Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Parenting, Teenagers and now Homeschool?

A growing concern for parents that are deciding to homeschool after their children have been to public or private schools is not always an easy decision and certainly can come with struggles in the transition.  Becoming a parent is already a full time responsibility and adding 'schooling' to the repertoire often is something unforeseen.  I remember when my first daughter turned 8 years old and wondering where that cute little baby went to.  She was growing so fast and suddenly searching for your own identity in her own world that I wasn't prepared for.   This child who had explored her world, who came with me on many of my adventures in my life, traveled with me, hung out with me, shopped with me, laughed with me, hugged me constantly was slowly showing me signs of resistance to all of that.  As I fumbled through each day communicating to her the way I figured was the best way at the time, I realized she was no longer this little person who wanted my constant attention and the ease of 'what was', for me was becoming 'what the heck?!'  As I internally processed the idea that she was 8, I realized no one had ever told me when she was this new little baby, a bundle of pure beauty and expressive joy, that one day I would be a mother to  an 8 year old, or a 12 year old.  Yet there I was, wondering daily, like the first months of her newborn life making sure I was saying and doing the right things correctly.   Where was the Chapter 8, or Step 8, or Age 8 part in the book that I could read now  to support this next stage?  Searching the book shelf I found the last book I had on parenting and what to expect and it was called, 'The First 2 Years'.  That obviously was not going to cut it.

For personal reasons we decided to home school when this daughter was 14 years old.   I wanted her to experience the 'school of life', to explore the world, to travel and to experience culture and to report back on that to the school.  Now a home learner, the school mandated that she  follow curriculum and at that time there was not another option.  With the books in hand, the curriculum in hand and the online teacher support I was transported back to Grade 9 with her.  It was as if I was having to redo my whole grade 9 year over again.   She had all the books and outlines from school that were expected of her. She had resources and access to online teachers for math which were extremely helpful.  To speak honestly I  realized how rusty I was and she was. We studied Social Studies 9, English and Math together.  It was a lot of writing, reading and answering pages and pages of questions and then submitting them.  What I noticed was that there was no satisfaction with learning when my daughter was doing the school work.  She was bright, already fluent in French and English and yet when doing her school work I observed that her goal was just to get it done and that was it. There was not much excitement in learning the school work or a satisfaction of learning what she read. In fact I was more into what she was reading when I studied with her than she was, even though I knew at one time I had studied this exact same material in school myself, somehow I was enjoying it more now than I did then!

Once the school work was done, as a family, we explored the the country we had traveled to.  We took Spanish lessons, traveled to unknown places and cites with ruins that were thousands of years old.  We climbed pyramids, swam in Cenotes, learned of early civilization, wars and ends of civilizations.  We went to museums, hiked, swam in the pools and the ocean and whatever we could do to explore this new world.   We saw those living in poverty conditions.  We had discussions about life, poverty, lack, gratitude, and forged a new relationships with each other that were more still, calm and grounded as we as a family and our children could see what life may really be like outside the classroom.  I wanted her to still excel in school and education and have a love for learning.  It was apparent that year, the love of learning from textbooks was not there.  The years of testing and submitting and worrying about a grade mark being the status quo were not a want or desire, just a want and a desire to 'get it done' and to move to the next grade.   Eventually that year ended and she went back to school in 10th grade.

There were many things I realized in that year and now looking back, we were fortunate to give that opportunity to ourselves as parents and to our children.  What was needed was remediation and time to unwind from the traditional school.  Very easily I could see how the affects of the learning in the atmosphere of pedagogy had hindered the older children's love for learning.  Taking the time to allow them to unwind from the school work, stress and to see that learning comes in a variety of ways aside from testing and regurgitating back information out of a textbook was important for her and for us as parents.

I have discovered, that my struggle as a parent suddenly having a teen homeschooled after traditional schooling, was having to change myself first and not the child. It was important to have the time for just rewinding, clarification and just shaking off the pressures of the traditional mindset.  I realized in that year, once I removed the pressure from myself that my child must succeed, or must get the highest mark, or must understand every thing she read immediately and if she didn't then unintentionally make her feel bad or not good enough or smart enough,  that she started to relax and really learn.  My desire to have her succeed was coming from a starting point of fear of what I would look like as a parent in that year if she did not get good marks or worse yet, failed a subject. To me that would of meant I had failed and I cared more about what others would think of me then what really was best for my child.   When I changed my starting point to one of understanding and love, and a real focus on what she really needed, it was then that I started to understand her world and her frustrations. When that became clear to me, something magical happened. This child that that I experienced in her first 8 years was still there and I just couldn't see it because of my own interpretations and my starting point of fear.  We laughed more, we had closeness, we communicated, we traveled, we hugged, we learned together.  She was free to find some of her own interests.  She still had to complete the school work and with my help she did. However she found that there were so many other things in the world to learn, explore and study that didn't have to end with an exam or a question/answer period, it was just natural learning.  I saw that part of the foundation of her learning in those first years of school with the pressures I had put on her to learn had become cracks that needed to be filled first with myself and then with her before more learning could take place.

I suggest if you are faced with deciding to homeschool your child for whatever personal reasons you may have, that as a parent you take the time,whatever time is needed to look at the foundation of learning first, not just your child's but your own.  All children are brilliant and given enough time, success will come.  It is important to look at the foundation whether your child is in traditional school or homeschooled and see where the cracks need to be filled in first.  Structuring that foundation to be the best comes from vocabulary and understanding how we use words as parents to the child.  I was not prepared to be a mother or a homeschool mother at the time and since have worked on filling in my own cracks in order to be more effective not just as a teacher to my children, but as a parent.  This goes a long way when suddenly your newborn baby is 14 years old! Prevention is always the best cure!


Post a Comment