Well, now we have gone and done it. How has this happened? I don't understand it. Life can take you on such long and winding roads, along which there are speed bumps and road blocks, detours and stop signs. We are becoming one of "them"...the ones whom I have never imagined we would be like, not because of any negative images or perceptions, but because I just thought we were going to be more...well...ummm...normal. First, we go and adopt these kids who look nothing like us, then we adopt some more, then we get a 15 passenger van, then...
We decide to try homeschooling.
Yea, I can't even believe I am writing this myself. And you will be surprised at the child we are trying to homeschool first. No, it is not Kenny with his incredible need to catch up, no, it is not Joshua whose attachment issues led me to consider it awhile ago.
The straight A student, the one with no real issues at all. But the one who is unhappy in school because he is not being challenged enough, the one who wants to explore subjects and has done so on his own since before he could read and he begged me for books about castles, the one who is tired of kids sitting next to him in class continually using vulgar language and being totally disinterested in learning.
There are a million reasons to do it, and likely a million other reasons that folks could provide us for not doing it. I have almost hesitated to even share with anyone that we have been considering it this past week. The judgments run so deep and often even venomous about one's educational decisions for their children. I have people who I am close to who have let me know in the past they are against the whole concept and I am dreading sharing this, I have those who care about us who are cautious about the idea, and frankly I am not sure who all we interact with who will actually be supportive of the plan. However, none of that is important as I am not willing to sacrifice any of my children on the alter of "agreement". As uncomfortable as it can be at moments to have others feel they have a right to judge us about so many things we have decided to do in our life, we have a job to do and the opinions of others are simply not important.
But I know I am not a teacher, I know I don't have a college degree, I know I don't have any skills in this area. And I am afraid.
But I am more afraid of losing my son...I am afraid of him losing that light in his eyes as he discovers something new, I am afraid of losing the happy little boy who consumes books like they are pizza and wants to discuss the causes of the Vietnam war. I am afraid of watching him slowly give in to mediocrity and become ever-so-slightly depressed as he has been since the beginning of this school year.
Please don't get me wrong, I would be the first person to say that I am harboring no geniuses at the LaJoy home. But I do have 3 sons who are intellectually curious (one despite his language defecits), who are all bright and eager learners. I am not striving to be the family with the kid who graduates high school at 13 or who thinks their kid has the highest IQ of their peers. I just want our sons to thrive and I want them to continue to have that thirst for knowledge that we have tried so hard to instill in them. I WANT them to enjoy the Discovery channel, I WANT them to leave a symphony saying "That was awesome!", I WANT them to ask questions and go dig out the answers in the dictionary or Google or want to try a new experiment. We have tried our best to foster that kind of curiosity, we have encouraged free thinking and advocated for getting a good education since before they ever started school.
I am torn because I love the school my sons attend, there are some phenomenal people who work there, I have the greatest admiration for almost every single person I have met. The problem is, that style of education is no longer working for our son. It may ultimately not work for any of our children, but for the moment we are taking it one day at a time. Kenny needs one-on-one attention in the worst way, he is getting the very best they can offer and has an incredibly gifted teacher...who has twenty-some other students who also need her attention. Right now Kenny is in 4th grade, doing classwork out of the 4th grade reading book...and struggles to read Joshie's 1st grade reading book at home at night. We are coming to the point soon where we will have to admit that our kids do not fit inside the box, for a large variety of reasons, and the only ones who can open up the box and let them soar is us.
So, despite God's not-so-funny sense of humor with what I perceive as bad timing with this, we are going to attempt it. How Dominick and I have agonized over this decision!! I can't begin to tell you the number of hours I have spent researching over the past week or so...not a single night have I gone to bed before 1:00 AM, and it is beginning to show. We have looked at all the angles, we have hashed this out and tried to find every possible alternative. None felt acceptable.
Matthew struggled with these same feelings in 3rd grade, and we limped through that year with me wishing ultimately we had just pulled him out. Last year was an amazingly good year for him, our fears diminished, only to find ourselves in this place once again. It is not due to the quality of teachers, he has had some fine teachers whom I have felt blessed to have had cross his path in life. It is not the curriculum nor is it wanting to pull him out of the "worldliness", although I will admit there are a few things we wish none of our children were exposed to. I guess I can't even provide a single reason, it is just not working for him.
The fact is, we feel that God has been heading us down this path for a long time, even if we didn't choose to acknowledge it. No, I am not going to use the oh-so-tired phrase "God told us to", as if that alone should dispell any doubt. But it does feel like a bit of divine intervention here, and if I am honest I am feeling a bit like this is one of those "make or break" moments for our family, that we are at a fork in the road and can continue down the path we are on and see how it all develops, or we can take a risk and give something new a try. It might work, it might not work, but we haven't really lost anything by trying...and we might gain a lot if it proves successful.
Fear stops us from so many things in life, doesn't it? Fear of failure, fear of others' opinions, fear of being different. All 3 of these have come into play with this decision, and yet as Matthew himself told me a couple of days ago after admitting to being scared "It's OK Mom, I am up for the challenge!". How can I not be willing to push aside my own fears and walk beside him as we explore new possibilities about what school can look like?
So please...please...please...do not post comments about all the negatives that are so often brought up about homeschooling. I already have had every argument against it running through my head for the past week. Socialization, missing out on supposed "once-in-a-lifetime" events such as prom, inability to keep up with peers in school work. There is nothing you could possibly bring to our attention which we have not already thought about. Sometimes though, we forget what school is really intended to do, it is to help us acquire an knowledge. If that is not being accomplished in a way that works for your child, then what is the point of it?
Will we eventually homeschool all the kids? I don't know. I am not worrying about next month or next year, I am going to focus on today and let tomorrow work itself out. I think there is no doubt that Kenny will come home at some point, but he doesn't need to be my guinea pig as I figure all this out, and he is happy where he is right now. The girls? Well, we would not be dropping them right in school immediately anyway. Joshie? Who knows! God doesn't tell us we have to have the long term picture all painted and wrapped up in a bow, we just have to trust and let the Spirit guide us, and right now this feels very, very right.
So I will spend the next several weeks in an uncomfortable place, as will Matthew. We will tackle something new together, we will explore possiblities, we will think outside the box. But uncomfortable is not an equivalent of "bad". And surely where we start will not be where we end, as we have much to learn as we test the waters and see what works for us. I know there will be periodic doubts that creep in, I know this is taking on a LOT at this moment in time as we await the arrival of two new children. I have run it over and over again in my mind that this means an entire lifestyle change for us, and a lot of pressure on me to be teacher/wife/mommy/friend/who-knows-what-all-else. We could take a different route, but I doubt I would be able to feel I did my best if we did.
As I have always encouraged our sons to say "We are LaJoy's we can do ANYTHING!", so I guess now is "put up or shut up" time.
So while God is dragging me kicking and screaming and dragging my heels into a new life yet again, I will try and smile and not let the fear show too much.
During these waning days of summer, new adults are slowly blossoming and, for one, childhood is very gradually beginning its tentative wave...