Friday, August 30, 2013

Getting Out the Door

After solely homeschooling my brood these last five years, this morning I not only packed them up and shipped them off to school, I shipped them off to school an hour away from me.  My days as a homeschooling mom had become less and less inspiring, or Christ-centered. My children in total required far too much differentiation than I, in my anxiety-ridden, recovering Co-Dependency, am capable of handling well, especially given the arrival of our baby in June.

Since my husband is a public school teacher, we are sending them to his district, and selling our house to move closer.  His commute these years has been far too long, too draining on him.  And so, over the last few days, Emre and I have brought the kids to Meet & Greets to see their classrooms and meet their teachers.  Two weeks prior to that we'd met with their principals.  The week before that, I'd put them in the local Catholic church's Vacation Bible School, so they could start to make friends and feel comfortable in the new community we hope to call home.

When we made the decision to stop homeschooling and send them to public school, I was elated.  A little nervous yes, but it felt right.  Peace descended on me, and so I knew this had to be God's will. Homeschooling no longer cultivated that same feeling in my soul, and so I saw that to continue to do so was not His will, no matter how Domestic-Church-y my motivations may have been.

I have a lot of fears, and I know the move to a traditional school will not be a panacea.  I worry that Anna's uncertainty might come across as "slow" or "inattentive" to her teachers.  She is so scared of making  a mistake or  doing the "wrong thing," and that fear slows her down.  I fear that she is way behind her classmates in math; family health problems, the birth of my son, and John Paul's increasing therapeutic work for low tone and vision cut into my instruction time with her, and that subject may be what suffered the most.  It is certainly why I said, "Enough" with regard to our homeschooling. I am afraid that John Paul's weak handwriting will cause others to judge him as slow-minded or sloppy.  I fear that his unusual gait, unique viewpoints, eagerness and effusiveness in talking, will cause him to stand out as "different" in that way that kids and culture tells us is "bad."  I worry he will be bullied, unfairly reprimanded, made to internalize a poor view of himself.

This morning was not perfect, either; the kids didn't like breakfast because we'd run out of maple syrup, and so didn't finish their waffles or their sausage.  And then...

Then my son had a full-voiced, teary melt-down over his shorts, which I'd bought at Target, about which he bellowed, "MOMMY I WON'T WEAR THESE! THEY ARE NOT COMFORTABLE!  NO!  THEY HURT AND ANNOY ME LIKE THOSE LANDS END PANTS!" (Yes, we bought and had to return, pants from Land's End because he didn't like the fabric or the pockets.)

I wish I could say we handled  this smoothly, but we didn't.  He talked disrespectfully, and we reacted. I was the first to have my fuse lit, because I have been so diligent in trying to work with him on this newly-emerged issue of clothing and comfort, and I was over-tired and exasperated and desperate to get everyone out to school without a hitch.  I threatened to keep him home, withdraw him from school, and go back to homeschooling him if he didn't wear what I'd bought and like it!  My husband was right there with me.  Pretty terrible, eh?

Recall my fear that at school he'd be "bullied, unfairly reprimanded, made to internalize a poor view of himself," and  savor the irony.

This rant on my part was anxiety-driven.  My soul was a tumultuous mess of un-peace, so I knew in the moment that we were not handling the issue right.  Therapy has taught me to be aware of my emotions, and Dr. Popcack advises parents never to discipline when one is at a 6.5 on a 10- point scale.  I was past the 6.5, so I walked away, breathed,and prayed myself down.

Immediately, I saw how my/our reaction was a parenting fail in at least three ways: my words were threatening, they were impossible to follow through with, and they were not disciplining the behavior but punishing the behavior.   I was not helpful in working towards a solution, either.  I consulted with my husband about what I discerned and then returned to our son to say, "Because it is the first day of school,  I want you to be comfortable and not stressed; you may wear a pair of athletic shorts.  Your father is correct that you need to learn to wear non-athletic looking pants again.  We will work on that, so when you get home tonight, you will practice wearing the shorts I bought at Target.  Can you agree to this?"

Our son agreed to this compromise.  His mood improved, and I breathed a sigh of some relief... although I feared what the next upheaval might be.  Would he ever act this way in school?

I don't know if this is a sensory issue; he used to love wearing Dockers to church, and oxford shirts with clip-on ties.  This new sensitivity around clothes began last April; my attention to it seems to make things worse, not better, so my husband suspects it is a control issue.  Does one discipline through a control issue?  Can sensory issues present themselves later in childhood?  How can I get him out the door anywhere on time and presentably?

