Pat Farenga said that unschooling is an approach that allows “children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear.” Parents have varying degrees of “letting go” and “holding on” to certain aspects of the wide education spectrum. Couples themselves have different comfort levels, expectations and requirements that may be in conflict with one another so they have to work at untangling knots.
There are many things that frustrate me about our homeschooling and when I read books and articles, most of the stories are happy, over-the-hump type of experiences that are hard to relate to. The kids have found what they’re interested naturally and their parents have hit their homeschooling stride. I’m not there yet and far from feeling comfortable in this skin. I scour online for a consultant and found Amy Milstein’s Unschooling NYC website. We arrange a Skype meeting where Amy assures me that everyone goes through hoops and hurdles, doubts and frustrations but these things are not as talked about or highlighted as the uplifting anecdotes.
After going through a checklist of issues that hung around my neck like a millstone for weeks and months, I realized almost all except one were non-issues. My load was lightened considerably but days after our conversation, the doubts slowly creep back in, so I’m summarizing them in a table as a reminder.
Nowadays, when I’m deeply dissatisfied with our homeschooling sessions or something displeases me, I threaten the kids hoping my husband would listen as I half-scream, “I’m putting you in school” or “That’s why I want you guys to go school. We can’t go on this way!”
I’m also not comfortable homeschooling in a country where there are not too many homeschoolers. If we were in the Philippines or America, for example, it would be easy to network, arrange playdates, even form a homeschooling co-op. I would also gladly continue homeschooling if I could get some tutors, if there were other kids we can share study and play time with and if there were more resources all around. However, there is this ideal situation in mind not reflected in reality and we have to work with what’s there. How can limitations be transcended?I wish we lived in a country where there was a Sudbury School or a progressive school and we can send our kids there. I wish my husband and I agreed more on what to do about their education but it seems we are not united. He is adamant we continue homeschooling but I would rather they try out some formal schooling (China, Philippines or elsewhere) and then decide which method we all want as a family. I’m not comfortable imposing our choice of homeschooling because our kids, except for kindergarten, have not tried school.
I wish Philippines was an option because schooling there is not as rigid as the Chinese system plus there are a lot of homeschoolers. But there is too much baggage there for us that may be detrimental to our family in the long run.
The frustration is eating away at me from the inside. I wish a viable third way presents itself.
Our friends from Chengdu happen to be visiting us now in Jinghong -– a couple with their 5 year old daughter. They are contemplating moving to Xishuangbanna since the pollution has caught up with Chengdu. They too love the outdoors and dream of immigrating to New Zealand someday.
This morning, their daughter, Xiaomi, joined Joshua and Jimmy during our regular English lessons and the boys stepped up their performance eager to show-off. Since I started this homeschooling journey, I’ve been pleased with the tweaks I’ve made in our program. I’ve cut away unsuccessful bits, replacing them with better portions but am generally unhappy because there are things I’d like to do but am unable because my husband disagrees. On the other hand, my husband must be saying to himself, “Why can’t this woman ever stop worrying?” And inside my head, I’d say, “Why can’t he just let me be in-charge of the education aspect?” Our lack of communication is compensated by the arrival of our friends.
My friend, Jenny and I talked about a plan that’s like a homeschool co-op. I can teach our combined kids on Mondays and Wednesdays while she can handle Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’d be responsible for English and she would be for Chinese. On Friday, we can get a tutor to get fresh and more professional input. Ideally, we’d love to find other parents who want to homeschool their kids and then we could rotate and be in-charge of one day a week each. But where do we find those families in Jinghong? Most of the foreigners who are homeschooling already have their set routines and they do everything in English. The Chinese kids’ level of English would be too low to join English homeschoolers so the ideal would be a co-op among Chinese families. But, again, how do we find those families? Perhaps, they are thinking of immigrating also. Perhaps, I haven’t exhausted all means, have barely scratched the surface and then suddenly it’s time for us to fly back to Manila in two days.
When we go back to Xishuangbanna after our big American road trip, perhaps a more palatable option will emerge.