Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stage Mother, Psychological Collapse and Home Schooling

Previous conversation -- about a decade ago when He Who Cannot Be Named (HWCBN for new readers) was entering preschool.

Matron: "I think maybe I'll homeschool the children."

John: "I'll divorce you."

Matron: "Pardon?" (actually it might have been stronger)

John: "If you want to homeschool, we'll need a divorce."

Matron: "Why in the world would you say that?"

John: "You DO NOT want to be around children all the time, period. You go nuts."

Matron: "Nuts! I do not!"

John: "Remember when Stryker was a baby and what you did every day when I came home from work."

Matron puts hands over ears and starts humming but the words still got through.

John: "You handed him to me before my coat was off and said 'take this $&$%*% baby' and ran out the door. Every. Single. Night. We never spent so much money on unnecessary groceries--and shoes."

Matron: "Are you done now?"

John: "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

But the Matron could recognize truth in her own need for solitude and an adult life, of sorts, even if that adult life was squeezed in between 9 am and 3:30 pm.

The children were all sent off to school at the earliest possible age.

The new dilemma . . . .

Scarlett has only been to school six days since school began on September 7ish. Her performance and rehearsal schedules for her current and two upcoming shows mean that this trend will continue through the end of January. The school district, based on the diva's past academic records, has given conditional approval for the haphazard attendance: continue operating as an A student.

This is a new school -- junior high. And guess who has been able to juggle homework -- even algebra and get As -- but who hasn't made any friends yet. Not one. Guess who BEGS on the days she's supposed to go to school to stay home?

Guess who's begging to be homeschooled?

And now the divorce card is off the table, as the parents consider the balance between a child's genuine passion and love of art and the much-valued (in these parts) value of school, with its social systems and professional educators.

Sigh. . . .

Scarlett: "Mom, I have TONS of theater friends. I see them everyday, all the time. I make more every show. I have way too many friends! I don't need more friends! I know you can't add even whole numbers so I can learn algebra online; I found a web site."

For now, school continues.

But after a few easy years, the family is coming to a fraught thin line: less theater? Throwing your hat in that theatrical ring even more? What about pilot season in L.A. in January, to which Scarlett will be invited once again? Disrupt the family in pursuit of one member's dream? Continue the current juggle, which sometimes means 14 hour days for Scarlett?

Oh! Forgot! Then there are those other two children. Darn! Forgot about them in the Scarlett shuffle (not really, but you get the drift and so do they).

Matron: "Scarlett, we need to put all of our options out. One of those options is just doing two shows a year or otherwise cutting back."

Guess who sobbed for two hours and threatened to call the police claiming child abuse?

And just to nail the lid on what a great parent she is, the Matron is asking the internet for advice. What would you do? Say what you think but be nice. She's a little raw and unsteady on her feet in regard to this child.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Given how much you want to support Scarlett in following her dreams, I say try it for a year. Homeschooling is not a lifetime commitment--see if it works for all of you.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You are only talking about homeschooling Scarlett, right?
I agree with Jenn -- if it works, it works. Clearly, Scarlett is a self-starter, and *maybe* at her age, you won't be losing your "me" time.
I spent 2 years homeschooling just one of my 4 boys. The little guy went to quite a bit of preschool because he kept begging his brother to take "recess" and play with him. The other brothers got on the school bus every morning without EB (he had to do chores while I waited with them at the bus stop). It wasn't easy, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Deborah said...

It is of course emotional blackmail. Scarlett may not be kicking her heels at the store begging for candy, but she's doing the theatre equivalent.
Presumptuous to give you advice but you are the parent and you get to decide what she gets.

Good luck and remember that there will always be other opportunities.
...and this from the mother whose 29 year old...29 year old, tells people she could have been a ballerina if her mother hadn't taken her out of ballet.
Of course she was 5 and her mother went back to full time work...but really so selfish of me.

Jennifer said...

You know, Jenn's right. Homeschooling is not a rest-of-your-life commitment. You can do it for one year and change your mind. In fact, I've known a few people who bagged it after one semester (though I would encourage you to stick it out that long, at least, because it takes a while just to get get into the groove that is homeschooling).

