It was the day after Labor Day—and the first time in my adult life—maybe ever—that I was at home on this day. August was not filled with watching sale flyers for back-to-school bargains, polishing a classroom, making bulletin boards, or fielding phone calls from anxious parents. The only anxious parent I had to deal with was me. After 16 years of teaching the children of others, I was becoming a homeschool mom.
Last school year had been both stressful and eye-opening. As a teacher in a small private school, my son, whose abilities and need to follow the beat of his own orchestra had always been a challenge to his teachers, became one of my students. I had always been an advocate for him, seeing his personality traits as positive and gifts for the future. As his teacher, with him now being one of many, I could now identify with his past teachers’ frustrations, though it didn’t change my view of him as a person. It changed my view of me as a teacher.
As a classroom teacher, I always worked to know my students’ inner motivations, and to understand their passions, and to help them see the meaning of schoolwork beyond the four walls of the classroom. I attempted at every opportunity to make learning engaging and authentic, and to help students find their places in the world and to live in harmony with one another. But a fact of being a classroom teacher is that you have many constituents to consider: the students, the parents, the administration, the public, and each group has an opinion and a voice.
Where did my boy fit in? The answer was, he didn’t. And I couldn’t serve two masters. As the year wore on, more and more often I was asked to teach in ways that I didn’t think were appropriate for any child, and I knew were soul-crushing to my son. It was time to get off the merry-go-round of traditional education and serve the only student I had a real obligation to.
Our summer was lazy, and stress-free. Slowly we processed what parts of learning and school he liked, and what had turned him off. We have a long way to go to help him like math again, and a longer way to go to helping him write, but we’ll get there. We will spend this school year filling in the blanks of what was missed last year, for both of us. We will enjoy being teacher and student, mother and son. I will finally teach the way I know he learns best. I will answer to the only constituency I’ve ever truly cared about: my family.