People keep telling me that the hardest part of switching from “regular” school to homeschooling is “deschooling” oneself. I’m not yet sure if we’re going to end up “home schooling” proper, i.e., where I figure out what PK needs to learn and get it to him . . . somehow, or if we’re going to permanently “unschool,” which I don’t know what the hell that would look like, really, beyond “leave me alone.” Which I’m not willing to do, what with that whole “being his parent” thing. That and the fact that, for now at least, what he does when left to himself is spend all day playing video games/reading Cracked.com/watching video game-related videos.
However, The Professionals have advised me to “start slow” and “maybe unschool at first” and “relax.” And I’m pretty sure that saying to PK “okay, starting now you are doing One Hour of Math Every Day” would be a quick route back to the days of Enforced Homework and screaming at each other across the dining room table, which, no way.
So. I told PK a couple of weeks ago that we wouldn’t “start” until September. I’ve done a couple test runs, mostly for my own sake, to see if I can actually motivate myself to do shit with him. Really, I think the biggest issue is me: I can’t stand continuing to be a couch potato indefinitely (even though that’s what I want to default to), but I feel like I can’t actually “do” anything because I need to . . . somehow be around for him?
In other words, I have no idea what I’m doing here.
But I have figured out a few bottom line rules, which I explained to him today. Here they are.
- He has to get at least 30 minutes of exercise–not just walking around, actual exercise of some sort–per day.
- Every two hours spent sitting down (let’s be honest, this means “on the computer”) requires a 30-minute activity break–walking, chores, wandering around the front yard talking to himself, whatever.
- At least some of his time every day has to be some kind of “learning activity” that isn’t just playing video games–though I’m willing to let it be something that’s video-game related, as long as he can explain what he’s learning.
- He and I have to sit down at the end of every day and spend a few minutes keeping track of whatever “learning activites” happened. This can perfectly well include “I learned how to do X in minecraft” or “I thought of an alternate narrative line for how things should really have happened in Half Life II,” but I at least want us to keep some kind of records.
For now, that’s it. I think I’ll also ask him to spend a little time with me next week looking at some of the resources I’ve collected that I think he might be interested in, and he’s agreed to a field trip to the Holocaust Museum (his choice!) in Los Angeles at the end of the month. We’ll also have a field trip to San Diego next month in connection with a business trip for his Papa, and I’m collecting some ideas of things we might do there. I’ve found a local homeschooling group that meets at a park nearby every Thursday afternoon, and I like the other parents; PK is still not thrilled about meeting other kids or Scheduled Activities of any kind, but I think I’ll drag him most weeks. He had a pretty good time running up and down hills last week by himself, even though he didn’t really interact with the other kids except to say hi.
Mostly I seem to be doing nervous collecting of ideas, followed by very tentative suggestions to him, because even mentioning the idea of Doing Things to him tends to result in him raising his voice and “getting stressed out” at me. Which reminds me that another thing I need to do is make a few appointments with child psychiatrists, figure out which one(s) seem decent, and schedule an appointment for him, because I really am beginning to suspect that his anxious tendencies might need something more than just a “break from school.”
(Don’t tell me I Need to be Firmer With Him–one, I’m doing the best I can and I’m sure you would be a much better parent than I am but sadly, the poor fucking kid is stuck with me; and two, I’ve tried the Being Firmer approach and in the long run it makes things much, much worse. So what I’m doing now is trying to follow the methods recommended in this book. Which at least have the advantage of not leading to a bunch of yelling. Also, we have at least gotten to the point where he accepts that it’s his job to clean the kitchen every day, and does so, along with most other chores I ask of him–again, sans the yelling. So, progress.)
In other words, prepping for homeschooling seems to involve a lot of nothing, looked at from the outside. But inside my own brain, at least, is working pretty much 24/7.
Sadly, that hasn’t involved my ass getting off the couch very much, so this morning I did some yoga. I’m pretty sure that keeping myself healthy and sane is going to be the most important part of this new adventure.