sense Craig flailing for his alarm clock.  Certainly one of these times he is going to have a heart attach when that thing goes off.   He sits on the edge of the bed for a minute then grabs his robe and leaves for breakfast.  I lay there thinking, dreading really, that I am going to have to face his music about Emily choosing to not continue on with public school after returning for one day.

Yes, one day.  “How can she really know what it will be like after being back for one day?” he asks me yesterday.

“It is not like she has never been to school before.  She was at school for the first two weeks last year.  She has been there every year.  She knows what lays ahead.”

Disgruntled and wanting to debate the issue more last night but he was pulled away by Teela.  Thank goodness.  We have  had this discussion so many times last year and now we face another year of it.

I can recall sitting in a doctor’s office in my twenties.  Probably mid twenties.  I had something up with my feminine parts.  Can’t remember what but the doctor had no idea so he sat there telling me how a period works, how long it lasts and how much I discharge.  I recall thinking then, “Seriously?  I have two kids and have been menstruating for over a decade and as a man you are going to sit there and explain my cycle?”  This is how I feel with Craig explaining how my kids should learn.  I feel I am so far ahead of him and in a world that he will never have any clue about. It doesn’t fit his logic.  You go to public school, you focus on the science and maths and that is the end of it.  You need those subjects to survive in this world, to be anything.  Period.

Yesterday I returned home from running errands in the city to find Emily sitting in the living room crying.

“It was torture.  It is not worth it to go to Korea.” she said trying to control her crying.  I have told her so many times that it is okay to cry but she has been conditioned otherwise. “Listening to them talk about everything we are going to learn and how we are going to be graded …. (crying) … made me feel sick.  I am not interested in any of it, mom.”

Now to many people out there who hear their kids say this, and I use to be one of them, would say “Buck up and get back to school.” Not me.  Not anymore.  Now I realize there is so much more to gain if I let Emily lead the way.  I will accomplish more as a parent.  So much more.

Now it is time to face the music.  I need to get out of bed and be Emily’s advocate.  I grab my robe and open my door.  I hear the tinkling of a spoon hitting a bowl.  Emily is up.

First Day of School on the Prairies

Today my two oldest daughters return to school.  Happiness, delight and enthusiasm does not show on their faces.

First day of Grade Ten and Grade Twelve

Last night I walked to the girls room to find them both piled on Sherese’s (dark haired girl) bed, watching a movie and devouring candy.  Sherese was given candy from her employer yesterday since they were closing for the season.  Now empty cotton candy containers and sour key chain containers lay on the bed.  Yuck.  They will feel sick tomorrow for no other reason than all that junk.  I know they were doing it to mask their unease about today.

When I checked my email this morning I saw a message from my older sister Elle.  She sent her first kid off to Kindergarden today.  She expressed her emotions about it.  She is full of wonder at a new beginning and all that he may become.  She loves the school system where I do not.

At the end of her email she asked how we (the email was addressed to all my sisters) were when we sent our kids to kindergarden.  This moment of reflection made me realize that I have always been a different mom than most.  For example, I wrote about how I watched other mom’s with video cameras and snapping pictures and felt at the time that I was a bad mom for not even thinking to bring my camera.  Now, on reflection, I didn’t think to bring my camera because I could see my kids were struggling and I was solely focused on that.

Also, when my first child went to preschool she was the only one that didn’t know how to spell her name.  Man I figured I failed her.  I was young and naive and had no idea I was suppose to teach her those things.  My parents always taught me that “kids are suppose to be kids and they will get enough of school and learning when the time comes.” You know, she turned out alright.  She is usually on the high honour role in school and when she wanted to learn to read she did so with such fierceness, often crying as she tried to read the page.  It was absolutely painful for me to watch.  I remember suggesting to her over and over again for us to take a break and she would have none of it.  She reads like the dickens now though.  Always has.  Much of my single parent student loan money went to books for her as well as for my text books when she was ten-ish in age.

Sometimes we stress to much about parenting.  I am probably doing it now.

Well, next week it is Teela who will begin school.  Her I don’t stress too much about.  It is a lot of play time and art and fun in Pre-Kindergarden.  It is when she hits Grade One that I will start to get antsy.  Hopefully by then I will have my husband convinced that I can homeschool her.  Hopefully.

Speaking of which, it was impossible, well almost anyway, to do any of my Oak Meadows stuff this summer.  I posted during the summer that Teela and I were going to start homeschooling in the summer.  Well, I didn’t get the resources until the beginning of August (no fault to Oak Meadows. It was a computer glitch) and then it took me a week or so to read the material over.  We did practice in spurts but I do plan to go ahead and start a routine as of today.  I will keep you posted.  Already I know she loves the morning circle time of songs to start off our day.  We have a nature table where we collect and display things from nature.  It is just to make these things more of a routine.

Off I go.  I hope the world has a glorious school day today.