Some background: Chana and I are not in 100% accord about the classes she is attending. We started off the year strong. Chana was open-minded about socializing and academics. Lately, Chana has been expressing dread and reluctance when it is time to get out of the car and go to class.
Disliking school is almost a rite of passage in our society. Although I happen to know a lot of kids who are happy in school (it feels like I know more happy kids in school now than I did growing up), it's certainly not considered a problem or an issue to dislike going to school. But for a homeschooler, it is not the norm.
As an unschooler, Chana has a choice about her education. Every day I ask her when she wants to do her work (what we study together, currently Literature, Chumash, and AP Bio). I tell her my schedule openings and she chooses when to learn. What we learn is her choice. What order we learn is her choice. That is in addition to the two classes she attends at the local girls Yeshiva high school.
If she were to come to me and say, "Can we sit down and talk about this? I don't want to go to class anymore," I would take that very seriously.
It has not come to that. She has expressed feelings of not wanting to go, and we have had conversations about the reasons I want her to go or why I think it's beneficial. As an unschooler, I won't arbitrarily say to a teenager (and probably not even to a younger child) that you just have to go to school because I think it's important. I've always felt that it is my children's obligation to respect me and listen to me, and that it is my obligation to behave in a way that garners respect and that makes sense to listen to.* Some things she doesn't agree with but she accepts the points I make. For example, I explained to her that I chose the Torah sheba'al peh class because I want her to get a sense of the Oral Law and its structure and see that it is not arbitrary but a system of wisdom. Chana personally has no great desire to grasp this, and no great desire to spend her time focusing on this. But she understands that from my perspective as a parent who values Torah and wants to pass it on to the next generation, I feel that this is important for her.
Some days she comes home talking about an enjoyable social interaction; some days she finds it emotionally draining and is sad that she can't find people who seem to be on the same page as her emotionally.
Some days she brings up things she learned in class or points she is thinking about from class. Some days she says she is very bored and has a hard time sitting through it.
So overall, I would say that I'm seeing the value of and benefit of Chana going, even though sometimes Chana is finding it somewhat of a struggle. The days when she comes home happy, like yesterday, it's clear that it's a good decision. The days where she finds it too much, it can be an effort to keep the larger perspective in mind. It's hard to tell whether it's the emotion of the moment and overall it is good, or if the emotions of the moment are so many and strong that maybe we should reevaluate.
I often remind myself of the time that Sarah was in High School and was complaining so virulently about a bunch of different things that I had basically decided to look for a therapist and restructure a lot of my parenting. And then a couple of days later it turned out she had been having PMS, and everything settled down and she didn't really need therapy at that time and my parenting techniques were working okay after all.
Click here to read about the thing that's been niggling at me.
* At the end of the day it is my decision because I am the parent, but I try to really hear what my child has to say and take it very seriously and come up with something that we both agree to. And if I ultimately disagree with them, I hope that they at least respect my opinion and realize that I'm doing this not to hurt them, but for a reasonable purpose, even if it is a purpose that they wouldn't personally choose.