Tuesday, February 26, 2008

predicate mom-native

For thousands of years, it was assumed by all artists, purchasers and purveyors of art that sculptures, by definition, stood still. The Venus de Milo does not hitch up her robe (however vulnerable and disarmed she may feel). Michelangelo’s David never slings the stone. Bernini’s Daphne is trapped with her toes half-rooted and fingers half-branched, eternally frozen in her desperate escape from her would-be rapist Apollo who is also frozen mid-pursuit, a dangerous, forever insatiated hunger carved into his eyes. It was always assumed that sculpture was defined by what Arthur Danto later called an artistic predicate. In this case, the artistic predicate was that sculpture is immobile. This “i” (immobility) trait was so taken for granted as a fundamental characteristic that no one imagined that it could ever be any different.

Then along came Marcel Duchamp with his spinning bicycle wheel and Alexander Calder with his revolving "mobiles" and suddenly sculpture moved. In fact, it seemed that it had always been possible for sculpture to move but artists had simply chosen to make it do the opposite. The artistic predicate “non-i” (non-immobility) had existed alongside the predicate “i” which had simply enjoyed a temporary monopoly. Later in his career, when Calder began constructing giant sculptures that filled city squares and did not move, he felt compelled to invent a new term for them to differentiate them from the mobiles. He called them stabiles.

The trouble with having homeschooled my children in the past is that I have introduced the predicate “non-p” (non-public school) into my world. Many parents (and this would be me in a former life) are perfectly content with the belief that school equals “p” (public school). I grew up believing that school was the building down the road, the one with 500 kids of all ages happily learning their math facts from teachers with degrees in teaching math facts who are paid by my tax money to teach math facts. I never imagined I would feel guilty about sending my children to school. The problem is that I have tasted of the fruit and can never go back without knowing that I am not just choosing to send my kids down the road to school, I am choosing to not-homeschool them.

This week I am ruminating over decisions already made and decisions yet to be made about school for McKay. Ken said last night that I don’t ruminate; I agonize. Well, be that as it may, the decisions must be made (and re-made and re-made). And it might as well be a painful process.

McKay has been in a special 4th grade advanced program this year at a district school across town. It has been a tremendous challenge for him—and this is a good thing—but it has also, in his words, “stressed him out.” He has a difficult time writing neatly and producing the kind of teacher-pleasing work that other kids in his class seem well-suited to produce. He spends hours writing and re-writing assignments only to have them returned with low grades because he has failed to meet his teacher’s high standards. Many times over the course of this year, I have lamented the fact that only I know how truly creative and kind-hearted and brilliant he is. I see him struggle and I see the damage to his self-esteem created by the struggle and I know that the best thing for him would be to have a teacher who loves him and knows him as well as I do. But there is only one person who fits that description. And she’s the same person who breathed a several-month-long sigh of relief when she decided that she would not be homeschooling any of her children this year.

Homeschooling was never easy for us. Some years were better than others. Some days were better than others. It took a tremendous amount of self-discipline (something I lack these days) to focus on my kids all day and follow through on even half of my best intentions. I still think it was a good decision. But I’m afraid to take it on again. I’m afraid that I’ll have to completely set aside all my writing plans. I’m afraid that I’ll do less for McKay than he would be getting in another gifted program or even a regular classroom at our neighborhood school where he’d also get to spend the day with friends his own age. I’m afraid I'll do a crappy job.

But I'm also afraid that I'll regret it if I send McKay to school next year. I believe I owe it to McKay to at least try to give him what I know would be the best education for him right now in his life—at home. Isn’t this why I'm a parent: to teach my children and nurture them? Writing can wait. Sanity can be stretched a bit thinner. McKay is the middle child and the least-squeaky of all four wheels. He deserves the same kind of attention to his needs that Ethan got when I homeschooled him at this age (and I suspect Gabriel and Nora will get in a few years). Why am I hesitant to take the plunge again?

Recently, whenever I’m talking to my friends who homeschool, I remember all the reasons why I homeschooled before. I remember the excitement. The sense of purpose. The fun we had. The incredible amount of real learning that went on. I remember why the “non-p” seemed like the best option for us and public school was always a valid back-up plan in case we needed it. On the other hand, also recently, when I can’t seem to make it through a day’s worth of exam-grading and Nora-tending and Gabie-entertaining without feeling overwhelmed, when the house is a total wreck and I haven’t even peeked at my blog for two days, when I can barely find time to help the kids with the hour or two of homework they have in the evenings, I think: HAVE YOU TOTALLY LOST YOUR MIND? What makes you think you could squeeze any more out of your life?

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Just in case you were wondering. I even looked up my old notes from my graduate aesthetics course to find the Arthur Danto stuff because I remembered his artistic predicate philosophy and saw the connection. I doubt Danto (still living) cares much about homeschooling or non-homeschooling. He’s busy writing articles for prestigious journals or curating exhibits of art about the 9/11 attacks. His wife is busy producing her own art and if they ever had children, they are grown and raising kids of their own. Maybe Danto's kids agonize over these decisions. Maybe they don’t. All I know is that once you’ve seen both sides of a coin, you can’t pretend that if you flip it, you’re always going to get the same result.


Jeni said...

Thank you for sharing your decision-making struggle. We won't have to make the school decision for another 3 years, but already we think and research and plan. We've also discovered that everyone on the planet has an opinion about what's best for our child.