One of the things I love about homeschooling my kids is that we decide how busy we're going to be. I love that I don't have to put my kids on a bus in the morning; that I don't have to pack lunches or keep track of homework. We can take a week off in the middle of October, if we feel like it, and some days, we do enough work to catch up for an entire week.

Too, now that my son is older, he does a lot of it on his own. I provide the materials, help him make a plan, and make sure he applies himself, but I don't spoon feed him. He spends most of his days reading classics, playing good math games, and learning science from fantastically interesting books.

What I'm saying, really, is that I think you and Scarlett could do this. She's a self-starter, she's old enough to manage a lot of it herself, and I think it might actually take the pressure off of the whole family. She can homeschool in the car on the way to practice. She will learn more just by following her dream than many kids will learn sitting in a classroom all day every day of the school year.

One more thing: Read Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook. It's about teenagers who decide to homeschool and what a great experience it can be. You'll love it, and I think it'll be spot-on for your situation.

Minnesota Matron said...

Already, good advice. Jennifer -- thank you! And Deborah -- there is a bit of manipulation; I think I'm able to recognize and ignore that. But ignoring that, she's been called for another full day tomorrow and--no school. So I'm also trying to be practical with regard to missing 3/4 of school. Hard balance!

Melinda said...

You are an incredible mom. I homeschool so it's not the considering homeschool piece that leads me to say that -- but how much thought and love you put into your family.

1. Check out the homeschool laws in Minnesota. 2. consider if homeschooling will provide the WHOLE family with more balance (or at least enough of the family.) 3. Create a contract with Scarlett. 4. and let us know when you are looking for curriculum options -- there is plenty to match Scarlett's learning style and your needs.

sheila said...

"Oh! Forgot! Then there are those other two children. Darn! Forgot about them in the Scarlett shuffle (not really, but you get the drift and so do they)."

This would concern me more than the homeschooling. Go ahead and homeschool (I do, it's easier than you think, and really, you CAN do it) but your concentration is so unevenly divided. Will the other two get the same option should they decide to change tack? Are you ready for that?

*m* said...

I'm with Jenn and Jennifer. I think you two can do it and that you should give it a shot for a while. But make sure that Scarlett is committed to giving it her all -- I would make that a condition. From what I know of her, it shouldn't be an issue.

Think of all the great advice and support you can get from Mrs. G!

unmitigated me said...

Homeschool. Scarlet is the real deal, and she is learning about honing her craft. All she'll need to continue school work on her own is the threat of losing those shows. And you get to stop worrying about appeasing the school. If she ends up in LA, they provide a tutor, you don't even have to supervise the learning then.

JFS in IL said...

Homeschool. It is not hard. I did it, depending on the needs of each kid and the local school offerings, for over 9 years. Some years, only one of the four at home, One year...all four ;-O

With your busy schedule Calvert might work well - many professional kids use it. Or come to the Well-Trained Mind message boards and prepare to be overwhelmed with advice ;-)

Scarlett is not a little kid needing you to hover over her schoolwork, either. I think she would do fine with homeschool.

JFS in IL said...

Jen on the Edge said...

What Jenn and Jennifer said.

Deb said...

Go get "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to leave school and get a real education". Then give it to Scarlett to read.

Honestly, it sounds like this girl can do this. I homeschooled four kids all the way through. (I know, even I am amazed by this!) I acted as a facilitator more than a teacher. Hey, you're already doing this. All four went on to college, two in a master's program so far. The oldest is 28, the youngest 19 as of now.

Do it. Your life will be much simpler.

Anonymous said...

I think you put the cards on the table and together select the ones that benefit the entire family most right now. If that means homeschooling, why not? Like others wrote, it's not forever. At worst, it would be through 12th grade, right? But there has to be some "give" from Scarlett, too. In all fairness, what will she sacrifice to make the family flow better? I'm not saying it has to be a show, but I do believe she's come to an age where she has to recognize what other people give up for her success and she has to take turns for their success, too.

At the end of the day, Mary, I feel VERY confident that you'll make the best and most brilliant decision for your WHOLE clan.

ChrisinNY said...

