There is a Taoist fable about a wealthy man who wants to entertain his seabird visitor — he pulls out all the stops, putting together the parties, feasts, and celebrations that he would want someone to throw for him. The bird, of course, is baffled by all this, and basically hides in a corner the whole time, not even venturing out to take a bite of any of the fine food. People don’t all need the same things, is the point, and sometimes the adage that you should treat other people the way you want to be treated doesn’t play out in the real world the way you hope.
This is the lesson I learn over and over in my homeschool life: It’s not about me. I love this book. I love writing essays. I love taking tests. (I really do.) I love reading poetry out loud and watching documentaries and illustrating my notes. And sometimes my children love these things, too. Often, though, they don’t, and I have to take a step back from what I love to recognize what they love, to see them for who they are, and to make their joys our homeschool priority.
I want to open myself to what is, to see my children for who they are and our homeschool for what it is. So how can I do this? Well, for starters, I can step back — I can open up our routine to see how my children fill their days when I’m not there to direct them. (I can be willing to let go of my own anxieties if this means that sometimes that means they play Minecraft all day. I can also let go of my own need to be cool to tell them that they can’t play Minecraft all day every day.) I can close the plans and curricula and to-do lists for a little while and observe how they tackle something on their own. And I can do this not once or once a year but regularly, every season, so that our homeschool changes as they change.
I also need to remind myself of this when we hit a hard patch. Sometimes, yes, there’s something I can change to make things easier or better, but sometimes, the problem is not mine to fix. Sometimes, when my child is struggling with something, my job is not to fix things but to give her the space to find her own solution. Sometimes, my job is to sit on the problem until she recognizes it for herself. My perspective isn’t always what’s necessary to solve a problem.
I can’t do this every day. Some days, there are things to do. There are SATs and commitments to homeschool groups and work I want to see through, and that’s okay. I don’t have to do this every day. But I can do it sometimes. I can do it today. And every time I do it, every time I try to look at our homeschool through their eyes instead of my own, I can see it more clearly.
Food for thought
What parts of our homeschool day are for me? What parts are for them? Does that balance feel right?
What do I love about homeschooling that my kids don’t? What personal outlet can I find for that love?
What do my kids love about homeschooling that I don’t? How can I be more open to that in our everyday homeschool?