And This is Where I Cry “Uncle”

Before 1997, I hadn’t even heard of the word “homeschooling.”

I moved back home to Kansas City, Missouri when I was 27, with my almost nine-year-old in tow. Down the street from us was an odd-shaped house full of children. “They homeschool,” my mother said it quietly, under her breath, almost as if it were an affliction.

“Is that legal?” I asked.

It was, of course. And slowly, as I watched problem after problem surface during Danielle’s path from Kindergarten through eighth grade, I dreamed of homeschooling her. I was scared though. What did I know about teaching my child? And working full-time, how could I possibly do it?

Every bump in the road. Every mean kid, bad teacher, or poor grade – it would remind me of my own difficulties in school and I was desperate to change the paradigm.

And less than five years later, I would join the homeschooling ranks, pulling my child out of school and doing my best to homeschool her.

I would like to tell you that it was just hard at first, that I got my sea legs and grew confident in my homeschooling abilities. But, honestly? That never happened.

I had some extremely high points with Danielle – she studied politics, women’s history, and wrote papers. It was, by far, the most rewarding homeschool experience I have had. I still felt a little adrift, so I encouraged her to go to community college once she had her driver’s license. After all, she would get a start on her agemates, heck, maybe even have an Associates degree when they were still kicking it in high school.

It didn’t work out that way.

And when I was pregnant with Emily, my mind was made up. I was going to do it right, all the way through, from start to end. I was going to be a homeschool mom from the word “go!”

When Em was four, nearly five, I spent more than a month gathering materials, designing a curriculum, and planning our days.

That curriculum and those meticulous plans were thrown out of the window in less than two weeks. And that was because I was stubborn, it had really been over within the first two hours.

And over the next six years there have been various renditions of that – rinse and repeat – try something new, give up, try something else, have limited success, move on to the next thing.

And Em has learned many things along the way. She learned to read, print, write in cursive, spell, add/subtract, multiply/divide…mostly. She loved science classes with LEARN Math and Science, playing with friends, and art.

She squirmed through social studies and yawned a lot. And her personality, always kind and loving, has florished. She is popular, well-spoken, and kids and adults both are drawn to her.

And we have lumbered on with homeschooling, in fits and starts, for six years.

Me feeling more or less incompetent, her mostly bored, and homeschool hanging on by a thread.

And then last month happened. And in the midst of dealing with what is, hands down, the worst pain I have ever felt in my years as a mother, I realized today that there is nothing that escapes the feelings of self-doubt and questioning that have risen like a flood in response to Danielle’s post.

I’ve certainly had these questions before…

Am I continuing to homeschool out of some ego/pride thing?

Would she be better off in a school?

Does she need more structure than I am providing?

Are my own personal experiences with public school coloring my outlook?

Em is so outgoing, so at home with new people and new experiences. She’s different than me, or her sister. I would go as far as to say that she is most surely an extrovert, where we are very firmly introverts.

And of either of my two children, I would point to her and say that she has the most chance of success in a public setting.

These feelings of inadequacy that I have, coupled with the devastating pain I have felt in the past month, have collided. I am left feeling insufficient and full of shortcomings. And Em, my outgoing kiddo, who squirms in her seat and voluntarily takes a dreaded bath just to get out of homeschooling for a few extra minutes, is being her normal self.

In a public school setting, she will knock the socks off of the other kids in terms of good behavior. Part of me looks forward to meeting with her teachers. It will be a bright light of happiness, meeting them and hearing how well-behaved she is. But my decision to send her to public school tastes like failure. It is full of bitterness and disappointed dreams.

Nothing is set in stone, but it is looking more and more like we will be enrolling her in public school this year. Kauffman Charter School if we are really lucky, and nearby Whittier if we are not.

I’ve been standing on the edge of the cliff for a very long time. And my eldest’s words stirred up the hornet’s nest of self-hatred, insecurity, and uncertainty bred by decades of betrayal that I try so desperately to push away. I realized that I need a break – possibly a permanent one. I need time to grieve the loss of my eldest. Whether there is reconciliation or not in our future, she is someone I can never trust again. And that is a loss that has rocked my understanding of the world. I still struggle to accept it.

I need to bury myself in work and let teachers handle the job of teaching.

So this may be the last post on this website. Then again, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

But for now? I am crying “uncle.”

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