an Ignatz follow-up

Re Laume‘s very interesting and thought-provoking and ultimately encouraging comment:

Yeah, he is probably a good candidate for homeschooling – worked a treat for Thomas Edison, dinnit? – except for two things: firstly, homeschooling is thoroughly illegal here in Germany. Secondly, and even more insurmountably, it takes a certain kind of parent to homeschool, and I am definitely – ooo look! Something shiny! Is it edible? Anyway, where was I? Also, what day is it?

It frequently occurs to me to let him fall. I understand that an education is fairly important, but even these days, it’s not the only path to success and/or happiness (in case you’re curious, I define “success” as “not long-term unemployment”). He is his own person, and I really would like to let him find his own way – I hate trying to stuff him into this mold. But you know what, about having kids? There’s no do-overs. If something we did turns out to have been a mistake, we can’t go back and do it differently (whoops, I broke his self-esteem, and double-whoops, I can’t fix it), and paths to success that do not involve formal education are getting fewer and fewer.

When he was a toddler, he really really wanted to fling himself down the stairs, and I didn’t let him. I don’t know if throwing away his education is the same thing, but I can’t really risk it. So I have to tread this middle path between letting him be his wonderful and unique self, and getting him through the school system with good enough grades to have a reasonable range of options afterward. And I have no freaking clue how to go about it. Hell, I can only keep my eyes on the prize as long as nothing sparkly pops into my range of vision.

Well, keep on reading, and I’ll let you know how it goes. If nothing else, perhaps I’ll be able to serve as a horrible warning.

Oh, and Laume, if you’re reading: What does Sam say now, about that period of his life? Just curious.

Song du jour of the day: Fields of Gold, by Sting. See? Sparkly!

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3 responses to “an Ignatz follow-up

  • amy

    My kids are young, so I have no lifelong parenting experience to offer. But, kids are resilient, and I think it’s very, very hard for a loving, invested, concerned parent to commit an “unfixable” mistake. I know school is the path that you and Ignatz are on, and that you need to find ways to make the best of it. You might try reading some John Holt–he was a huge homeschooling advocate, specifically unschooling, but I think his ideas are worthwhile for anyone, not just homeschoolers. (How Children Learn and How Children Fail pretty much convinced me to homeschool, but I wanted to give copies to every single adult who was going to influence my children in any way.) Also Alfie Kohn, who is more an advocate for working within the school system, and not a hs advocate; I have found his ideas helpful. (Punished By Rewards is a good one to start with.) These are just suggestions, of course–I can’t reach through the computer and give you a hug, so I’ll throw book titles at you and hope one will help. 🙂

    I don’t know any adult who had a “perfect” childhood. On paper, I super succeeded in school, but it left me lost (I had no idea what I wanted to do, I was so used to being told what I liked) and resentful. I didn’t take advantage of those stellar grades–I applied to the state college one town over, dropped out before orientation, then went to the state university. (And school is not what made my childhood miserable, either.) But succeeding within the given system doesn’t necessarily guarantee success out of it, not if the kid ends up rather vacant and burnt out, like I did. And plenty of people muddle through and then shine once they’re done, whether it’s in whatever college they end up at, or wherever else. You know, I could just kick all those teachers who made us think if we cut class in 10th grade we were going to end up destitute. All that stress, when so young, for nothing.

    Oh, and my point on the imperfect childhood–most of those adults are doing just fine now, despite whatever honest mistakes our parents made. 🙂

  • Laume

    What does Sam say now about that period of his life – which period? The period where he figured he could do whatever he wanted to do in school? The period where he homeschooled? Or the period where he went to high school and was active and got good grades? If you you mean most of his childhood, when school was simply a place to go and entertain his many minions…. er, fans…. er, thralls…. well, Sam is Sam. He was the cutest little devil child in the world which is why he got away with so much impishness and still had most of his teachers adore him. But he had a few teachers, ones who probably had self esteem or even worse issues as adults, who despised Sam because Sam gave respect only to those he perceived as deserving of it. I had a lot of conflict over that because on one hand I wanted Sam to be respectful to the rules and teachers because that’s the polite thing to do but I also understood that it was a good thing that he could judge people so well and I didn’t want a little drone who wouldn’t be able to say no to people who weren’t trustworthy. It turned out that his ability to stand independent of what he was supposed to do held him in good stead as a teen and young adult.

    I’m gettingway off course here, aren’t I. Hmmmm. Sam was too busy as a kid to have any opinion on his childhood except that it was fun.

    As for the homeschooling year – he HATED that we pulled him out of school. Away from socializing and not studying. His exact words when informed of the decision – “You might as well kill me now!” Not dramatic or anything. But within six week of the home school year he was thanking us. First of all he realized he still had all his friends and social life and secondly he was learning a lot more even with our laissez faire attitude towards what constitutes a school day.

    High school – he followed in his brother’s footsteps and used it as a place he could milk for what he wanted. So he took interesting classes and we’re fortunate to have a small town school with a number of smart teachers who were happy to act in a mentor like capacity for my kids. He was still impish, but had figured out that picking and choosing his actions was to his advantage. He sometimes followed the rules and sometimes tried to bend them to work better for his purposes, but he didn’t really stray into “getting in trouble” territory and he didn’t really trouble us any more with his actual school work. He just did it. Kept track of it. Got A’s and B’s.

    I’m not sure if any of that info is of any help to you. I’d say what’s really more important is to keep a balance between holding your son responsible for doing what’s required of him, having expectations that are reasonable and attainable but that push him to do his best, while still making sure he knows that the sum total of what he is isn’t his school work, that you find him an interesting and lovable creature for many reasons (and for no reason at all except that he’s Ignatz). Once he’s out of school, whether he got good grades or not won’t really matter except in whether it widens or narrows his options in life. It won’t make him a more nuturing person or a smarter person or a dumber person or a funnier person or a more hardworking person. Sam is one of the hardest working persons I know! He wasn’t doing his school work NOT because he was lazy but because he was bored and because he was the kind of person who doesn’t like to do things just because someone tells him to. I think he gets that last part from ME. We spent many a conversation with him explaining that school work wasn’t important in and of itself. It was his responsibility to a group, to keep his options open, to be respectful the the teacher… etc. Once there was a reason he could understand, he was much more willing to “play the game”.

    I’m not sure what else to say. I hope perhaps a few words here and there might be some help. Remember that it’s not over the top to tell your kid you can LOVE them but NOT the behavior.

  • Laume

    P.S. About that whole “oooh, shiny!!!” comment. I had to laugh, that is SO ME! I always said I supported the theory of homeschooling but shuddered at the idea of actually subjecting my children to no one but ME all day. We ended up homeschooling all but one of our five kids for part of ther school careers and I was shocked to find that it wasn’t at all what I expected. And that I was a pretty damn good teacher. Mostly what I learned is that I spent more time finding new things to learn about from my children’s myriad interests than the reverse, me teaching my kids. I know you can’t use this option in Germany, but don’t let that stop you from using the mindset that homeschooling is really just about being an autodidact – a self inspired learner. You can role model that and spent time doing fun (but educational!) stuff in the normal course of life. I realized somewhere along the way that our family were just homeschoolers that happened to send our kids to school from time to time as a sort of “field trip”.

    Sorry to have go on and on and on and on, filling up your comments sections. It’s hard to get me started but once I begin, it’s harder to stop. Obviously you’ve touched on a topic that is dear to me.

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