Some people would call me crazy (I’m sure some people think it). And at times, I might fall a bit into that crazy side… or at least, just crazy for the amount of stuff I’m putting onto my already-full plate.
Here I am, choosing to be the primary speech partner for my kids, with very little outside support, and I’ve chosen to homeschool. Not only that, we’ve chosen to homeschool in a way that’s very different from Sean and my own school-focused upbringing. Oh, and top of that, I’m still trying to do this writer-publisher thing.
Pretty darn full plate, and one that’s ripe full of self-doubt and critiques and that age-old question all parents ask themselves:
Oh my God! Am I screwing up my kids??
And if you’ve never asked yourself that question I say buck up and be honest. We all of moments of self-doubt because of how deeply we care for and love our kids. We want to do our best by them. And because of that, there comes the self doubt creeping in…
Have I not played with them enough today? Have we not had enough connection time? Not enough time playing outdoors, visiting friends, learning new skills through living? Should we be scheduling more play-dates? Should I be sitting down and working more on sight-words more instead of spending hours at the park with friends or swimming? Should I, should I, should I….
It never stops.
There’s always something more we could be doing. There’s always a “better” way to have responded in an intense moment (like how Eric freaked out when I wouldn’t let him buy ALL the giant balls at Target).
This parenting thing, it’s a heavy mantle. It’s important. It’s weighty. Every day we make thousands of decisions that affect their wellbeing, and at the same time, not a single decision will make or break their growth or learning. We lose our way at times, we yell, we get frustrated because we’re tired and our own resources are low. We make mistakes, and our children still love us. They still forgive us. And the next day, or the next moment, even, we get to try again.
And again, and again.
Lately I’ve been struggling with my own doubts and slowly working my way through them. This wasn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last (I’m only four and half years into this parenting gig, after all).
You see, since we’re choosing a way of learning that’s child-led, that’s about following their interests and passions, where as me, the parent, becomes more of a facilitator as opposed to a straight-up “teacher.” It’s different than what the rest of our society has seen and I get looks and comments all the time for letting my kids be kids, for playing in puddles (and any bit of water my two-year-old can get his feet into). I see and feel their judgment, the same way I see and feel judgment when Kate talks — she sounds nothing like the 4 1/2 year old she is but someone much younger.
Lots of judgment.
Lots of negative feelings that I’m doing my best to shield my learning, thriving, growing kids from.
My kids may not know what the rest of the world thinks, but I do, and sometimes it’s just hard to keep that same self-doubt from leeching into my own thoughts.
Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.
Like right now, I’m struggling to walk this bridge, of helping Kate with her language growth, but at the same time, not pushing something she’s not reading for.
Like reading (or, at least, sight words).
You see, Kate’s reading, to some unknown degree, on her own. She knows words and has the comprehension of what they are. But how many words she knows, what they are, I haven’t a clue. And because she’s a visual learner and because language itself can be very abstract (just look at how many abstract words are in this sentence alone — they aren’t things you can stick a picture next that makes sense for the visual learner). Reading will help accelerate Kate’s language and speech.
Except… I also am aware of how important play is, especially for a kid who’s only four years old. I’m also aware and mindful that if she’s not ready to do something, I can’t and won’t force her.
Of course as a parent, I want to help Kate.
I want to help her acquire her language skills, to trust in the words. But at the same time, right now I want our focus to be on play and learning through play (something that our society, in my opinion, doesn’t put nearly enough emphasis on — regardless how old you are).
And, because of Kate’s temperament, I can’t push her.
If I do, she’s shuts down (just imagine a cute little girl even you the mental finger). I can’t force her to do something she’s not ready for, and frankly, as a parent, I don’t want to.
So. Here I am, walking this bridge of many, many worlds (at least it feels like). Trying to help my child, being her advocate and her voice because she doesn’t have one of her own yet (or, it’s a still a small, developing one). And I’m pushing up against professionals who want something that I don’t feel comfortable with yet (which is: working on reading).
Or maybe, it’s more the way this professional is pushing me.
This professional wants a more school-structured environment. She wants me to have structured time where Kate does something that I want her to do, so we can gear her for things like learning and lessons (even if we’re not doing them at this point). She wants me to whip out this board and write a word down, carrying it in my purse for crying out loud, so I can write some word when we’re out and about.
I’m sorry. I’m just trying to find my grocery list, trying to make sure my toddler has support and empathy when he can’t buy all the giant balls, and making sure I buy the correct Blu-Ray and not the 3D version (and yes, I need to go return that stupid thing today with my two kids in tow). My life can be a little intense at times. Heck, I’ve got a two-year-old and I swear everything is either super sweet or super intense. There is no middle ground.
