It’s been two years now since we began homeschooling. Two years ago we moved to Canada, to our new life. This new life did not include the option of sending our child to school unless we wanted to shell out $8,000 Cdn per school year. We definitely didn’t have $8,000 laying around and so homeschool it was.
Anna had gone to regular school since the age of two (extremely young, and a pointless practice as I see it now. But that’s fuel for another post.) and she kept attending until half of second grade, when we moved away.
If I told you that everything was blissful beauty and intellectual harmony in this house when homeschooling began I’d be plain lying. I was resentful and angry. I was stuck with my kid 24/7. Stuck. There’s no other way of explaining it; that’s exactly how I felt. Trapped. With no alternative but to suck it up and try not to go crazy in the process.
This lasted for maybe six months. I dreaded every morning; the arguing, the fighting, the frustration. I cried more than once. I felt like a complete failure and I feared I was doing my child a great disservice.
My annoyance grew each day because Anna was completely dependent on having me sitting right beside her to do absolutely anything. Even when her comprehension of English had increased dramatically, she still wanted me there. This was a huge indicator for me. Why was my kid so vehement on needing reassurance at every step? Why does she constantly ask for confirmation of the correctness of her answers? Is she afraid of getting things wrong? And if so, is it because of how I may react? Is she convinced that mistakes are a bad thing?
This is the part where I come clean and tell you that I can in no way claim to have been a role model of a parent during this time. I see now that I was too caught up in my own feeling of impending doom to be an effective source of motivation for my child. We can’t give what we don’t have, correct? I was stressed and overwhelmed: so many facts to drill into my kid’s head, so little time. I lost my patience on countless occasions. I think it’s difficult to be patient when there’s no inspiration behind our actions. I was at a complete lack of inspiration spiraling down a vortex of dissatisfaction, dragging my daughter down with me.
Until one day I found out about a group that would become my lifeline in this journey. I met several homeschooling moms from my area and my sense of relief was vast. To see others who were on the same boat as I was, and many of them had been doing it for many years and, wait… they didn’t look like they wanted to pull their hair out and strangle their kids? They actually looked pleased and relaxed. They loved what they were doing. They really enjoyed their children. What a revelation that was.
I asked so many questions! I wanted to know everything! What curriculum to use? Which books to read? What activities to do? And they were so helpful and kind that I came back for more and true friendships emerged, for both Anna and me. Coincidentally, the advice that kept repeating itself over and over from the lips of so many different women seemed to be the same: Let your child lead the way. She will learn everything she needs to know when she’s ready.
It sounded almost like a vision in the middle of a desert, too good to be true; surely just a hippie idealistic illusion. It couldn’t possibly be so simple.
But it was.
After the advice sunk in Anna and I spent many days doing nothing, and oh how good that felt. Now I know that this process has a name, and it isn’t called de-schooling for nothing. It is a much needed moment for parent and child to forget all the notions of what school “should be”. It allows you to decompress and relax, reshaping and shaking the very core of all beliefs you ever thought “necessary” for learning to occur.
We cuddled on the couch and read. We watched movies. She goofed around on my computer. She played with her dolls and out with her friends.
In this time I re-discovered what a cool kid I have, and she showed me how incredibly smart she naturally is. I didn’t have to push and shove. It was all there.
And when she was ready she learned to multiply, quickly followed by the confidence to do her work on her own. Then, several months ago, she demanded to be taught division. Yes, she demanded it. In the past few days her eyes have sparkled with excitement as she talked about researching, writing and delivering a speech. And today, as I type this, she writes and illustrates her very own storybook. Because she wants to. Because this is about her.
And I get it now.
Let your child lead the way.