(I suppose that this would still be true for parenting in general- but the homeschooling makes it that much more intense.)
For example- one “mold” that’s pretty important to me is the one where you’re expected to wear shoes in public places. So far, no dice- we have 5 kids and the number of times that one of them has snuck into church or school totally unshod is higher than I care to admit.
I’ll never forget the time when I passed another mom at CHA and confessed my shame at this fact- only to see her face turn hopeful and to hear her say, “I thought I was the only one whose kids did that!” Thus were two private bubbles of shame and isolation forever burst :)
Actually, when we went to our first open house at Christiana, they specifically mentioned how the hardest part of coming here is finding the shoes for all the kids. So I don’t know what caused me to believe that my family is somehow uniquely incompetent in this area.
But love is willing the good for another person. And I do will the good for my children. Powerfully. Desperately, in fact. So it is hard to swallow when it is my child who is just not quite there yet.
I think that’s why, when my son was failing 8th grade history, I never opened a conversation with his tutor. I was determined that he should work harder.
Don’t fall behind.
Because I want the good for you.
This went on for far too long before Mrs. Heyden stopped me in the hallway and told me that my son really needed a modification. She assigned notes, she said, simply because the students usually needed them for accountability. My son knew an incredible amount of history and was clearly motivated to do the reading, but she didn’t think that he had the motor skills yet to do the amount of note-taking that was needed for the other students in the class. It would be easy for her to make this change for him, she told me, and it was hard for her to watch him struggle unnecessarily as she was doing now. She was right, of course. And after we took her advice and modified the work just a little for a short time, learning felt like joy again, and not like drowning. Actually, it felt like the good for my son, who was once again learning history- which is the point of taking a history class.
As a classical educator, I know that we are supposed to teach students, not subjects. That “checking boxes” isn’t important unless those boxes are really needed as a means to our primary end- the student’s growth in knowledge and in virtue.
As a parent, I couldn’t quite get there. And as a result, the flexibility offered to me as a homeschooling parent at Christiana was of no help to me in this situation. It was me, not my son’s tutor, who was elevating “checking boxes” over the education of my child. I couldn't get past the idea that education had to be "one size fits all."
When our child doesn’t fit the mold exactly, we have a choice. We can abandon the mold altogether. We can insist that the mold should change so that it exactly fits our child. Or we can accept that God made us as individuals, each unique, and that there is no mold that will ever hold each human being equally perfectly.
Even if only a small part of my child ever fits into the “mold” that we offer at Christiana, it is still a greater gift to him than I could give through any other path that I have encountered in my 20+ years as an educator.
And, with the right relationship between parent and tutor, it is still easier than getting shoes onto all 5 of my kids at the same time.
Erika Adam is a CHA board member, proud parent of a son who has finally caught up on his notetaking skills, and serves as Christiana's Director of Academic Support. If you're struggling at home, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to discuss options!