Surviving the Terrible Twelves

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.


I feel like I've gotten pretty good at the terrible twos and emotional threes, having gone through them quite a few times now. But, I gotta say, my first time through was NOT a great success. My oldest was an especially challenging toddler, and I took everything he did really personally, and reacted to him very emotionally.

You'd think maybe I could have anticipated the terrible twelves and emotional thirteens. But I was pretty much just as blindsided this time around. And I handled it just about as well.

Eight years ago, when I was first beginning my homeschooling journey, I got a lot of advice and heard a lot of stories of other people's experiences. Some of that was helpful, some was not as helpful. One anecdote in particular really stuck with me, just kind of simmering, but I didn't know what to do with it.

I wanted to ignore it, or figure it wouldn't apply to me . . . but it came from a woman I really admired. She told me that she had helped found an independent Catholic school that she could send her older kids to, primarily because she got to a point with her middle school aged sons where exerting the authority over them that was necessary for successful homeschooling wasn't worth the toll it took on their mother-son relationship.

I've read the blog posts, I know about always meaning what you say.

I figured we'd be fine.

And for quite a while, we were. My oldest has never been an EASY guy to teach, but I like a challenge. He's very bright, and confident to a fault, and has always been hard to motivate, especially for things he believes to be not worth his time. Each year, we'd have a crisis or two (or six) that would require dad's involvement to sort out. But we were mostly making it work. His academics were on track. And our personal relationship was solid.

Then, as he approached puberty, everything changed in subtle but profound ways. He's a good and responsible and fun and helpful kid, but it seemed like all of a sudden, he had this biological need to not be bossed around all day by his mother anymore.

Getting him through a school day became increasingly difficult, and required more and more pushing from me, resulting in more and more push back from him. That meant I had less time for my other students, and less patience for everyone.

In the moment, again, I was taking it personally, and reacting emotionally.

But the more I thought about it, the more his behavior made sense . . . this wasn't just simple laziness or rebellion, this was him trying to become a young man.

For most of human history, children were under the supervision of their mothers and the other womenfolk until ten or twelve. But then, the boys would get to leave the domain of women and assist their fathers with work on the farm, or be apprenticed to a blacksmith, or shipped off as a cabin boy, or accepted into a school of witchcraft and wizardry. But wherever they went, it meant they weren't spending all day long being dominated by their moms. My son just couldn't handle it. And I wasn't sure our relationship could handle it either.

Last year we tried doing online classes, in the hopes that some outside authority figures would help. But . . . it's still homeschooling, and homeschooling online teachers are pretty chill. So, the buck still stopped with me. And it was hard to leave that baggage behind and just be mother and son at the end of the day. The negatives of homeschooling felt like they were outweighing the positives.

So, just for my oldest, we have decided to make the jump into "real school." We are moving to a different part of town so that he can start eighth grade at the school my friend helped found fourteen years ago. I'm sure packing up and moving house and enrolling in private school isn't the only solution to this issue (and that it just isn't an option for all families).

If my son were a differently motivated kind of guy, I think a very student-led approach to homeschooling could be a success at this age. But I don't think it would be a success for him. Tutors, or a co-op, or more involvement from dad could have helped I'm sure. But this has seemed like it will be the best solution for OUR family.

We have always taken homeschooling one year at a time. And we figured traditional school was always a possibility for our older kids. I'm more of a lifestyle homeschooler than an ideological one, anyway.

And I'll still have plenty of students at home. We plan to evaluate them individually, when the time comes, and with their input, to determine when and if they'll make the same transition. Maybe some of them will homeschool through high school. We'll have to wait and see.

Now I just need to figure out how to be a regular school mom and a homeschool mom and a mom . . . all at the same time. It's possible that there might be other teenage-y things that come up.

And we have to pack up and move.

Wish me luck.