Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Tail Shouldn't Wag the Dog

Although people seem to like absolutes, the fact is when discussing homeschooling, absolutes just don't exist. If we pretend they exist we are setting ourselves up for failure. If we think other families experience one thing and our family struggles, we blame ourselves for our shortcomings. The fact is, there is no perfect homeschool or perfect mother or father and there are no perfect homeschool students either.

The topic I want to discuss today applies to all homeschools, regardless of method, unless you have a student who does 100% of all their work independently without any parental guidance. Just helping ensure your child meets deadlines for a community college class, or a co-op class, or an online class you attend from home would apply to what I am discussing, so this applies to nearly all homeschoolers, even unschoolers who use formal education in some form. I doubt there are many homeschooled students operating 100% on auto pilot.

At present our homeschool is using a variety of different outsourced learning experiences so we have assignments due and we live by other teacher's timeframes. Even at grade 10 and 7 my sons are not able to navigate all these different systems alone, at least not at first.

Some systems such as the method to do on online course are so complicated even I am struggling to understand it, to get the right logins, to understand where to go to get what information and to realize the deadline idiosyncrasies. What is perhaps making this more difficult is that even when my kids enroll through the same "school" each teacher has different platforms and methods of communicating. This is much more complicated than my days of attending public school, getting assignments orally and written on the blackboard, keeping notes by hand in a notebook and using hardback textbooks as our source material. Today we have to use a number of different technologies with various gatekeepers and websites. We use hardcover and softcover books and we use ebooks on different ereaders. Even the assignment to "read to page 39" is not simple becuause our Kindle Fire HAS NO PAGE NUMBERS provided, thank you, teacher!

My role now more than ever is that of facilitator, helping get my kid's physical bodies to that physical place for that in real life class. Other times we have to be at home and logged on properly to attend that other online class. There are other deadlines of assignments delivered in multiple different ways then assignment changes delivered through another website that must be logged into and read and then amend the original printed off assignment checklist. In one case we have to use an online scheduling system to set up the appointments then use a different platform for the actual class. Am I explaining the chaos well enough?

My kids need guidance to help get this all done and to juggle life basics like eating and sleeping. We have sports and Boy Scouts to juggle. We all have various medical appointments to get to and sometimes urgent or emergent medical needs to attend to which take top priority. It is hard to coordinate all of this. It's a juggling act.

The only way that learning and homeschooling can get done is with the kid's cooperation. They have to buy into it. Even when an assignment seems stupid, they have to do it. Even if the technology is frustrating, they have to learn to navigate it. Even when the book is boring, they need to read it. Period.

When I am home and the kids are home and it's time for me to help with their lessons they'd better engage. However, sometimes they do not. I get attitude and flack from them, or they procrastinate and put me off until the window of opportunity closes. They then push the deadline and wind up later on deciding they are finally ready to do the work, things that need my help or perhaps they are stuck on what they thought was to be a solo assignment. Often they need my assistance if true learning is to occur. However at that time I may be on my way out the door to go to a meeting, or busy making dinner, or it's my bedtime. Just because they want to stay up to midnight or one or three in the morning (as my fifteen year old just did the other night) does not mean I am willing or able to also stay up that late to help them.

That situation is when the tail is wagging the dog.

And I hate it.

And I resent them doing that to me.

It is hard enough to homeschool your kids, to take on the general responsiblity for administering their education, but to have them act selfish enough that they feel they have a right to not cooperate when I have time, when they need my help, then for them to think they can boss me around about when they want me to help is just outrageous and unacceptable. I am not here at their beck and call, not now. I have been there, and done that, as a very attentive mother to my infants and toddlers and preschool aged kids. I worked hard to feed them when they were hungry, change their dirty diapers or rush them to the toilet before they had an accident. I provided them quiet sleeping chambers when they were napping or for a good night's sleep. I gave close supervision when they were young children. As they grew older and became more independent they wanted more control of their lives, as they should, but sometimes they take it too far: wanting something that is just unreasonable and to my mind is disrespectful.

Now that they are 15 and 12 the idea, the gall, that they think they can push me around to be their parent-teacher when they feel the spirit move them is just not acceptable, not in our house. My husband is in agreement with me on this. So long as they need my help or my husband's help, they need to change their attitude to us being a team.

Homeschooling (in our family) is not an oppressive act where I push down my expectations onto them. My kids are now marching to orders of teachers. My kids are doing these classes so they can be on the path to get to where they say they want to go with their careers. This is not about me pushing my dreams onto my kids. I am following their lead to help provide them the way to do what THEY SAY they want to do. And even with the things they have to do for these classes, I still think my kids have more freedom than public schooled kids, but the funny thing is they, having never been to school, cannot appreciate this.

Now that we have outsourced more than ever before, I am no longer the bad guy making all the academic requirements, now it is the teacher whose "fault" it is, but I am here taking the fallout anyway. And I'm still responsible, because legally and technically they are still being home educated so in the end I'm still to blame if this homeschool experiment fails, or I'll take the bulk of the credit if they succeed.

So back to my kids needing my help sometimes. The only way I can help with assignments if I am physically present and fully awake, and otherwise free and able. There has to be some give and take about when the "helping" or teaching takes place. I have limits, such as a biological need for sleep. Asking them to do their schoolwork during daylight hours is not unreasonable. I would stretch that to early evening but in fact they are at sports practice then (something they want to do). By 8pm when they are showered and done eating dinner, I am fried and really am not emotionally available to help them. By that point having been with them all day and/or shuttling them to one and another of their appointments, I am just plain tired and worn out. I am awake and emotionally refreshed in the daytime so if they need me, they will have to just accept that even if they don't feel like doing lessons at one in the afternoon, it's just tough, they have to do it then. For all that I give my kids of myself, my time, my energy I don't think that them working around my preferred schedule is asking too much.

I don't think that what I am asking is unreasonable. I can't and won't live with the tail wagging the dog. (And I don't think that other homeschool moms should have to live that way either.) Kids who think their homeschooling moms are their servants have the wrong idea, it is an ungrateful attitude that not only sickens me but saddens me.

I ask myself sometimes what did I do wrong to create kids who think they are entitled to be the boss of me? Has homeschooling helped create over-indulged brats? Only time will tell. And I don't think the time to make judgements is when my two sons are in the crazy hormonal teenage years.

This rant was written on a rough homeschooling day when I was in the first week of treatment for Lyme Disease. It's the end of our first real week of homeschooling for our younger son and my older son has had a softer start. It's been a bad week, and we just moved three weeks ago. We have a lot on our plates. I feel that sometimes to keep homeschooling real it is necessary to share thoughts on the dark days so here are my thoughts.

In the end truly the core of thie issue here winds up being about relationships and trust and respect. Homeschooling requires strong family bonds and mutual trust and respect, I believe.

1 comment:

KC said...

I'm glad you share when you have rough days/weeks. I had a rough 6 months of 'school' last year with my two (12 and 8). (School is in quotes because we got so little done! lol!) Anyway, my 12yo is headed to middle school in 7th grade this fall (school doesn't start till Sept. 6 out here), because I couldn't take the tag team distractions and procrastination that two kids at home provided. I need my 3rd grader to be home so we can do some intensive one on one remedial work with his reading and writing. I'm HOPING that having his sister in ps will give us the schedule and the time to really be consistent and 'on task' -- both things that were SERIOUSLY lacking this past year.

And I hear you about being emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. By 8pm, my kids need to be in bed for my sanity.

Good luck! *hugs* Krystal