Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pouring My Heart Out About Homeschooling

A few years ago, I wrote this about becoming Catholic:

I feel like if I stay silent about the things that matter most to me,  am I allowing myself to be held hostage by fear? Finding a way to write about it is definitely preferable, from where I'm standing. Finding a way to speak my thoughts is better. But ever, I write. And I have to write about what is important to me, be it motherhood, wifehood, my interests, or my faith. Because I have learned from the past that saying something about prayer is better than saying nothing about prayer. And so, I speak.

I felt the very real tension between honesty and pleasing others.  To me, fear was still a huge determining factor in what I wrote about, particularly and especially concerning Catholicism.  I never, ever wanted to toe the line of "too challenging" or "too offensive."  I didn't want to open up for pangs of nothing more than "Fear itself," and more than that, just because opening up, pouring out something straight from the depths of my heart, seemed offensive in some way.

Unfortunately, this brought me to a very lonely place in my life and in my blogging.  I was living proof that fear of rejection (for the sake of being cool) can hold us hostage, and we're never able to fully bloom without the truth. It led me to this place: What is the point of saying anything at all if we're speaking under false pretenses, or the knowledge that the "heart" isn't in it? That leads me even further, to the question spoken by Pilate to Jesus: "What is truth?"  Without truth, we might be bearing false witness. And... we're on the precipice of veritas?!

The truth is, vulnerability is the closest thing to the truth. And also? The truth is that my heart is re-falling in love with "homeschooling" and in specifically, all told, Classical Unschooling.

The pro's are many, the con's are becoming fewer, and I'm left with a huge mountain of considerations, when all is said and done.  If you feel like someone just sandblasted you and now your hair is flying behind you in a sticky mess, then you know something of how I feel after going from zero to full throttle about homeschooling during 40 days' time.  Because yes, it was during the season of Lent that Stephen and I began praying about the option of homeschooling our kids next year.  After days of fasting, days of seeking the Lord's will, and MANY days of discussion with Stephen (around and around and around) we have so much clarity.  This issue is in my heart in a three-fold layer:  vocation, our hopes vs. our fears, and finally approach to learning.


First, let's talk about vocation.  Pam Barnhill said in episode 28 of The Schole Sisters podcast, "Children somehow are doing this 'education is a life' are doing this anyway, and then school messes it up. It's instinctual- like the way they learn naturally- and then some forms of schooling come along and muck it up a little bit." Very literally, if I become a homeschooling Mama, my vocation will change. I'm not just a party-throwing, van-driving, poop-wiping Mama.  I'll be an educator. (And I don't want to mess that up!) I'll be a lesson-planner, a pre-reader, a Bible-memory-leader, a nature journaler, a motivator.  I want to be sure I'm setting the example that education is an atmosphere, a life.... but I also do not want to raise kids who can't be prepared, on time, and finished with lessons, which is something I fear of homeschooling.

Hopes vs. Fears

Homeschooling  has wonderful and plentiful PRO's-- it is cheaper, we could be more independent, we could travel more.  Homeschooling and "unschooling" is an approach I associate with more creative and inspired learning. We can take a retreat from normal methods, read more, play more, recover more (!!!!) from various outings and agendas.  We can become involved in the co-op at our parish which in turn, means new friendships and new opportunities and outings.

As for the con's.... is it all romaticized? The first thing that comes to mind is long days, being cooped up in the house despite winter, doldrums, and tantrums. I fear losing touch with school and all that goes with that- criss cross applesauce, parties, people, schedules, routines, and the stability that comes with the whole system of Catholic schooling.

What if our kids fall behind?! What if they don't learn to read well?! Or at all?!  To me, mediocre homeschooling is not an option. In fact, after the rigor we have experienced and tasted at Catholic school, poor homeschooling terrifies me.  Bad school is better than terrible homeschooling and mediocre scholarship is better than not learning much at all... that is, no mastery of lessons and worse, feeling uninspired and hopeless at the end of the day. (RIGHT?!)  In my humble (or maybe not - so- humble!) opinion, homeschooling needs to be not only an inspiring, creative experience. It must also be rigorous, serious, and fruitful.

The other huge consideration is my mental illness and my history with breakdowns.  I'm extremely sensitive and I've been hurt by friends and family in the past.  I have suffered with intolerable cruelty, pangs of inadequacy, and waves of rejection and self-doubt.  I have bowed down under the temptation to self-hatred. Hopelessness has become a constant companion.  My ability to "rise above" gets harder as I get older and face the struggles of life.

So, what about that?! What about Stephen? His place in the home? His place in the homeschool room? Stephen got his masters in Classics and Liberal arts from St. John's college. He is planning to help teach. Recently I have gone off anti-depressants, but I'm still taking anti-anxiety meds. What about that?

