Welcome to my first readers from Thailand! It’s great to have you visit and I hope you’ll return often!
Today I admitted to myself that I have been feeling really tired the last few weeks and pretty anxious on a daily basis. I realized that once the exhilaration of the decision wore off, the weight of the responsibility for home educating our kids, which is on solely my shoulders and is shared with no one, set in – and that weight is both exhausting me and making it hard to relax.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no doubt that home educating is the absolute right decision for us. Once we realized home educating was the right decision, I would have felt much worse than I do now leaving Edward at school and later starting Petra at school, MUCH worse than I feel now. Once the scales of ignorance, perhaps even self-deception, fell from our eyes, once the realization set in that despite the fact that every child we know goes to school, school wasn’t good enough for us, we couldn’t in all conscience leave Edward there. Since there are no alternative schools here, home educating was the only option. We aren’t yet prepared to move countries to find an alternative school and since I love having the kids at home and I love learning, I was happy to home educate. BUT, until I get the full ‘unschooling’ mentality, which I sincerely wish for, because I believe it to be right and I think it’s a much more relaxing way to live, I can’t get myself out of the grip of homeschooling fear, ‘Is it OK that they aren’t learning what they ‘should’ be learning? Is it OK that they won’t know the same things as other kids their age, because we don’t follow a curriculum?’ Many homeschoolers teach in a way that means their kids far outpace kids their age at school, moving grades and grades ahead in Maths for instance, which must feel great in terms of comparing your kids to their conventionally schooled peers, but it’s not what I believe an education is about. It’s not a race.
But despite my beliefs, my values, I am at times a really insecure home educator, especially since I have to defend myself at every turn. I desperately need to de-school myself. I typed ‘unschooling parents deschooling themselves’ into google and came up with, http://www.theunschoolersemporium.com/unschooling-articles/radical-unschooling-deschooling-ourselves/ Fantastic! I need to print this out and hang it on a really visible wall! It should be my mantra from now on. Amongst Tara Wagner’s important points are, “Most of us have been schooled, primed in our thoughts to support the methodologies used on us as children…the idea that things “should” be done in a particular way and that deviation from that ideal will result in ignorant, unintelligent, unruly or undisciplined children and adults”. This is exactly from where my anxiety stems. I immediately felt much more relaxed, my shoulders literally dropped as I read, “It is a process, not a light switch. There will be plenty of leaps and ah-ha moments but most of the change will not happen within seconds or days. And some of it may take months and even years…There is no formula for shifting our thoughts and ideas overnight. Making radical changes to our lifestyle is an internal journey that takes some time.”
My shoulders dropped another centimetre when Wagner says, “Read, Read, Read: Feed your mind with ideas. New ideas, old ideas, controversial ideas. Natural parenting books, unschooling books, alternative education books, audio books. Websites, newsletters, forums, online groups, blogs. Surrounding yourself with these things is a lot like playing dot-to-dot in your mind. The ideas will continue to connect and form, you’ll be challenged and inspired and you’ll learn”.
That’s why I said in an earlier post https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/day-31-of-homeschooling-in-the-middle-east-should-we-be-doing-weekends-and-holidays-have-we-earned-them/ that I wanted to read more and post less often. I feel a strong desire to read and learn before I can have, and blog about, my own evolving ideas. Reaching out for other sources of information, especially people (because, as Wagner says, “We need people who understand where we are and where we want to be”) is essential. It is important for us as parents and for our children. If I feel better about what I’m doing, they’ll live in a better learning environment. Just now, before I typed ‘learning environment’ I typed ‘If I feel better about what I’m doing, they’ll get a better education’ but then deleted this and changed it to living in a better learning environment because I feel like using the word ‘education’ suggests something passive – something they get from me, whilst the term ‘learning environment’ is a better description of what I want to provide – resources, help and mentoring, more a home with rich resources that they choose to explore and discover than a place that they sit and wait to be taught in. I love this advice, “Embracing unschooling for ourselves is a topic often overlooked. But how can our children learn to live a passion-filled life if they feel being an adult is still full of obligation or drudgery? Unschool yourself! Feed your own interests, have fun, ask questions and make a passionate life a family pursuit.”
I love this but, am I good enough to do this? Can I put my own interests on the backburner enough to be a successful home educator? Can I severely reduce time spent researching and writing about our learning at home journey? Afterall, http://www.trippingmom.com/interview-with-tara-wagner-on-mindful-parenting-and-unschooling/ “Unschooling can go wrong when we aren’t involved. It is not a hands-off approach and it takes more energy and involvement than most others things we can do. It requires our full attention. That can be exhausting, especially if we don’t have support or aren’t filling our own needs as well”?
But I think if I am more fully committed, if I don’t even look at something that is ‘mine’ until they are playing with friends in the afternoon, I will have less anxiety that I’m not doing a good enough job. If I’m really, really focused on the kids: If I turn my phone off, close the lid of my laptop, not allow myself to flop into a chair with a cup of tea and the newspaper or a book for longer than really necessary, I think I could feel better about myself, more at peace. I would feel like I’m giving it everything I’ve got, giving my beloved kids all that I possibly can and that is enough – my best is good enough. Both conventional and unconventional schooling is not an option. I’m the only option. And all I can give is my best and that means, in practical terms, my absolute undivided attention until they go off to play with friends.
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