Sunday, March 21, 2010

Perspective


I'm late on 7 Quick Takes because I'm only online on Sundays. Hopefully I can jump in without penalty!

1. It's very unlikely we will homeschool next year. While I see successes in some areas, the overall atmosphere is very unpleasant. My son hates learning and complains no matter what task I set him to. He procrastinates and sulks and sabotages his assignments, which makes me so frustrated that I lose my temper and create exactly the kind of environment that experts say prevents a child's ability to learn. I've prayed for strength, for patience, for guidance, and it comes down to this: it's not working. I want to be open minded and accept that homeschool might not be right for us.

2. So we are in the process of finding a school for him. I'd like to make the financial sacrifice and send him to our parish school, if only because at least that way he'd still get to Mass once during the week and would receive catechism instruction on a daily basis. I'm not yet convinced, though, that the benefits of a Catholic education outweigh the financial burden. But I found the public school overcrowded when we visited last week, so if I had to choose, I'd prefer the private school.

3. I am starting to get really super-excited about the idea of having some time to myself every day. I could work on my book. Possibly (gulp) finish it! I could do fun stuff with my son instead of having all our interactions be adversarial! I could schedule doctors appointments that don't involve my kids shouting and screaming and barging in while I'm being examined! I could sit at Mass and actually pray in silence! Wow!

4. I am also really, fundamentally, depressed about this. It's hard not to feel like a failure. If I were a better teacher, perhaps my son wouldn't fight learning so much. It saddens me that he'll have so much less time now for role play and adventuring. I hate that he'll be gone 7 hours every day and that he'll probably be spending most of that sitting down at a desk. I am deeply worried about his social interactions, both the influences he'll be exposed to as well as the potential for bullying. This just isn't what I wanted for him.

5. My dad has invited us to visit Malta with him this summer. I haven't been since I was three, and this time I really want to explore the churches and the monuments and take a boat tour and all sorts of amazing things that you can do on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean that was settled by ancient Romans! I am supremely blessed with family members who buy me vacations to wonderful places. Unfortunately, I am afraid to fly and will probably spend the entire time over the ocean going through decade after decade of the Rosary. Eh. Prayers are never a bad thing.

6. Last year, I declined requests to be a catechist at my Parish as well as a co-leader for my moms group and planning member of the Colorado Catholic Homeschoolers conference because we were planning to be open to life in January and I didn't think it was a good idea to commit to a volunteer position and then disappear off the face of the Earth halfway through. I'm facing the same choice again for the fall, which is when we are next planning to be open to life again after the unforeseen ectopic pregnancy I experienced a few months ago. Part of me thinks it's ridiculous to plan for something that may not happen, the rest of me thinks that ALL plans may not happen so that's stupid logic. I have been feeling a pull to take more risks and trust God more lately. So perhaps I'll go ahead and volunteer, and then trust that people will figure things out if we are blessed as we hope to be in the fall.

7. And in news that illuminates posts 1 - 6 as the frivolous prattle of a person with no real problems, I found out yesterday that a friend is pregnant. She's really not in a very good place right now and can't afford another baby. I don't want to say any more out of respect for her privacy, but I do ask that you pray for R--. She is not considering an abortion at all, but she is very worried about how they can manage, and she needs a great deal of help.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

12 comments:

Rae said...

I am so sorry for your heartache over homeschooling. Please do not beat yourself up for not being "a good enough teacher." Sometimes parents learning/teaching styles simply do not match up with what their children need at a particular time. You can always try again in a year or two if school does not work out better, or your son's maturity makes homeschooling a better fit.

The most important thing is that you are working so hard to be a good mother. If you need to keep homeschooling you will come up with the strength to do so. And if he needs to go back to school it will work out.

I will pray for you and for your friend this week.

'Becca said...

Please realize what a great success you are, as a mother and as a humble Christian, to have admitted that homeschooling is not working for your family. It is all right not to be the perfect teacher for your son's formal education. He is learning from you in many other ways and will continue to do so when he goes to school.

I am employed full-time, and my son has been attending preschool 40 hours a week since he turned 2. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? Yet I am continually amazed at how much my influence and his father's shine through him. Sure, he learns things at school, both academic and accidental--for example, he picked up the habit of saying, "Omigod!" from one of the TEACHERS. >:-( But we did not even have to speak to the teacher about it; all I did was explain to my son that God wants us to speak his name only when we really are talking to or about God because just saying it randomly annoys God, and we suggested some other ways to say, "I'm excited!". He dropped that habit right away.

Being exposed to other people's values presents opportunities to discuss your own values. I did a lot of this with my parents when I was in school, and I took them a lot more seriously than my teachers or peers, even when I was a teenager.

I do worry about bullying because I was bullied and found that the school wouldn't do much about it. However, I think the culture is shifting on that and schools take bullying much more seriously than they used to.

I came here from Conversion Diary, and I've really enjoyed looking around your site! It's great that you are learning the joys and rewards of frugality and for a good cause, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I found your blog after reading Jen's post about it at Conversion Diary. It was such a relief to see that someone else has the same feelings over homeschooling as me. This was my first year of homeschooling my first grade daughter, and while I love it-- I hate it too.

