Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the dreaded decision

I have been procrastinating writing about a major decision regarding Liv's education in the past few weeks.
I am a big supporter of homeschooling, especially homeschooling with a Waldorf-bend to it. I feel that a child's innocence is one of the largest gifts in our lives and believe that Waldorf philosophies nuture imagination and innocence...and our planet. Jeff and I had done a lot of soul-searching when we were deciding how to educate Olivia. Although we would have loved to send Liv to a Waldorf school, it was too far away and too costly for us to afford. We, also, considered French-Immersion as it seems to be the 'best' option for us within the public school system. Finally, however, we settled on homeschooling that engendered both Waldorf and some unschooling ideals. Although, sometimes overwhelming, we found the experience wonderful and exciting. There is a fabulous homeschooling network in the city where we live, Liv was involved in many 'extracurricular' activities and we ALWAYS could justify slowing down a bit to ask a question, create something beautiful and enjoy learning what Liv found an interest in (which turns out to be MOST things it seems at times). She is curious and spontaneous. Liv is intelligent and is so capable of putting ideas together to solve problems. She has an AMAZING imagination and tells me wonderful stories to me and Briar. She makes friends easily and has great little buddies from all different educational backgrounds.
But, since Jeff died, I am concerned about my abilities to stay 'home' to be Liv's primary teacher. I am worried about what will happen two, three, four years from now. What if I homeschool her and then have to return to the work force resulting in a need to thrust her into the regular public school system later on? What if in my grief and inability to focus these last five months, I fail to provide some key piece of development that is essential to her education and well-being? We had decided that IF Liv went to public school, it would be into the French-Immersion program....but children must start in either grade one or grade six (for late immersion). So. I have enrolled her in a French-Immersion school in town. I don't want to. All my instincts tell me it's not for her. But I had asked her what she wanted to do. If she wanted to go 'to' school with other kids. She wanted to. "I want to go this year and then I want to go back to homeschooling next year, okay, Mommy?' She is excited and proud. She wants to know how many more sleeps until school. She has been asking ALL sorts of questions. Some good, some heartbreaking. "What do I do if the other kids laugh at me because I still sleep with my mom and my dad is already dead?"
I am worried about my little one who still wants to wear an undershirt, carries her handmade doll everywhere she goes and believes that anything made by hands is magic. I don't want her individuality crushed. I don't want her to change because she needs to morph into this homogenized ideal of a grade one child. I love that she cries out 'Poor trees!' when she sees a logging truck. That she'll help woodbugs cross a path so not to get crushed. That she has no real idea about Bratz and Hannah Montana. She's seen them. A few of her friends have them, but she hasn't been marinated in this consumerism yet. And, no, I don't feel that school is 'real life'. I don't think that it is a necessary evil. Kids in school are mean. There are strange codes that you must follow to not be a complete social pariah. Living in the 'real world' of adulthood, I don't ever get treated by anyone in my life as we were in school. Held down. Put into categories. Forced to do that which is of no interest to me only because some other person believes this is what I should do to be a competent member of society.
I know I'm a bit of a neurotic fanatic. I know that to others it just seems that it 'has' to be this way to grow up. But I don't think it does. So many of the people in my life seem to have breathed a sigh of....relief when I told them of our plans to put Liv into school. Like I have proven them 'right'. Like they knew all along that I couldn't do it. That by doing this, I am expressing that I agree with all the educational philosophies they subscribe to. I don't.
Anyhow, today was Liv's first day at school. I watched her sitting cross-legged in her little handknit wool sweater and apple-print tights amid all these bright and flashy outfitted kids looking to me for reassurance. I faked it. I smile and winked. I mouthed 'I love you'. She looked nrevous and terrified. She told me it was too loud and gripped my hand so tight begging me to not leave her side.
I know it was only the first day...first hour actually. But it rips out my guts. I am just trying to think for our future. But I feel like a failure. When the chips are down, I go back on my values and begin raising my child as all the others. I don't want Liv to hurt more than she already has this year. She's so excited about school...But does she just not know what it is like? Or it is just my memory of my bad experiences in school that are tainting my views? The information I read in the paper? The kids I see out in the community?
I just want what's best for her...and us. I am afraid that I won't be able to financially support us from home. I am terrified of making these decisions without Jeff. What if I mess up? I want to help her. To protect her. To nurture her love of learning.
I spoke to her 'teacher' from the homeschooling program that we reported to last year. She was fabulous. Although, she doesn't want to see us leave, she did offer the insight that if it doesn't work, we don't have to stick with it. I've also spoken at length to Jeff's cousin who is a grade one French-Immersion teacher in another town. She offers me hope that it will work out. That some teachers aren't there just for the paycheque. That they actually love the kids and doing what they do. I just wish she lived closer....I wouldn't be so afraid with her watching out for my little one.
I hope it works...But I also kind of hope it doesn't. I can't imagine my days without my sidekick chattering away as we explore the world together. At least, I still have Briar with me....for three more years.......