And as far as the time when we sit and do something Kate’s not interested in… that goes against what our beliefs are in regards to children and learning. I mean, you, dear reader, you can believe what you like. I’ve got zero issues with that. You and I might have some crossover, or we might have none. Every person, every family is different and I think that’s wonderful.
For us, for me, I’m not comfortable with forcing Kate to do anything like this (especially considering her temperament). And when it comes time to learning, we’ve chosen this more whole-life learning approach where things like reading are simply part of our life, from reading books together (which Kate is slowly allowing me to do), to her playing video games (which has been a wealth of reading already for her), and even Kids YouTube, which she loves.
So, I know the reading and learning is happening and I love it, and I trust in it.
But at the same, I want to support her language growth, but in a way that’s natural and playful and really just fits with who we are as a family.
The only “forced” time I have is when I ask Kate to play a board game. And she loves it. She’s intrinsically motivated because she sees her daddy and me play board games all the time. And she loves the connection time. Besides, board games have been great because while I’m not “forcing” her to play, I am “enforcing” the rules (with some latitude of course). Meaning: this is how the game plays, and no, you can’t just flip over the dice because you didn’t like the outcome. It’s been great for her learning. We’re doing counting and colors in a way that’s natural and playful, and something we both enjoy.
I’m struggling with the reading part, and I have an appointment coming up with our professional (who I know will be pushing the reading and learning part on me again). So, I asked for help from the community around me, both from our homeschool group and other parents of late-talkers (who also homeschool).
And I got help.
I really, really did.
I’m absolutely blessed by this incredible wealth of knowledge from my local homeschool community, parents who have children grown and reading, who also followed this same learning-style approach that we are following.
I think the hardest part of walking this different path, of being my kids’ primary speech partner and also homeschooling (and following the child’s lead when it comes to learning), is the professionals. Sometimes, because of my own upbringing, I get a lot of anxiety. I feel pressure because they don’t necessarily believe in our choices as parents. And it’s hard shedding my thirty-five years of being trained that professionals know best. They know what’s right and what’s wrong and what could I know? I’m only a mother.
That’s right. I’m only a mother.
The mom of Kate and Eric. No one else is. No one else is around them, 24 hours a day like I am. No one can understand Kate’s words and what she’s saying better than me.
I am the expert on my kids.
It’s hard to keep strong in that belief sometimes. Sometimes this mantle of parenthood feels really, really heavy. And scary. Because I want what’s best. I may be wrong at times, I may make mistakes, but I’m listening to myself. I’m listening to my kids.
I’m trying my best to follow what feels right for us.
And as one mom reminded me, do I regret those moments where I’ve put my foot down and stood up for my child?
The answer is simple: no.
I’ve never regretted it… but I have regretted those times when I didn’t go with my mommy gut, when I didn’t go with what felt right.
So, do I have an answer yet for Kate and reading, to help her with the sight words in a fun and playful way?
At least, not yet.
When I asked for help and support from the community around me I got lots of suggestions. So many that my introvert brain needs a good while to process through each of them, to really delve deep and see what possibilities these suggestions could bring. Would they work, or wouldn’t they? And for our family?
And that’s partly the answer right there. I don’t know yet because we haven’t tried.
Kate hasn’t tried.
And I think that’s ultimately what this journey will look like. First off, trusting we have words and learning in our every day life, which I do believe in. And then, finding ways that help promote this learning, ways that simply fit right into our natural way of living that’s fun, that we both want to participate in.
That’s the key and really, it’s going to be trial and error.
But the great thing is I do have so many options and there are many who are willing to help me out as we figure out this funky bridge I need to walk, trusting in the learning, and helping it along. But even better than that, I’m not feeling as scared.
And really, that’s what this is all about: fear.
Afraid of being wrong, afraid of doing something that deters my child’s growth and learning. That’s where the self-doubt and critique and judgment comes in. And this time, at this moment, it doesn’t have so strong a hold over me. Sure it’ll be back. I might even feel it after I get off the call with the professional who believes there’s only one way of learning, while I believe in another. But not right now. Right now I’m feeling more settled, in a place of peace and trust.
Because I’m not alone.
Because I’m not afraid to learn, to take suggestions from others (including our professional). And then, to try and try again.
Because, everything I’m doing, is out of love. And you really, really can’t go wrong when you’re coming from a place of complete joy and love. And honestly, that’s what Kate has taught me, every day I hear her speak and her beautifully unique voice.
Trust in yourself.
Trust in your children.
Trust in love.