Thursday, October 08, 2015

Yes and No

Fall is gradually creeping in this week, as temperatures have dropped from the low 90's to a far more reasonable 70ish.  My favorite time of year is upon us, and we are settling into the hectic rhythm of autumn with full time school, volleyball practice or games every single night of the week, church participation, and seemingly unending medical appointments.  Dental visits, Shriner's visits, and Dermatology visits abound, and sometimes juggling the family schedule feels as if I am more like Command Central.  With the new business, it is proving even more challenging as we don't have the luxury of Dominick's previously more flexible work hours which.  Somehow, though, we are managing.

The choices we have made for what our family life looks and feels like are not the choices others might make, but we wouldn't have it any other way.  It does mean life is more challenging in all kinds of ways, but the benefits are enormous.  Our super scary (and sometimes still is!) decision to homeschool all five was outside the norm, and I know it isn't the right choice for everyone.  It is hard, harder than I often let on for a variety of reasons, thankfully none of which have to do with my kids or their attitudes.

Homeschooling is hard for our family because:

1)  We have a tremendous number of special needs
2)  The income lost by my being home has made our lives more challenging on many levels, and has put a lot on Dominick's shoulders in order to provide for us.
3)  Being all roles has been exhausting.
4)  I doubt myself every single day.  That is hard on the old ego, and I wonder if I will ever be able to look back with complete confidence at what we have accomplished with homeschooling and not feel like a bit of a failure.
5)  No feedback, no job reviews, no raises to affirm you.
6) With special needs, you DO feel like a failure all the time, because learning that appeared solid, suddenly isn't, and it feels like it is your fault.
7)  With gifted, you STILL feel like you are never doing enough to help them become who they can become.
8)  I miss grown ups, sometimes more than even I realize.

When I think about all I would have missed though, if we hadn't made the decision to do so, I want to cry.  The past couple of weeks have been so reflective of that very thing, it is all the affirmation I need.  In no particular order:

1)  Angela, Olesya, Kenny and Josh all had an assignment for Miss Mary to write about the qualities they wanted to find in their future mate.  This came from beginning to read The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom and Corrie's beau that ultimately did not become her husband.  I was privy to the hearts of my kids, to the dreams of their future husbands and wives.

But Olesya...oh my dear sweet Lessie!  All of us sat there quietly thinking what huge change taken place in this young lady over the past 5 1/2 years.  She spoke with such confidence about wanting a man who would love her the way she is and not want to change her, who would be wise, who would value her completely...and she said it as if she deserved it.  FINALLY, my daughter sees herself as worthy, and it has taken years to get there, and daily reminders over and over again of her worth.  That would not have happened had she been in school, away from the family who is nurturing her out of her prior life and the perspective of herself she came home with.  She and Angela both spoke openly about the need to be with someone who was physically warm and affectionate, who would be unashamed to hold their hand or put their arm around them in public.  This from the girls who literally had to have "Hugging 101" lessons when they came home.  Sweet victories I am not sure we would have had if it were not for the inordinate amount of time spent enveloped in open expression of love.

2)  A couple of weeks ago, we were studying Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then the conversation turned to Chernobyl.  Angela asked me about what radiation really was, and why you couldn't see it.  Matt turned to me and said, "Mom, can I answer that?", then he proceeded to go to the white board and offer a 10 minute explanation with diagrams about what nuclear energy is.  Where in the world did he learn this?  I didn't teach him any of that?  We then watched a video that said almost verbatim what Matt had taught us.  I sat there dumbfounded.  I asked him how he knew all of that, and he explained that he had just taught himself somewhere along the line.  What I am discovering now that we are this far in is that homeschooling has offered the gift of time, the gift of exploration and not being overburdened with "have to" work so that "want to" work can happen.  All of the kids, at one time or another, astonish me with some new concept they understand that was never taught them.

3)  The freedom to be who they are without fear of ridicule.  If they were not homeschooled, I highly doubt that Josh would be sitting here beside me as I type, wearing his brand new full sized pink headphones that he got on a deal because the retailer was donating to breast cancer.  What 12 year old boy would tell you his pink headphones were totally cool and who cares what anyone else thinks, and besides mom, I like pink.

4)  We get to spend time with people we care about, who care about us.  We have had such wonderful support in our homeschooling journey, with friends sharing their talents and interests.  This past week, our friend George came and shared his love of poetry with the kids, reading to them his favorites from his collection, challenging them to think differently about poetry which is hard for most of our kids because they really struggle with rhythm, and of course Kenny can not hear rhymes to save his life.  We have Miss Mary who has spent hours and hours in deep conversation on topics ranging from news stories to relationships to faith as she weaves in and out of their lives working with reading with them.  Through the years there have been numerous caring adults who wanted to contribute, and who have made a real difference...and the kids have different relationships with adults because of that.  Rog, Pat, Lael, Steve, Jane, Kim, each blessings in many ways.

5)  They haven't had to grow up too fast.  When you have kids who have lost half their childhoods to isolation and incarceration (that is what it really is), being able to take your time to enjoy what time is left, and maybe step back a few years, is vitally important.  There is enormous internal work to do, trauma to overcome, trust to develop, and there is the need to let go of having to take care of yourself at all times and to settle in to being taken care of.  That work alone takes years, then there is no rush to move out of that once you are finally comfortable with it.  Homeschooling has allowed our kids the time to mature at their own pace without external pressure.

Angela, at 17 years old, just got her first real pet, and watching her excitement over it is so much fun!  She researched it all, bought all the supplies, and found a cute little parakeet she has named "Alejandro", and calls him "Ali" for short...because she couldn't decide on her favorite Hispanic name or a name for a boy in India, so I suggested she go with this one.  She loved it, and adores her new little friend!  But think about it, 17 years old and finally just ready to take on something like this.  It takes time for them to grow into who they can be once trust is established.  We don't need to be thinking about things like boyfriends and driving, we need to be thinking about our first pet!  The rest will come, in time, when she is ready.

6)  The kids are around all ages and kinds of people, something that wouldn't have happened had they been in school around solely same age peers.  Opportunities such as working at Sharing Ministries, helping out around the businesses with Dominick, volunteering at the library, helping out our adult friends from time to time because they are home when others are not has opened up the world to them in a different way than it would have been had they attended traditional school.  They easily chat with adults with little awkwardness, and they are comfortable around anyone in general, regardless of socio-economic status, race, etc.  This was so evident this past weekend at the store for our Customer Appreciation Day, where they all visited with our customers with ease and respect, where I saw them interact with disabled folks, non-English speakers, rough hewn construction workers, and more.  They had fun, and they can't wait until next year's event.

 7)  Thanks to homeschooling, Kenny can be Kenny, and he can be loved,  corrected, reminded, and laughed with (not at) as we continue to struggle daily with his broken brain.  That child would never have made it had we not homeschooled, it literally saved him in a million ways and he says so all the time.  For that alone,  I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to do be with him.  Yes, our days are sometimes incredibly hard, yes, I spend an inordinate amount of time in "training" mode, but the more I read about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the more I am filled with love for this son of ours, who, unlike many has the warmest heart, takes correction so graciously and with great understanding and wisdom, and who never gives up.

You have to give up something to gain something.  For every "yes", there is a "no" that must be said.  We have had to say "no" many times, but the things we have said "yes" to make every "no" seem easy.  For that, I am so thankful.

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