22 comments:

Chrys said...

I will keep my fingers crossed for you and Liv. You have a beautiful, authentic blog. Thank you so much. You are in my heart and prayers.

13mimosa said...

Oh Jackie, it's so hard isn't it, these decisions in the best of circumstances. Our own Ella starts school next year (Australia starts in Feb) and I worry about many of the same things you do. She is almost too nice this child of ours, worrying about everyone and everything before herself, apologising for everything, regardless of whether it's her fault or not, just because it hurts her when others hurt.

There are awful kids out there, I've seen some at kinder, but you know what, I have a quiet confidence in my daughter and I have a confidence in myself and our family. I think that if I/we continue to show her what we think is important, encourage and nurture what we love about her so much and be with her all that we always have been, then she'll continue to be her. I know what you mean about fitting in - but we want them to don't we? I mean, we don't want our kids to be the odd one out, but that doesn't have to mean picking up all the yuck stuff - does it? I ask it as much as a question because I worry too. I just think when your children are nice and so sweet on the inside and outside, they can't lose that, because that's just who they are. It may end up that it's not for Liv or for you, but honestly, I don't think she'll be harmed by it, if anything it will make whichever decision is right, definitely right. I'm sure she won't stop being her, she'll just have a broader perspective. I hope she's happy tonight.

V

Anonymous said...

Its at times like this that I wish I had a bunch of money that I could hand people so they don't have to make such gut-wrenching decisions after a year that's already been filled with so much pain.

I hope Liv likes her new school, and that she's able to be who she is without judgement from other kids. If it doesn't go well, you can always try to pull her out and figure out something else.

I don't know you, but I'm really sorry for your loss and I hope the rest of your year goes a little better than it has so far.

maureen in the PA said...

Jackie-I am so sorry that you have had to make yet another gut wrenching decision...Unfortunately, I have no words of wisdom, as I have no children of my own. But I did want to say something. Please don't view this as a "failure" on your part. You have done a wonderful job with her and Briar. The circumstances changed, thats all. It's not your fault and you did nothing wrong.
I completely understand what you mean about the cruelty of kids and the ned to fit in. But it seesm like you have raised a happy, loving, smart kid. That will stick with her, even if the other kids are not so nice. She seems like a strong willed kid...maybe she will be the one who makes the "rules" and the other kids will be better for it?
Just, please..know whatever happens, you are doing a wonderful job as a mother...better than any mother I can think of...

darcie said...

Jackie ~ Don't feel like a failure - you aren't necessarily going back on your values - so you aren't home schooling her like you did last year - that's ok - you can't do everything...you just keep being you, instilling in Liv and Briar the values that you hold true and your kids will grow up to be bright, beautiful people. Yes, there are meanies out there in some schools and yes, it hurts our hearts as parents to watch our babies leave our nests, if only for a few hours during the daytime to attend school...but you can still love her and teach her and learn right along with her all of the wonders in the world...and maybe, just maybe, Liv will help some of the other kids see the beauty in her world that they aren't currently seeing in theirs? It will be ok Jackie - you will be ok. And so will Olivia.
Take good care - creepy darcie

Kate said...

