About 11 o’clock Friday night February 3, I got the call every parent with a teen aged driver dreads. My 17-year-old son had been in a car accident, and they were taking him to the hospital. He will be okay. He had part of his small intestine removed and a tear in his colon sewn up. As I sat in his hospital room, I reflected on our homeschooling journey and homeschooling in general. This might seem like a strange thing to be thinking about; perhaps it was because the weekend was supposed to be a work weekend focusing on finishing this newsletter. Instead I sat in a hospital room watching my child breath, listening to the machines attached to his body beep, smelling the mild antiseptic smell that permeates hospitals, and my mind drifted to something that has been a big part of our journey together.
There is an interesting dynamic that homeschooling parents have to deal with. On the one hand, we face the same issues all parents do no matter where our children attend school. On the other hand, as homeschooling parents we have taken sole responsibility for our children’s education. For many of us this can lend a job-like nature to this part of our journey with our children. The reasons for homeschooling are myriad, but for many of us it has to do with a desire to have a deeper more meaningful connection with our children. There is nothing job-like at all about that.
This dual nature of homeschooling, part job-like versus a focus on closer bonding, can be a conundrum for homeschooling parents. Many of the struggles parents and kids have when homeschooling come about when parents get into the job mode with their child’s learning. You know those times when you treat your child’s academics like a to-do list that needs to be checked off or a job that needs to be completed. Part of the problem is kids are not mature enough to be great employees; we are expecting them to function in a way they are not yet ready for. Another part of the problem is that the message of “learning is a joy” is at odds with treating it like a job, even if you really love your job. Children cannot help it; they would rather be nurtured than put to work.
For homeschooling parents it’s a balancing act though. There really are a series of tasks that need to be accomplished to master a subject. Learning is a joy, but sometimes you don’t appreciate it until you have acquired the knowledge and can start applying it. And honestly, how much more nurturing can you be than to dedicate a significant chunk of your life to educating your child.
On Monday, my son asked me nervously what was going to happen with the classes he was missing. I told him it was okay; all the work could be made up. He told me that wasn’t entirely true. He is taking classes through others, taught by people who might give him a few days’ break, but at the end he will have to work to catch up in those classes by a certain deadline, or he will not pass them. I assured him we can make the work up, that it will all be okay.
Did you notice that I said, “We can make the work up?” That is the duality of homeschooling in one pronoun. His education has become a responsibility both of us share. I don’t do his schoolwork for him. If the situation calls for some intensive tutoring however, we will work together to help him catch up. If I could take a can opener, open his head, and pour the knowledge in, I wouldn’t. I am raising a lifelong learner, where the learning is about the journey not a destination.
That’s the real truth about homeschooling. Even when it is at its most job-like, it is nurturing; it is bonding. I came to understand as I watched my child’s chest rise and fall, how hard it is to appreciate the journey when you get off track, when life inserts itself, and there is nothing you can do to control it. The two of us embarked on a journey eleven years ago that along the way has included laughter and joy, fighting and bickering, and everything in between. Along the way, he has taught me just as much as I have taught him. What a pleasure it has been for me to hold this child’s hand as we walk through this part of our journey together.
Love to all, Blair