So I like to think that I know my firstborn child pretty well. He ushered me into motherhood, and I him into the world. We have the same general interest and hobbies, a passion for knowledge, and a zest for life. So I felt perhaps overly confident in the idea of homeschooling this year.
We chose a Waldorf curriculum, as that was as that has been his primary pedagogy of learning up to this point. I also felt that the material covered in first grade would be within my wheelhouse.
After one week of homeschooling, I am quite sure that I do not know my son as well as I thought I did. After one week of homeschooling, I realized I do not have all the skills and resources to be a Waldorf first-grade teacher. After one week of homeschooling, I have a new appreciation for all the teachers in the world.
And I don’t want to paint some grim picture like it was all bad. I love that I’m getting to knit a ball with my son. I appreciate that our science block was to go for a walk and identify plants and collect specimens for pressing and then later identifying and labeling in a book. I appreciate the hands-on modality of learning that is akin to my own learning needs making it easier for me to guide my son on this path.
But none of that makes it easy. None of that compensates for the amount of time spent together, or for the family dynamics that are already ingrained into the ethos of this nuclear family that makes it difficult to teach. Or the lack of time spent with a peer group in which he can explore the world in a way that meets his developmental needs versus with his parents or younger siblings. It doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally I am just not a teacher. I am a compassionate and well-educated parent that is doing my very fucking best, and I am not a teacher.
So I have to take a deep breath, inhale through my nose, and exhale through my nose. Take moments of giving both of us space. Readjust the curriculum, readjust our needs, readjust our schedule. I have to be super open to the process and throw out any of my ideas of what I thought this was going to be. Because the straight-up truth of the matter is it’s never what I thought it was going to be. My perfectionist ideals and goals do not practically apply to motherhood. And sure I do my best every day but there has to be a marginal percentage of failure that’s accepted. And perhaps even just eradicating the idea of failure as a whole. Perhaps it’s not even failure it’s just learning and living. And perhaps that’s the goal right now, just to learn and live together. To roll in the younger kids into the educational process when it’s appropriate. To give my son the alone time he needs to focus at other times. To do all of his indoor activities in the morning hours and the outdoor activities in the afternoon even if its not the prescribed way. Because isn’t that the point of homeschooling? That you can tailor it to meet your needs?
To acknowledge that the process is messy. Because what I’m witnessing is that whether you’re choosing to send your kids to school full-time, or remote learning, or splitting it 50-50, or homeschooling, we are all trying to figure this out. There is no right way right now. There is only the way that is best for you and your family. I have no judgment for those that are choosing a different path because I believe in my heart that each person has reflected on and chosen what is best for them and their family.
We chose to homeschool. And we chose to homeschool because we didn’t know where we would be living, and this seemed like the most stability we could offer our son in the midst of family upheaval. And maybe we will do it for one year, maybe we will do it for half a year, maybe will do it for the rest of our children’s educational experience. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we will continue to reassess our needs and move forward together in a conscious way.