Ok, let’s talk homeschooling. Our kids have been out of school for a week. In that one week, the typical pressure for parents to suddenly begin homeschooling their kids has been as awful as the needless and annoying soccer parents who put all of their self-worth into the performance of their children. So many people are posting their glorious efforts to pick up the torch of furloughed teachers, who had been trained and experienced in teaching our kids, as if we never needed them in the first place. Good for you. Please. By all means, research, plunder, go all in to teach your own kids, if you have the time, focus and mental capacity to not scream at them in tear-filled frustration. I admire and respect your ability to do that, because I cannot. I have known that I cannot “self-teach” my child since she was four years old when I valiantly tried to teach her to swim. My god. Just helping my child do homework can be a tear-inducing experiment indicating precisely where mother-daughter relationships begin to sour for life.
I love my child. I am her teacher in the ways of life, love, street smarts, and in the general know-the-rules-so-you-can-break-them behavior. But I am not a school teacher. Teachers are beautiful, kind and patient people. Those are not qualities that will appear on my tombstone.
Thankfully, my beautiful friend, who was a teacher for over a decade, called me yesterday as I was in the midst of freaking out. I was still trying to meet my own now-online-college deadlines, sinking in the despair of unemployment, and freaking out about how I am going to pull off getting my child through the rest of 6th grade with no guidance from her school or her teachers, who have all been instructed to not provide any more assignments. My friend gave me the best advice I’ve heard yet: Don’t do it.
She posed this question: When our kids are 25-years-old and they look back on these impending months of global chaos and family hardship, what do we want them to remember? That we enforced rigid structure, half-assing our way through lesson plans that we have no business teaching, all in a mess of anxiety and frustration? Or that we allowed them to finally just be? I mean, just how horrible will their lives be if they miss three months of school out of 13 years? Our kids were already being over-tasked. Mine was about to collapse in mental exhaustion from trying to meet the rigorous standards of her self-imposed overachiever, A+ on everything, level.
In the past week of isolation, my 11-year-old, on her own, picked up her dad’s guitar, something she’s never done before, and played for over an hour – to the point of getting a big blister on her thumb from strumming.
We sat together under a blanket on the couch and took turns reading out loud the first chapter of one my favorite novels, The Hunger Games (don’t judge – I love the Young Adult genre), after which we were inspired to watch the movie together, pointing out what was different in the movie versus the novel.
She asked me to help her shave her legs for the first time – something that she’s been wanting to do for months, but we just never seemed to have the time. She felt so grown up afterwards with her smooth legs, and now she is finally less insecure about at least one thing on her body.
She asked me if she could help me cook dinner, something she also has never asked to do, and I’ve never really solicited. We normally don’t have the time or energy to team up on something that is typically more utilitarian in the bustle of just shoving everyone’s mouth in between obligations. We made an Israeli couscous with asparagus, red onions, kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes with an Italian garlic and lemon-pepper sauce, all while I got the priceless moment of noticing what a beautiful young lady she is becoming as she maneuvered her way around the chopping and stirring.
She asked if I would make slime with her, knowing that is not something I would want to do, so she prefaced it with promises to do all the prep and clean up. As she created the slime world, I noticed how kind she was, how wonderfully instructive she was step-by-step, how funny she was when she made jokes at my expense when I was horrified by the eerily sticky slime swallowing my hands as if it was a living creature.
She also took one full afternoon to paint this picture, all on her own accord. She didn’t ask me what to paint or to get out the paints or for newspapers to cover the floor or a surface to mix the colors or for anything at all. As I was busily drowning in my adult worries, she approached me at the end of the day with a blue sky and clouds.
A blue sky and clouds.
We may be the all-knowing adults doing the task-mastering and scheduling and disciplining and protecting, but it is times like these where the deeper wisdom comes from our children, if we stop to notice them, just being.