The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 1

A parenting and homeschool post, in three parts. (As the title suggests.)

These are hard posts to publish. Partly because I share some parenting philosophy and practice that feels a little vulnerable to talk about. But also because, as I've worked on these posts every morning for the last week, I've been holding the tension of contradictory emotions I feel about the transition in our lives from relaxed homeschoolers in our early days to home"schooling" high schoolers. Which is really just the tension and sense of loss I experience about the kids growing up, in general.

I am so excited about the stage my kids are at, there is high energy in our home as they work their way through high school and figure out the next steps. It's not easy for them, or us, this growing up process. We all feel stretched, but it's what we wanted - self-motivated, self-directed, and self-disciplined teenagers.

Yay. Success.

But life looks nothing like the meandering, nature-based, messy dining/craft table (ok, so maybe that part is the same) path we took to get here. And I miss that so very much. I feel grief at its passing. And in the next moment my assistance is needed to help the kids double down on whatever task, goal, or deadline they are working towards. (To be clear, this is not mom doubling down on kids, it's kids wanting the help. I discuss more of this parenting philosophy in the posts coming up.)

I miss their early childhood while living the natural outcome of that trajectory.

It's emotionally tumultuous during a calendar season with a natural nostalgia. A double whammy of melancholy.

In preparing to publish this post I went through my photo archives, seeking "proof" of my memories. I was also looking for images for my posts since I take so much fewer photos these days, and the ones I do are all on my phone and are not the same quality at all.

I found the photos. Years of Octobers with gap-toothed kids apple picking, visiting the farm, going to harvest parties with hayrides, making a helluva lot of mess doing crafts and creating art, hiking and going on field trips. Oh, those were good days.

And I know, I just know, I will look back on these teenaged years the same way. So I try to be present to the moment, to soak in all the goodness that is three amazing teenagers living in one small-ish apartment in the city of Montreal. And I remember, I need to take more photos. Because someday I'll come back to the photo archives of these years, looking for the proof and finding it, these are the good days.

With those conflicting emotions out in the open, here's the actual post(s) I've been writing.

Our homeschool co-op year starts in October. We've always had a relaxed start to our homeschool year, and so this October beginning has been a good fit for our family. I was never ready in September to shift gears and say goodbye to summer. And so we would linger while it seemed the rest of the world boarded the busy train of school and activities.

The busy schedules and hectic pace were external realities to our own home life, but things change, and kids grow and you know where this is going.

October is our September. Yet it's still October in terms of season - peak foliage, Thanksgiving, overflowing pumpkins at the market. It's everything smooshed into one. (I would have added Halloween in there but we've graduated out of Halloween.)

In October, life kicks into a gear that is challenging and stretching. And in that transition I feel ill-equipped as a career "relaxed" homeschooler for this change. But maybe everyone feels that way, homeschooler or not. Maybe we all feel dragged along by the machine.

I imagine that parents who are used to the school routine from age five and onwards have more muscle memory and better tools at their disposal for this adjustment. I always feel like I'm running to catch up. "I'm not ready... Slow down!" I call to my life as it chugs ahead, like a train leaving the station.

How is it even possible that each year gets busier than the last? The month shorter, faster. Gone.

Where did October go?

We did three university/college/school tours last month with the kids, two with Celine, one with the Laurent and Brienne.

Where did their childhood go? be continued tomorrow.

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The October homeschool update (with a wee bit of parenting melancholy, philosophy, and practice), part 2 »
  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Nov. 8, 2018, 5:10 p.m.

    Oh Renée. I feel exactly the same... I'm going through my old blog in preparation for a book I'm writing (in French! An editor contacted me... that's an exciting project), and I feel this heavy nostalgia. We are debating about next year... One girl wants to try school... I want to hold on to our little family bubble away from crazy schedules... I will be reading this series with interest.


    • Renee

      Renee on Nov. 9, 2018, 1:47 p.m.

      Catherine - Congrats on the book news. That's awesome!

      Such heavy nostalgia during these years and especially in transition times. I am so curious, and watching how things unfold for your family as your girls get older. I am envious of your little bubble, ours was burst a few years ago, but the kids needed that to happen, and so we do what's best for our kid. The change was good for me also, since my happiness (not the best word but can't think of something better in the moment) is very much tied to their well-being. When my kids are doing well I'm very satisfied as a mom, know what I mean?

      And yet, I struggle (still) with the change in our lives. And I'm envious of families like yours with so much freedom to be in beautiful places. I have such a strong pull in me to be in beautiful places and to have freedom of movement and I have an equally strong pull to nurture and support the most meaningful relationships in my life. And that feels like a tension in my life, a tugging in different directions. And I wish it could all come together in a neat package of some kind but it hasn't for me. And I don't know if it ever will.

      Anyway, that's my "stuff".


      • Catherine Forest

        Catherine Forest on Nov. 9, 2018, 6:42 p.m.

        I love our little bubble and I really question if settling down is the right decision for our family right now. The world seems to think that this is what is expected with teens, but I want to explore how we can meet the needs of every member of our family without necessarily being in one place all year. And yes, of course, if a member of the family is unhappy it changes the dynamic of the whole family... but what if I'm the one who struggles (with SAD, being tied down, lack of exercise because of the cold, etc.) and I cannot support my children through such a big transition... Anyways, I know you know... Thank you for sharing your truth here. It means so much.


  • Abby

    Abby on Nov. 8, 2018, 10:04 p.m.

    Oh, this resonates with me so very much. I hit it about a year or so ago, when we re-did a basement room from "playroom" to "movie watching and making room." I was so conflicted as I realized all the toys and activities they had outgrown...crafts, etc. Excited about who they're becoming, and sad to let the past go. I think part of it for me is that the past is safer- I feel like I was GOOD at that stage-and yet so insecure still at parenting teens.


    • Renee

      Renee on Nov. 9, 2018, 1:55 p.m.

      Abby, I get that transition, four years ago when our kids were 15, 13 & 11 (when both the median and average age of our children was thirteen - truly teenagerhood had hit our home) was the first time we had a big screen TV and a gaming console. We were housesitting at the time and were enjoying our friend's things. And then when we moved to Montreal the kids and Damien bought a PS4 and we bought a big screen TV. And I keenly felt that conflict you feel. A little unsteady on our feet is the reality of parenting teens. I feel like I have a bit of a handle on it now, and I might even say I'm good at it, but now I'm facing the launching to university stage and all the deadlines and decision making and I don't know how good I'll be at letting go and letting loose, while still helping and holding (because my kids still need help with some things). Ack!


      • abby

        abby on Nov. 9, 2018, 8:06 p.m.

        Well, that gives me hope. It seems to be taking a while to get that feel this stage- my two are so different that the "practice " on the first doesn't seem to apply to the second...and the first just keeps moving on (ha!), so we're hitting that end of high school stage too. Add in some job and geographical uncertainty, a few other factors...and this year has often felt like too many tensions to hold at once. Your words and wisdom help, thanks.


        • Renee

          Renee on Nov. 9, 2018, 8:11 p.m.

          Our kids are different from each other also. I have to develop new parenting skills for each one! And our first and last are almost the exact opposite of each other. It feels like a whole different ball game. Carry on Mom. YOu're doing a great job!


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