Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Katie Is Excited To Try Out Public School (Teen Goes From Unschooling to School)

When Katie was an infant (1997), I joined a La Leche League group in Manasquan, NJ.  I became a LLL Leader and met many families who nurtured their children.  Some of them homeschooled.  Some of them unschooled, although at that point I didn't know what that was.  I remember thinking that I could send my daughter off on a bus to be raised by someone else.  For that is what it seemed to me at that time.  Sending a small child away for so many hours a day did not seem right to me.  It was not at all what I wanted to do and I know Katie also wanted us to be together.  We loved having fun together, exploring, visiting with people, going to our favorite and new places and just being together.  We also still nursed.  Just after Katie turned three, I found out about a Not Back To School gathering and went.  I met some wonderful people and joined a group of families who attended a park day once a week.  Then we found another group of folks that met at a different park on another day too.  We began doing activities with whoever was interested from either group such as Music Together, geography club, sewing club, beach/nature walks with an environmentalist, random get togethers for fun at various places (beach, skateboard parks, playgrounds, pools, homes, etc)  as well as organized activities such as archeology digs, programs at nature centers, aquariums, historical places, museums, etc. 

Fast forward.....Li was born in NJ in 2001.  We moved to Maine in 2005 and Makana was born then and there.  In 2008, Kanoa was born. 

Throughout this whole time, Katie was very self-motivated and enthusiastic.  She has always been a go-getter and has always been excited for life.  One of my favorite memories was when she was ten and a half and beginning to plan her eleventh birthday party.  She and Jim had become very interested in dog mushing and had followed the Iditarod online, even getting up in the wee hours of the morning to see the mushers come in - I got into it too, but their passion for it was beyond mine.  Katie wrote letters to a few of her favorite mushers to invite them to her birthday party.  She received a handwritten letter back from Libby Riddles, the first woman musher to have won the Iditarod (1985)!  Unfortunately, Libby Riddles coudn't make it, but appreciated the invite.  One night, we received a long distance call from one of the famous mushers!  Katie was so excited to talk with him (and Jim was envious!).  Katie called the other mushers who hadn't yet responded by looking up their phone numbers online or by researching their kennel information.  She did end up speaking to almost every musher she wrote to and eventually became friends with some of them on facebook!  One of the mushers, Scott Smith, grew up in Hope, Maine, one of our neighboring towns.  Katie spoke and corresponded with him to organize a homeschool talk/presentation when he visited the following summer.  It was truly an inspirational talk that he gave as he shared his story with everyone (I'll add a link her to the blogpost I wrote about the event if I can find it  I helped Katie find a local musher who had a kennel and was willing to let her come and help out.  Katie organized a homeschooling presentation at his home and kennel as well (I'll add this link too when I find it  I admire her initiative and drive! 

One of the things we do as unschooling parents is to try to help our children as much as we can to follow their interests and passions.  This latest interest of Katie's is something more challenging for me, at least on some days it is.  At other times I find it not so hard as I look at Katie and see she seems truly excited and happy because she is doing what she wants to.  And that is my wish for her overall, to be living her life doing what she feels is exciting and wonderful and stimulating. 

So today (Wednesday 3/9/2011), she tried out the eighth grade for the first time and loved it!  Tomorrow she will go again.  And she'll get herself up and ready because she wants to go.  Amazing....because she loves to stay up late and sleep in unless something is worth getting up for!  School is worth it to her!  I already met with the Vice Principal (who we know from Tanglewood when Katie had him for a group leader during a homeschool program in maybe 2006) to pick up papers and do the formal required meeting to go over policies and procedures, schedules, dress code, rules, class options, and how the school works, etc. as we are anticipating her wanting to enroll.  The kids are off Friday, and then on Monday she'll be officially enrolled.

I had fears about school...and if I think about it too much, I might still have them.  They are to do with fitting in, peer pressure, being graded, her feeling like she doesn't know enough or is inadequate in some way, being bored or uninterested and yet feeling compelled to study, thinking that it might actually be okay or good for children to be told what they should learn and when even if they don't wish to, thinking that she is less than an adult or teacher, wondering if other kids are kind to her, and wondering if all this time away from our family will create distance in our relationship or her relationship with her siblings. 

But....those are my fears.  When I think of them, I will take some deep breaths, think more positive thoughts, and dwell on the happy, excited face of Katie, my so loved daughter that I could hug and will love forever and whom I wish so much happiness for.  And that is how I will try to feel good and help her to also.

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