When we first made the decision to homeschool the kids, I felt pretty solid. I’d done a lot of reading and knew the ins, the outs, the pros, the cons. If you had sat at playgroup and asked me why we would choose to homeschool, I would have answered, mindful of injunctions not too come across as inadvertently judgmental, “Oh, the beauty of homeschooling is that you can learn at each child’s pace.”
And if it was you at playgroup, I apologize. Because what I really meant at some level was, “Oh, the beauty of homeschooling is that my kids will be so much ahead of your kids.”
I learned to read at 4. I skipped Gr 7. I was top of my class in university. Clearly my children were amazing darlings whose genius would reveal itself in time, particularly in the fertile soil of my awesome parenting.
I don’t know how to describe what happened over the next few years without words like ‘comeuppance’ or ‘smack-down’ or ‘insert soft weeping here’. Let’s just say that with their vision difficulties, my kids needed to learn to read over a period of half a decade, not a few weeks. And while Sandra is now on track and at grade level in every subject, Matthias is not. He’s behind. He’s behind in large part because of who he is. He’s been…unteachable. Stubborn. Hates to be shown or told. Impatient. A bit too fond of lazing about.
Things are shifting. Something is percolating about inside him, because these past 12 months have slowly pulled back the curtain on a boy who’s a little better at following, at believing in himself.
In some sense, I’ve been waiting for him in a good way. Knowing that you can’t force readiness. In some ways, though, I have been waiting in a negative way – waiting for something broken to be fixed. When I’m feeling defensive, inadequate, or impatient it’s easy to see the problems. It’s difficult to see him as an individual instead of a boy the age for Gr 7 but behind in reading, writing, and arithmetic. I need to shake myself again and again to remember that he’s an on-schedule Matthias, not a broken Grade 7.
The thing is that there’s no such thing as behind. I know that. I’ve written (hopefully) inspiring pieces about that. You’re only behind if you’re on a schedule that requires you to learn a certain amount at a steady pace. We’re people, not Model T Fords. And people are messy, zany, odd creatures. Why do I persist in believing there’s basically one way to be a kid/student, when it’s so clear that there are about 4.5 billion ways to be an adult?
Go somewhere public and look around. Adults are a staggeringly different bunch of humans. There are far more jobs than the firefighter, businessman, teacher, shopkeeper, and writer population that peopled my childhood understanding of my career options. And then there are the personalities within the career choices: the serious and the silly, the reliable and the sketchy, the bold and the reserved, the tattooed and the mousy.
When my kids were little, I think I believed that I knew what kind of adults they would be: smart, clever, classically educated, non-conformists, probably bookish. If they hadn’t had all these troubles – if they hadn’t been behind – would I have learned these lessons about paying attention, about there being so many paths? I’m sure I would have said, “Of course!” but if I’m honest, I think that if I had had compliant children with no learning issues I would have had more of a head-knowledge of it and less heart-knowledge of it.
Watching my children struggle – or worse, get stuck – is hard. It’s too easy to see it as a problem, and problems beg for solutions. “What should I be doing?”; “Let’s fix this.” Sometimes, though, it’s really important to ask whether or not what is happening is actually a problem. Is this a learning issue, or a maturity issue? Is it something to fix, or just a different way of approaching reality?
I don’t have An Answer.
But I’ve been learning to remind myself to ask a lot of questions.
And I’ve been learning that there’s a lot I don’t control. Like other people. Like these two people.
“Wherever you go, there you are.”