Monday, November 8, 2010

What I'm Not Supposed to Say About Homeschooling

The other day during tap class, I was reading a nice, fat book, and Sylvie was introducing herself to other younger siblings enduring an older child's class. A mother sitting near us began to chat with Sylvie, and asked if Sylvie was in school. Sylvie quickly chimed, "We homeschool!"

The mother looked at me and had a very common reaction. She said, "I wish we could do that." My pat answer is that it's not for everybody, because I do not actually want to convert people. I'm pretty certain most people do not even care why or how we go about the business of school. Heck, she was probably just being friendly, but I wanted to get back to my book, as tap class is one of my few guilt-free opportunities to sit and read for a long stretch of time.

The mother then said, "I just get tired of all the drama," with a gesture to her daughter. "She has such a hard time with some of the girls."

I said, "Oh, we have drama at home. I worry that my daughters might kill me." Then I turned back to my book, choking quietly on my foot.

Here's the thing- homeschool isn't perfect, and we all know each other too well to fall back on simple politeness when one of us is in a foul temper. This post is not about how wonderful homeschool is. You can go to myriad places to hear about the glories of homeschool- including some of my other blog posts.

This post is about how I "never" get a break. Pretty much from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, I am at-the-ready to solve problems. (I know this can also be true for mothers of children who go to school, but I'm just talking about me right now.) I get really tired of reassuring Phaedra every thirty seconds that she is doing her math right. I get tired of reminding Ezra that we have things to do besides read fantasy novels and discuss the magic of numbers. I cook the meals and wash the dishes with steady interruptions. Even when I've sent my darlings outside, they check in every three to five minutes for a drink, a snack, a discovery, an argument, a question, etc. For our school time, I'm in a very steady giving mode, trying to be completely open to all requests. The children sometimes need to resist me and this can make school a drag.

Today, over a very pleasant breakfast, Phaedra said, "I sometimes wish you were not my mother." She seems to choose the most idyllic moments to share these tidbits with me. Then she said, "You probably wish I wasn't your daughter sometimes, too."

"No," I answered firmly, "that's not how it works. You'll probably think how different I could be for your whole life, but I'll always want you just like you are. It's the joy of motherhood."

This conversation is a shadow to every school day. Our school time is sometimes just a very clear sign of all I'm doing wrong. And even I get tired of messing up that often.

There are also all the things I'd like to do for them that I never get around to. Like clipping fingernails and accompanying their fiddles with a guitar, reading hours and hours to Sylvie, finishing Oliver Twist with Ezra and Book of Fairy Princes with Phaedra, and painting two or three days a week and all that. There are my own projects I cannot get to in the face of homeschooling, like leaf raking and trim painting and hole filling and dog training.

Most of the time, it's all okay. I can see what I'm gaining by giving up on a few things, but sometimes, I can feel that list of things I can't quite get to hurtling behind me like a freight train. Then, homeschooling doesn't feel peaceful or beatific or glamorous. Then, it's my job to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

Now, back to our regular home school booster club.

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