Life never goes the way you want it to go. I really don’t want to homeschool. I personally prefer to send my kids to a progressive or a democratic school, but we’re in an area in China where there are no options except regular school. Even if it was a traditional school, it’s perfectly fine with me sending my kids there as long as they pick up reading and writing and then after a few years, if they choose homeschooling, I’d be happy to do it because they consciously chose it. But my husband does not agree — he wants to continue homeschooling.
My parents and his parents are frustrated that we’re not sending our kids to school. My sister and his sister are both worried about our children not getting an education, as if they won’t be able to acquire education OUTSIDE of school. So I am trapped in a situation not of my choosing but I still have to make the most out of it or else go crazy which is not an option (just an occasional one).
People say it’s my fault for convincing my husband to homeschool because I undertook this elaborate research across the whole of the United States visiting alternative schools, but my husband was set on homeschooling way before that. I undertook the research precisely to show him that there are alternatives to traditional schools. Apart from homeschooling, there are progressive and democratic schools. He needn’t be afraid of the rigid type of education because there are options out there that exist, albeit quite limited in China.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t convinced and he still wants to homeschool. After more than a year of this experiment which for some people including me is quite enough already, it’s only now that we are hitting our stride. I’m willing to still give it a chance only if we keep improving our methods. My husband is trying his best to teach the kids Chinese while I struggle teaching them English.
I started with workbooks which were a nightmare so I switched to online programs which seemed better and then I noticed the deficiencies after a while. This last trip to Manila, I had Joshua try a number of tutors while I observed their methodologies, trying to see what can be picked up and applied. When we got back to China and my husband renewed his commitment to homeschool with vigor, I also observed his techniques that got Joshua engaged.
Today, I finally hit on something Joshua and I both enjoy doing together – biographies. I already got an inkling of this a few months ago when he liked a book I got him which was a compilation of stories about young achievers. Today, we used Amelia Earheart’s bio as a mini unit study which I was thinking of trying before but never got around to. So for the first time in what seems like forever, I was quite happy about homeschooling and not at all gritting my teeth in exasperation.
Maybe my standards and expectations are too high and I want engagement one hundred percent of the time and I should be happy with less than that. However, it seems to make sense aiming for one hundred knowing about progressive and democratic education, that it is possible to totally engage the child.
Admittedly, I tend to focus on the shortfalls when it comes to homeschooling because I’m setting up myself to fail. But actually, there is a role that I have been relishing and that Joshua has been very responsive to and that is the role of a curator. He preferred the longer audiobooks of novels rather than short stories so I offered him the Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, Matilda and Harry Potter which he happily lapped up although he didn’t take to A Wrinkle in Time which I loved as a youth. To my surprise, he enjoyed books for even older children: the Artemis Fowl series and A Monster Calls. The last one by Patrick Ness was a new revelation to me and I ended up loving, adoring and coveting the quality of writing.
So there are good things to come out of homeschooling. The other reason going against it is I simply want to get back to the work force. But if we HAVE to homeschool, then I’d have to shelve that desire for a while longer. Anyway, I could still do our Hero’s Journey start-up project on the side.
Actually, in America, I was able to convince my husband to send the kids to school after writing him a long letter, but then he changed his mind when we got back to China, so I’m back to zero, stuck again. However, I have to get unstuck because it’s not useful feeling stuck. I was looking forward to having our next dream come true. Our first dream was to travel with our kids which we did a lot of already this past year. Our next dream was to settle down in Xishuangbanna, buy a house, enroll the kids in school and get a dog – in that order. I had been repeating it over and over to the boys like a mantra but now my husband has decided against Xishuangbanna and against the school.
When I wrote a blog entry about that, one of my students sent me the sweetest message, “Maybe your husband has reasons for changing your plans. Maybe you could try cooperating with him temporarily and meanwhile, don’t give up thinking of ways to reach your ideal.” Reading those words gave me such a boost. I don’t have to give up hope on Xishuangbanna. There is still hope for Xishuangbanna!
What if there’s none? What if we don’t end up in Xishuangbanna? If we end up in a place I don’t like, what then? Well, I’ve done that before! I just figured out a way to turn the situation around to my advantage and even if I didn’t like the place, I found meaning and purpose being there. Bloom where you are planted, the quote goes.
Erase all expectations. Maybe I’ll reach Xishuangbanna — that peaceful piece of heaven I long for now — when I die and get to real heaven, and Xishuangbanna would pale so much in comparison, it would immeasurably be unbelievable! It doesn’t matter if I don’t reach my conceived and anticipated Shangri-la in this lifetime because paradise awaits at the end of the line. Paradise is also here, now. We make our own heaven and we make our own hell. My grandmother always told me that.
At the back of my mind, there’s that nagging problem with dreams in a marriage. What if the dreams of the couple are different or in conflict with each other? How does one resolve that? Compromise. Communication. What if there’s a breakdown in communication? Uhmm. If all else fails, blog?
More like, call forth a monster!
Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls: It’s What Makes Us Human