Tuesday, August 28, 2007

homeschool blues

I've been homeschooling one or more of my children for over a decade. Last year, Declan went to public school for the first time. That transition has been positive and I'm really glad we made the choice. His world has expanded and he's a much happier person than he had been becoming, more well-rounded and social.

When we decided to send him to school, we didn't really feel there was any choice. I mean, he could have continued "homeschooling" but he hadn't really been learning much of anything for quite some time and we just spent all our time arguing. It was unpleasant and stifling for him. I had a lot of fears surrounding sending him to school-fears for his safety, for his ability to adapt (particularly because the school he had to go to, the school we're zoned for, is a weird mixture of urban and rural with a strong ROTC program and on the list of "failing" schools), but also fears about my having homeschooled him, fears that he would not be able to fit in socially or academically because he had been homeschooled and I would be forced to find out I had failed him.

Needless to say, the transition has been good. My fears were mostly unfounded.

I've continued to homeschool Zed. He's 12 and on the cusp of adolescence. I've been noticing a gradual increase in mouthiness from him. He's always been of a pretty sunny disposition but lately, he's been somewhat negative and cynical. The teenage years are looming large. We began doing school work this week. He has never taken criticism well, constructive or otherwise. When a problem or mistake is pointed out which requires correction, he freaks-going off into yelling, muttering, slamming, stomping, etc. He's always been "sensitive" in that way but he seems to be getting worse. I've never found an effective way of communicating with him that circumvents the temper tantrums. A little while ago, one of his assignments needed some correction and he began storming. He did the same yesterday over something.

I don't think I can do this any more. I've been fighting with one child or another on an almost daily basis for 5 years or longer. The problem is that the middle school we are zoned for is another really bad school. It's physical shape is decrepit and it gets really poor scores on the school assessments. Z is different from D. D can hold his own; he is independent to the point of aloofness. Z is a people person and much more sensitive. And he has golden-blond hair, blue eyes and freckles. I'm really afraid that if he goes to that school, he will become a target. I'm probably projecting a lot of my own issue because I was picked on incessantly in junior high and I can't stand the thought of the same thing happening to my sweet child. On the other hand, I can hardly stand the thought of my sweet child and I spending the whole year battling over everything.

I'm not sure what will happen. I've tried talking with Zed, telling him how his behavior is affecting me. I hope he can really hear me and know how difficult this is for all of us. I want to do what is best for him but I really am not at all sure what that is.


Shelley said...

My heart goes out to you in this time of transition and searching. Parenting is hard work!

Friendly Mama said...

Thank you. Things were actually better this week. I'll write an update sometime next week.
Mary Linda

Jennifer said...

Hey Mary Linda,
How are things going now? I'm in a similar state at the moment, after a very hard day--mostly spent arguing with my seven-year-old son. This state cannot continue.


Friendly Mama said...

Sorry it's taken a while to get back to you.
I wish I had some words of wisdom for you about peace and homeschooling but I don't. It is now, of course, over a year later and Zed is in public school. I'm officially homeschooling Carmac, who is five and, thus, a kindergartner. I'm still burned out. My burn-out is of limited duration this year, though, I think/hope. I'm working about 3-4 hours each morning at my job. Carmac is having a very hard time being home without Zed. He's lonely and bored much of the time. I've been very stressed trying to fulfill the requirements of my job and meet his needs at the same time. My job ends on Friday so that problem will disappear and I will be able to focus on making education fun and on getting out and around people more often again. I will be looking for a new job, but if I take one, it will either have to be nights/weekends, or I'll have to make enough to be able to afford a good school for C to attend.

I guess what I'd say to you is to be around people as often as you can. Try different homeschooling groups and activities until you find one that feels right and fits the both of you. Be flexible but try to have a routine.

I used to think that anyone could homeschool. I don't think so anymore. I think there are as many reasons NOT to homeschool as there are to homeschool. Keep in mind that this is a huge, almost completely unproved social experiment (and arguments about brilliant people who "homeschooled" throughout history don't count). I've been at this long enough to see that homeschooling lived up to all it's promise in some individuals and failed others miserably. Try to trust your intuition. I was so caught up in my identity as a homeschooling family that I wasn't able to see how wrong homeschooling was becoming for each of my older sons until they were negatively affected by it.

I'm sorry I don't really have anything positive to say to you. I beginning this journey all over again but with the added benefit of experience and perspective. I'm much more cynical than I was but I'm also more rooted in reality, I think. I wish you luck. Homeschooling is a wonderful and terrible responsibility; something you will carry the rest of your life in one form or another. Try to relax and enjoy and remain open to change.
Mary Linda

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your support, which was very helpful and comes at a time of real need. My low day came during a time when my husband was (still is) out of town for several weeks and I think you hit on the core of it: the need to talk to other adults and socialize myself! I decided that I also need to shake up my ideas of what seems important and tailor my son's education even more specifically than I have. This probably means throwing out my preconceived ideas of what this homeschool year would look like, but it feels like that might move me in the right direction. It may also be that he is not the best candidate for homeschooling, but I'll try a few new approaches before I go there.

My ten-year-old daughter has been such a different story (so easy, so into homeschooling!). She has no desire to do anything else. I hope that, someday soon, my son will have the same perspective. If not, as you say, remaining open to change is a good thing. But then, isn't that good advice for all arenas?

Thanks again-


Vicki said...

As a homeschooler myself, my life and my 12-yr-old son's life is dramatically improved after immersing myself in the writings of John Holt, Sandra Dodd, and Grace Llewellyn. I recommend every stressed parent to read these authors voraciously. Life can be so much better!