I don’t know what happened… One minute, we were really happy and free and loving. Then we kind of got thrown into learning–driven by BigGuy’s goals and desires as I floundered to figure out to support him. Then I thought I had it, but I was neglecting Girly’s needs. Now, as I plot ahead for the next school year, I am already overwhelmed. And that’s stupid because as unschoolers, there really shouldn’t be a lot for me to do. Seriously. But I’m noticing that our recent realization that BigGuy is high school-eligible has given me temporary brain shift and with it came a wave of crazy expectations….
Yes, that’s it… I took a step back and realized that recently, we took a turn away from unschooling and fully into “expectation schooling”. And that’s just not going to work.
I think part of this was driven by non-schooling problems we are having with BigGuy. He is drowning in a horrible reaction to screens and the last year’s batch of new online courses have really, really done him in that has had our household spinning for weeks. For his safety and well-being, we had to go into a serious “control” mode to help him control himself and his behaviors. It was hard and exhausting and we’re not quite done figuring it all out–but we’re working on it. Impulse control appears to be GONE and I’m not sure if you can imagine how hard that is to be without. And he is worried about it, too–which worries me all the more because that means he’s actually TRYING to help himself and can’t.
All of that controlling made for a lot of… well… a lot less of a loving environment. This is all while my husband is on disability and facing the potential for his company to deny him disability accommodations and find him without a job–and worse, without a reference as he’s been with the same company for 16 years. The last three of those haven’t been great because of his disability so who knows if he’ll have a reference at all. It’s scary times here, and these are significant trauma triggers for me. So I’ve been horribly on edge to begin with; but then having to be more dictator and controller of my boy wasn’t as gentle as it might have been if we weren’t under this overwhelming stress.
On the heels of this came the realization that BigGuy was eligible to be “in high school”. His math was already high school level, he had intended to take high school credit science, his writing teacher opted him into the high school writing class… there wasn’t a lot left. BigGuy liked the sound of this.
And voila… Mama lost her mind…
BigGuy wasn’t driving the boat in our home life for himself at the time because of his issues and suddenly Mama went and (temporarily) applied that to All Of The Things. Suddenly we had a schedule and it was CRAY-ZEE.
It’s an effort–day in and day out–to manage “expectations”. I don’t want to give the impression that as unschoolers, we have NO expectations of our children. I’m sure there are radical unschoolers and full-on life-learners out there that release all expectations of their children. I respect that and if that works for you–I support you in that. It doesn’t work for our family and some might say “You mean it doesn’t work for YOU!” Well, yes, that may very well be the heart of it, but *I* am a part of my family. But to be fair, it really doesn’t work for my spectrum kid, either.
So we do this very intricate dance of expectations…
Sometimes I fall out of step. My partners try to move forward with their bruised toes–carrying on the best they can and I try very hard not to step on their toes again. Mama gets too much energy sometimes and tries to lead to strongly in this dance. My partners give me some cues that I’m being too forceful and push to have their moments in the sun–and I realize my missteps and allow them to lead again.
And here we are again with Mama in check… managing the load of other stresses… handing the reigns of “education” back to my children. Asking them instead of telling them or passive-aggressively “telling” them. Being–and REALLY BEING–okay with taking a year off if that’s where BigGuy needs and wants to be. It will all be there when we’re ready; but it won’t mean anything if they’re not ready.
Finally, I just feel relaxed and at ease. Finally, I am making plans for my kids around the things I’ve obligated myself to do (coaching, teaching) in case they have no desire to be involved. Finally, the stress level has taken it down a few notches.
For now, I have been able to ask Girly what she wants to learn this year and focus on her–which thrills her beyond measure. She wants to do “schooly” things. Again… I do an intricate dance of feeding her stated desires and still ensuring they do not box her in.
When my BigGuy is a bit more at ease–certain that Stressed Out Mama has tamed her inner control freak–we will talk about what he wants to do. I know he is feeling the desire to put his head in the sand for fear of doing the wrong thing. I think he and I need an actual vacation together. Just BEING together and alone without the constant demands his sister places on him and her torments when he’s unable to meet them. Just some time to hear him talk endlessly about Minecraft and Kerbal Space and Portal 2 and Legos and all the things he wants for Christmas. Time to be himself and be loved for it instead of tolerated and pushed along through our daily routines.
Working on that…