So let me just start with saying that I’m so grateful to all the pioneers before me for writing so many helpful texts on homeschooling that I’ve been gorging on morning, noon and night over the past several weeks. One overlying message that I read over and over was to let the traditionally schooled kid “decompress” for at least a week to a month as the unofficial start to homeschooling. So from the teacher’s standpoint, I was ready to start last Monday at 8 am, but was prepared to just let her chill if that’s what she needed. Let’s be clear, chill did not mean watch television, play computer games or lock herself up in her room for hours (as she had taken to doing). Blessedly, there was no real struggle in getting Charlotte to abide by this. In fact, I don’t even think I told her that these were the rules until our sitter came to the house on Wednesday (sitter day, yeah!) and I let her and Charlotte know these were the ground rules for the 2 hours I left the house.
What did Charlotte do? From the time that she knew she was “done” with traditional school for now, she began to sleep. Eleven hours on average. We managed to get her to start going to sleep earlier, but she still slept a lot nonetheless. On the seventh day, this is what she looked like when she woke up. I took this picture, because it was the first time I’d seen a look of peacefulness on her sweet face for such a long time. When she did wake up, we used our “homeschooling” time to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland out loud (me to her), try out different math “stations” I had created that emphasized as much creative play and learning as possible, write Valentines, and she read two books to herself. When I gauged her knowledge of things, she was frequently defensive and angry. In Wonderland, Alice tried to ground herself by practicing her lessons: “London is the capitol of Paris, Paris is the capitol of Rome.” Charlotte chuckled knowing it was wrong, and when I asked, “say, do you know what country London is the capitol of?” she retorted “NO! No one ever taught that to me! Ever!” That wasn’t the only time she got angry or impatient and I realized that it would be a long haul to undo a year’s worth of robotic teaching, extrinsic rewards of candy and frequent praise for high scores and shame for low ones. It gets worse.
We celebrated her turning 9 on Thursday and she seemed to be peacefully happy. After seeing that, meeting with her principal with whom I deeply respect but disagree on teaching methods and lack of recess, and another successful day at the homeschooling co-op, I was feeling like the universe wanted me to know that this was the right path for her. On Friday, we took a field trip and stopped off at her old school on our way back to see the third grade art display — her first and only art project for this year.
The projects were all quite impressive and well displayed. They were upcycled art and the kids were instructed to focus on something they felt passionate about. Most were on animals — horses, dogs, fluffy ones mostly — but some were on olympic sports and some others were on the environment.
Charlotte’s was also about the environment, but instead of being upbeat and inspirational. It was dark. In color, in vibe and literally. That’s right, “The world is screaming” is the text written across her piece. And in her description, she explains that pollution hurts her because it happens everywhere and in this case, the world is like her heart.” I haven’t really had the time to absorb the entirety of what this one expression of creativity my daughter worked on at school this year. I’m hopeful that as more time passes, she’ll explain it to me. I don’t think that anything illegal happened. I just don’t think this environment was at all right for my sensitive kid.
This week, I’m eager to actually get started, because I know it’s going to be awhile before we get to the good stuff. As she draws out of her depression more and more, I’m hopeful she’ll be more opinionated as to what is interesting to her and she wants to dive into more deeply. I long to see her take chances and feel okay with making lots and lots of mistakes. Because we don’t learn or accomplish anything of worth without a willingness to error often and then examine those errors close-up.
For now, I’m content to take it slow. Creep along and build the foundation of schooling relationship that will serve us in the months and maybe years to come. And if she can just be content to spread her wings in things that don’t seem “schoolish” then we’ll make sure she has plenty of belly dancing on her schedule.