Why we chose uncertain happiness over certain unhappiness:
As Natalie’s 6th grade class began to focus on “preparing” students for middle school, Natalie stopped enjoying her most-loved pursuits: playing the piano, reading, and drawing in her sketchbook. My heart ached as I watched her arrive home from school each day looking as depleted as the most overworked adult I knew. Right before my eyes, I watched as she moved further away from the inquisitive, happy, and adventurous learner she was to a tentative, fearful, and cautious student. I was worried about her and angry that stress was such an acceptable condition in our culture, which seems to believe that stuffing as much as possible into each day means we are accomplishing more.
As memories of my own unhappy middle school years rose to the surface, my intuition as a mother insisted I find a solution. The teacher in me believed key subjects were overlooked at this turning point in everyone’s life, while my experience as a filmmaker challenged me to think outside the well-trodden path. Furthermore, as my 50th birthday approached, I had an increasing desire to find balance in mind, body and spirit not just for myself, but my family.
Thus, I proposed an idea to William, my UCLA Film Professor husband. What if we “skipped middle school” and homeschooled Natalie during 7th and 8th grade? I believed it was the best chance for Natalie to rediscover her joy of living and learning. I hoped home schooling would allow our family to seek and practice balance in a frantic society that Alexis de Tocqueville aptly described as “at once agitated and monotonous.” If I had been told at that moment that skipping middle school would turn out to be life changing for Natalie and me I would not have been surprised. What was entirely unexpected was that skipping middle school would turn out to be life-saving as well. Opening the door to the unknown — choosing “uncertain happiness” over “certain unhappiness” — we took our first steps toward living, loving & learning and found much more than we had hoped for, including health and happiness.