June 5, 2010
For many years we homeschooled and even unschooled. For months at a time it was as though he was totally unteachable, unreachable except for moments that were as transient as the weather. Sometimes he'd surprise me and want to do something utterly worldly, like go to camp, go to "real" school, join a theater group and so I'd take deep breaths and switch gears, not ever sure how smoothly any of those gears might turn nor knowing just how to grease them.
He was fourteen when he decided that he wanted to go to school but in a way that was like praying for rain only on the green beans but never on Sunday and please, be careful how much water falls on the corn -- wanting the world on his terms.
Parenthetical Interlude --Yes, lots happened between that paragraph and the next, but all of that will happen here in dribs and drabs and probably not in chronological order.
He wanted to be a part of the world --on his terms--and we moved clumsily from unschooling into school. During and after two years of crises, sleepless nights, joys, explorations, and head banging (literally- you should see my refrigerator door) we discovered and analysed the trade-offs. It's hard to explain to anyone that he lost ground academically because here he was, almost sixteen and ready to graduate, but he learned nothing new academically and fell behind in the fluency he'd managed to grasp in fits and starts at home.
He cried, as we talked, that he'd not been allowed to take AP classes because of his writing problems. That kept him away from his intellectual peers. Paradoxically, he'd been to school for two years and had little to no writing instruction.
We laughed, however, that with graduation a week away he was finally learning to stand in line and march!
At home the books once again migrated from the shelves and pages flicked by to the music of Queen. (THAT gets old!!) The television busied itself with video lecture series constantly replayed until son 'gets' all of the words.
"Back to the business of life," said he as he slammed pliers and wire and a few choice pieces of onyx on the table next to his books.
"Yes. This was more like it," I thought, "perhaps."
"We have to have important stuff to fight about, Mom. This week it's gonna be white holes and black holes and whether or not Hawking is better at narrating his own sputterings than anyone else."
As we return to the familiar freedoms we embrace, we move forward. We don't know where we're going....college?? Let's see....I have less than three months to figure that one out.
I thought that I'd feel triumphant. But I felt tired, and I felt cheated....
Oh, let's just not finish THAT list. Not yet.
I thought that I would faithfully write about the journey in raising my son. The more I wrote, the more solid I became in my convictions to organize this brain that wasn't mine, to train into it some alien pliable form that was not going to stay on track anyway, and otherwise teach what seemed unteachable. Daily writing brought too much verbal thinking into my own visually-oriented mind to allow me to grasp the world in which my son immersed himself. And so...I embraced my own scattered nature, my own visual and spatial world, and became a part of his world. We were much happier -not that the road was smooth- when I invited my son into our world, slowly enticing him into space, a tentative shared space, between his universe and ours. I hope to share insights from the past, present, and future as I continue to ease the transition of this young man into an adult world. The only proven method I use is ages old -- I honor who he is and help him find people and places who do the same... square pegs fit nicely into soft putty that molds around them...and the push into plasticity is gentle.