Clara's Clearing

Clara's Clearing

I'm on sabbatical already (and why)

Friday, September 30, 2011

I’ve only homeschooled Jack for a grade and a half and I’m already in desperate need of a sabbatical.

Technically, our “school year” has started. Since Jack really fell behind in math in the last couple of years I feel justified to have him work mostly on math this “term” (from September to December). My husband who is in charge of math is working three days a week now so he has more time and energy to teach math. In addition, we have signed Jack up at an interesting math program offered by Dominican University in San Rafael, CA. The program is called Math Circle and meets one evening a week with different lecturers on various math topics.

On Mondays Jack goes to an outdoor program called Dirt Time which I think is a godsend for kids. All day long a bunch of homeschool kids roam in the wilderness and explore nature, directed by a young and very knowledgeable group of naturalists. They learn all kinds of things about our local flora and fauna, as well as skills like animal tracking, fire making, whittling, etc. At the end of the program the older kids become knife certified, which I think is an absolute necessity for boys especially. I really can’t think of anything better, or more necessary, for children.

My ideas for the “curriculum” this year were basically to introduce Jack to scientific methodology, both in natural and social sciences. Dirt Time is a very good beginning point for learning to study science. After all, scientific methodology begins with observation. It’s wonderful for kids to learn to observe closely. I couldn’t be more grateful for Dirt Time.

I am also going to do a few more lessons in fiction, what we started last year. Specifically, I want to explore epic and historical legend.

But… all this has to wait until January of next year. I can’t teach right now. I am burnt out.

There are two kinds of homeschoolers out there. When one explores homeschooling options one invariably comes across those homeschooling families who are mostly having a ball doing it. These are the folks who homeschool by choice and conviction. They devote their lives to homeschooling and are generally quite gung-ho about it. I am very grateful to these folks because without them there would be no homeschooling option, no advocacy, no support. As far as I’m concerned these guys deserve serious accolade.

I, alas, belong to the second group of homeschoolers. Let’s call them the reluctant homeschoolers. This is a group who has dropped out of school for different reasons. Some kids have dropped out on account of bullies, some on account of learning issues, or bad teachers, etc. For the most part, those of us in this group had not planned on homeschooling. Sadly, dropping out of school has caused major disruption in our lives.

In one of my previous blogs I got a comment that I sound like I don’t enjoy having a kid. I often think that I complain too much too. As I write these blogs I am constantly hearing a little voice telling me that raising and educating a kid is not about me, that I should concentrate on Jack and get out of the picture. But I never manage to do that. I’m always interposing myself. I even told Jack last year that the only way I will continue homeschooling him is if I make it interesting to myself. That little voice does torment me but it doesn’t quite succeed in wiping me out of the picture. I really don’t see why I should let it do that to me. Having a kid should not be a death sentence for the mother’s life and identity, should it?

Which brings me back to being a reluctant homeschooler. I had planned that as my son got older and more engaged with school and friends I would be able to return to my own work and interests. I sure did not think much of the education he was receiving in school but I always assumed a kid mostly learns from his family and by himself. School was to be a community: friends, adults other than parents, and challenges both good and bad. And while the kid is learning to navigate through this community, the parents have time to do what they need to be doing.

In the back of my mind then, I am still wishing we didn’t have to homeschool. I have tried to make the best of it – and again, I really have enjoyed the challenge and the freedom of educating Jack the way I think is best. But that little seed of reluctance has been firmly planted in me. It doesn’t go away and it has a way of exhausting me.

Doing anything reluctantly is draining. That’s why I need a sabbatical.


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