Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Think Hurt Motivated Me to Homeschool

I know it's Christmas and it should be candle light, candy, and family.  All warm and fuzzy.

But of late I have been thinking about why we homeschool.  There are a gazillion super cool positive reasons (one on one instruction, getting deeper into most subjects, slowing down when we need to really understand something that may have been lost in a classroom, a childhood, time for imagination, the connection, and on and on and on).  I somehow have been focusing on why I needed to homeschool.  Why I needed to step out of my then mom culture.

Let me tell the story of a heart ache.

When our older girls were in elementary school we were part of a large tight knit group of parents and kids.  We had gigantic 4th of July parties, late nights around fire pits, snow days (we live where it doesn't snow, so we brought it in and made it a party), beach days, PTA, and days lounging in pools.

We always had our pile of kids with us.  They mostly got along.  They played complicated games while trying to include everyone's passion.  At one point it was army men vs. cats (with costumes and face paint, of course).

It was good.

There was one girl that lived in a family with more chaos than was within my comfort level, but I thought that was just me that saw it that way.  The family was an important part of our group.  We loved them all; giant warts and all.

For many more reasons than the chaos in which she lived the girl decided to kill herself with her father's service revolver.  Dead.  In a moment.  Dead.  At 14.

She had just spent the night with my daughter.  In our home.  She sat with us.  She laughed with us.  She seemed at the edge of a decision.  I thought that maybe she was deciding to choose a boyfriend over soccer.   If only.

I. Had. No. Idea.

Of course it was a shock.  Of course there was/is grief.  Of course.

What I didn't count on was the fall out.  I didn't count on losing our entire friend base.  I didn't count on that girl's mother making a living talking about how friends need to not keep secrets about suicide.  (For the record, I totally agree....however, that was not the girl's story.)

I understand how grief takes on a different shape and feel for everyone.

We poured our hearts out to that family.  We cleaned the room after the police left.  We sat with them through the nights.  We drove them to view their daughter and to finally pick up her urn.

One day I was sitting with them and they had someone come and take the door to her room away.  The blood had soaked up through the bottom of the door.  Her blood.  I wanted to leave.  I stayed.  I stayed because they needed company.

The mother needed to find a point of blame.  She chose us for some of it.  Our friends triaged and continued to support the grieving family.  I think I understand that.  We were a bit of collateral damage.

Two years later it was time for T to start Kindergarten.  We have an awesome, wonderful elementary school with brilliant, caring teachers.  The same teachers that taught our older girls and the girl.  However, because of the nature of the gazillion kids per class a parent really needs to be involved in the school.

I did it.  Sort of.  I couldn't invest fully in that connection.  T went there for Kindergarten and 1st grade.  That was it.  On my most honest days I recognize that I was too hurt to fully invest in the mom culture at that school.

I know.  I'm selfish.  On the other hand, homeschooling has been the most amazing ride so far.  I love it. T loves it.  I'm making new connections where I can, but now I know her experience at school is not dependent upon how quickly or deeply I get involved.

I think I am finally ready to reach out a little bit more.  A baby step.  I am feeling more confident with homeschooling.  I was also slapped in the face with a little reality that next year there is a very good chance that both older girls will be away at college.  It is time for me to dip my toe in my new mom culture.  T and I are going to switch our schedule a bit to accomodate some outside classes and a few of those park days with our local homeschoolers.

It may be finally time to embrace the new us.  The us without the girl.  The us with the big scar on our hearts.  It's ugly, but it's healing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WFMW: Call in the Reinforcements

There is quite a story that goes along with T's addition to our family.  The short version is that she demanded to be born.  Her next closest sibling is 10 years older than she is.

I had the awesome joy of having two teenage daughters and a toddler at the same time.  It interesting time.

We have three daughters and each one is very, very unique (I wish there was an "understatement" font)!  I can barely keep up.  I am sometimes overwhelmed with my inexperience at homeschooling, with parenting...with life.

In those moments when I'm certain I can't cope with 3rd grade homeschooling, one of those unique big sisters scoops up my mess and takes over.  They teach her things that I never would have thought about. They have embraced this home learning thing to its fullest.

T is learning German courtesy of her oldest sister (yes, that's our All About Spelling board that we love).  She can now count and ask a few basic phrases.
She has learned the art of art.  My oldest sees the world differently and tries her best to get others to understand her vision with any medium available.  On T's Christmas list this year is a piece of art to admire (T's words, not mine).
She has learned to appreciate a good story from her other sister.  When math gets too complicated (read:  I've over complicated it), T goes to her for a better explanation.
T has also been taught cartwheels and handstands from the nutty middle sister.  I love it.
It's so nice to have olders that remember what worked and what didn't for them as they were learning the same things that T is at this age.

It is nicer that they have enough pity on me to take over when it's obvious I am in need of reinforcements.

I highly recommend having older kids around to help with your younger ones.  Or at least some friends to take over some homeschooling when you have reached your limit.  In my experience, taking breaks is highly productive (or at least that's what I tell myself!).

See what works for others at We Are That Family and Works For Me Wednesdays!  Don't forget to check out The Mercy House and Shop Mercy this season of giving.