Being Responsive: A Homeschool Update

The Universe always seems to conspire, doesn't it?  No sooner do I put the words out there and claim this space to be neither one geared specifically toward yoga nor homeschooling, do I proceed to have nothing to say that is not about either yoga or homeschooling.  Go figure.


I have had this particular post rattling around for the last week or so, as we ease back into our homeschool year, however, it has been derailed a bit by an epically difficult day over the long weekend which has given me cause to doubt any sense of confidence in anything definitive I have to say on the topic. But such is life really, and home education, and for that matter yoga as well. And as the topic is really about change, about flux, about paying attention and about adapting, I find my self holding the course and saying what I have had to say in spite of knowing that it is never the whole story and is always open to modification, contradiction or even a complete retraction.  Please know that nothing shared here is ever a final understanding or definitive opinion but rather a moment to moment brainstorming and imperfect revelation.

So, here is a little bit about where my thoughts were moving before the weekend... My current learning curve as a home school mama is centered more than ever around paying attention.  I have learned over and over again that my agenda and the reality of my kids are seldom ever a match and that many of my plans are more often let go in the face of their needs, or preferences or general lack of interest. It has been an exercise in mitigating my own agenda. As soon as I begin to feel as though I am pushing something on one of them or the other I almost immediately have to drop it entirely and plot a much different course. Pushing or forcing is never going to get us anywhere except straight into an often loud and stubborn revolt. So I work on being adaptive and at the very least modifying my agenda if not scraping it entirely.  But it is the same as it is for me in any teaching environment: things are always going to go better if I teach to what is in front of me as opposed to the arbitrary plan- even if that plan was built based on what was in front of me a year, a season, a week, a month ago.  I have learned this lesson many times over in the yoga room and it is really no different at home with my kids.

What is new right now though, and giving me a much better sense of what child-led learning really means (hint: not just I pile of no, i don't want to but a lovely dose of yes more of that please) has been staying awake to when their capacity and interest are greater than I anticipated them to be.  They are getting older and more and more capable all of the time as well as more and more themselves all of the time.  And in our homeschool this is translating into keener interests in particular topics, more independence and ownership, as well as a desire to achieve that has more focus attached to it.  What this asks of me is that I continue to pay attention, stay awake and yes continue to be adaptive, but not just that so much anymore.  Now I am practicing being not just adaptive but being responsive as well. On my end, it is an exercise in availability.  When they ask for more, am I ready and able to provide it? Am I prepared with what may be relevant and timely to their course of interest? And perhaps more importantly, can I be ready without an attachment? Can my plan be strong and yet soft enough that it doesn't tip over into pushing or forcing or, dear god no, coercion? 

The "blinding flash of the obvious" here (ala Christina Sell) is that I cannot force it.  And I think I really get that in terms of wanting them to continue with something that they have clearly run out of either steam or interest on.  But can I also not push them into doing less when they clearly have more that they want to put toward something?  Can I give them more when that is what they are longing for, even in a culture where we keep wanting everything to be so neat and compartmentalized and self-contained in tidy little 45 minute segments? I want to hold the course for the long haul of whatever rabbit hole they have set their sights on exploring because the truth is, I have no clue where it could lead them and I do not want to hold them back from their continued discovery of who they are. 


In practical terms, what does that look like? Well, obviously it is different for each kid.  Eider this year is needing more organized and scheduled activities outside of the house as well more substance in his academics this year.  That means some additional music opportunities as well as some more time with his tutor, and of course lots of physical time with friends and in sports. For Maple, who is really showing much more interest in some academic rigor, it means some on-line classes and a clear and regular schedule with a lot more home time balanced with some really focused athletic output.  Go figure that Chris and I have kids that really need to work their bodies hard in order to relax their minds. It's a shock.


So, this gets us to the difficulty of this last week and while this might be a longer post of its own at some point in the future, it bears mentioning here.  Everything I have said so far is really good in theory.  You get the idea.  Be responsive to the reality of what is happening.  Meet your kids where they are at. What is not so clear perhaps in that equation are the unique idiosyncrasies of each kid and what those uniquenesses may trigger in us.  I said that Maple is ready and able for some more academic rigor this year and I am trying to support her in finding that.  What I didn't say is that Maple is a kid who at times deals with acute and debilitating anxiety.  She always has. And as she gets older, there is a lot more clarity around it, which is great. However, that hasn't really changed the fact that it can destabilize, derail, and at times paralyze our entire household infrastructure. Having a big list of work to do, even if she is psyched about all of it, can overwhelm her to the point of explosive panic and collapse.  And Chris and I are not great at responding to these episodes.  I think in part we are both triggered, each in our own way, and we certainly both feel helpless and lost when she is in the throes of it. 

