The idea is simple – post an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt -this week’s is “present”
I’ve been working on our quarterly homeschool reports since yesterday. Because we’re unschoolers, this is always an untidy affair – we don’t have an endless round of test scores, homework assignments, worksheets and textbooks and projects and classroom participation grades to point to and say, “Look, this is what we’ve covered this quarter, all lined up like soldiers, or hanging files, all nice and neat, in orderly straight lines, slotted perfectly into pigeonholes that correspond with the subjects our state’s homeschool laws say we must cover for the grades our children are in.
As a matter of fact, if you asked either one of my children what grade they’re in, they might not be able to tell you.
They are only in ‘grades’ as a matter of legal necessity, because we’re required to register them, with a grade level, as homeschoolers in our local school district.
It occurs to me that this is an issue of presence (possibly also presents, but that’s another matter). I am present, every day, with my children, in a way that the school system can’t provide, no matter how attentive. A teacher can be attentive to his or her class, as a whole, and I would guess that the best teachers do that intuitively. But, if a teacher were to spend their entire school day, every day, tending to the needs of only one or two children, chaos and need would erupt, and the teacher would likely soon be without a job at all…
That leads to a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach, where teachers do the best they can, for as many of their students as they can…and, to be clear, I am not dissing teachers, who are, in the end people. There are inspired and lousy teachers, great teachers having horrible days, not so great teachers having wonderful days, those who use their power to empower the children who come to their classroom, and others who abuse that power and make children’s lives harder and crueller thand there is any need for them to be…
Teachers are people, and they function within a system. The system runs during set hours, and then the children are sent home, to live another life in the rest of the hours until they return. They likely go home with homework; they may have extracurriculars, through the school or elsewhere. They might have chores, and siblings, and pets, and favorite TV shows to watch or games to play – but they are kids on a schedule, with built-in rifts between school life and home life.
I lived that life as a child, and I know many families who live it now….
And I know that I am able to be present in a very different way with my children.
We are a family of four independent people. We’re all comfortable, to differing degrees based on age and temperament, with being alone. I like to describe us as four planets in a small solar system, each with our own orbits…but we intersect, at intervals, for a few minutes, a few hours, a few seconds, a few days…
We’re not on top of each other all day, every day. However, we live in a small house, and as we pursue our individual or group activities, we can hardly help but be aware of one another. Most of our time is spent in reasonably close proximity, sharing spaces. We have time for many hugs, snuggles, short chats. one-liners, rambling conversations, going somewhere or not just because, exploration of what one another is doing (Shakespeare lectures over Mom’s shoulder; helpind Dad repair the roof again!); the latest Five Nights at Freddy’s art; video chats….and more, and more, and more.
I don’t need the ‘evidence’ of schoolwork and subjects to know that my children are learning and growing. I have the scribbles they made when they were tiny, and the notes and letters and fan fiction editing and Amazon reviews and Facebook comments they create today (I posted my first Amazon review this week, and was a little awed to find that my busy offspring, ages 13 and 10, have already posted 51 reviews, between them, and most people who rated their comments found them helpful!).
I don’t need memorized math tables when they can budget allowances, arrange working for their grandparents, and figure percentages and interest and deficits while playing games. I don’t need to see a worksheet on frog life cycles or the periodic table to know those things were part of life, when one child independently raised a tadpole she caught in the yard, researched its care, and, lo and behold, grew a frog!, or when that child, casually exploring the Elements With Style table hanging on our door because, hey, the periodic table is pretty cool, says, “How can anatomy be an element?” and we discover together that it’s antimony, and those words do look quite a bit alike…
These things are a part of my present. I am present, and that is a present. It’s a gift that has grown with time and connection, and now there are these two big kids where I used to have babies, and I know them so much better, but still get to be amazed, as my wee little girl used to say, “Again again again again AGAIN!!”, at how swiftly they’ve grown, become strong and capable and confident, to smile as I watch them stretching out into the world, on their own terms, each in their own unique way…as I watch my son about to be taller than me, and here a strange almost-man’s voice where not so long ago was a lilting little-boy voice, I am deeply moved by my present, and how the past has shaped it, and how it leads so seamlessly into the future…
And I wish that those who legislate the homeschool laws in my state could see this present, this gift of a life, and maybe make the laws just a little less convoluted and pigeonholed, which would give us more time for all the things that really matter….
Like being truly present in life.
Enjoy stream-of consciousness writing? Anyone can play, so long as they are willing to follow a few simple rules. See you next week, for another live-streaming look into the lovely chaos in my mind! =)