Sunday, November 14, 2010

The homeschool journey part 2. What On Earth Am I Doing?

I have moments of intense anxiety.
I often feel that I am no good at this.
I don’t know what I am doing.
How can I expect to make a go of homeschooling when I am the most disorganized person I know? (and I know some pretty disorganized people).

I am not a morning person. We do not have a regular start time for school. If we begin before 10 I am happy. (well, when I say happy, I mean slightly less stressed)
I am selfish with my time. I admit that if I had my way I would be reading constantly. And not books about how to mark essays, or how to really understand how your child learns. I would be reading the new Kate Atkinson from cover to cover.
Instead I am reading it covertly whilst sitting on the toilet, taking the longest pee in history, my bum numb and my toes stricken with pins and needles and a small voice echoing up the stairs “... Mummy, where are you?”
And why did I decide it would be a good idea to teach the unteachable child at home? If the Special Ed team at the local school couldn’t get her to concentrate, why the heck did I think I could?
I love her to bits. She is adorable in her quirky mind blowing ways. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry. She makes me scream into my pillow. I fight her every step of the way and at the end of a long torturous day she has produced a smudgy misspelled illegible piece of work not worthy of a 5 year old.
And then I remember that this is my unique Jessica I am dealing with. The child who cannot do what the book is asking her to do. Her brain isn’t wired like that. So the next day, I make it easier on both of us by acknowledging this. And I ask her to make a cartoon strip of the first 8 chapters of Anne of Green Gables (why didn’t LM Montgomery do it that way in the first place?)
Most days she does very little. But I attempt to reassure myself that she did very little at school too. And I know she is happier doing it at home.
And I tell myself (As people helpfully remind me) that it is early days yet. I am beginning to worry ever so slightly that I cannot keep churning out that trite phrase forever.

I know that the youngest is learning. Her reading is improving almost daily. This 7 year old, who, a month ago tested a reading age of 5, will hopefully, by the time she is 8, have the reading age of a 6 year old (as if all that actually matters anyway ... for goodness sake .. she loves books, what more could I want?)
The oldest is of course extremely capable and I worry about her too ... I worry that I have taken her out of a system where she was challenged and brought her into a place of chaos where she can underachieve to her hearts content. She writes and reads and does her math. I need to make sure she does it all well.

I love to read to them. That is a plus. One of the easiest parts.
The rest is bloody hard work. The keeping up with them. The making sure they are getting it done. The checking, critiquing, planning. The worry that I am not checking critiquing and planning enough ...
I can manage the guilt trips and the panic attacks quite well.
I need to enjoy jumping off the ledge a bit more ... the whole free fall thing.
I need to learn patience and grace and I need to learn to trust God. He is, after all, the reason I am doing this.


Meg Rosoff said...

Well, Lynne, I'm speechless! As another disorganized person, I can't imagine doing this. But then, I have a madly sociable straightforwardly academic child, who would shoot herself if I told her I was going to be ALL of her teachers. I have a very ambivalent relationship with her "masters of the universe" London private school, and am sure someone could be doing a more interesting job. In the back of my mind, I suspect the entire educational system is idiotically out of date and reductive, and leaves many children behind. But learn enough physics to teach her? HELP!
I admire what you're doing (do you have to teach all three???) especially with a child who the schools have failed. Is it a good solution? Who knows. I'm sure you'll all learn a lot as you go along. And there's no one road in life. I've seen kids who are systematically crushed, year after year, at school -- and at perfectly "good" creative, caring schools. Good luck with what you're doing. I guess the main thing is to listen to your kids. They'll tell you when it's not working!

malcolm watson said...


I’ve just almost wept over your latest blog. Were you crying as you wrote it?
I knew right from the start, that if anyone could make a success of home-schooling, you could. I also knew right from the start that you wouldn’t find it easy. As you say, if the trained Special Eds people can’t....
But of course, you have something more. As a mother/teacher, you know your children as individuals far more intimately than the “experts”. And you have your own level of training - a few years back, yes, as far as the formal training goes, but you’ve been learning how to be a mother/teacher for the past 16 years. And, as a grandparent who occasionally observes at close hand, and at other times at a distance, I can say your training shows.
Another thought: imagine the situation if, all those years ago, you had, by some miracle, managed to get your maths certificate. You would have gone on to get a teaching post somewhere in the UK, and become a successful teacher, having to get up at an unearthly hour every morning to be at your desk by another unearthly hour. You would have had a class of 25 - 30 children, of fairly mixed ability, and you would be sweating over how you were going to provide the right motivation to help these children to progress to the level that was laid down for them by the authorities. Which authorities? Well, there’s the Government, to start with; the local Education Authority (whatever that’s called - I forget, it changes so often); The School Governors (what do they know, I ask myself?); The Head Teacher; the parents...
Perhaps the miracle was that you didn’t get your maths certificate, which enabled you to give up the prospect of a teaching career - all those years ago - to restart it now with your own little class, in the sure knowledge that you can, and will, make a go of it. Your last sentence says it all.
The only problem I can see, is that they insist on teaching math, instead of maths.

Michelle Mitchell said...

As a CRAZY HIDEOUSLY organized person with two children who have yet to figure out how brilliant they are, I SO get what you're saying. It took us 7 hours to produce a paragraph and I just couldn't let them stop until we had one. I needed to be able to look back on the day and demonstrate that we accomplished one thing today that was due....wait for it.....last week! And it's still not done. I don't know who cries more at my house, the kids or me. Where's the pee closet and my book?

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I have been married to Andy since 1991, we have 4 daughters, 2 dogs, 2 cat, 4 rabbits (and various baby rabbits) and a hamster (not dead). We have lived in the U.S.A since 2000, and are citizens of the U.K. I miss many things about the U.K.(pubs, old buildings, red post boxes, church bells,narrow roads, a good joint of roast lamb with mint sauce, to name but a few) but I have grown to love the U.S.