Here’s what happened. We were on the see-saw about whether or not to do this for *months*, and had pretty much decided to keep Rio in school. She was doing great academically, starting to make friends, and settling into a routine. She had a part in the school play and won a fancy prize for being an awesome student and things just looked rosy. It was clear that school really liked her.
But she didn’t like it back. She was cranky at home and while she cheerfully did her homework most days, she began to have a kind of dismissive attitude towards learning, something we’d never seen in her before. Her dad worried that school was crushing her soul. I worried that she was developing an Attitude.
We still kept her in school, though, and tried to work with her to get her to accept it more, be more present with it, get the good out of it. There was a lot of good. Her teacher was wonderful, and she really enjoyed some of her extracurriculars.
And then after the winter break she just sort of stopped going to school. She stayed home one day because she didn’t feel up to it, and missed another day due to an epic tantrum, and a day because she wanted to do something else, and pretty soon she had missed four days of school in three weeks.
I said, “This is not OK. Either she needs to go to school all the days that school is scheduled, or she needs to stop going altogether.”
And to my very great surprise, she and her dad both said, “OK, let’s try homeschooling!”
And the next day she stayed home again and Martin went in to school and cleaned out her locker and filed the last bit of paperwork and POOF! She’s a homeschooler.
I think we’re all sort of reeling from the sudden change. Rio is looking to me for a LOT of direction. Every 10 minutes she’s all “OK, Mom, what do we do next?” She’s excited and curious and engaged in a way I haven’t seen her since the school year started.
Which is great, and also exhausting, because I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what we do next. I don’t have a carefully detailed lesson plan for each day, or textbooks to assign work from, or even a very firm grasp of what our learning goals for the year should be and how we’ll know when we’ve achieved them. It’s a little scary.
And going to quickly improve, I’m sure. I anticipate us finding an equilibrium where she has more self-direction and I have more resources and plans. I’ve found a spelling curriculum I like, and ordered math and cursive textbooks, and I’m sneaking up on having a plan about reading and writing that goes beyond, “I dunno. Read something! Books are awesome.”
But ultimately I don’t anticipate our homeschooling looking this much like a traditional school. I expect the cursive workbook to get used for a few weeks and then gather dust as Rio discovers what she’s REALLY interested in learning.
It’s clear that she needs quite a bit of structure and guidance right now, though, so I’m aiming to give it to her as best I can. Structuring my time and telling other people what to do with theirs aren’t really my strong suits, though, so it’s uphill work.
This week she’ll have more structure in her days because she’s going to try out Parts and Crafts, our local community education resource center. I love these guys and their crazy project pretty hard. They’ve got this wonderful mix of freedom and structure in their program, with a lot of resources and support for kids, but ultimately placing responsibility for the kids’ education in the hands of the kids themselves (and to some extent their parents). It reminds me in important good ways of Sudbury Valley, but it’s a few blocks from my house and doesn’t have the Weighty Philosophy issues that SVS has.
The one caveat, and it’s a big one, is that in a program with 15 kids, Rio would be only the second girl to join. Someone has to go first (or in this case second) in breaking gender barriers, but I’m not loving it being my kid. I’ve been thinking a lot this weekend about how to support her having a good experience as a gender minority in her educational setting. I guess we’ll see how this week goes and what kind of issues (if any) emerge.
It seems naive to just throw her into that without addressing it, but I don’t know what strategies will be effective without knowing what the problems might be. One thing I’ve thought about is that I’ve been invited to offer a writing workshop to the kids in this program, and I wonder how I can bring anti-bias themes generally, and issues of gender and justice specifically, into my workshop. I’d love input on this, especially from the awesome women’s studies teachers I know read this blog.
So this is where we are: trying a bunch of things and seeing what sticks. Figuring out what she needs to learn and how to teach it very much on the fly.
For all that it’s been scary and overwhelming, and I’ve been still sick and low energy and kind of shell-shocked all week, there are things about homeschooling that are already full stop awesome.
I love getting to spend more time with my daughter, and seeing her engaged and excited by learning new things. It’s great to be talking with her the way I have been about this process, bringing her into decision-making about what we’ll learn and do together. I love how very big she is, how much of a grown person she’s become in the past year or so. It’s a gift to be with her on this journey.
Resources, support and suggestions all welcome. Like seriously: tell me what your favorite book was in 3rd grade, or what math program your kids use in your homeschool, or how you’d address the potential gender issues in her new program. Lay it on me. With love, please.