Still, despite the fear and uncertainty, there is peace in my soul as I sit in a quiet house, having unleashed my brood on the world.  My/our anxieties are temporary, emotions that will spend themselves out and pass away.  My children will get to school and something new will happen.  This new life will be challenging, but they will meet those challenges and they will adapt.  They will learn. They will grow.

And by the grace of God, so will I.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Profile Overhaul Part I


I've arrived at a decision that will alter my identity label once again: I am not homeschooling this year.  We are enrolling the brood in a public school system; I have discerned that I am not meeting my own standards for my kids' education.

This admission hurts because it is a blow to my pride.

It took a while to face this fact, partly because I feared that in "quitting," I would validate the countless voices who poo-poo-ed, naysayed, and all out dissed homeschooling whole cloth.  One pediatrician told me outright that I'd make my kids "weird;"  one member of the clergy, without knowing me, insinuated that I might be "neglecting" my children because he'd "seen it before;" myriad people, strangers and family alike, peppered me with cliched questions about "socialization" and state standards.   If I listened to that nag, out of stubbornness I might just continue, because damn it, they can't be right/I can't be wrong/ I just need *one more year* and I'll have it all together.

Only one year is a long time in the life of a child.  And I said the same thing last year...

My pride be damned.  These are my kids, and I want what is best for them.

This is not a condemnation of homeschooling.  I see other moms out there who manage larger households than mine, who meet high standards in math and language arts and have their kids learning Latin and completing weekly social studies units and regular science experiments and get them to worthwhile extra curricular activities.

 In contrast to the homeschooling supermoms, I found that I increasingly lived on the "survival mode" of bare-bones three R's.  Gianna is gifted in art, Anna in language arts, and John Paul in history and theology.  I was not getting enough of what they thrive on into them.  And learning was no longer fun.

Other moms are getting it done, but I am not "other moms."  What has been working for them is not working for me.  Given that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, I have chosen to embrace sanity and admit that I am not currently cut out for this homeschooling thing.

Furthermore, John Paul needs  help to discover his talents. competence, strengths that are latent inside of him.  He is an intelligent and sensitive boy, and I was butting heads with him, hard.  Getting him to his myriad therapies was draining on me; I had nothing left to then move on to the academics with him.

I need help, and that of the professional variety.

I have always loved teachers.  I married one.  I worked as one.  The profession is awesome, and often unjustly maligned.  While I am sure that I will miss my children during those first days, and even as I feel a sentimental, "if-only" twinge as I've packed up or parted with homeschool material, I also know with certainty that I look forward to working with my children's teachers this academic year.

I am excited that my children have this opportunity.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Packing it In

The rippy-screeech of packing tape stretching across cardboard frequently startles the baby from his nap.

I am boxing up my life. 

It feels like slow going.  At this point, our bookcases are bare.  Sixteen cardboard boxes are now back-wrenchingly heavy with the books that loaded them just three days ago. Hemingway, Dickinson, Shakespeare; Norton Anthologies, American Poetry, U.S. histories; Anton Chekov, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor.    The Beauty Myth. The Hours.  Theology of the BodyBless Me, Father For I Have Kids.

 Paperbacks, hardbounds; several are inscribed with well-wishes from friends and former students; all have survived several major purges and book sales over my life.  In total, these boxed books chronicle What I've Valued in different points of my life.  Some titles I keep for future reference, others because I have not read them yet but hope t o someday.  Others I keep just to remember myself from another point in time.

We are planning a Move, in more ways than one.   The house will be on the market (we hope) next month. I'll no longer home school the children; my reasons and feelings for this are vast enough for several posts (which I hope to get to writing eventually).  To sum up: we are enrolling our kids in the school district where my husband works, which is an hour away... and so we are selling our house (and a lot of its contents) because we have discerned that all of this is what this family needs to do to thrive. 

Much of this summer has been one of transition: new baby, new education plan, new financial goals, a new path to take toward all of it. 

With so much change I would be freaking out, but I feel God's hand is moving us, and this gives me peace.  I know we are doing the Right Thing.

Even in those moments when my anxiety and desire for control knock me down for a time, His grace pulls me back to my feet.  This time of boxing up, sorting out, and parting with things is admittedly daunting at times;  there is so much to do, and life does not pause to accommodate it all.  The fact that we can keep our chins up is evidence to me of His carrying us to a better place.