We have survived another year of homeschooling. And survive does seem the appropriate word this year.
For one, I learned that I can't push Umberto into learning. I'm not as giddy about unschooling as I was in the beginning but I do see value in the idea. I really became a tad psychotic about Umberto reading, and pushed him hard over the summer. I had to back off, create an environment in which reading was an option but not the only option. I think that unschooling is not really about just letting your kids do what ever they want but about making learning something other than what happens in school. I don't believe in natural so it's impossible for me to argue for one "natural" way of learning. I think that different learning styles create different kinds of thinkers, and I don't want Umberto to be a militant thinker. And that is what I did when I pushed him. It all crescendo with a very bad parenting moment that left Umberto and I in tears, and me thinking that he might be better off in school.
I backed off. And no he's not fully reading independently yet but he's closer than he was last year. More importantly he enjoys it. I bought the Oak Meadow curriculum which he loves, and which I love. We settle down to "do school" with a lot more joy than we used to. He's learning a lot about nature, reading, fairy tales, etc. And the approach is very gentle and compassionate.
In addition, Umberto now loves to be read to. We're having some wonderful pleasurable moments with that as well.
But what I also learned is that sometimes homeschooling is not the only option, and there are times when it may be much better for a child to be in school. I know in the homeschooling community what I am saying is sacrilege (I had someone tell me that all parents who put their kids in school don't care about their kids). I hate extremism period so this has always grated on me. But this year when I struggled with Umberto I realized that parents are just as likely to damage their children as schools. I know many homeschooling parents who seem to inflict more damage than good. Just as I know many schooling families who do damn well by their kids. There is a wisdom in knowing what works for your family and in being flexible enough to let go of what you thought was working.
For us homeschooling works not just because we don't like the kind of people Southern schools seem to produce. It works because as a family we hate schedules. We'd be the parents whose kids missed a lot of school and who fell asleep when they were in school. But on the other hand, there is a big possibility that school may be the only option once we start a Ph.D program. I have come to accept that this will not be a bad thing. And despite what the community thinks, putting the kids in school is no reflection on my parenting skills or my love for my children.