“I’ve never even talked to half these people in my entire life.”
So exclaimed my daughter as she sorted through a flurry of messages at 2:30ish, as school let out. “Where are you?” “Why aren’t you in school?”
We speculated, during a few moments of mother-daughter bonding, about how soon the rumors would fly:
She’s left to serve out her confinement, like in days of old. She is pregnant, and she’ll be sent to the country until she has the baby and perhaps gives it up to a nice couple from the North. Or maybe she’ll turn up on “Teen Mom.”
Yeah, that’s it, she’s knocked-up.
Or maybe her parents caught her shooting up, 15 and strung out. She’s just a skeezer on the kibbles and bits; kush had her like… (thank you Urban Dictionary). They found her bong and pipe under the floorboards. She’s gone to spend the next 28 days out beside the Joshua tree, somewhere on the top bunk of a posh cabin in a tidy little facility founded by the wife of an ex-president.
Yea, that’s it. She’s in rehab.
Joined the carnival?
Got a long-term role on Broadway?
She’s just chillin’ with the academic types in the local college library.
She’s free, she feels smart and excited, and best of all, she is beyond happy.
If anyone had asked me if I’d ever home-school my child, I’d have said, “Are you insane? I don’t have time for that shit!”
Yet, here I am. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, and I’m not exactly home-schooling, anyway. My youngest is taking her sophomore year online. Call it home schooling, unschooling, customized education, or an alternative path — my littlest one is learning from the safety and comfort of her own personal classroom housed within roughly 150 square inches of plastic and circuitry. So, in between teaching classes at our local community college, I find myself supervising a virtual classroom that has me totally converted and wholeheartedly believing that I have just set the stage for something magical to bloom inside the heart of a dispirited teenager.
As I approach her after my classes finish, she sits at a small round table in the library, fervently typing away. For a second, I think there may be sparks flying. I can honestly see her glowing. She belongs here. I swear her entire aura has shifted to a gorgeous yellow sunshine, and I can feel her empowerment from across the room.
I actually have to wait for her to take a break before we can leave the library. The enthusiasm is palpable. I have to resist the overwhelming urge to pump my arms up into the air, fists clenched, and call out to the sky, “Yesss!” “This child is beautiful and amazing…and happy!” A healthy helping of common sense with a side dish of good-old-fashioned restraint saves me from being hustled out through the metal detectors.
She’d finished all her work by 1:30. She was able to work straight through. She was on task. There were no distractions. No one was talking; there were no smart-assed comments to other students or to the teacher. She was comfortable. She wasn’t stuffed into a hard, plastic “chesk.” She wasn’t forced to stop after a 49-minute period and switch her brain off one idea and on to a totally unrelated topic. She got into a rhythm. She saw it through. She was immersed! Sweet academic creativity! Yeehaw!
There was no drama. There were no murky waters awash with adolescent girls. She didn’t worry about what she was wearing, whom she would talk to, or whom she wouldn’t talk to. She didn’t worry about her hair or her makeup. There were no bustling hallways. It was more like “real life.” There was no need to avoid stares, protruding elbows, or upperclassmen. There was no chance of running into a wayward bully. There was no frantic rushing to get from A to Z in two minutes flat with no time to pee. There was no struggling with an impossible locker combination. (I still have that dream on occasion: left, right, around and past the zero, then left again, or was it right? Pull, pull, pull harder, yank…nothing.)
She was just living and learning out in the natural world, no longer in captivity. She was free. Stress free. I could see it in every fiber of her being.
A weight had been lifted. She’d been crushed under that heavy backpack of outdated textbooks, and all the extra baggage that it contained, for too long.
She ate a healthy lunch. She had plenty of time to eat it. She was not worried about where she would sit or if she would fit on the bench or at “that” table.
She didn’t sit around in her pajamas all day. She got up early. She bathed, and she brushed her teeth. She even interacted with other human beings. (Common home-schooling myths busted.)
Let me tell you what else happened.
She was calm.
Neither of her eyes twitched once all day.
She had a quiet stomach, with no somersaults or pains.
She was visibly relaxed.
She spent the entire day surrounded by the good juju.
She spent the whole day in the light.
My child knew where the light lived. She asked me to let her go to it, and I said, “Yes.”
I said “yes” to online school.
Some might say that she should “suck it up” and that “this high school bullshit is stuff she has to learn to deal with.” I disagree. She has dealt with it, quite effectively, I might add. It makes her feel bad. She can’t learn things when she feels bad. When we, as adults, find ourselves in the company of those who are negative, judgmental, critical, or even dangerous, we have the power to react with our feet. We go. We can leave a bad situation. Kids can’t leave. Kids are too often powerless to change these damaging, potentially harmful situations and that sense of powerlessness can have dire consequences.
I believe I am empowering her. I believe in teaching kids to trust their instincts. They need to believe that little voice inside is right, so that when they are older, they know how to get out of the darkness and into the light.
I wasn’t sure how it would go. This educational choice is a sacrifice, but I recognize that it is also a luxury. I have the right conditions to make it work. I do not take that for granted. I am grateful. It may kill me, but I am grateful. I can see that this is going to be life-changing for both of us.
The thing is, my kid is great, and they do miss her at school. She just needs to let that little voice inside do the talking for now.