Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hey, Guess What! We're Homeschooling!

So, we're homeschooling.

I have tried to write this post five times. I have five separate versions of this post sitting in various states of completion in multiple mediums. That usually doesn't happen to me, so I know I'm sitting on some raw emotions. To date, I have the following versions of this story:

  • The Angry One- In this post, I rant and rave about a school system that failed my daughter and mistreated her so badly that I could not see straight. I get deep into the well of emotion as I describe watching my bright, funny, energetic little girl turn into a sullen, anxious, cloud of misery.
  • The Positive One- In this post, I present my excitement about this new educational undertaking and go on and on about the possibilities that I've uncovered, the supportive communities I have found both virtual and in person, and the ways that it has already improved my daughter's mood and educational outcomes. 
  • The Self-Dissecting One- In this post, I try to unpack what it means for someone who has staked much of her identity (professional, political, and personal) on the principles behind public education to pull out of the public education system. I was educated in public schools through my BA. I teach in a community college. I believe in open access, publicly funded schools that meet the needs of a diverse set of learners. 
  • The Activist One- In this post, I veer quickly from my personal story to stats and anecdotes about the needs of "Twice Exceptional" children, the label that best fits my daughter. These are children who have both a diagnosis of giftedness and a diagnosis of some kind of learning disability or challenge (like ADHD). Often, they're emotional and social skills lag while their academic abilities soar, and the result is never finding a way to get their needs met on either side of the equation. 
  • The Overwhelmed One- In this post, I panic about the fact that my balancing act now includes finding a way to work full time, manage a household, raise two children (one still nursing and in diapers), and homeschool a first grader with special needs in multiple directions. 
Any one of those posts would have been a valid, honest account of what I've been thinking about, researching, and doing in the past four or so months, but none of them was quite right. I am at once disappointed, excited, overwhelmed, scared, hopeful, angry, and getting by. There are days when this seems like the best decision I have ever made and days when I don't know what I have gotten myself into. My kitchen table has been completely overtaken by workbooks, chemistry experiments, and library books. I am awash in a million open browser tabs of free resources, curriculum plans, and homeschooling blogs. I go down rabbit holes and make two weeks worth of lesson plans only to scrap them all the next day and start over. 

I imagine that some people reading this who know me have some questions. How long will we do this? Will we homeschool both kids? Will we try a private school? 

I don't know. I don't know the answer to any of those questions because this whole experience has taught me that my penchant for planning (and it is a strong one) is no match for the fact that life is unexpected and throws you some curveballs. This is not the path I imagined walking, but it is the best one for the moment, and I'm going to stay on it until I find a better one. 

Because here's the part that needs to stay from that angry post I mentioned above: at one point in this whole process, I was finding myself up against the need to fight for my daughter, to go to battle with the school district and insist upon accommodations. And that's what it felt like: a war. It felt like I was fighting the people charged with educating my daughter to educate her. And if we're fighting, we're on opposing sides, and my side is that I want my daughter to become a self-sufficient, supported, kind individual. If you're on the other side of that, what does that mean? 

Ultimately, my husband and I made this decision because we refuse to put our child in an environment where there is a battle over her well-being. Educating a child should not be a war. There should only be one side. And whether I homeschool for the rest of my daughter's childhood, send her to private school, or figure out some other arrangement, I know one thing: I will not settle for an educational environment that doesn't want her and support her. 

Photo: Philip McEarlean