It was not entirely my idea but a combined effort. In all fairness, the topic of homeschooling had been on the agenda, on and off, since those first day of Tony’s kindergarten when he asked if we could. I was hesitant, possibly because it was still a new and exotic concept with more questions than answers. To me anyway.
His very kind kindergarten teacher softened his first schooling experience and our determination to homeschool to the point where we said ‘we shall see’ and that’s how that year passed. It was a good year, especially because kindergarten back then was only four hours a day and that seemed manageable.
Then grade 1 started and that was six hours a day. Big boy was six, little boy was two. Every day we would walk to school, the three of us, rolling down the hill and counting houses and trees. Come lunch time, I was back at school with little boy in tow, ready to have lunch-in-three on the steps of the nearby church. It’s what Tony wanted and it made all the sense to me as I missed him around the house.
Every now and then we talked about homeschooling. Again. Some days more than others. Main reason was occasional boredom.
The grade 1 teacher was good and nice and when we admitted to the great sin of plotting against the system and wondering about homeschooling, she said she understands why I would think that and she mentioned the gifted kids programs. I was too shy back then to say it was not that, or that I am not a big believer in such programs.
Grade 1 came and went and starting with grade 2 our lunch rendez vous stopped. It was suggested that kids might make fun of him if that continues, plus he would miss an opportunity to socialize. With the same kids, of course. A conundrum of some sort.
Homeschooling was set aside for most of the time but it kept resurfacing every now and then. Could we, should we? When he was the one asking I flinched; when I thought we should he said ‘Not yet’ and so the wild homeschooling creature would fly away like some rogue bird every time, not before flapping its wings a few times.
At the end of grade 4 we said goodbye to Vancouver and grade 5 saw us in Kamloops. New school, new friends, new everything. It seemed smooth enough until six hours proved too long to bear and some supervision aids too enamored with the occasional power high some of us experience when fate puts one in charge. The homeschooling bird returned, bigger and stronger than ever. It clawed its way into our lives on a daily basis and promised to stick around for longer this time.
Tony was increasingly frustrated with topics he perceived as irrelevant. In the social arena, the above-mentioned power high issues made for some added bitterness.
At the same time, he was hailed as gifted, which at some point I came to resent as it was reflecting, I thought and still do, rather awkwardly on the rest of the kids. I think they all are. Not being politically correct, I simply believe in creativity and I believe it is ours to play with until we become self-conscious. The school system does not cater to all kinds of giftedness but rather the academic kind (think math, sciences.) Personally I have always been in awe of children, their creativity
The bird did not leave this time, but fluttered its wings over our heads enough times for me to say ‘ok, ok, let me take another look.’ A feeble attempt to go half-school, half-homeschool was just that; a feeble attempt. As my mom used to say ‘you try to sit in two boats at the same time, you’re bound to fall in the middle.’ I thought there was a high of the half school half homeschool project to become just that.
So I choose the one boat we could both fit in comfortably and enjoy the ride. We started homeschooling three weeks and so far it has been a great experience.
The first day was quite similar to that first day of having a newborn in my arms, and the same question sprouted almost instantly: ‘now what?’
Once I got past that, things rolled smoothly. There is something particularly enjoyable about having various assignments handed in. I believe in research-based homework, the kind that looks at a fact from many angles and involves critical thinking in analyzing the why and how. The joy comes from knowing that I will be a witness to my son’s learning to connect dots, I will be privy to the a-ha moments and I will get to guide and learn at the same time. A privilege and a grand responsibility.
I pick topics of interests for him, with occasional new subjects that I hope he will never get to call irrelevant. The day he does, we revisit and try again. To be interested in learning and curious and eager, that is paramount in education. To never be bored but to enjoy knowing more and making more sense of this or that. To savour every day and the learning that comes with sounds romantic indeed.
What about the hurdles, you may ask? They’ll be there, that much I know. But then again, smooth seas do not make good sailors. It will get hairy at times, frustrations will poke their heads through the harmony mesh, moods will be ruffled by this or that, and, if we care to make it a worthy journey, we will make it work.
We sail with trust and openness. I listen, he talks; he listens, I talk. It’s an adventure. We will learn, more than math, physics, geography and history. We will learn about ourselves and how to find purpose in everything we do. As for little brother, he will be in school this year. Next year he’ll hop aboard this boat and we’ll keep on sailing.
One day at a time, that is, because, in the end, that is all we can count on.
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