Thursday, October 25, 2012


I knew we'd have challenges. I knew this first year of homeschooling would require patience, flexibility, respect, and a whole lot of 'breaks.' I knew I'd have some days with Ella wanting to be at school, and some days with Calum wanting to be at home (he is continuing in his Montessori program for his kindergarten year.) I must have said 1,502,498,216 times to my friends and family - 'This year is a learning year. My only expectation & hope is to want to do it again next year.' This mantra still holds true but so does another...homeschooling has been emotional, confronting, demanding, spiritual, and singly, the most difficult yet gratifying thing I've ever done so far....
I won't bore you with the standard emotions that may encompass our day. As anyone might imagine, there is joy, and fun, and frustration, and exhaustion, and silliness, and creativity. All of these fit the bill. And all of them I embrace, even plan for, throughout our days. However, there are deeper lessons I hadn't predicted, much less planned for, and perhaps even denied by virtue of being green at this. What will I always remember about these first few months? The changing dynamic between my children.

Homeschool has changed the game between my kids and in ways I hadn't even imagined. Hindsight is 20/20 though - I should have seen it coming. But this is the paradox of raising children...some of the most beautiful, breathtaking lessons are also the most painful. The ones that sting a little, or alot! The lessons of life that actually DO keep me awake at night. That mix of 'What have I done? And what do I do now? But wait, how would I have known...' 

My oldest children, Ella & Calum, have always been each others best friends. She has protected him since the day they met. Five years ago in that hospital room, when he was crying and she was stroking his head, I saw it in her eyes. He was hers, and she his. Ella rarely says 'Calum.' She has called him 'Buddy' since those early days. And Calum has called Ella 'Eye' since he started to talk. I don't think he could actually pronounce her name and it came out as 'Eye.' I love to listen to them playing - these pet names interchanged with their actual given names. All the children have their own dynamic between the four. And they all have quiet moments among them, when two pair off and go play something together. But up until recently it has usually boiled down to Ella & Calum - Oliver & Drew. And then we changed their rooms...

Late in the Summer, just a few weeks before school, Adam & I finally made the plunge and split the twins and divided the children's rooms by gender. Girls together - boys together. I was sure the girls would have a harder transition. Their male counterparts definitely compensated for emotions of each girl and kept things in balance. I was totally floored when, that very first night of separation, it was tears from the boys that I was wiping dry. They missed their girls. It took a few nights, and alot of encouragement, and a few promises for male-specific toys (I wasn't totally sure what I was promising to be honest) to get things settled. I saw it as an opportunity for the boys to become closer. Calum was RIPE for the big-brother role. After just a few nights, the transition was made and the kids were comfortable and happy with their new roommates.And then we started school...

Homeschooling really isn't to blame. And neither is the Montessori setting. Nothing is really a 'problem.' It's just a shift. Ella is home now with the twins and the three of them have become closer. Ella and Oliver pair off quite often. Calum loves school and rarely asks to stay home. He is excited to see everyone at the end of his day and is often full of energy and motivation. HE is the one with all the school stories this year. And HE gets to tell them without interruption! This is a new role for him. Calum has always competed for 'air time' with Ella. She likes to talk and he's male do the math. 

We were driving off to school one morning and Ella was talking about gymnastics (we have enrolled her in a gymnastics class designed for homeschooling children - meaning, the class is scheduled during the week, during school hours.) Calum got super-excited and said that he wanted to do gymnastics too. Enter painful parenting moment.....Ella told him that she didn't want him to do gymnastics with her. 'I don't want you there, buddy.' Calum goes silent, feelings hurt. I stop breathing, heartbroken. Ella is talking in nothing short of a whisper. I can't believe she said it. For the first time ever, she is saying No to having him as her wing-man.And she's articulating her case very well - painfully clear.

Reliving this moment has provided a different perspective - she is maturing! Ella is growing in confidence, and is excited to explore places and new things - on her own. This is TRIUMPHANT, really, compared to where we were a year ago when she wouldn't even go to Home Depot with her Daddy. She is learning to work through her anxieties and go into a group setting with confidence. On the other hand, I have a son - a middle child, in fact - that is also maturing. Calum is succeeding in his new role of Kindergartner at school. He loves coming home to his family and sharing his day. The time apart from his sister is good for him, and he returns to their relationship with excitement and patience. But he misses her. Calum misses Ella - as much as he has been her wing-man, she has been his anchor as well. However, Ella is moving on in a way. She has stemmed new relationships with her younger siblings. She is yearning for additional friendships outside of our closely-knitted family. The latter may have less to do with homeschooling and more to do with age. Whichever the catalyst, the dynamic between Ella & Calum is changing. And, at times, it's making my heart hurt and my breath escape me. I wasn't ready.

So - when people ask, 'What's the hardest part about homeschooling?' my answer is usually dependent on how much time I have to talk, and how 'close to the bone' my heart can go. The hardest part, by far, is moving through these changes in relationships. We are all going through them. And if I'm lucky, I can pause in the moment to learn from them. But this one, this change between brother and sister, oh...this one confronts me. It's challenging the trust I have in myself, in believing that we are our right path. In their best interests, I've been forced to let go, to shore up, to encourage honesty and conversation between them, and to realize that they are both right in their feelings - and I am the mom, and despite the title, I can't always make things 'right' for each of them, at the same time. If I'm lucky, I will forever be the sounding-board for these two. And if I'm lucky, I can forever be the one to make them both feel loved, understood, celebrated, heard, and respected. But sometimes, what is best for one, will painfully impact another, and because we're family,  we will just have to work through the process.
Just this past week we took the older kids kayaking. As much as this was a treat for Adam & me (I haven't been on the water since pregnant with Ella,) I relished more in the kids' rediscovery of their closeness. Had I not been privy to the changing tides inside our home, I may have missed the chance to watch closely their faces, and listen intently to their voices, for love between them was most evident.

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