My daughter and I butt heads so often, that my husband is insisting that we send her back to public school. I feel so depressed about this. If only I was gentler, meeker, quieter, more patient, etc., then this might work. But because of my failings, I'm probably going to send her back to public school to make my husband happy.

I guess he's probably right; if my daughter and I are constantly arguing all the time, it needs to stop. But at the same time, I know she won't get as good an education as I can provide at home in less time (I too bemoan the thought of her 7 hours away stuck behind a desk). We read Shakespeare, we learn French, we go the park whenever we want, we wake up whenever we want and do school in our pajamas. I dread having to go the board of education to get my letter to re-enroll her. I feel like a prison escapee who is reluctantly coming back to the jail with his tail between his legs, begging for scraps; and they are going to be sitting there with those smug looks of "told ya so". The constant underdog cheerleader that I am says, "Defy the man!" and "Never give up!"... I don't like quitting. I don't like giving up. ... ugh....

We also have looked at the local Catholic school, but it is expensive and kind of run down. My husband is not impressed, and he doesn't want to spend the money on it. I would prefer to send her there so she could go to mass and have religion taught everyday (and I can still defy "the man"), but I'm thinking it's highly unlikely unless we get some magic wad of cash.

I continue to beat myself up for not holding the line of homeschooling, for being a homeschool "failure" or something. I don't know how to stop it. Everyday I change my mind about wanting to do homeschool again and somehow persuading my husband, or just taking my husband's advice and sending her back to public school so that we can all be a happier family with less tendency to strangle each other. I hate the constant inner turmoil over this. Why am I so stubborn??

I have prayed and prayed and cried and cried, and I guess it isn't working for me either. People are going to ask why did you quit, and I don't want to answer them. *sigh*


Well, I guess I'm not being very encouraging...

All this to say, thanks for being real. It makes a difference to see a mom say hey -- the homeschool thing just isn't working. The world won't stop spinning, and I'm not going to hell over it.

Would you pray for me to find an answer and the peace to go with it?

~ V.

SteveG said...

Before you wonderful ladies give up on homeschooling, as a husband of a wife who has faced and worked to overcome almost the same dynamic, I think it's really important to point a couple of things out.

Sending them to school will not resolve this for you. In fact, it is likely to make it worse. I am not saying there aren't families that can't make institutional schooling work, but in many ways it is actually more difficult than homeschooling.

Firstly, you will find that you will become less connected to your child, just by the mere fact that they will be away from you most of the day.

In addition they will now be directing a large portion of their energy toward peer interactions and attachments. This will very likely make discipling them more difficult, not just in schooling but in all areas.

The other important factor that many people leave out of this equations is that in fact, it won't accomplish what you hope.

The reality is that even for public school children, teaching happens at school, but learning still happens at home. This means that as the children move up in grade levels homework will become a major part of your life, and the dynamic you have now with homeschooling will be the dynamic you will have then with homework (unless you work now to change it). It's the same basic activity after all.

I have heard too many parents to count complain bitterly about 1) the amount of homework given to their children and 2) how difficult it is to get their children to do their homework.

Their complaints are very often identical to the complaints that homeschoolers have over the stuggles (which are very real) of getting their children to do their work.

Again, the point is that what you are hoping will happen (the removal of this source of stress) ultimately won't be realized. It might seem so in the first year or two (in the lower grades, when homework is much less), but I have met very few parents yet with children in school who don't come to the point of struggling mightily over homework.

As a husband with a wife who was very much where you are the first year or two, I'd like to instead offer a suggestion that worked for us. Maybe instead of giving up on it, simply relax about it a good bit.

I am not aware of your approach, but I find that many people when they begin try to do too much, and try to emulate what the schools are doing.

Maybe take a bit more of an unschooling, or at least a more relaxed approach that covers the basics.

What we do is to use a curriculum (mathusee, or rightstart math) for mathematics, and we work hard on reading proficiency (in one of our children's cases this went easily, in one other's we ended up getting the wonderful hooked on phonics program to help us out).

Beyond that, we read to them a ton, and encourage reading, and read some more, read some history, read some more, and oh did I mention we read to them and encourage reading?

Beyond this, we use their everyday interests as educational opportunities. They were into butterflies last year, so we bought one of these cool butterfly gardens and we all worked together to crhonicle their metamorphisis. That was science for this year. That kind of thing...

...continued...

SteveG said...

...continued...
Seem like not enough? Our third grader just took the stupid standardized test the district requires and got 95% of the questions right (not a big fan of standardized tests here), so obviously even with our relaxed approach he's getting a better education than the vast majority of public schooled kids.

Don't be afraid to pull back a bit, slow down and work on figuring out HOW you could make this work for you and your child rather that WHAT is being taught.

If you spend the next couple of years doing that, you'll be in better shape as they hit the higher grade levels (their maturity will help too). If not, you'll eventually have to figure things out anyway as you find yourself yelling at them a few years from now to sit down and do their homework.

Finally, I don't want to pretend this is easy. My wife still has days here and there where she calls me and tells me she wants to put them all in school and just be done with this. That happens, but it would happen with homework, or other school activities even if we send them.

