Same Parents, Different Chapter

In my last post, I examined the different experiences of my siblings, and I questioned how birth order impacted our views on homeschooling within the same family.  I referenced several quotes from a New York Times book review that really struck me. Here is one additional quote from the review:

[I]f parents are the fixed stars in the child’s universe, the vaguely understood, distant but constant celestial spheres, siblings are the dazzling, sometimes scorching comets whizzing nearby. And while parents can participate in childhood in an anxious, vicarious way, siblings are there fully, as fellow children. Siblings are the guarantors that the private childhood world — so unlike the adult world that scientists are only just beginning to understand it — is a fully shared and objective one. — ALISON GOPNIK

I have spent the last week romanticizing siblings and focusing on the story of my sisters and me.  But when I heard a compelling interview this week with Lauren Sanders, author of the book One and Only, about the benefits and freedom of raising an only child, and of being one, I deeply related to Sanders’ description of her lifestyle:

Our family life, busy with plentiful travel, the delights of urban living, late night rock shows and dinner parties, and the frequent freedom to binge on a novel over a weekend, allows as much freedom and pleasure as parenting without a trust fund could possibly offer. — Having it All by Raising Only One?

This is my picture of my husband and I, continuing our lives into parenthood. But, like many people who are close to their siblings, it’s hard for me to picture having just one!  As I continued to read Sanders, I felt that there were a number of points she made that were related to arguments I’ve heard made against homeschooling:

It seems the more of a parent you are, the less you are of anything else.

Meanwhile, over the past century, adulthood has come to promise more than just duty, but pleasure.  We envision a liberated existence, one of satisfaction and fulfillment, a life built upon intentionality and individualism rather than obligation and role filling. This liberated adulthood exists at odds with parenting. — Lauren Sanders

I have heard again and again from peers with kids that homeschooling sounds like a loss of independence, a loss of themselves, potentially, into a fully enveloping, non-stop circus of parenting. It made me wonder if Sanders’ arguments for stopping with one kid was a good solution for young, urban homeschooling parents as well?  Or do more parents-of-one feel a stronger need for the community of an institution? …Desiring peer-contact and peer-culture?

All of this brings me back to the conversation with my sister Whitney, the third girl in our family, born seven years after me. As an adult, having three kids seems like a lot to me! How did having a third kid, nine years after her first, change my mother’s life? And how did my mother’s changing life impact Whitney’s homeschooling?

three sisters

Mindy, me & Whitney — MOMA, New York, 2011

Lindsey: I’m curious what your thoughts are looking back at the journal Mom kept in 1987, before you were born. Does she seem different from the mom you remember when you were little?
Whitney:  Yeah, I think I experienced a very different homeschooling mom from you older two. Not better or worse, but different. Maybe a little more split-focused. The homeschooling group was popping when I was a kid, and a big part of that was Mom, I think. Also, a lot of my “learning time” was split with you and Mindy. I probably had a lot more unsupervised free play than you guys.
Lindsey:  I wonder if your independence helped to set your focus so intensely on dance. If you had had a constant playmate the way Mindy and I did, in each other, maybe you wouldn’t have needed to go outside the house for a focus and passion in the same way?
Whitney:  Yeah, maybe. But you were a big reason why I started dance classes, too, remember?
Lindsey:  Oh, right. I guess I forget that. You took dancing so far beyond where I ever took it!
Whitney:  Yeah, I fell in love. Like how you fell in love with your art. I found my niche, I was a natural mover.
Lindsey:  Do you want to have kids of your own someday?
Whitney:  I do. I’m in no rush at all!  But I think about the direction I would go with my own kids, and homeschooling is definitely on my mind. In my new dance job with Disney, I’ve already met five other girls who homeschooled. I brought this question up to them, and they agreed that homeschooling is on their minds when they have children, too.  But they say they won’t really know the right path until they’re face-to-face with it.
Lindsey:  I think it’s a harder conversation than I anticipated, now that I actually have a career, and a husband, and an annual household income…  But it feels like we inherited a way of life, and I can’t just turn away from that, either. It’s who I am — does that sound cheesy and ridiculous!? Even though, you know, homeschooling wasn’t perfect.
Whitney:  At this point, I can’t imagine ever sending my child to a regular public school, until they change. And I don’t think I’ve always felt that way! Before, I couldn’t picture myself having a career with homeschooled kids.
Lindsey: So what’s the plan now? Homeschool-Sister-Co-op?
Whitney:  Yes! And, keep Mom around.