Shit. That must have been so hard to leave her at school. Please, please don't feel like a failure. Whether you are their only teacher or not, it's obvious that you nurture your children's imagination and sense of wonder and if kids are mean, you will be there when she gets home to talk about it and help her. There are teacher sthat really care. There are teachers who put in extra hours and go home at night and worry about their students and really work to make the classroom experience a positive one. (I was one of them.) I hope Liv has one of those teachers.

I also want to say that it is so cool that you have emersion schools in Canada. I dread the day when I have to put mine in school here.

Anonymous said...

Grace is 9 and wears an undershirt. If I found out that any kid ever bugged her about it I would take it out with their Mommy on the playground. Call me if you need me to visit Olivia's school.

Krista said...

Jackie, can I tell you, if there wasn't any another soul out there in the whole world who understood or supported you in your fears, anxieties, doubts and struggle with this issue, you have at least ONE? That's me. I totally understand where you're coming from in this post and would like to offer my support in as many ways as possible, to you and Liv. We're just up the street, so there are so many ways we can still stay connected and a regular part of Liv's life, keeping her tapped in to the homeschool community may be a great source of connection for you both :)

Danielle said...

Jackie, I struggled with these same issues before kindergarten and again before grade one. I just think to myself that I have raised Madeline to be confident in herself and given her the best tools to be a great person with or with out me by her side. And you have given Olivia the same tools. She is an amazing kid!
Don't ever feel like a failure, life has many paths, there is no right path just different paths, with out exploring new paths you might miss out on a great adventure and journey.
I hope day 2 is a little easier!

Tara said...

Jackie~
I have not posted here before because I feel like my words cannot help since I have not yet been in a situation similar to your family.

But today, this post touched me. I have a 6 year old son that started 1st grade last Monday. He has been attending a private Christian school. Due to finances, we had to make some decisions that I was not eager to face. In other words, pull him from the loving environment that we had become accustomed to.

I know this is slightly different from your situation but I can relate to the feelings of anxiety when you have to change your children's environment, schedules, schooling.

I too felt like a failure. I would give anything to continue to keep him in the Christian school. I loved that the teacher would hug him when he got hurt. I loved that they taught him about God in everyday activities.

After many tears, I am finally at peace with the situation. I'm not sure what it was that got me to this point. I think I finally realized that we can only protect our children from so much and ultimately it is up to us to teach them and give them the tools to be the best individual they can be.

Now that there are many people reading, following you and keeping you in their prayers.

Much love...T

Crash Course Widow said...

Oh, Jackie, the hard stuff just doesn't stop hitting you right, does it? I'm so sorry to hear that you have yet another thing to be struggling with and feeling guilty about, on top of everything else.

Try not to be so hard on yourself. You can't be everything you used to be before Jeff died, at least not for a while (a long while, maybe?). The grief is still so new and still so crushing and overwhelming at only 5 months out. I know how hard it is to have to make decisions you swore (prior to being widowed) you'd never do. But widowhood at 32 changes every rule in the book.

Aside from your personal education philosophies and how they're screaming at how you feel you're letting your child down, I, for one, think it's probably a good idea to have Liv "at" a school away from home this year. I know how I was with Anna when the grief was really awful, and I could barely open my eyes while crashed on the couch and could barely parent, much less parent well. Having Liv at school might help you be a better parent in the end, better able to be there for her and provide quality interactions, than if you're having to be mommy, daddy, AND a teacher and life instructor all at the same time. And besdies, try to comfort yourself that even though this isn't what you want to do, sending her to the FI school is still something you know Jeff supported. At 5 months out, I remember needing any tiny little nugget of what Charley wanted, would have supported, so desperately.

