Never Say Never

IMG_2733I’ve been a bit of a know-it-all from the beginning.

There’s the classic conversation I once had with my childhood BFF, Kerri, when I smugly insisted that coyote could be pronounced either ki-o-tee or coy-oat. (When Sam was born, she couldn’t find a stuffed coy-oat for a gift, so she bought him a stuffed lee-oh-pard instead.) Then there was the state spelling bee when I was asked to spell “poinciana.” I was certain the judges has mispronounced “poinsettia,” so I spelled that instead. (My DC dreams washed right down the drain with a heavy dose of smugness…) And of course, Carrie will remember all the things I said I’d NEVER do when I became a parent (e.g., toy guns, dessert before dinner, yadda, yadda, yadda).

And one of my most adamant claims?

I’ll NEVER homeschool.

(Cue “The Fray.”)

It’s not that I’ve ever been anti-homeschool, it’s more that I’m anti-having-my-kids-home-with-me-all-day-every-day. Sometimes, we barely make it through the weekend without scratching each other’s eyeballs out. And summers can drag on for years.

But, it’s true. With age comes a bit more patience and perspective. Life has a way of softening us around the edges — of making what once seemed not only improbable, but borderline impossible — much easier to embrace.

George has struggled this past year and a half. While each of the other kids found a niche in his or her new school, George continued to operate on the sidelines. He was always a one-friend kind of kid, and although his Zionsville BFF didn’t attend the same school, there was comfort for George in knowing his bestie was near and accessible and available for weekend sleepovers and jungle building adventures. He hasn’t found that friend here, probably hasn’t really tried all that hard. He still misses his BFF fiercely, still longs for what used to be. And although he never loved school in Zionsville, it’s definitely the greener side for him now.

When I drop him off at school in the mornings, I feel like I’m throwing him to the wolves. There’s such defeat in his face when he says goodbye. It’s no way for anyone to begin one day, let alone every day. And when he gets in the car after school, his stories are always the same — we didn’t get recess because the class was acting up, we got another lecture about good behavior, we had to sit silently in PE because no one was listening.

The school culture here is very different from the only other one he’s known. In our experience, it seems to be built on a compliance-above-all-else model. I understand the need for order and structure, but I also believe that order and structure can come naturally when kids are engaged and interested and learning. And in my humble, non-teacher experience, that doesn’t come from a litany of worksheets.

We fought the good fight for a year and a half, and now we’ve decided to make the one change we’re capable of making.

We’re homeschooling George.

Note the “WE” in that previous sentence. With both of us working full-time, there is no way in hell I could — or would — do this on my own. And Chris, after all, is a teacher and public school administrator by trade. We’re not going into this blindly. And we both have a great deal of flexibility. And George is an effective independent worker — when he’s not talking incessantly or humming or asking 4,598 questions or complaining about being hungry. And we only have four more months left in the school year. And this is most definitely not our long-term solution.

We can’t screw him up completely in four months, can we?

Note, too, that we’re only homeschooling George. He’s been begging us to keep him at home, begging for this opportunity. The other three are begging us NOT to homeschool them. “Oh, puh-leeze,” Mary Claire sighed dramatically, “There could NOT be anything WORSE!”

Thank God for Mary (friend-Mary, not daughter-Mary, although I’m thankful for them both) who is going to help us develop his curriculum. If I could ship George to her for brain-food every day, I’d do it in a heartbeat. No one would encourage and inspire him more. But because the commute would be a killer, I’ll just have to depend on her long-distance expertise. I am so grateful for her guidance, her friendship, and the wine she will have waiting when I come to Indiana to pick up materials and advice and a rousing, glass-half-full pep talk.

George wants to learn French, play the violin, and take up the saxophone. He’s suggested that daily games of racquetball at the Sanderson Center would satisfy his PE requirement. We’ve confirmed that he can still attend Science Club if we sign waivers and provide transportation. We’d almost be willing to sign a couple of the other kids away if it meant keeping George in the one activity that has saved his Starkville life. That’s how critical Science Club has been to his 10-year-old existence. (Thanks, Dr. Tegt, Science Rock Star Extraordinaire.)

And guess what I’ll get to do again soon? Diagram sentences. I must admit that makes me more than a little bit giddy.

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About Katrina Anne Willis

Author, friend, lover, dreamer, drinker of red wine.
This entry was posted in Help From My Friends, My Kids and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Never Say Never

  1. Angie Mattingly Cornwell says:

    Girl…..you are so brave and well, crazy! Lol! The things we do for our kids!! You and Chris will be fantastic and I cant wait to read all about it!! Best wishes!!

  2. mdbrobison says:

    Oh, honey. 147 will only gain from this experience. He’s brilliant. Show him the world and how he can affect it and how fascinating and wild the ride can be! These four months will be magical. You’ll never get them back again. So let’s make the most of it! You can do this. He will thrive.

  3. Patricia See says:

    You are to be congratulated on this brave decision. It is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards outweigh the disadvantages.

  4. Debbie Dyson says:

    You’ll be fine, he’ll be fine. Four months will be gone in a flash. I can’t imagine dropping a kiddo off every day that is unhappy, has to be a heartache.. Let me know if there is anything I can do.

  5. Good for you guys! We’ve been in situations where we’ve seriously considered homeschooling. Nowadays there are SO many great resources online…. I know it will be a great experience for you and him. Embrace and enjoy it!!!

  6. Dawn Pier says:

    George is one lucky dude! You are one TERRIFIC mother! And just think of all the great blog material this is going to generate! 😉

  7. Greg Clark says:

    Have Chris watch this closely. The revolution is in digital curation. Pick an over arching theme for the 4 months. Curate the on line world for the digital support lessons, videos, lectures, articles then have him…teach you. Then challenge him to set up his own Youtube channel to become a global teacher of the subject. And just for the heck of it, for him, make sure the end point, the capstone, is something he can build or something he can tear a part. Good for you. But I would suggest that this is not about you being the teacher…its about him being able to teach. Check out this link on the Expedition Schools of Outward Bound.

    you.http://www.hepg.org/her/booknote/249

    • chriswillis6 says:

      Greg, Thanks. As I think we have chatted about before, my whole mode of thinking about schooling is that we should find big ideas that kids want to learn about and see how much of the “subject” content we can pack into it. For me things like the “standards” or now “common core” are the adult issues. Learning is about exploring and taking advantage of the natural and mostly unexamined overlaps and connections within and between the “content areas.” I mean think about it, biology and health are totally related and connected but in the school setting we keep them separate, not only in content, but in who and teach them and in “importance” to a students academic progress. For me, we should be able to agree upon the “whats” of school. “What” content is important, “what” skills kids should acquire, and “what” represents a well educated person. But it should stop there. The “hows” need to be flexible for the school, for the teacher, for the student. The ultimate measure of school “success” should be the quality of the student work products (whatever products make sense for the kid to produce) – have they captured their understandings and expressed them in meaningful and powerful ways. Here is a video for you – and anyone else that wants to be really excited about the possibility that can be:

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