Friday, April 1, 2016

On disengaging and Un-enmeshing

About a month ago I was beginning to get annoyed with how work was going with Chana.  In theory, Chana is unschooled, which means she learns what she wants when she wants.  In reality, I was feeling like I wanted to be available to Chana for a chunk of time every day, so that I can sit down with her and work on whatever subjects she wants to be taught by me.  But between my own activities and the boys, I was beginning to get stressed about having time to give her.  For example, if I didn't ask her when to do work, then the day would drift by, and then be over, and Chana would be willing to do work at 9:30pm but I was completely zonked from a full day plus bedtime.  Then I would get annoyed at Chana.

On the other hand, when I wanted to figure out when we could do work together so that I could plan my free time, Chana was feeling that I only spoke to her in order to schedule work time, or that I pounced on her as soon as I saw her or as soon as I picked her up from her class, and that she was trying to relax and I was annoying her.  (We joked that I was like the seagulls from Finding Nemo but instead of saying "Mine?" I would say "Work?")  Our personal preferences of how to schedule time to work together were diametrically opposed to each other, and if we did one person's way, it severely annoyed the other person.

Plus I was sick and tired of feeling naggy.  I like to get things done quickly and know when they are done.  And I felt like it is on my daily "to do list" to give her about 1.5 hours.  This is not a small block of time (even though I imagine it's a small amount of time to spend in frontal teaching for a high schooler).

Chana and I tried various approaches to work out our opposing preferences.  And although I really enjoy teaching Chana and learning with her, I was finding myself feeling pretty unhappy about figuring out when to learn with her and I felt like I was taking too much responsibility for it.  I felt like I was overfunctioning.  I was fantasizing about not bringing it up and seeing how many days went by without me teaching her.

To me, that was a little bit of a red flag to myself.  It felt like a petty mindset where I wouldn't communicate with her, I would ostensibly be butting out, but really, in my own mind, I'd be simmering with resentment that she wasn't being on top of her learning.

So I wasn't so happy with that approach, either.

This month I tried to give Chana some more space to be in charge of approaching me when she wants to learn.  I let her know that 8-8:30pm and 9-9:30pm I wasn't available because I was doing bedtime.  I tried not to sweat it on days when I was feeling like I had a lot on my plate.  It's not my problem if she doesn't get to learn with me today.  (I didn't really feel like that.  But I also felt like I was creating a dynamic I didn't like even more than I didn't like her missing some days of formal learning.)

I found that on days when Chana is out of the house (yeah, yeah, that introvert series I have yet to write) she holes up in her room and often doesn't want to do work until late at night.  But otherwise she generally started coming to me at some point in the day and asking me when was a good time to do work.

And if I was sitting around with not much to do, I would chat Chana and let her know I was available and until what time.  This has been working well.  Instead of keeping track with whether or not Chana is on top of her work, I've been thinking more about my own wants and needs.  And if it works out for me, I let her know.  The result has been that I've been a lot more relaxed.  And I don't think we've been working together less frequently, except on those days when we go to a concert or something.  I, being a type A perfectionist, would prefer to do formal schoolwork on those days, too.  But Chana wouldn't.  And if I recall from Sarah's homeschool days, trying to cram work into days when we had trips often just made me tense and the kids miserable.

So now I don't think much about it.  Chana recruits me probably about as frequently as I recruit her.  And I'm not responsible for her time management.  Which is a happier way for both of us.

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