Homeschooling (and parenting, for that matter) is a lot like sailing. Not that I have ever sailed, but as a metaphor I’m pretty sure it holds up. At first, I thought I was the captain, but eventually I realized that the child is the captain. This is her journey, after all. Her course buffeted by winds, her adventure, her risks. And the thing of it is, you may be the mentor but you’ve never done this before. How many of us were homeschooled? And even if we were, or even if this isn’t our first time homeschooling a child, how many humans walk the same path in life with the same skills? None, that’s how many.
Sandra has really gotten this lately. She understands that it’s her adventure. She used to think she was a deckhand and I was the stern captain. Now she sees the point of learning the basic skills. She understands that if she has a goal in mind the way to get there is the way that she’ll need to take. I’m still there to be her guide, her consultant, her accountability, and sometimes I’m the wind that shoves the ship along. But she’s the captain.
That’s not what’s going on with Matthias, though. I used to call them opposites, but then realized that that presumed they were on the same scale. It’s not that he’s a 10 and she’s a 1. It’s more like she’s an 8 and he’s plaid. They just work differently. And part of my struggle as a mother is that he works differently than I do. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I’m an INTJ and he’s an ESFP. We share nothing in terms of how we perceive the world, how we structure our world, what drives us. He often eludes me. I spend an awful lot of time trying to see the world through his eyes, trying to see the key that will unlock his journey for me. “If only I understood…” must cross my mind a dozen times a week, more when I’m in a free fall of doubt about our educational journey.
With Tias, the ship metaphor falls apart. With him, I feel like I’m trying to instruct him in yoga from the shore and he’s in a wetsuit and scuba tank, immersed in a sea of Jello. He can’t hear me and I’m not even sure there’s a point to the whole exercise. Maybe yoga’s just not the right thing.
He’s had a hard week, a week of emotions and struggle. It’s breathtaking, because it feels like it used to to parent him and I’m seeing with a gasp what whole months of our lives used to be like. This week brought into sharp relief just how far he’s come, just how much emotional control and patience he’s developed. It also made me think, “If only I understood…”
I have had to bring back a question that focuses me. “In this moment, am I honouring who he is?” It’s a great question because it forces me into mindfulness, reminds me that my perceptions of his path may have nothing to do with it, reteaches me that my fears about his education make miserable advisers. Asking this question is about trying to see him anew, without preconceptions and without comparisons to others.
Perhaps gardening is a better metaphor. Or not. Metaphors are useful only in that they help us think things through, providing a mirror upon which to reflect reality. Right now, the journey is demanding me to think less and pay attention more. Our relationship is far more important than whether or not he jumps through a particular educational hoop. We need eye-contact and giggles and a feeling of working together towards a common goal, even if that is just laying out circles of strawberries on a cake.