See I am going to be the naysayer here. I understand that theater is her passion. I support that. But theater is a singular and narrow thing, as are the friends she is making through theater. I put a higher value on diversity and education (not that she could not get a great homeschool education) but would this lead to less emphasis on going to college? I grew up in So call surrounded by "show business". Most people are not able to make a living in the theater or by acting. Being a child actress is in no way any guarantee as an adult that she would be successful as an actress in adulthood. Plus it does appear that allowing Scarlett to do more shows (and go to LA pilot season) will affect the other two children inordinately- you only have so much time. So I would say 2-3 shows a year and done. But that is me. YMMV

Anonymous said...

Homeschool. Go for it.

Minnesota Matron said...

You guys are great -- Jenn and Jennifer: thank you! And ChrisinNY-- I get it. Just because you're a child actor does NOT mean you're going to be an adult actor, and if you are -- well, perhaps a life of poverty or juggling two jobs (or five). Sheila -- you also touch upon my biggest concern: those other two children. Honestly, I hadn't thought about what I would do if they want to be homeschooled, too. Good nudge toward that consideration.

Jennifer said...

It's me again. I was just thinking about what ChrisinNY had to say about theatre being singular and narrow, and while I agree with that, and appreciate her push toward balance, I also think it's important to recognize that homeschooling in the way that Scarlett would be able to does not necessarily promote a single focus. In fact, I think homeschooling would provide an opportunity for a much wider focus than she would get in school, and provide her with more life skills that might serve her very well in her adult life, no matter what she decides to do with it.

I'm aware that, as a homeschooler, I have a bias in that direction, but every day that I homeschool my kids, I wish that I had had the opportunity they now do--their lives and educations are so much more *interesting* than mine was. They follow their passions, but they still learn everything their peers do. We just aren't constricted by an 8:30-3:30 schedule. It's cliched, but the entire world really is our classroom, and that is very exciting.

SUEB0B said...

How many of us are still waiting, way into our middle decades, to find out what we want to be when we grow up? Scarlett KNOWS. She has always known the only thing she wants to do is act. Give her every opportunity to act. Homeschool her, take her to pilot season, give her the chance to do what she is BORN to do.

Daisy said...

Do you have the option of a Virtual Charter School? Wisconsin has a few. They are public schools, provide a state-approved curriculum, and the learning coach (you) is supported by a teacher at the main school. You wouldn't have to recreate a curriculum, and she'd get credit for attending a public school.

MJ said...

Give Saucy @ Saucy's Sprinkles an email. She homeschooled her son for at least 1/2 year & he felt he learned more with her than in a school environment. Personally, I am busy school proofing my children & have them in Kumon as well as participating in other language activities. When they are older, we will travel so they can experience and learn first hand what is found within history books. School is mostly for socialization & Scarlett (regardless of whether she's an actor or not) is well socialized & is very self-disciplined. I'm sure she can do it.

Xtreme English said...

two things:

one of my nieces home-schooled her child, and it always seemed to me that the kid was missing the social aspect of school. (i know, DUH). Otherwise, the academic part he got at home was better. But your daughter's theater friends supply that social function for her.

and theater is not any narrower than slinging burgers or whatever our kids are heading for in this economy. if you've been IN and
AROUND schools a lot, you'll know that precious few are worth staying in if that means you will be deserting your life dream.

gawd....i'm sure many of us would love to have been offered what your daughter has when we were that age!

Minnesota Matron said...

I know this is a good dilemma to have and deeply appreciate your words of advice. I have to say that I'm leaning toward home schooling at this point. I just don't think she can continue going to school once a week or every couple of weeks and actually learn anything -- or feel that she's doing a good job. . . .but there's lots to consider. Thanks, my dear internet friends : -) for your insight!

Navhelowife said...

Homeschooling sounds like an option that will greatly increase her chances to learn without having to battle with the school. And if you can find some local homeschool groups to do things with, that takes care of the 'narrowness' concerns.
And if it doesn't work? Then go back to school. We did. It's not perfect, and I still wish in some ways that we home schooled, but you must do what is right for each child.
Oh, and I home schooled one child out of three first, for about 3/4 of a school year. So you can do it one at a time.