Hang in there, Jackie. Be gentle with yourself, and take it minute by minute, breath by breat.

Hugs,
Candice

Crash Course Widow said...

And you're right--putting her in the school for this year doesn't mean you have to have her there for the next 12. And it doesn't mean you failed or that you made the wrong decision if you do end up pulling her back out next year.

Hell, I picked up and moved a year after Charley died, and less than two years after that I've decided it's not the best place for me now, at 3 years into grief, so I'm looking to make new changes. And I can beat myself up for making what could be seen as a stupid choice two years ago...except it wasn't a stupid choice. It was the best thing for Anna and for me, at the time. And it's not the best thing anymore. So we're having to form a new plan...and there are still no guarantees or added clarity about what is right or best.

You're making the best decision for your family, with the information and limited choices and energy that you have on hand right now. You're trying your best, and that's all you can do at only 5 months out.

(Okay, I'll stop now. Just forgot to say some of that in my original comment.)

~candice

Poppy and Mei said...

Hmmmmmmm, so, soooooooo hard...Xxx

PB and Jazz said...

Jackie,

Don't feel guilty! You are so not a failure!

You are still teaching Liv. You will be the one who she goes to and who she adores. You have given her the gift of love and the gift of allowing her to be who she is. I have found that when kids have fall outs with other kids (even siblings)asking them the simple question is that true? really helps. If it is true, be proud and stand by it, if it isn't true, ignore them, if the kids are saying something true that you need to work on, learn from it.

Liv is lucky, she has you to build her up and keep her grounded. She will do great!

A friend of mine once said to me, "It's okay to make a mistake." He was right. All you can do is try your best and make the best decision for you and your kids at the time. Sometimes you will have to adjust and sometimes it will go your way. I sucks you have to do it alone. You sound like an amazing woman... Give yourself the credit you deserve. Under great adversity, when life is handing you shit, you are making solid, loving decisions for your kids.

hugs from the MN!

cara in the mn said...

what a tough decision you had to make. i think it's so awesome that you were able to homeschool and who's to say it won't happen again in the future? my heart feels for you on wanting to keep that innocence and wishing there was some way of keeping the mean/negative kids away. ugh, it's so hard to want to protect, but know they have to do some things on their own. my oldest starts preschool next week and i'm stressing big time.

what an amazing girl you have raised. i hope these first two days of school went well for her...and you. sending some big hugs your way from the mn.

Rach said...

Another tough week for you. I am not quite there yet with Minnie but I have already started agonising over pre-school and eventually which school she will go to!

School can be tough but it can also be a wonderful, brilliant experience for so many children (I am from a family with a few teachers, so forgive me). And all the wonderful homeschooling can continue as it does for all families that have a passionate interest in their children's education. And if it doesn't work out, you are already a fully equiped homeschool 'teacher', ready to go! Just go with it for a while and I am sure Liv will let you know how is working out.

And I wore an undershirt for years - kids in Australia often wear 'singlets' right through primary school - Liv is just a little bit Aussie...xxx

Ali said...

Jackie,

Before my comment... a lot of disclaimers. First, I don't know you and am new to your blog so I assure you I'm not judging or recommending anything at all. Really. And, second, I'm not a parent. Well, a parent to a gaggle of animals but that's not even remotely the same. So all I can pull on here are my own childhood experiences.

And, for what it's worth, I think you're doing a great job... the over-analysing INCLUDED. In fact, thinking so heavily on everything is clearly making you an incredible mom to Olivia.

As to schools and decisions and will you damage her childhood with this choice or that? All I can say is I turned out ok. And I was a child of a single parent who had to compromise and make hard choices after my mom was no longer in the picture. Just because you had an idea of how you wanted Olivia's early childhood to go, it doesn't mean this other path can't be just as amazing and rewarding.

I wouldn't be half the person I am today if my dad hadn't put me into a few programs or schools that weren't suitable to my personality at the time. I hesitate to question if he had put me in the program matched to my exact interest and intellect... would I have become so broadminded? Would I have had the inclination to try new things?

