Friday, November 29, 2013

Lost and Found

I’ve been discouraged lately.  My work with Classical Conversations has been hard.  It has left me feeling that I have too little time to work with my own children in their studies.  I’ve been overwhelmed and ready to quit.  I have questioned whether this is really the model I want us to follow.  It takes so much time to study all the various parts of the curriculum.  We are rarely fully prepared for our seminar days.  I don’t like constantly feeling behind.  Even though we all study hard, it feels like there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done.  Honestly, I have been ready to build an exit plan and try something else.

The questions have rattled my brain:  Why am I, why are we - doing this? Why are we doing this, this way?  I don’t want to spend eight hours a day studying.  I don’t want my children parked at a table all day studying.  Where is the creativity? The inspiration?  The love of learning?  This has been the running dialogue in my head for weeks.

My children are all very artistic and creative, but a couple struggle with mild to moderate dyslexia.  I’ve read a lot about learning styles and individualized plans to help work with the strengths of divergent learners.  I recently even explored a local educational option that works specifically with teens who “don’t fit the mold of standard school”. I was looking for something different, maybe even "easier", because what we are doing is very hard - for all of us.  We have never used “standard school” but the past three semesters of Classical Conversations have felt more school-ish than anything else we've ever done.  I joined primarily to find community and accountability for my oldest son.  We were planning for his senior year, and while he wanted to continue homeschooling, he also wanted something different for this final year.  It was a good experience.  He learned.  We all learned.

This year, however, I am also tutoring a Challenge II class - the equivalent of 10th grade.  I have had to put in so much study time to support my tutoring that it leaves little time for the other study I’d really like to be doing. (namely, on nutrition, fitness, entrepreneurship, gardening).  I’ve become resentful of the time required to prepare for my job as tutor.  I want more time for my own stuff.  I’ve been whining.  At first just to myself.  Lately though, I’ve whined to my family and even to my students.  Not cool.

Then I ran a marathon.  

That day stands out as significant on many points. I will write a post on the other factors later.  The part that matters here though, is that running that marathon was a huge breakthrough for me physically and mentally.  Never in my life - ever - had anyone suggested to me that I might be a runner.  For me to run my first 5K was a departure from the normal course of my adult life.  The marathon took this to an entirely different level.  It taught me that setting a high goal matters more than I realized.  If I had never set the marathon goal, I never would have accomplished all the smaller goals I met in the process of training.  By putting that marathon goal out there, I had to dedicate time and attention to preparation.  Long hours of preparation.  Changes in schedule.  In lifestyle.  In priorities.  Somewhere along the course that day and over the hours following the race, I realized how the same training model relates to our family’s educational process.  If we don’t set high, difficult academic goals - we may not even meet the shorter smaller goals that we’d rather set.  Those long hours of study actually make me crave the physical work of running and cycling.  The study also makes me crave creative outlets of music, art and cuisine.  If I take away the challenge of study, do I risk losing the impetus for the other pursuits?  A change in expectation, by changing our curriculum may prove to be more compromising in the end.

I could say, I’ve come full circle and am ready to start fresh with CC.  Really, this was more than full circle, more like climbing a winding mountain road and having my perspective shift and change through the journey.  This exploration of intent and content has taken me to a more solid platform than just a mental do-over.  I have a high regard for the wisdom of those in CC who have gone before me as parents educating their children at home.  It is right for me to be attentive to their words, and to yield to this process of being both a parent/teacher to my own children and a tutor/mentor to the students in my class.   

 Some days, I haven’t even wanted to want to do well with school.  I’ve been that disheartened.  The desire has been rekindled now.  I am ready to submit to the work it will take to finish this year well.  Kind of like my marathon goals: don’t quit, don’t get hurt, finish strong... and smiling!

November 24, 2013  Finished smiling!

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