Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Yesterday morning over toast and jelly, my daughter said, "I'm going to write until noon and then I'll have lunch and take my math test before voice." And I wondered for the hundredth time why I'd waited so long to rescue her from a school system in which she didn't read or write voluntarily and believed that she wasn't good at math.

I've done some pretty crazy things in my life, and for the most part I have no regrets. But I've heard it said that it's the things you don't do that you regret, and I'm beginning to believe that it's true. I started thinking about home schooling when my daughter started middle school, but it wasn't until the middle of 8th grade that I actually pulled her out--and at that point it was more a reaction to untenable circumstances than an actual decision.

As I watch her crank out 1,000+ words on her novel every day, return to her music, return to reading voraciously and tackle math and science reluctantly but diligently and with a new confidence, I very much regret ever having sent her into the morass that is public middle school. And here's the thing: I knew she'd be better off out of school.

At the time, I thought that I was concerned about issues like socialization and how I could manage to home school with a full-time job and sending the wrong message, but in truth those were never my concerns. They were concerns that others voiced so often and so strongly that I started to believe they were real issues. I'm not usually one to substitute other people's judgment for my own, but when it was most important--probably because it was so important--I didn't trust what I knew to be true.

When I was finally making the decision and nearly everyone around me was against it--some to a degree that was outright abusive--I remembered a moment shortly after I separated from my husband. My daughter was understandably going through a rough time then, and everyone had a conflicting opinion about how I should be handling that. My then-husband took a ring my daughter had bought me for Mother's Day a few years earlier--a silver ring with a heart-shaped pink stone that said "Mom" in the band--and put it on my finger. And he said, "YOU are Tori's mother, and you know what's best for her. Don't let anyone make you question that."

Given what so many parents and children go through during separation and divorce, that vote of confidence was a bit emotionally overwhelming in the moment. It was also one I took to heart because it was coming from the person who had lived with us and watched me parent for eight years. But I forgot it, when the judgments started flying from all sides again, and I let myself be swayed by the opinions of people whose judgment I knew I didn't trust.

"Never again" is a big promise, and one that I think most of us make and break at one time or another. But right now, as I listen to my daughter singing while she's doing algebra, I'm trying to stamp those words on my brain and on my heart.

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