It turns out that homeschooling and parenting have brought out three things that I really struggle with and are forcing me to confront them head on for the sake of my kids.
- Math — I really struggled with math as a child and well into college. My father is a math genius and lost patience easily when I didn’t grasp the concepts that I was being taught. I find myself panicking about Ben’s math education all the time. I can’t tell what is normal development and whether he needs a different way to learn. I’ve switched math programs twice now, but I’m convinced that I have to stay the course with what we’re doing and just be patient. I don’t want him to be afraid of math or dislike math the way that I did and do. And it’s so hard not to convey my fears about it to him when I’m trying to teach him. It’s not that I don’t understand first grade math. I do. But I’m afraid of what comes in the future. I just need to breathe deeply and try not to worry so much about it. And I need to know that he’s going to be fine even if he’s still counting on his fingers for some of the things that should eventually be mental math. He’s five. It’s okay.
- Art — There are two reasons that art education is so incredibly hard for me. First, my parents were not art people. Crayons were available, but we rarely had paints or chalk or any other art implements in the house. I remember having a stamp pad when I was four or maybe five. We had just had wallpaper put in the hall that ran from my room to the living room. I was wanting to show my parents something that I’d done, but I dropped the stamp and pad getting the ink on the carpet and on the wallpaper. What I remember is how upset everyone was and how much I didn’t want that kind of upset again. Then, when I was in second or third grade, we were doing art and the teacher informed me that left-handed people are not meant to be artists and that I was not good at it and I never would be good at it. I have not voluntarily drawn something again, but now Ben wants to learn to draw and learn how to do art and it’s so incredibly painful for me to do it. I literally ache inside when I pull out the paints. I wanted to use MaryAnn Kohl’s books to guide our art program, but I’m not equipped to do that. I don’t understand how to do the things she says. So, we switched to Artistic Pursuits. I believe I can do this with him as long as we stay focused on the process, not the product. In the meantime, I’m heading back to Ed Emberley and I’m going to use Mark Kistler and I’m going to learn how to draw — finally. I’m doing it for me because I just don’t believe a left handed person can’t do it. I don’t. What I believe is that the art teacher who said that to me didn’t know how to teach a left handed person and took the easy way out rather than trying to figure out how to do it.
- Dance — Katie loves to dance. She LOVES it. She wants to dance all the time and she wants to learn more about it, so we’ve decided to sign her up for classes starting at the end of August. I started dance classes when I was five. I did it because I was pigeon-toed and wore corrective shoes. My doctors told my parents dance classes or braces. Thank God they chose the dance classes, honestly. At five or six I was in a tap class and a ballet class. But then we moved and the only dance offered where we moved was ballet, so I took ballet until I was in eighth grade. At that point I was told, not too politely, that I was never going to be able to progress any further and that I needed to stop. And I did. Not only have I not danced since then, it’s a struggle for me to dance in any kind of class setting. Zumba, step classes, they fill me with terror because, in my heart, I believe I can’t dance. It makes me so nervous to put Katie in classes. I have to wonder if we’re doing the right thing. I mean it’s no pressure. If she doesn’t like it or doesn’t want to do it, she can stop. I don’t expect her to become a great dancer or anything, but I’m so afraid that someone is going to tell her she can’t do something and she’ll believe it like I did.
They say that children make you confront your fears, and I guess mine are doing just that. I just hope that they have better experiences and better memories than I do of these things. I hope that they soar, find things they love, and learn to face down their fears instead of getting locked up in them the way that I did. I guess that’s what I’m struggling with the most: showing my kids that they can do whatever they want to do means I have to do the things I want to do even as I’m hearing the voices from the past telling me that I can’t.