And what about all of the other fears? Legalism? Prison sentence? Indoctrination? Squashing their dreams or exasperating them? What if I become exasperated? What if I lose my temper -- daily?  Surely I would not be an adequate homeschooling Mama. I'm an introverted, short-tempered, feeling, Enneagram seven. I don't even know Greek. Or Latin.  How is that even remotely an option???


Approach to Learning 

On the one hand, being a genius is of course an intimidating requirement! I have to be myself. I have to know what that is. (I have limits. I have never read Aquinas, but Stephen has... I've read Dante and Shakespeare. The list goes on.... for both sides...) But it quite frankly depresses me when I read about the oft-mentioned approach to homeschooling that champions the other extreme: "taking it easy" and being "restful" and you know the whole taking-today-off because IT! DOESN'T! MATTER!  Just do a puzzle!! Really, guys.  A sticker book maybe? Shake a tambourine? Take the whole day off?

I like the ideal that homeschooling is and should be refreshing. We hold dear the philosophy of having minds inspired to higher things, yada yada. We believe in classic, living literature. We believe books have power insofar as they bring out the life in the youngster. We  believe in an education of distinction and worth. Sooooo, taking it too easy and just going for a daily 'nature walk'? I think and fear that for me, the other extreme comes from a place of sloth.  I don't like the lazy in me, at all, so all told, I don't give that attitude room in my heart or soul.  I don't want my kids falling behind, just because I want to do something such as sleep in, take a day off, or because I don't have the heart to discipline. What if I must face the big issues, such as taking away screens from a child or children for an entire week. (AGH) I can't fear laying down the law- in order to do math. Or reading. Or whatever needs to be done. If it needs to be done, then do it because put simply, it just needs to be done! My approach in a nutshell, is that the results should feel deeply fruitful. Our kids can and should (must!) learn how to learn, do the work, and grow spiritually and intellectually, in measurable amounts.

No I am not everything. But, then I come back to the perks.  After spending an entire Lent in prayer, the Holy Spirit drags me back to the perks, and they've become undeniable. It would have to be a rigorous, meritorious, Catholic education of the highest caliber.  But now, I feel the hope in my spirit. The wings of hope have dampered down my fears, and now I can't say it's impossible, because simply? It feels so. right.

God help us, we're becoming a homeschooling family. In the Fall. (!!!)


Foxy's Domestic Side said...

Oh my gosh, I think I could have written this myself :) My husband and I have been thinking about this and praying about it. At this time, we feel that where my son is, is a good place, but that homeschooling adventure, not far in the back of our minds. Have you looked into homeschooling schools? I know of a few places out where we live, where you can take your kids 1-2 times a week to get together with other homeschooling kids. They can take science, or music, or karate, or an array of different activities. All with other homeschooling kids. It's pretty much the best of both worlds. You're teaching them most of what they need, and then they get maybe 1 or two things from this other school, and you get a small few hour break 1-2 times a week. Good luck Mama, you are going to do great! Wow, that was longer than intended.

Michele Chronister said...

Deep breaths! You can email me if you want, because I think we are very similar. I will say this...part of what makes homeschooling more restful is that it truly doesn't take as much time to do schoolwork, so you inevitably end up ahead of the game. It takes 2-3 hours (or less) for us to do school every day, and my daughter is doing work a grade or two ahead (second grade math and at a third to fourth grade reading level). She also knows a little Latin and is learning violin and some piano this year, as well as ballet, and will be performing in one of the lead roles in our co-op's Shakespeare play. She just had her First Communion and knows her faith really well. And... she's only 7! Remember, a homeschooling mom is mainly a tutor. You pick out the curriculum and assignments, but they will surprise you by how much faster they learn at home! As to the mental health bit...all of the above happened despite having a really rough pregnancy and PPD and lots of anxiety and depression. You won't hold your kids back! Definitely be mindful of self care, though, and surround yourself with good friends. You've got this!!!

Tacy said...

@ Sarah- Our church has a co-op for homeschoolers, so I plan to participate there.

@ Michele- I used to work at a homeschool co-op, and that's how we started with Molly. She is an avid reader and several of my nieces and nephews homeschool and like your daughter, they are a few grades ahead in Math and they are definitely very disciplined. It does scare me to take on the responsibility of homeschool. The appealing thing about school is that you don't have time to kill.... the kids are playing with their friends and we have had a completely positive experience with school.

Danielle Siero said...

It is clear that you have thought and prayed a lot about this. Deciding whether or not to homes chool your child is a hard decision. Best of luck!!

Tacy said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement! I really appreciate it. God bless you.