The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 3

The concluding post to part 1 and part 2.

It's impossible to know the outcome of alternative paths in our lives. Those paths don't exist, at least not in this particular reality. When working with humans we can't ever say because we did A, we now have B. We can say we did A and now we have B. But how much of B is an an effect of A? We'll never know.

Schooling has never been compulsory or mandatory for our kids, done against their will or personal motivations. We do expect learning - doing, making, and engaging in the world, because that's just part of what it means to be human. But this can look like many things, and there's always been a motivation to learn, which should not be confused with "schooling".

We don't bribe, cajole, or artificially reward progress, "if you do X, we'll give you Y." The progress, or learning, or project, or whatever is being pursued is the reward.

We don't punish or withhold things for undesired behavior or actions, academic or otherwise. I don't even know what that would look like. What would I take away from my child? What would they even do to warrant that? I can't imagine our kids willfully disregarding our guidance or expectations for them. (Full disclosure: this does not apply to the toddler years where there was a lot of training. But disobedience has not be an issue for us since those years.)

I don't know why this is. Maybe we just lucked out with the right personality mix. Or maybe we're just too lenient to start with so there isn't much to push against.

Aside from contributing to family life and participating in chores, something our kids have done since preschool age, there have been very few things in our kid's lives that we required them to do. We've always wanted to give them the maximum freedom within certain boundaries of our family culture, beliefs, and priorities. Children want and need boundaries, psychologically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I'm big on boundaries, but only where necessary and needed.

I don't know why, but our kids comply with our non-negotiables. They respect our guidance and apply themselves to the hard work of schooling, learning, and growing up. And when they don't, when we reach communication roadblocks, or they pushback, or they lack the motivation for learning (because hello! they're human!) we look underneath, we wait and see, we pray, we come alongside however we can, we communicate love in the ways they will receive it, we're open to change, we have a lot of conversations, we get professional help, we address the person, not the "issue". And somehow for us, it's worked.

We get through the bump, the season, the behavior, the issue and move on to the next one.

It's not a path without flaws, faults, or weakness. Nor is it a formula for success. It might not have "worked" in a different reality, with different parents or different kids, but it's our path and I'm happy with where we've arrived. At a loving, supportive, safe, honest, and respectful relationship with our teenaged kids.

In the stories we tell each other (but mostly ourselves) about parenting, and by extension homeschooling, it's difficult sometimes to find the right balance between our successes and joys and how we've disappointed our kids (and ourselves), dropped the ball, and failed at certain tasks.

If you're like me, you focus on the failures and mistakes, your own especially, with ease. It takes conscious effort to recognize and celebrate what went right. And sometimes it's not about having done it wrong or right (really, that is such a hard thing to define and most of life doesn't fall under those binaries) but having just done it the way we did it because that's what we knew to do with what was available to us at the time.

Turns out Brienne would have appreciated more structure to her schooling a little sooner. And Celine might have benefited with more time management assistance during her high school years. And I'm teaching spelling in grade 12. (And that's just the stuff that's safe to talk about in a public space.)

But we learn as we go, and we adjust. That's what learning is, that's what parenting is. Learning (parenting) is not having it all figured out and downloading it into our brains. Learning is the actual process of learning what works and what doesn't. Experimenting and sometimes failing. Yes, even on your kids, in your marriage and your career.

The goal of family life is to provide a loving and safe space for that growth.

As the month of October has whooshed by and each day feels so busy trying to fit it all in, I am tempted to be all "woes-me" about it. Poor me and my busy life, as I fantasize my future of living in a small cabin in the woods or reminisce about the past; those days of jumping in life piles, visiting the farm, going apple picking, making crafts, hiking, preparing halloween costumes and calling that "school". Can we just slow down a moment?

But who am I kidding?

I actually love, though at times reluctantly, and with tears and caveats, this crazy beehive of activity called our life. How was it really going to be any different with three kids born within three and a half years of each other?

I love the drive and direction, the motivation and the moxie, the courage and creativity. I love kids who say, "I need more" and figuring out how to do more. I love having kids who challenge the way we've done it and make me step it up a notch. I love kids who say "this is me" in the face of resistance. (And sometimes I'm that resistance!)

This is where we were going all along. This is where those fall hay wagon rides were headed. This was the destination, one of the station stops along the track of building an interest-led, relationship-focused, self-directed, and often experimental, homeschooled family life.


I was recently interviewed on the Homeschool Unrefined Podcast where, over 2 fun episodes, I talked with Angela and Maren (the show hosts and homeschool moms) about interest-led learning, technology, and homeschooling through high school.

I share my heart for nurturing a safe and trustworthy home environment and developing a strong relationship with my kids (it's been my number one goal in homeschooling).

Where We Relax Into High School With Renee Tougas, Part 1

Where We Relax Into High School With Renee Tougas, Part 2

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Nov. 14, 2018, 7:33 p.m.

    I cannot help but wonder what part of me is led by the fear of not offering my girls this more normal teenage life full of activities and peers on a daily basis. I've spent so many hours in nature, in silence, on my bike, meditating on that and I still cannot get to the bottom of this. What if we stick to the fact that our family culture is to live on the road, away from a busy calendar? How do I know what is best for them at this stage of their lives. I can listen to their desires (which ebb and flow and change with their hormonal cycle...) or I can simply hold the bar, as I did all those previous years and say: this is our family, this is what we do. I will make sure you get a great online education and a high school diploma while living on the road. I wonder if we have become a generation of parents who cater too much to their children's desires. If I struggle with this transition, if I live in a house for 4 years yearning to be out in nature in my bus, counting the months... is this the right thing to do for them? I don't know. I truly don't know.

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  • Nicola

    Nicola on Nov. 15, 2018, 2:37 a.m.

    Renee, yes to all of this and thank you, always for sharing. I both relate to and learn so much from you! I loved your podcast episodes with Maren and Angela. It was like listening to an old friend and two newer friends have a wonderful, supportive, inspiring, and reassuring conversation. With warmth, always, Nicola

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