The other side of spring

You know those seasons where you feel like you're running a gauntlet? Or perhaps you're stuck in a fast moving river that's rushing through a canyon with high cliffs with no point of exit? You just have to get through. That's what spring feels like around here.

Just to re-cap, here's been the workload, the life-load, since the beginning of May:

  • homeschool drama production with at least 75 hours of rehearsals, choreography practice, technical set-up and performances (post and photos to follow, hopefully, you can find some photos on my IG)
  • all three kids were involved in the play - costume production, make-up & tech, and acting and I was costume manager, with my own show responsibilities on top of getting kids to all those rehearsals.
  • book keeping all of 2017 for our tax return
  • my part-time job & Damien's full-time job
  • my volunteer position at church
  • eye doctor appointments & glass fittings (yay for insurance!)
  • year-end co-op party, Celine's 19th birthday, cast & crew party (made all the more merry with a fire alarm scare and fire trucks)
  • a 3 night visit from my Dad
  • helping kids fill out applications and prepare resumes for summer jobs, one job secured, yay!
  • homeschool co-op Prom
  • homeschool convention where kids volunteer, I presented a workshop (that took me hours and hours to prepare), and Celine took part in a graduation ceremony (she actually graduated last year)
  • hosting a support party for our friends' band at our house.
  • I also bought some groceries; made some meals (kids do a lot of cooking); kept up with our household finances; planted, weeded, and watered the garden, and built more flower beds.

Everything related to homeschool co-op, all the drama, parties, & prom involves commuting to the West Island. These are 30 minute - 1 hr commutes, one way, depending on traffic and time of day.

Like I said in last year's spring re-cap post I don't wear busy like a badge of honor. I don't value "busy". It just is what it is.

As I wrote in The warmth of May this time of year is often marked by transition, change, and the crunch of deadlines. All of which are emotionally difficult for me.

And since moving to Montreal and joining the co-op spring is now marked with an "end of school year" vibe, just like if our kids were in public school.

me and my dear friend Kim, part of my homeschool community

You'd think after three years of being intensely involved with a homeschool co-op I'd get with the program and maybe fully embrace this annual rite of passage, this yearly transition that most families have learned to endure year after year after year.

But I struggle with this end of school year vibe. It's so intense. How do school families do this? How do we?

I chose to homeschool, in part, because I resist the system. I resist being told what to do and I resist jumping through hoops just because that's what everyone does. I didn't want to jump through the hoops and have stressful year-ends, and stressful year-starts and just stress... I didn't want it. I still don't.

a special supper to celebrate Celine's birthday

So I worked to create a home culture and relationships with each other that didn't add unnecessary stress. The world "out there" is stressful, fast-paced, consumeristic, and competitive. It has a bunch of rules that don't make sense to me, they feel arbitrary and sometimes anachronistic.

I don't want to live to a standard set by someone else, following the ubiquitous and nameless "they" steering the ship.

So I haven't made the transition into a more structured school system, albiet homeschooling system, without a measure of angst and a feeling of loss. Especially this time of year.

I remember the days when spring meant dropping it all and being outdoors for hours and hours. That was how we did spring in childhood. For many years.

When I was living those years I wrote:

Your children will not always be children. They will be teens and then adults. And when they're ready for more, you won't be able to stop them. So there is no need to push the more before they are ready. Really.

I am now living the years in which they are ready for more. Need more. Ask for more. Find more. Seek more. Study more. All the more. I can't even believe how much more goes on in our house compared to the elementary years. And I'm still the person supporting them through this more, helping source the more, driving to the more, working to fund the more. All the more.

Loved having my dad visit and being able to talk with someone older, wiser (been there, done that) about raising and launching young adults - such a gift! Thanks Dad.

I'm giving of myself in ways I never had to during their relaxed and easy-going childhood. The years in which I said screw the system we're doing our own thing because I want to stay home with you. I want to garden and read stories, and go hiking and visit the farm. I want to be with you, at home, and enjoy my days.

The years I said, I don't know who "they" are but I'm not following them. I'm not living my life according to someone else's standard, someone else's system.

first year with the full garden space planted and producing

I have felt a resistance in myself to the pace of the teen years. It is one of my big struggles during this phase. The more I study Buddhism and just live life, I know that resistance is not only futile but it's a waste of energy. I get that, but I still do it. The same thing in me that resists the system, that resists "they" also resists this, the current busyness of raising teens.

(Plus, there are limits to resources, time, and energy. We can't do it all. Some of my resistance is simply holding the line at the natural boundaries. My kids will busy our lives with as much as I say "yes" to. It's my job to know my personal limits.)

The intensity of these years reminds me of the resistance I experienced as I learned to yield to my infants, to their needs, their schedules, their sleep. I was so tired those years. I learned how to manage then and I've learned how to manage now, but it's not easy.

I resist the expectations of this time of year, I resist the pace, I growl and bark a bit as I run the perimeter of my boundaries and find more encroachment. But I do the work regardless. What other choice do I have?

(If you tell me to not resist I'll scream. So save your breath, instead offer a cup of tea and a commiserating hug.)

Even when I was a teenager I thought my dad was cool

Just like when they were babies, I am committed to these children, to their needs, even when their desires are contrary to my own. Even when it feels like I'm losing bits of myself and my sanity in the process. Because what are the teen years if not a season in which the children's needs and desires are contrary to the parents?

We survived the spring, we ran the gauntlet of household deadlines and end-of-school-year activities. When we hosted the party for our friends' band, What If Elephants, on Sunday night I felt myself relaxing and delighting in the arrival of summer.

I am ready for a break. Desperate for a break. Like many other mothers this time of year.

