Thursday, June 11, 2015

on public school and my fears for our son

We took our son out of public school in the midst of third grade and decided to home-school him for reasons that even we weren't certain about.

That year was hard and we were asking lots of questions.

We didn't know what to do about our son not paying attention or following directions. We didn't understand what was going on, and our suggestions to be partners with his teacher in talking through his issues weren't responded to as we had hoped. It wasn't his teacher's fault, necessarily; she had lots of other kids and priorities that limited her time to give our son the attention we thought he deserved and needed.

This was our first go-round with parenting and we didn't know all the questions to ask.

Suddenly we found ourselves faced with the option of homeschooling and after taking a crash course in the how to's, we decided to have our son complete his third grade at home. People probably wondered what was up with us and what could cause us to suddenly veer left. When family voiced their concern we simply kept on with what we thought we needed to do at the time.

Could we have kept our son in school like most other kids and fight the good fight? Sure. But we didn't have to and so we chose not to.

Fast forward two years.

After test upon test to determine whether our son has a learning challenge of some sort, we found out what we already know:

     Every person learns differently. Period.

We still don't have any answers to why our son continues to not pay attention or follow directions.

Maybe his stealth strong-will promotes a decision-making in his mind of what he thinks is important and not important.

Maybe he tries to be creative in answering questions and approaching school work, thinking he can try a different way.

Only God knows. And truly, the why doesn't really matter, anyway.

Did homeschooling him help? Did it enable him? We will never know.

Should we have kept him in school? Let's not go there.

All I will say is this: I do believe there is a lot to be said for developmental readiness. Also, and perhaps most importantly, there is not one right or perfect methodology for teaching our children.

Homeschooling did things for our son and our family we can never fully define. 

     I watched joy and creativity find its way again.

     Time together was simplified and savored.

     Frantic was a thing of the past.

By having our son home we've had the flexibility to do things we wouldn't have been able to do if he were in school. We have gone together on a few of my business trips and discovered parts of cities -- partly just for fun and partly because they have connected to something interesting that he studied.

The place where I work gives us access to facilities that allow our son to hone his sports skills and we've seized those opportunities. College students use those facilities, too, and so my son and my groom have met people who they otherwise wouldn't have met if our son was in school.

There have been good things about having our son at home for the past two years and there have been challenging things.

My groom is a hero in the eyes of most people when they hear he has been the primary teacher. I just nod my head in agreement, because I don't know if I could do it either. Yet, according to him, "you do what you have to do". He says those words because he cares deeply about his commitment to love and fatherhood and he is passionate about exercising his gift of teaching and helping. My groom doesn't necessarily care more than me, just differently than me.

It wasn't always easy for me, though. I sometimes judged my groom's approach and scowled when I wanted happy-clappy lunch hours and evenings instead of continued lessons that sometimes fall on our son's seemingly deaf ears.

Life is about learning. It's not always comfy.
     Growth is a necessary part of the process and it hurts.  

This past school year we were faced with the sorts of challenges similar to those of kids the same age as our son's. Motivating our son to care enough to try hard is difficult and we often feel helpless. This is his challenging thing right now and though we hope it won't be his forever thing, it is for now.

We decided at the beginning of this school year to use this year as a preparation year for our son to return to public school next year. He will re-enter as a sixth grader in the Middle School -- aka, the dreaded years. Honestly, I'm excited for him, yet I'm also quite afraid.

     I'm excited for our son to learn from other people.

     I'm excited for him to influence other human beings on a daily basis.

     I'm excited for our son to come home and tell us all most of the details about his days.

     I'm excited for him to get called on and be challenged.

     I'm excited for our son to raise his hand with confidence.

     I'm excited for him to have variety and multiple teachers on a daily basis.

     I'm excited for our son to navigate his interests beyond athletics.

With all there is to look forward to about the differences between home-school and public school, there is also so much that I fear.

Surprisingly, it isn't the infamous and much debated Core Curriculum that I'm afraid of, or the teachers having so many students and so little time, or that our son still hasn't figured out how to follow.the.blessed.directions (!), or that he will have to face the consequences of reality discipline. It isn't even the social stuff that comes with puberty, or the pressures of life.

Sure, those are all things concerning me, though to be honest I'm mostly afraid our son will decide we're a couple of loons and he will decide to be who he wants to be, and who he chooses to be won't be who we think he was created to be . . . and that I'll mostly be right about all of this, because it's quite probably how it will go.

He probably will decide to live differently than how we've raised him. At least for awhile.

I'm afraid our son isn't ever going to stretch before practice or after practice, or drink even one sip of water all the livelong day, or eat anything other than peanut butter or poached eggs on English Muffins.

I'm afraid our son will do his own thing whenever he wants and won't ever realize how working hard does more than one can ever imagine.

The thing is, we can't protect our son from the bullies of the world, or discouragement, or make people pay attention to him. I can't force my son to pay attention, or to follow directions, or to take notes, or to ask questions to verify his understanding. I can't make him drink and stretch and eat the way I think he should. I can't make sure my son actually learns what I think is important and not what I don't think is important.

I can't ensure my son will achieve his dreams or become who I think he was designed to be.

It isn't the school I have a problem with as much as it is Myself.

It's my fear keeping him entangled in my grip and keeping me up late at night, contemplating the next guilt-trip I can impose that might "inspire" him or "light a fire under his butt".

I fear my son becoming someone who totally isn't the storybook character I often forget I didn't script him to be.

As much as I fear and want to hold him back from the meanies in this world and the crazy, mixed up education system that just confuses me all to pieces, I need to let him go. Not for the "social" reasons so many people are focused and concerned about for home-school students, but because he needs to make his own choices and discover his own need for God, and that it isn't a sign of weakness to need Him.

Letting my son go feels irresponsible in some ways, a little bit like throwing him to the wolves, so to speak. But, I can't protect him forever or guarantee every late-night lecture and early-morning hug will stick and give him the courage and peace (and instructions) he needs for his life.

I can't solve his problems for him or create a sunshine and rainbows kind of life for him.

     Life will be hard. It will hurt. He will make mistakes. 
          All I can do is trust God's got him.

God chose me as the mother for this specific child, knowing I wouldn't know how to do even the basic kind of math or be able to explain how to write (other than to say, "just do it as you feel led").

God chose me, knowing my son would need to be taught to clean up his crumbs from the lunch table, even though I don't always clean up my own from breakfast.

God chose me because He has purpose for me, in spite of my imperfections.

I trust God's got my son, no matter where he goes to school and what he does.

     If my son needs to fail, then may God use it.

     If I need to disappoint him, then may God use that, too.

After all, I didn't create this person, God did it. And so, it all comes down to the smallness of my faith I am most afraid of, my struggle to trust God's ways, and how much longer my fingers will stay white-knuckle gripped.

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