Our third day of school was far from ideal – Big Brother awoke in a funk that lingered through the morning and struggled with letting me be in charge  – but it was a potent reminder to me to not lose sight of what truly matters.

We are homeschooling because (among many reasons) we believe it is best suited to meet Big Brother’s needs (gifted, ADHD, SPD, anxiety). We are using a Waldorf approach and working to establish a rhythm because we believe it will best meet his needs. We take what works and leave what doesn’t; we are flexible and eclectic – no purists here! So when Little Brother throws the yarn and demands my attention be on him, and Big Brother is completely distracted and trying to make circle time be what he wants it to be, and nobody cares about the lesson I have prepared… I can step back and let it be. 

This morning I battled anger and even hurt feelings (Big Brother turned down a plate of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread because, “It’s not what I was expecting for breakfast.”); I even shouted a few times as chaos overwhelmed our space. A moment of clarity came (thankfully) and I found myself grounded and calm; fighting wasn’t going to get anybody anywhere. In reflection I’ve realized that many of today’s issues likely stem from Big Brother’s anxiety over this change in routine. He loves what we’re doing, but it’s still a change; he doesn’t yet know what to expect so I shouldn’t be surprised when he tries to control what we do. 

Giving him something to expect – a rhythm – is exactly why we’ve chosen a Waldorf approach. Big Brother needs the security of rhythm; he also needs some structure and someone telling him what to do. An Unschooling approach wasn’t working for him because it placed so much responsibility on his small, anxious shoulders. Giving him almost 100% free reign did NOT produce the secure, confident, happy child I expected; I think it actually contributed to his extreme anxiety and resulted in a nervous, hair-trigger temperament that made everyone unhappy and frustrated. I can already tell that BB is over the moon with pleasure because I’m taking charge and leading him through the day with firm-but-loving intention. He may fight me tooth and nail because the sudden shift in control is scary, but he does so in a different way than before. He feels more secure on so many levels. Since we spend more time connecting, he seeks out even more opportunities to connect; his spontaneous hugs, kisses, cuddles and other ways of showing affection have dramatically increased. Showing affection appropriately is something he’s struggled with since I came into his life when he was not-quite two; together we have learned about the importance of connection and how Create it. I’m tickled to see we’ve found the next step in this journey.

I know Unschooling works for others (I would have loved it as a kid), but apparently it’s not right for our family. Maybe I was doing it wrong, maybe I was too radical or not radical enough; at this point it doesn’t matter. Unschooling taught me many good lessons and has helped me work toward a balanced, realistic approach to Waldorf homeschooling (Waldorf can be a bit stodgy and fantastically purist at times). Now I can I let the boys watch Netflix or play video games after we finish finger knitting or reading stories about elves and not feel guilt or worry about being Waldorf enough. It’s all about balance!