Back in my law school days, we spent hours upon hours debating who was smart, who wasn’t and what it meant to be smart. I thought the conversation was over when I graduated first in my class. I was smart.
Smart (at least for law school purposes) meant an extraordinary capacity to study non-stop and have an intuitive sense for what the professors looked for in exam answers.
More than ten years have gone by and I find myself being forced to completely re-examine the meaning of “smart” within the context of my own children and I have to tell you, it’s painful.
I knew that being “law school smart” l was only one type of smart and that there were lots of other ways to be smart, but I was secretly grateful that I didn’t have to rely on any of those other ways for proof of my smarts. And yes, I did feel as if I had to prove it, to myself and everyone else.
Now, ten years later, I’m reminded once again that the Universe never lets me get away with anything. If I don’t work through something and learn to drop the conditioning, it always comes back up.
So here it comes through my kids. They are not test-taking/law school smart. I was reading at the age of three. They were barely talking by two.
My daughter reads now, going into 4th grade, but only because we forced her to learn. And she doesn’t like it. I’m holding out hope that she might one day begin to love it. But, I’m no longer holding my breath.
For the past four years, my daughter has been attending the most prestigious (and expensive) private school in our community. We decided to apply “just to see” and then couldn’t not send her there after we got in.
I thought we could fit in, but no matter how much I wanted to, it didn’t mean we would. I could fake it for short amount of times, but the truth was I was faking it and integrity is one of my highest values, so it felt really bad.
I was willing to have my kids be there even though we didn’t fit in if it was a good fit for them educationally.
After my son attended his first year there last year, I knew for certain, it wasn’t. My daughter was more easily fit into their box, but after going through it with her and contemplating doing it with him, I recognize how much I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to tame my son. Not like they want him to be tamed.
And now I’m faced with re-examining my own beliefs about what’s smart and what’s not.
As we embark on this journey of homeschooling, everything I ever thought about education and learning is being challenged. It’s bringing up every fear, uncertainty and doubt I’ve ever had about so many things.
I’ve been silently dealing with my demons – alternating between letting it be, trying to control everything, and beating myself up for failing. Today, I finally had enough. I can’t answer these questions alone. And I asked my online communities for help.
Jo (my BFF who is living here with me and homeschooling her kids and mine) asked me to do some reading, inquiry and investigation before I made any decisions about how the kids should be schooled. She’s been unschooling since the beginning. Her kids (same age as mine) are more advanced in some areas and less advanced than others than my kids (there’s that comparing thing) yet there’s a part of me that says “unschooling” is okay for her kids because they are inherently “smarter.” My kids aren’t smart enough. My kids can’t be trusted the way her kids can.
Where does that come from?
Why do I believe I can’t trust my children to know what they need. I get it that the conditioned culture tells us we can’t trust, we must control, it’s up to us to know what their needs are better than they do and meet them. They cannot be trusted to make smart decisions for their well-being. And the piece of me that still desires to “fit in” to societal norms wants to agree.
But then, there’s this other piece. The piece that says %*@! all that.
I can trust my children. They inherently know and if I just give them the chance to re-discover what they know, they’ll remember everything. While I know that this is the truth in my heart and soul, it scares me to death.
What if I’m wrong? What if they spend all day watching TV and playing video games because I’m too caught up in my own work to guide them properly? What if they never learn to read, write and do math? What if they always hate reading? What if … what if … what if … what if I fail in my most important job as their mom?
Thankfully, my spiritual foundation has somewhat prepared me for these what ifs. I know it’s all perfect. I know I can’t fail them. I know I can trust. But, damn, it’s hard.
I need to redefine everything I ever thought about education. And parenting. And being smart. And working hard. And fitting in. What a blessing.