My oldest daughter will turn 17 years old in a couple of days. It seems like just yesterday that I was bringing her home from the hospital so filled with wonder and joy at this new life we had created. I was so young then and my life as a mom was just beginning. So often people say to enjoy this time because they grow up so fast and now here I am and I understand deep within that this is true.
Our journey as mother and daughter has not always been an easy one. During her time in school my oldest was often very unhappy and as a result so was our relationship. I didn't know how to relate to her and there were miles and miles between us. There was lots of yelling, fighting and tears.
So , so, so many tears.
To be honest my oldest daughter is the sole reason that I decided to homeschool. I give her all the credit for giving me the insight and courage to take the leap from the mainstream. I once told her thank you for helping me be a rebel ( after spending most of my life as a rule follower) and she said- you aren't the rebel mom- we are. LOL!!
For those of you have been following along with this blog you know that traditional school was a disaster for her. We tried it all from public, to gifted , and even private school. There were so many years of parent teacher meetings, ongoing conversations with the principal and school psychologist about how to engage her in learning. There were a gazillion behavior programs implemented and failed , rules and rules and I am ashamed to say bribes. Pretty much all of these efforts only served to re-enforce my daughters feelings of low self worth and not fitting in. and making us feel as complete failures in parenting.
I remember a time in 5th grade when she refused to go with me to a parent teacher conference - (the teacher had wanted the kids to join in on the discussion.). I arrived at the conference ready to hear once again about how she was not performing up to her potential, I braced myself for hearing the words about what was wrong with her, how she wasn't doing the work and let me tell you the teacher did not disappoint. Her teacher shared about how my bright kid who could score a 99% on state testing was not doing well in school. And despite the lack of clear solutions, I sat through an hour of the teacher telling me how my daughter needed to step up, that she couldn't get away with this, how someone had to send her a message that this was not acceptable and how she would fail middle school at this rate.
I was told of 12 missing assignments, 10 missing assignments and tales of lost homework and incomplete work.. The teacher expressed how perhaps what I needed to do was to take away my daughter's art- the one thing she truly loved- until she shaped up. My blood boiled at that idea! The nerve. It was clear that as much as we had no idea how to change things- neither did the teacher or the school.
When I got home from that conference, I found my then 11 year old daughter curled up in the fetal position on top of the dresser in her closet.. She had clearly been crying and nervously asked me what the teacher said. She told me that she could never go back there, that the teachers hated her and she would never fit in.
That was the moment that we decided to homeschool though it would take 2 more years for us to finally pull the trigger. We were scared of the unknown but knew in our hearts that something needed to change for fear we would lose our daughter.
Looking back I do have regrets like we all do. I wish I would have listened a little more, done a bit more research into what gifted really meant especially when it came to underachieving and emotional intensity. Surely I could have read all the books on giftedness my mom gave me but sat unread waiting for me to have a little more "time". I wish I could have had the guts to be a rebel a little bit sooner and perhaps I would have saved us some of the struggles we had to go through those next few years before we were ready to let go of the fight of staying in school.
Mostly though, as I sit here thinking about the fact that in 3 days I will have a 17 year old young adult in my home, my lovely daughter growing up before my eyes, I am filled with a wonderful sense of gratitude and peace.
You see, I am so very very lucky. I am filled with comfort in knowing that we saved our relationship and have had the past 5 years to get to know each other all over again. Yes, I am sad that we lost all of those years and I definitely wish I could get them back. Still, I try and focus on what we do have and hope that sharing my story saves a few other parents and kids from following in our painful steps. .
What I want other parents of gifted kids who are struggling in school and are wondering about how they will handle homeschooling high school to know is this, Today instead of teenage strife and rebellion, we have had time spent together. Instead of anger, yelling, and tears we have had long conversations and hours and hours of learning and adventuring. Instead of worrying and fear we have comfort in knowing we are lovingly supporting our daughter into following her passions and blossoming into who she truly is.
Together with her sisters we have built beautiful memories from our weekly field trips (we have gone on over 200!!!) , enjoyed leisurely park days with no where to rush to, we have watched endless movies, and gone camping with our friends when everyone else was at school. I have loved watching the relationships between her and her 3 sisters grow as well in ways that would not have been possible if she had stayed miserable in school.
The title of this post was homeschooling high school and I suppose this is what it means to me. For us, high school has been less about academics and more about life. It has looked like helping my oldest figure out what her goals are for her future and facilitating finding the resources to make that possible. It has meant honoring her as a whole person, who just happens to be a teenager. Our focus has been on helping to light a fire in her belly by helping her strive for internal motivation and not forcing her to complete work or assignments only because it makes us feel better or reduce our own fear.
She wants to go to college and wishes for a full 4 year experience so while she tried out a community college class once, she knows she doesn't want to start there and transfer in to a larger university as a junior. We have allowed her the freedom to meet high school standards in her own way.
Watch history movies and read books for history- YES!!, Take that online sign language to fulfill your foreign language requirement- go for it, dabble or dive deep in Coursera classes just because you are interested- you have plenty of time. I cracked up when she signed up for the history of extraterrestrials. I mean, if you can't take a class like that when you are 16- when can you?
Math has been a bit harder because she doesn't love it but she has gotten there in her own way, in her own time. We don't force or push. I don't collect assignments or grade her work. We believe in developing independence and self motivated learners but of course help in finding the tools they need to be successful. She has a tutor and has been studying for the ACT. She treated it like a full time job and with the luxury of no homework she has been able to do so with focused attention but not stress and overwhelm.
We have watched her passion in art grow into areas we didn't even know existed from painting and sketching to game design and digital 3-d art and even jewelry making, crafting and pottery. For the past few years she has worked as an assistant art teacher and gained so much life experience in working with parents, organizing kids , and deepening her understanding of the business side of being a professional artist.
Mostly, homeschooling highschool for us has been a journey of amazement and awe in watching our child unfold into a warm, caring, and beautiful young lady. She has helped us to to let go of what we believed was true and be open to learning and growing- outside the box. With her gently (and sometimes not so gentle- HA!!) pushing we have changed and shifted ourselves and that is truly a gift.
I have come to learn that for us homeschooling highschool is not really about academics, It is certainly not about curriculum even if that is part of the experience if it is needed to reach our kids goals. Instead I believe that homeschooling high school it is about the relationships. With ourselves, our families and our teens and if we stay focused on that, everything will turn out just as it should be.
Today I celebrate my daughter on her birthday and I take pride in the mother she has helped me to become.
Enjoying Europe with Dehesa Charter School Fall 2015