I knew this Summer Theater Conservatory was going to challenge me. The director was clear from the initial audition that it would be intense. Fun, no doubt, but intense. Five weeks, 9am until 4pm, Monday through Friday, plus homework! Homework! I'm not sure I'm cut out for this. The problem is, it's just not about me.
Macy, my ten year old, decided to audition for this camp back in April. I was shocked. She's always loved to sing, and she's been dancing with the same instructor for over three years now, but my Macy loves her free time. I wouldn't have pegged her as a candidate for a completely scheduled summer. Last Spring, she told me she felt a little over scheduled. Her weekly knitting class (1 hour a week) and her art studio class (3 hours a week) were feeling like a bit much. She complained she didn't have enough time to just "hang out". For Macy, just "hanging out" means time to draw, listen to music, read, or just play with our neighbors. As an unschooling family, we typically do a lot of hanging out. Getting a spot in the summer conservatory would mean a lot less hang out time. It was going to mean a major lifestyle change.
The audition was indeed rigorous. Kids were asked to prepare a memorized monologue, a memorized Broadway show tune, and be ready to learn and perform a choreographed number. I figured this was going to be one of those fantastic but disappointing life experiences, where she'd try really hard and give it her all, but wouldn't quite make the cut. After all, she's only 10. She'd have years to refine her dramatic talents. Secretly, I was hoping she wouldn't make it. I mean, it's not that I don't want my kids to achieve their goals, or be happy. But, I enjoy our open schedule. I like being in jammies until noon.
Of course, it wasn't up to me, and she made it in the conservatory. She was thrilled. I was thrilled for her. I was! But that was way back in May. Now we're on week 2, and I'm exhausted. We're up early packing a lunch and getting Macy to the bus stop. By the time she gets home, she's tired and hungry, and still has homework to do...did I mention the homework? The other night, as I was helping her with a music theory worksheet, I lost it. She was confused and couldn't remember which notes equaled which counts and it was late. I began to question the whole experience. Worksheets? Monologues? Memorizing? Where was the fun? Where was the spontaneity? I began composing the letter of complaint to the conservatory director in my head.
And then, I took a deep breath. I looked at my daughter, dutifully filling out a Musical Math Worksheet and happily filing her Actor's Personal Biography in her binder. Oohhh, that's right. This isn't about me. This is about Macy. She chose this very intense, very new activity. She enjoys it. She's having fun. I'm the one who is still de-schooling myself. I'm the one with very strong opinions about busy work and structured classrooms. Oooops. One more reminder that this life without school isn't just about me.
It's good for me to be reminded of that. I find that my passion for my children and for unschooling can sometimes cloud my vision. There are times when I need to be gently reminded that the whole point in this child raising gig is to eventually let go. The fact is, I really miss Macy when she's gone. I'm not used to her spending most of her waking hours elsewhere and there is a big part of me that would love to be there with her. But I suppose I can find comfort in the fact that she is doing what she loves because she wants to, not because she has to. The whole point in choosing unschooling has been to follow my children's lead. Macy has led us all here. It wasn't my choice, but I'm here anyway.
I'm letting go, so that she can eventually come back.
Becky is the unschooling mother of three (Janey, 12, Macy, 10 and Charley, 7) attempting to raise her children with compassion and respect. She taught elementary school for 9 years before discovering unschooling when it was time for her oldest to go to Kindergarten. She credits Sandra Dodd, Mary Griffith, Jan Hunt, and just about every other person she interacted with at her first HSC Home=Education conference 6 years ago, as her inspiration to find a more natural way of living and learning with children. She is a passionate and radical transportation activist and is starting a non-profit carsharing organization in her town. You can read more of what Becky has to say at http://lifewithoutschool.blogspot.com She can be reached at ashlandcarshare@gmailcom.