Tuesday, August 3, 2010

going in a different direction

[You might want to grab a mug of tea or coffee or a glass wine or (my favorite) a pint of ice cream. This is going to take a while.]

Where to begin? I have been putting off posting what I’m going to post for quite some time.

The whole situation, the whole idea that I need a special post, is a little silly, I think. Had we decided to do things the conventional way, I could have just ignored the whole topic. I could have posted a quick picture, with or without text and have been done with it.

However, we are about to be going down a somewhat unconventional path.

For the last year, I have been learning about homeschooling and unschooling. I have devoted countless hours of critical thinking to the topic. I have been a woman quietly obsessed. I shared my interest with others who are already traveling along this path, but not really with anyone else. Okay, until the last few months, not with anyone else. I have never been a very brave person and, therefore, I tend to quietly do what I prefer and then let others in on what I’m doing later. I didn’t want to write what I thought of as a traditional college essay when first applying, so I wrote about my soulmate (not regarding young love, but a friendship). When I decided to move in with Cardo, when I was twenty-one, I only discussed it with him. When I wanted to marry him, I asked him and then informed my parents that I was getting married.

I’m not exactly sure I act in the way I do, because I happen to have in my life some of the most supportive people anyone could ask for. I can’t remember a time my family hasn’t supported me in a decision. The family I was born into and the family I have created are relentlessly supportive. As I said, I’m just not brave. I’m continually and ridiculously afraid of what Others will think. I know, I know that I should not take any of that into consideration, but I do, at least in my own quiet way. And who are these others anyhow? I’m not quite sure. I just generally feel this societal pressure to do things a certain way, but I sometimes wonder if I’m creating this pressure out of nowhere.

Okay, so I’m way off in the Land of Rambling here. I have long been thinking that homeschooling, in some incarnation, is the right choice for our family. There have been countless times I’ve wanted to share that information publicly, if only to explore avenues of support, but it took me a good ten months to even start to talk about it seriously with Cardo. He was pretty quickly convinced that it is indeed the right choice for us. I cannot express how happy I am that he and I agree on this.

We did not choose all of this without the input of Pic. I know that will sound incredibly silly to some people because she is five, but it’s not silly. We are talking about her education here. She was most concerned with having other kids to play with. Funny, this is a concern most people seem to have when it comes to announcing that we’ll be homeschooling. In case you’ve never met Pic, or in case you’ve forgotten, she’s an incredibly social person. I have no fear that she won’t be “properly” socialized. Cardo and I agreed that there was no way we could do this without being a part of a community.

Shortly after we agreed to homeschool, we met a homeschooling family at one of our regular outings. The mother, who was out with some of her children, was gracious enough to give us some of her time and to answer some very basic questions about homeschooling. She provided us with a few resources to check out and wished us luck.

I searched out some Yahoo! groups in our area and found one that seemed like a great fit for us and our principles. Last week, Cardo and I tucked away (most of) our social awkwardness and we, along with Pic, met with some other local homeschoolers. Pic spent a good deal of time playing by herself, but then, finally, went off to play with some of the other kids. She often needs to sit back and observe when in a new situation. I know exaclty how she feels.

The get-together was pretty great. While I know that there are other people out there who are doing what we want to do, what we are doing, it was great to actually meet them. We look forward to meeting up with these people again and we look forward to meeting more people from the group.

I am not entering into this thinking that everything is going to be peachy-keen all of the time, but I am entering into this optimistically. And, I should be. Why would I send my child off into something I wasn’t at all sure about? We had found a school we wanted to send her to, but it just wasn’t as good a fit for us as we see homeschooling to be.

I could go on for hours and hours more. As I said, I have been mulling over this for quite some time. I’ll try to keep the rest of this post short and fill in more in later posts.

I keep emphasizing that I think this is a good choice for our family. I don’t think that everyone should do things the same way we are doing them. I don’t think that everyone would, or should, want to and I don’t really think that everyone would be able to. I feel a bit like we are coming at this from a position of privilege and I want to acknowledge that. First, of course, we know that this is an option for us. We earn enough income to be able to do this. (By “we,” at this moment, I mean Cardo.) We aren’t what I would call wealthy and I often wonder if we are even a part of the middle class, financially, but we have plenty. We have tons and tons of books (almost every one purchased secondhand) and we have access to infinitely more through our wonderful libraries, thrift stores, used book stores and so on. We have wonderfully reliable and quick internet access. And, now, we have a group. And, of course, we have each other. What more can I ask for? (I’m not sure yet, as we’ve only just begun this journey.)

I know that plenty of people will have plenty of opinions about this decision. So far, we have only received support, even if it has been of the quiet variety. I wasn’t planning on telling anyone until this post (that I’ve been mentally composing for what feels like forever), but Cardo has started to tell our friends. They might have questions and they might be skeptical (and they might think we have stepped over into the realms of crazy), but they have not run off, refusing to any longer associate with us. I’ll take this as a good sign.

However, we (and by “we,” I again mean Cardo) have told very few of our friends. I anticipate that some will tell us that we are making a risky or wrong decision. I am even preparing myself for the chance that some will no longer be a part of our lives (although I certainly hope that doesn’t happen). Perhaps I’m being melodramatic here, but I’m so used to hearing people tell me that it’ll be “good for me” and for Pic when she heads off to school. Here’s the thing: we rather enjoy our life. It probably isn’t anyone else’s ideal, but it’s ours. We continually talk to Pic about this change (or, really, lack of change) and she is so far in support of the decision. Given we are talking about her education, she will always have a say in this, of course.

I cannot believe that I’ve gotten through this whole post. This decision feels, at the same time, momentous and commonplace. This is such a divergence from how I was raised and from how Cardo was raised. We are not rejecting or negatively critiquing our own upbringings, we have just chosen to do things differently. And, I could not have come to this decision without having had my family raise me the way they did. There are times, though, after having read the blogs and listened to the podcasts of people who are already living this way, that I feel like this is some incredibly widespread movement we are joining.

For now, I’m still in the mode of embracing this decision and looking for ways to support this decision. I welcome respectful comments or e-mails on the topic and I even welcome questions. While I might not be prepared to answer questions, thinking about the answers will help me to focus my own thinking.

I feel like I’ve just bared a very vulnerable part of myself. I have read many snarky and hateful comments on this topic when others have been brave enough to share their experiences and I don’t want to open myself up to them, but I want to share this news. As I said, if we were going the more conventional route, I wouldn’t even have felt the need to share. Perhaps I would have just posted a picture of Pic on her first day. But, I feel the need to explain and kind of justify (which I haven’t even really done here). I guess that’s just the part of the process I’m at with this. There is so much more that I could share here, but this post has been super-long enough as it is.

For now, please wish us the best.

Grazie mille.

[I have since started telling my family and I told Poke who was super incredibly supportive of this decision. Thanks, all!]


6512 and growing said...

congratulations on making a decision that feels right for your family.
it is hard to buck the traditional, conventional ways, and maybe especially when it comes to your children. But making the decision is the first step and maybe even the hardest.
I look forward to hearing how it goes.

v said...

Thanks, Rachel! I've been enjoying reading about your family's goings-on. I'm glad I found your blog, which is fabulous and much more centered than mine. (P.S. Did you see those completely drool-inducing cookies Catherine Newman posted Monday?)