Keeping it real at home
I’m about to make a bold statement.
The source of unhappiness at home is pretense.
Pretending in homeschool looks like this:
- Defending your homeschool to others when you secretly doubt your effectiveness.
- Showing off the good parts, while hiding the parts that embarrass you.
- Continuing to use the textbook even though you know it causes pain, just because you paid for it.
- Endorsing a philosophy of education you don’t actually use (you say you believe in studying the classics, but never read them; you want to believe unschooling is the best way to educate, but you undermine your child’s self-directed learning when it doesn’t match what you thought it would look like).
- Ignoring a child’s struggles because you don’t want to have to pay for specialists or tutors.
- Telling yourself that the schools are really really bad so that you can justify your “very bad, no good” year, instead of facing it.
- Letting your relationship with your kids wither instead of putting in the effort to hear what’s going on for them and making adjustments.
- Slavish devotion to a method over caring about real learning.
- Acting as though you are okay with a practice when you really really are not.
- Ignoring abuse, conflict, disrespect, or volatility in the home, and assuming that those things don’t impact your homeschool.
- Refusing to consider all options (including the ones you say you don’t believe in) when what you are doing is clearly not working any more.
- Being more interested in the politics of homeschool (common core, legislation, rights) than in homeschooling.
- Tweaking your vocabulary to fit the homeschool community’s approved language rather than being true to your own way of thinking.
- Hiding your child’s behavior or educational failures from others (kids who are dangerous to themselves or others, kids who refuse to cooperate, kids who act out in embarrassing ways—drinking, sexuality, theft, cyber bullying).
- Withdrawing from “society” to avoid accountability.
I have often quoted a saying by Iris Murdoch (The Severed Head) without even knowing the source. A Brave Writer mom (Gail) helped me track it down. Let me post it here:
“You can’t cheat the dark gods.”
The truth will out!
Whatever is going on with you is going on with you. No amount of cover-up or smooth-over will fix the problems you face. Moreover, who you are is an essential part of your homeschool. If you hate the classics (no matter how much you persuade yourself that they are essential to education), you will sabotage your homeschool to avoid reading them.
If you do distrust gaming as a way to learn, you will never be happy when your child is on the computer. You will look for ways to manipulate the system to stop your child from doing the very thing you secretly hate and distrust. Which leads to tension and stress in the relationship—inevitably, absolutely, take that to the bank.
If the context of your family is “walking on eggshells” to keep the volatile member from exploding, the energy for learning will be used up by an attempt to control the out of control member—and then you’ll wonder why homeschool is not peaceful or happy or working.
You are not responsible for the reputation of homeschool.
Let me repeat that.
You, sincere-trying-really-hard homeschooler, are not responsible for how other people see you or homeschooling.
You have one responsibility: to create and hold the space for a peaceful environment in which your family can grow and learn.
There are scads of ways to get there and as many as there are families. It is right and good to tell your public school mom friend that sometimes you worry that the work you’re doing with your kids is not on par with the local schools. If that’s a real fear, it’s absolutely humanizing and truthful to say it out loud. It doesn’t mean you will change course or decide to put your kids on the big yellow bus. It means you are facing the depth of your own anxiety—just like the public school mom who wonders if the second grade teacher is any good this year.
It is right and good to admit that one child’s ADD or behavior problems is impacting the health of the whole family. Once you admit it, you can begin to seek help for everyone. You are not blaming anyone. You are protecting everyone’s well being.
It is right and good to ditch the program that makes YOU unhappy no matter how many people say it’s the best thing since frosted cake!
It is right and good to admit that it’s easier to fight for the right to homeschool than to homeschool. Start there.
Be real. Everyone wants to support a person who tells the truth. Everyone hates the person who pretends her way into perfection (right?).
You have a universe of choices—keep them all on the table. Be attentive to the muscles in your body. If you feel yourself tighten, you know something is not right. Find out what it is, say it out loud, do something about it.
Keep it real.