It’s been many months since I have written about our journey. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say. There have been so many new experiences and we have really just been trying to allow them to flow for what they are and not analyze too much. But now we’re here and I’m finding some space to write.
So I’ll try starting with just one of them.
The first changing tide has been her schooling. Indi now attends our local Montessori! I’ll get to how fantastic that is later, but first, the ‘why’.
It was not working. As much as I wanted homeschooling to be our answer, it just wasn’t. She was becoming more and more resistant to doing any kind of ‘school work’ at home. She didn’t want to be ‘taught’ by Mum, she didn’t have the self-discipline to be a self-guided learner, and we were both becoming an angry mess with each other. Our relationship was suffering. I can say that I wasn’t (and am not), free enough to completely follow unschooling (no judgment on those that do, it is just not for us), and although Forest School was (and is, when we are able to still get there), WONDERFUL, it was just once per week.
I also needed time away. Time where I wasn’t responsible for her, for her education (in whatever form that is), time to be doing things outside of my child.
It was surprisingly hard to move on from the homeschool dream. It felt a lot like another failure. As much as it was easy to admit that what we were currently doing, was not working, it was not actually easy to move on. With encouragement from Dave and a kick up the behind from a friend, we started investigating local schools. Even this felt somewhat like, ‘giving up’ or ‘giving in’, though. I didn’t feel committed but felt, out of options.
I had been speaking with a local lady who was starting a drop-in learning center which sounded like a great option. It however was not the answer I was looking for. It was taking too long for her to get it together, was going to work out to be comparatively very expensive, and was not the guided or social learning environment I was hoping for, for Indi. Feeling more dejected, I agreed to start touring local public schools, holding in all the stigma we had heard about the American public school system. There were a few that were ruled out immediately due to various reasons. I spoke with local Mums who were experienced with our local schools and had children ranging from a year below Indi, through to having graduated high school. Indi’s Dad was very keen for her to attend an American school and be able to add that to her experience. But what did Indi want? She didn’t have an answer to this either. The three of us toured what seemed to be the best option of public schools around us. The school itself was beautiful. I loved the building and the history. The Principal was fantastic and we could see so many opportunities there. It was VERY different from our schools, but also with so many possibilities. We heard about the school’s yearly production, the camp she would attend this year, and the exciting music program where every child plays in the orchestra. It looked like a great place to educate a child. My only concern was, when I peeked into some of the classrooms in her grade, I couldn’t help but see somewhat disengaged children, sitting at individual desks, lacking in connection. Perhaps it was just the time of day or the lesson being delivered? It left me feeling a little uncomfortable. Glancing into the library I saw happy, engaged children, enjoying their sessions. This was far more hopeful.
The real concern, however, was when I looked at Indi, all I could see was, overwhelm. She was like a deer in the headlights. Frozen in the hallways, unable to speak. Unable to share an opinion. Frightened and submissive. Anxiety was oozing out of her. And not just at the newness of it… she was scared. Unable to see how on earth she would find her place here. How she could be herself here, amongst the hundreds of other students (let alone how to find her way around!). How could she ever find her way amongst impossible expectations?
But we were out of options. We couldn’t homeschool We couldn’t unschool. And we couldn’t do nothing. So we discussed the inevitable, we just have to try this; move with the tide. I applied to the district and got permission for her late enrollment. We’ll work through this together, kiddo. We’ll make the most of it. We’ll support you in the best way we can with what is in front of us. She understood the reality of it all and sort of, gave in to it. In the meantime, we received an email from the Montessori up the road saying we could tour. It was out of the budget, but from a professional interest point of view, I made a booking.
The classroom for her age grouping (10-12 year-olds) was the upstairs of a house (and they’re all historical homes around here). There were 7 children and a wonderful teacher. The environment was so connected and so real. She went across the road to main-school and was allowed in the playground to meet the other children. They played and chatted with her. Once time was up, they all begged for her to stay for the rest of the day with them. Permission was given and I watched her become enveloped in a group of similar children, who bounced, and jumped, and skipped with their joint excitement.
She came home that day with a shine in her eyes. She face-timed her Nana and Koro and told them all about it. The dilemma now being, how could we not send her there? The difference in her response from the first school to this school was undeniable. In fact, it was shocking. So together, we had to make it work. Another change in tide.
One of her new local friends also attends and was in the same class. So day one came, and together they walked to school. It was an unexpected dream. Walking to school, with a friend, a yellow school bus driving past (this is like living in a movie to us!). No uniform, no pickup lines, no being lost in immense buildings with nameless people in every direction.
So we now have a child attending Montessori, who enjoys the closeness of the class environment, is challenged each day in a safe way, who is completely accepted as who she is, who doesn’t need to mask, and who is able to walk to and from school. The challenge for her is finding the balance between self-direction and guided direction in her learning, and for me, is a shift in my own teaching and learning pedagogy; learning more about how Montessori works here in this classroom, so I can continue to find balance and flow with the tides.