Like everything else in life, what has made things better is practice. As she's walked this path and tried to find her way to what works (based on who these chilren are rather than her expectations of what they should be), those days of utter frustration have gotten fewer and fewer. I doubt they'll ever totally dissappear, but I think that's normal. That is just part of the challenge of parenting whether we homeschool or not.

Sorry this is so long, but maybe it's just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

After 12 years of homeschooling, I put all of my children in school and it was the best decision I have ever made. They all adjusted beautifully, have met some wonderful friends, and have been very successful. We continue to teach religion at home and they attend religious ed. at our parish church. I was in the same situation you describe. I think it takes a very humble person to realize that what you are trying to do for your child may not be what is best.

Barbara C. said...

Homeschooling can be a struggle if your child in uncooperative. My oldest daughter is just finishing up first grade, and we definitely had our ups and downs this year. One advantage I have had is that I have been studying homeschool since she was three, so it didn't seem so overwhelming once we started with kindergarten. Plus, by that point, I was able to be more relaxed and patient about my expectations for our curriculum and my child.

During some of our struggles, my husband suggested putting her in school. However, I don't think he fully conceived what an upheaval it would be to all of our lives to do so. Plus, I had concerns about my daughter being too concerned about popularity, getting emotionally over-whelmed by seven hours of school protocols, and walls going up between her and her younger sisters.

I spent a lot of time praying and trying to discern what the root of the problem was: temperament clashes, problems with our approach, manifestations of an anxiety disorder (we were considering a psychological consult), or disciplinary issues.

I realized that a main problem was discipline, especially when it came to whining, sabotaging, and lashing out whenever the work was something undesirable. I felt that a disciplinary issue was my problem that I shouldn't shuffle off on a school and unsuspecting teacher.

But I also had to find a balance between instilling more discipline while respecting her spirited temperament. Therefore, I broke down undesirable or more difficult work into smaller portions for her to do in between the easier/fun work or after a small break.

I know that you are trying your best, but I would be hesitant to turn towards school without truly trying to discern what the root causes are and if they are something that can be overcome at home.

But you can always reconsider homeschooling after a year or two. Perhaps sending your son to school will be eye-opening for him, and he'll be begging to come home again. ;-) Maybe not. All you can do is pray and try to discern God's will for your family.

Tienne said...

'Becca -- Thanks for the words of encouragement! I think you're right when you say that being exposed to other people's values gives an opportunity to discuss yours. That's my husband's attitude toward diversity, and it's one that I think my kids will benefit from at any stage of their lives.

V -- You will certainly be in my prayers, Hon. This stuff is so hard. I, too, struggle with what to say when people ask why we're not homeschooling again. I still am so in love with homeschooling and it's so difficult to be turning away from it right now.

Steve G -- Thank you for this beautiful defense of homeschooling! Every single point you make (and they are all cogent, logical and wonderful points) I have already made in discussing this with my husband. When it comes down to it, though, it's all speculation and other people's experiences. There's no proof (yet!!) that any of these issues are going to happen when we send our boy to school. I'm praying that God will make His will clear. Perhaps this year of school will be what my husband needs to understand the importance of homeschooling and truly come on board with the idea. I hope one day he will be as supportive of homeschooling as you obviously are in your family!

Barbara C. -- That's my hope too, and exactly what I'm praying for! Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

The key to what you said is, "The atmosphere is unpleasant"...I get that. I used to think that the amount of time I spent with my kids would make up for the "downs" we experienced homeschooling. I don't feel that way anymore. I homeschooled as long as I could but after 5 years of struggling, praying and trying to "do the right thing", I realized it was time to stop. Honestly, I can say I am definitely busy when 3pm rolls around. I do have crazy afternoons helping w/ homework. But, for the most part, my kids are very self sufficient and have had a myriad of learning opportunities and and experiences that they weren't able to have a home because I was overwhelmed w/ the sheer number of kids I was responsible for teaching. There are really good public schools out there and a lot of good people. Don't let fear of the unknown be an obstacle to you.

My Feminine Mind said...

Wondering if you have looked into or ever considered unschooling?

Tienne said...

My Feminine Mind -- I LOVE unschooling! In fact, I think you're right that it's the best solution to our issue (my son's exuberant personality.) The laws of our state are somewhat lax in this regard, but they do require that all kids take the IOWA skills test in 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. I don't know anyone who unschools, so I'm not sure how that works in our state. I'm fairly confident, though, that if we did unschool, my bright son could manage to score the necessary 25% that counts as passing. My husband would probably not find that acceptable, though...

Valerie said...

You strike me as a kindred spirit. Have you heard of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy? Simplicity of life + sacrifical love for the poor + full-on Catholic + mom doesn't plan, teach, asses, nor keep records + family prayer life + uncluttered learning, and more! I know one lady whose daughter was very hard to homeschool, and she's loving it more than ever with the CLAA. Check it out: http://www.classicalliberalarts.com
I'm just beginning my homeschooling journey with them (eldest DS is 5), so am a rookie, but hope-filled! God bless you, wherever He's calling you to be salt and light, as far as school is concerned!