I hope the decision that you come to is the right one, and that McKay flourishes, in whatever schooling situation develops! :-)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I needed this post today. Oh how I needed it. I am putting my son into public school this week because I need a big break from homeschooling. My hope is that I will be able to do it again in the future, but maybe I won't. We put my daughter in last year and it seems to have been a good move for her. I miss knowing everything that she is learning. I will miss having my son here to help me with the younger two. I will miss seeing every little thing he creates. I hope the teacher will be kind to him and be wiling to understand his little quirks. I hope that my son will be able to grow and learn without being crushed in the process. I hope, I hope.

I hope you can find the answer you are looking for and feel at peace with it.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I think I've made peace with doing a crappy job, since I can't stand dealing with the condescension of the school bureaucracy and the mess of 16 zillion different schedules.

Nothing's perfect, is it?

Dedee said...

I don't envy your decision. So difficult. I chose to put my children in public school for my sanity, but there are days. . .

I hope you can find a solution that brings you peace.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Agonizing over any subject matter is hard, but agonizing over what is best for our children AND ourselves is that much more painful.

I hope you continue to pray and do a lot of soul searching so you can find peace in your eventual answer.

Some days I wish I had the energy and motivation to homeschool, but for now, my child is happy and content in public school.

Maybe just a switch of schools would be helpful?


edj said...

Oh...what a tough decision. We're doing correspondence school this year (i.e. a sort of homeschool) and I feel that I'm sort of cheating my kids out of a good education. I'm grumpy, and not very creative at all. However, I realize that other people do it much better than I do!
Good luck figuring out what is best out of the many goods in your situation!

Renae said...

Using art to share your struggle grabbed my attention. I hope that you find peace. It is so hard to know what is the most loving thing.

I often wonder if I should put my son in school, but then I think I would be just as busy, just a different busy. I liked you line,
Sanity can be stretched a little thinner.There are ways to preserve sanity in the midst of this season. I use coffee and blogging. :)

mindyluwho said...

I like your analogy. I've never seen the other side of the coin myself, having always homeschooled, but somedays I wish I had! I don't envy your struggle. My life seems to go in spurts, either my house is clean, or I'm doing a fabulous job at homeschooling, I can't seem to have both! However, I think my friends who have chosen the "non-p" are just as busy if not more than I, what with different schedules, helping out in the classroom and homework. I like to look at it this way, we all homeschool our children, but it's a matter of when. I do it in the morning and others do it in the evening when the homework assignments pile onto the table. I think the hardest part for me is that as the homeschooling mom, I'm the one who's soley responsible for the curriculum and follow through...and I'm not so good at that!

I'm afraid I'm not being much help as I am going through a strugggle at this time with it all. I only know that I am supposed to keep doing it because everytime I pray for something different I am told no. I have to trust that the Lord will make up for my deficiencies.

Good luck on your decision.

mindyluwho said...

Oops. I meant my friends who have chosen the "p" are just as busy as I...

Lawanda said...

I have seen both sides of the coin.

It is a struggle, no matter which way you go.

I had a huge long post written out, but I erased it. I will just say to you, "Good luck with your decision." I firmly believe you can make anything work out for the best :)

Nan said...

Oh, thank you for this... I just blogged about my son who is having a hard time in school, and I have to take some action. I have always done what my kids call "unschooling", where we learn at home as well and take days off to do cool stuff. Luckily they are bright, so missing class has never been a problem. BOREDOM is, though. I don't know what to do about that!

The Lazy Organizer said...

Oh how I wish homeschooling wasn't a full time job! I know you'll do the right thing for him.

stacie said...

So well said. I've been going through very similar mental gymnastics for my own children for next year (must be the season for doing that.) The ps/hs conundrum has no simple answers-- especially for flake-moms like me.

P.S. Love your blog: I've been lurking for a couple weeks now.

Jenna Consolo said...

Wow! You have articulated so well the struggles of the conscientous homeschooling mom. It IS agonizing! I've been homeschooling for 13 years now and just recently have been tossing around the idea of putting the kids in public school next year, even though the schools are far below my expectations. It is a complicated, complicated issue with so many tangents. There are pros and cons to each kind of school, but those cons sure tug at the heartstrings. Best of luck to you in your decision making.

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, my good grief: I could have written this post.

(Well, except for the brilliant art part.)

I know that agony/relief dance so very well.

Jenni said...

It is a hard decision, isn't it? I have one child still being homeschooled and the other three in public school. Some days I remember why we are homeschooling and I never want to quit (and secretly wish to have the older three back). Other days I am so glad to only be teaching one or I am thinking very hard about whether she and I would both be better off if she went to public school next year.

I don't know if it can ever be perfect. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. We just take it one year, one child at a time and do what feels *most* right. And then I (note the lone *I*) agonize over it anyway.

Tor Hershman said...

You have a most interesting blog.

Stay on groovin safari,

Anonymous said...

I was homeschooled half my life and public schooled for half of my life. I say: it doesn't matter where they go, what matters is how involved the parents are. Sloppy homeschool or sloppy afterschool parenting doesn't work, so as I have had my children both in homeschool AND public school, I just try to be involved and actively encouraging my children to excellence wherever they attend!

I hope this helps--I know the decision can be agonizing for the parents, but as one who was once the child being agonized over, I can say, "Relax!" because children know how to have fun wherever they are (at least I did!).