My daughter is heading to high school this year – a massive shift after choosing to homeschool for the whole of her primary school life!
It’s a decision both sudden and not sudden.
Sudden in the sense that she raised it on Friday, I rolled with it, my man came along for the ride in a fast-paced process that isn’t his preference, and today, she has stationary, school shoes and an iPad, with textbooks and uniform later this week, hopefully all ready by Friday!
We’re yet to meet with the school, which also seems a backwards process – we have a meeting on Wednesday. The school has space for her, and we feel we can jump through whatever hoops are necessary, including waiting if necessary. But the vision is that our daughter starts this week, and my man and I are both very optimistic that it will be a place where she can thrive.
It’s not sudden in the sense that, as soon as one says one is homeschooling, almost the first question people ask is, what about high school? In that sense, this potential scenario has been with us for years! In the last year, my daughter and I have periodically talked about the possibility of going to school, with her interested, but coming down on the side of homeschooling each time.
My concern in these conversations was that she would choose homeschooling out of fear of the many unknowns of school. A fair few of my daughter’s friends start Year 7 this year, and there has been much dialogue amongst them about this significant change. It almost has the energy of a rite of passage. In that sense, I’m really proud of her for choosing something new and big! It’s felt clear, the last little while, that the next homeschooling steps involved this child stepping beyond our home and venturing more into the world.
I’m also clear that for me to continue homeschooling her, I need her more fully invested in the process. I feel it’s hard for her to whole-heartedly choose to be at home when she’s never tried school. She is extremely enlivened in social contexts, and in a sense, we are following the children, and the children in our culture are in school.
Just as when she was 5 years old and it felt right to keep her at home, now she is almost 12, and it feels right to send her off! We are following her process as best we can, as well as attuning to our gut feel, trusting that this is the right path in the face of no guarantees.
My beefs with school remain, that the system, at a macro level, introduced as it was during the industrial revolution, is geared towards raising amenable workers and consumers, but I do my best to not hold these against the school! So long as my daughter knows this is a game (that most of society plays, mind you, but a game none-the-less), I think we will be fine.
My part is to remember that this is only one way to do life and learning. One way I hope to live this is to never read her grades. Comments from teachers, sure. But not grades, cos they don’t tell me much about what I actually care about: is she happy? is she learning? is she joyful? is she stretching herself? She is the one who knows the answers to these questions.
Two maps are helping me digest this change and trust the process.
One is that of her conception and birth story, how she arrived on the scene quickly, unexpected and stressfully! Gord and I both had to do some massive letting-go to accommodate her! Choosing to stay together, choosing to welcome her in, choosing to get married. This process has been nothing but life-giving.
At her birth, there were intimations of labour, contractions happening, and then nothing happening. I had to give up on the timeline in my head… and then it rolled out in perfect time.
It was a full moon. My dad always remembers this, cos someone broke into my brother’s car and let the handbrake off, and it rolled down the street into a fire hydrant. Crazy random full moon stuff…
And here we are, under another full moon, facing another unexpected shift. There’s the need to respond, as well as a capacity to trust the process. I get better at these two things each time – I haven’t done any ‘railing’ at the situation, and haven’t felt a philosophical rigidity around the homeschooling and whether my daughter “should” continue with it… I give great thanks for grace.
That said, I have wrestled with an emotional rigidity, feeling cold and distant towards her and her process at times – a feeling that feels familiar to me in how I can go about digesting intense change. This experience with this child is another opportunity to choose differently. To be the parent I want to be, for her.
Another map that is helping me make sense of the timing of this unfolding is an astrological pattern of 12 years. Every 12 years the focus comes back to identity, and how one is in the world.
When I was 0, I was born, wide open to the world, the world and my family coming to know me.
When I was 12, I left the ‘sheltered’ Christian primary school of my childhood and entered a public school for Year 7. I thrived in the academic context, scoring highly in a national maths competition and receiving a scholarship at the end of the year. It was a new identity for me, being ‘academically successful.’
When I was 24, I was pregnant with my daughter, digesting a huge rite of passage: birth. In parallel I became a ‘wife’ though I refused to take on my man’s name, not that he every needed me to. I was also letting go of what didn’t serve me, socially or spiritually. Massive identity shifts.
Now I am 36, my daughter is unexpectedly entering high school, a fractal of me doing the same thing 24 years ago. It’s amazing the detailed memories that are stirred within me of that time. My work in the world, my vocation, is well and truly unfolding this year. My decision to study psychotherapy in 2016 was another identity shift, an ‘aha!’ moment of ‘why didn’t I think of doing this earlier?! Of course this is what I love!’
My man quipped that perhaps when I’m 48, I’ll be a grandma! Entirely feasible, and a mindf*** none the less!
A friend a few weeks ago in Canada mentioned “our human hunger for patterns…” I certainly find great comfort in these recurring motifs. Bearing witness to them helps me rest in the Now, with all its seeming complexity.
We are living with many unknowns, committed to keeping our daughter both as safe and as flourishing as we possibly can. The requirements for this keep shifting, and we are doing our best to adapt!