I'm not sharing this to ask for advice or guidance.  It is something we have been working with for years. She and we all have support, in the form of community, wellness, remedies, strategies and so-on. I am mentioning it more just in favor of telling more of the whole truth and that no story is ever without its difficulty and nuance. I'm looking for equilibrium.  In all things.  As much as I want to share where I am at and what is inspiring or working well for me right now in our home school life, I never want that to paint a fantasy that in any way negates the simple truth that life is hard and that we are each more often than not just doing the best we can to be ok on any given day.

Yesterday was shit.  All four of us had all time lows relationally which we internalized in our own individual ways. None of which were pretty.  But I'm back up and at em today.  Ready to try again. To connect. To gently challenge. To gives hugs and praise and kisses. Every day I wake up and I have to remind myself to pay attention.  I think that is just how it goes. 

theme/no theme

I've been considering, as of late, exactly what kind of blog this is anyhow?  Is it a yoga blog? Hardly. Homeschooling? Not quite. Lifestyle? That doesn't really feel right either. So what then? There doesn't really appear to be any discernible theme connecting posts or any one particular tone. To me they feel mutable. Variable like the day, like the weather, like the seasons. Pretty temporal really which rules out any sense that I may have of writing to any particular audience. Which I have never really had anyway and rather always just get the sense that I am pitching each post forward into the dark void of the inter-ethers to either be consumed or ignored for no reason in particular other than that I may have begged you to read them.  


All I know, is I enjoy the activity and every time that I lean into it and take the time for it, I am fulfilled in some way. And if I were to eek out a tone or theme for the writing in this space I would probably best describe it as "things that have my attention as of late" or "truth telling as I understand truth(or probably more accurately opinion) telling at this moment in time". Perhaps not quite right, but near right.

So, today, what has my attention? Well, the biggest focus for the last few months or so has been reading and writing. Not just for my kids and our homeschool, but a lot for me and also for all of us relationally. I have been sharing bits and pieces of that on the gram and have more than perhaps ever before been enjoying the literary life of our family. I have read some truly wonderful books with my kids this summer, as well as with Chris, who has always been a big part of our read aloud family lifestyle. Also, I have recently been exposed to more reading and writing homeschool influences and as ever am finding ways in which what I am learning there is applicable to my own practices as well as to the way in which I teach and train yoga students. The resources that have been inspiring me the most are The Brave Writer and Read-Aloud Revival. I also have been drawing on the wisdom and guidance of a friend and scholar and the recommendations that she shared with me this summer regarding rite of passage for young boys in particular and sense of self for secular spiritualists. She led us in the direction of the author Ursula Le Guin and in particular her YA fantasy series EarthSea as well as her translation of the Tao Te Ching.


I have also been thinking considerably about my movement practices as of late (this could really become an entire post in itself but for now just a few notes...) and have been experiencing a lot of curiosity and joy in my own studentship within the realms of Crossfit and Natural Movement. I have been loving Kellen Milad's Free Mover Mobility Project and have happily shared those explorations with Maple which adds an entirely different element in terms of shared experience. I have also loved being coached in a gym setting and enjoy the focus, camaraderie and support of that environment. While asana practice is still my primary practice, what I have been missing, perhaps more than ever, is a regular and on-going relationship with an experienced teacher. Having not connected with anyone in this way in quite some time, I am considering shifting my perspective in terms of the framework and am exploring the pursuit of a formal student/teacher relationship in a more contemplative practice of yoga. I have always been a student first and foremost, in part I think that is why I love being a home educator so much, because I get to always be learning, and I will happily be lots of teacher's student, but I would love something more committed, regular, and sincere. 


All of this is an exploration. This writing space included. I am trying to understand myself more fully.  My family. Our places in the micro and macro. And hopefully something that I stumble upon holds a spark of truth for you as well. For us, written narrative has always been a big help toward understanding ourselves and our world. And right there with narrative, breath and movement.