The bonus of Olivia at this age is likely that she has that childhood wonder still, a power that most difficult things just bounce off of. I wish I had that now. But I tend to think as we grow up we all lose that fearlessness. Which means, if she still has that, all your worrying is mostly just your worries and that she is possibly feeling a bit proud and brave about the new thing she's taking on. And those are two good emotions to elicit - no matter what program she ends up in. Pride and bravery.

indybarb said...

I so hope that Liv's first day at school was a positive experience for her. She is such a sweet girl (I can tell). Jackie, your pain comes through in your writing style, and I wish there was something I could do to comfort you. Our children are so precious and we always want to do what's best for them. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of living it the way that we want to live it. I am sure that Liv knows that you are doing what you think is best for her right now. And, I know Liv knows how much you love her. You are right, school can sometimes be really difficult, but sometimes there are great teachers and children along the way that make such a difference we forget about the yuck stuff. I admire you so much Jackie. You are such a strong woman. Perhaps you would consider teaching in a classroom or at home in order to make ends meet. It seems that you have a genuine fondness for children and learning. Also, I think you would be an amazing writing teacher for kids in middle school or high school age. Jackie, you have made such a difference in the world by raising your children the way that you have. They can share what they have learned with other children. Congrats for not allowing Liv to be marinated in all the junk of today, and raising her and Briar the way you have. You are making a difference in the world even if it doesn't feel like it right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you today and every day. I hope today brings you moments of joy and laughter.

Hugs,

Barb Chivers

Andrea V said...

Jackie, I am sorry that you had to make a decision that lays so heavily on your brain. You are a mommy and you have to follow your heart, and I can imagine that your heart needs some time to heal from all of the devistation that it has endured. You are doing what you need/feel/know is best right now. You are NOT a failure in anyway. You can't fail at something that you have never done before. You are traversing a very bumpy road and doing the best you can. Liv is a beautiful and inquisitive girl. She has so many gifts to give others. I hope that her days go well! And yours too, a time to heal during the day and love her up when she gets home.

Kathryn said...

To a degree, I understand what you are going through. My son will be starting school next year and the decision as to which school he will go to is so hard.

Is it possible that if Liv doesn't like this new school that she can join another homeschool group for a year? Or do you possibly have a Montessori school in your area?

And remember, no matter which school she ends up going to, it will be an adjustment period for both of you. There will probably be some tears and frustrations, but I'm sure lots of fun and laughter too. That's great that she's already made a friend there!!!

And ps-you are still homeschooling her. Not as extensively as you had originally planned, but it's in your nature...I can see it through your writing. She is learning through you and will continue to do so. You are her #1 teacher and I think you're a great mother (hugs).

Anonymous said...

Hi

I remember taking my son to his first day of immersion; it was not one of the better days of my life, but I had to look big picture. There is nothing that can compare to being able to speak a second language with ease. My son had a horrid first week; I stomped in and yelled at the principal and we all settled down and got in the groove. It is exhausting for those little ones to listen all day to a completely foreign language, but at the end of the first month or so they are truly catching on quickly and understanding quite a bit. They make their new friends and life begins down the new road called kindergarten.
Have patience and don't panic; I was ready to jerk mine out and go back to the beloved preschool for an extra year....the end result is worth a few bumps in the road. You also will make some new and wonderful friends with the same concerns about their children as you have. If it's any consolation when my second son started, we marched into the room, found his name, put his stuff in the locker and turned to me and said "adios mom...that means goodbye until after school."
Out of the mouths of babes eh?

Tracy in PA said...

I know I'm about a year late - I just recently found your blog and started reading it from the beginning as to not miss anything. Unfortunately, I usually read it at work (when I am kid free) and find myself crying at my desk and trying to explain it away so I don't get in trouble for not working. I know it doesn't help, but I think about you and your beautiful children all the time and I hope you are finding your way. ~ Tracy