Summer hints at a lighter schedule which is what I'll need to devote the time necessary to (finally) finishing Celine's high school portfolio (yes, she graduated last year), starting Laurent's transcripts (he graduates next year), and getting a better handle on Brienne's high school curriculum.

Brienne has a different learning style than her siblings, she is an achiever, she prefers a much more traditional, academic, and external-rewards approach to education, with a strong social element. (You know... school.) We have a lot to figure out this summer for her education. School-at-home or school-at-school, everything is on the table.

The ways in which we provide for our children change so much through the years. And my life as a homeschool mom of teens is radically different than our elementary experience. And I keep learning how to surrender and sacrifice my own comforts and preferences for the greater good of the family and to support my children's needs. And I struggle in that. Just like I struggled to surrender my sleep when they were babies.

But like sleep deprivation, this is a season, it will end in a few short years. A new one will begin. What mothering growth will I experience then? Oh my goodness, I don't want to think about it.

just wait till you see her dress! coming up soon

In this current parenting season the activity and intensity ebbs and flows. Spring is just very intense. Summer will be a little less so. And I'm ready for that change.

(I wrote most of this post during a break at the homeschool conference this past weekend where I delivered a workshop on Technology as a Tool in your Homeschool. When I went to edit, polish, and publish the text and scour my phone for photos I was reminded of the beauty of this last season. All the work is producing good fruit. Wonderful relationships with my beautiful children, an amazing theatre production, community, family, and so many parties with good friends. Oh, that we are so blessed. My mind and body are tired, my spirit needs some quiet, but my heart is full as I publish today.)

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And then there was a Prom »
  • Karen Toews

    Karen Toews on June 12, 2018, 5:56 p.m.

    So many memories in this post - having your children back-to-back and 'no sleep' , your loving the Maine farms, growing beauty in your gardens (and so happy and jealous of your Montreal plot!), remembering your beautiful babies cum children sitting around your table (and mine too!) home-schooling, seeing these wonderful teen-agers who have been blessed with so much of 'everything you've written about' invested into their lives. I'm breathing deeply - with love and thanksgiving for such a tenacious daughter who has always stuck to her stuff of 'screw the system' - which challenged me and truth be told has also inspired me. Love you....Mom, offering you tea from a distance. PS your Dad IS a very cool guy.


  • Susan

    Susan on June 13, 2018, 9:22 p.m.

    It is interesting to me, a suburban Chicago mom of kids all soon to be 14, 17 and 19 to contrast your experience with mine. I'm a work from home mom (for pay) and have been since my oldest went to kindergarten. My job is flexible so I've had probably the best of both worlds vs. working in an office and being a stay at home mom. My oldest finished his freshman year of college, my middle is a rising senior and my youngest is a rising freshman.

    My "mom busy-ness" was at its peak I'd say 5 years ago. My son played rugby year round, my middle daughter was playing basketball for half the year and my youngest was a year round competitive swimmer. They attend public school, so add to those activities the school volunteering, field trips, etc. plus my paying job and the unpaid work of keeping our household running. Back then, I felt like I never got to sit down for 10 min.

    In contrast, now my older two have jobs and drive with my old minivan to share between them during the summer. My oldest goes to college 6 hours away, so my daily responsibilities for him amount to paying for things and texting/talking a few times a week and the occasional round trip to visit or transport him. My middle daughter is busy with high school things, but she doesn't require much from me in terms of daily commitments. My youngest is still swimming and active in girl scouts and requires me for transportation a few times a week, but compared to the driving I was doing 5 years ago, this is nothing! We are having opposite parenting experiences!

    I hope you find a good schooling match for Brienne!


    • Renee

      Renee on June 14, 2018, 6:01 p.m.

      Susan, That's a real difference of experience. Thank you for your sharing your family's story here, it provides a nice alternative to the parents reading who are perhaps terrified by my recounting - ha!

      In all seriousness though I think the main contributing factor to the intensity of these years in our family is homeschooling in our particular context of Montreal, Quebec.

      This is something I will share in a future post that I'm working on publishing: to homeschool in Quebec means that the parents take everything on themselves. In addition, legally you cannot leave your (school-aged) kids in the care and teaching of someone else if you're homeschooling. Our kids belong to a co-op, where they have classes with other teachers and an independent co-op academic schedule. But we have to be there, as parents.

      This is not ideal and it's not how I envision the best of education to be. My ideal education (and I have a written philosophy of education in which I flesh this out) is one in which families choose what's best for their kids, and local schools, communities and gov't agencies support that (when the aims of the family aren't contrary to a democratic society and other philosophical considerations are attended to).

      Of course this is an ideal but QC is behind the times with home education and offers virtually no support to families and homeschool communities.

      So parents bear a big burden to make stuff happen for their kids, all of it - the social and academic.

      In addition, our community is in a different "community" than where we live. We travel to the suburbs for our homeschool co-op, and all related social engagements. Again, totally not ideal and if we were raising littles we would have to think long and hard about the wisdom of our location or community affiliation.

      But we love our city life and city access. And our kids are closer to university and launching then they are staying in homeschool co-op and our location is so much better for those opportunities, so... we drive, a lot.

      Which brings up the other point. None of our kids drive yet :( Again, I'll blame the govt in part for this. The requirements for getting a license are very costly in QC, and we can't foot the bill for our kids so we have to make the long commutes, but since we need to be there for all the school hour related stuff anyway, we wouldn't save much driving with having a teen driver in the house.

      Our city life does not require driving and we love our location for easy public transportation which the kids use often for their non homeschool coop social life, education, and entertainment.

      I love hearing how parents raise their teens and what "life looks like" for other families. So thank you for sharing your experience. It gave me pause to think, "why is this so hard for us". And then I remembered... all the list above, ha!


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