Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Feeling great

I'm feeling so great about my life right now. I quit a job I didn't love. It did give my family security, it paid our rent and it provided schooling for all my children, but it frustrated me so much I was not loving my life anymore.
Do I have a right to make changes to my life so that I can love my life again? 
What if those changes make some members of my family less happy?
I struggled with those questions before I actually quit. I was really afraid to quit because Jonathan didn't really want me to. I was also afraid that my kids might miss the friends they had made during the past 5 months. In the end, my employer made it easy for me to quit because he wouldn't let my kids go to school anymore. They didn't have proper documents to attend school in Turkey. Rather than help us figure it all out, they chose to kick my kids out and have us magically take care of it ourselves. Let me tell you that Turkey, along with a lot of other countries, is a place where you don't want to maneuver immigration issues without a Turkish hand to hold. We found a great lawyer and are working on it, still.

Meanwhile, we've been home-schooling. Taking this on in Turkey where we lack the resources I'm used to, like libraries, museums, a homeschooling community and a car has been difficult but I look to my past experiences for strength.

Three essential experiences have given me the know-how to do this. First, I tried to do the homeschooling thing for a year back in 2011-12. That was the year that Helen was born. Overall it was a bad experience for me. I learned that I didn't like ignoring some of my kids to teach others. The only parts I really enjoyed were the huge road trips I planned in my nice van. There were some excellent outcomes in the end. Cinci taught himself to read during all that time I was ignoring him. I was able to help Atticus with some dyslexia issues. The kids got to watch their 8 month pregnant mom do some seriously crazy things on our road trips to National Parks. The kids did some crazy things too. Now that I think about it, I was a pretty smart mom for doing that when I could.

Second, I got myself a Masters in Education and found out what real learning is all about these days. I learned a lot of what I wished I'd known before I home-schooled in 2011-2012. I really hated sitting down all the time in front of the computer doing homework. I got fatter as I spent more time learning about learning but in the end it has paid off. Perhaps not with money, but with confidence. Confidence that I can actually teach my kids anything in the world if I needed to. Oh yeah, and I could probably get a job with that degree.

And finally, the crowning event in my life that pushed me into this predicament of home-schooling again was working at a Turkish private school. Children who attend these schools walk away with a very strong cultural education. Fortunately, Turkish people are kind people. They share EVERYTHING! When someone cries, everyone cares. When someone gets a headache, a friend or two will escort them to the school nurse. They love Ataturk, the founder of their republic. They are patriotic. They are clean. They are friendly and talkative. They are confident in themselves and in their actions, even if they shouldn't be. I had a problem working there because I wasn't able to comfortably teach in a school where the parents dictated my limits. The idea that you relinquish your authority as a parent the minute you drop your kid off at school is unheard of here. The fearful question, "What will the student say to their parents?" hung over every teachers head after each conflict with a student. There was NO discipline (because we weren't allowed to enforce any) and therefore no leverage for an EFL teacher. Maybe because I couldn't bend to their educational expectations, I couldn't continue. As a parent, I wasn't worried about my children's progress. I hadn't expected them to maintain the same pace they had in America. The clincher was the embarrassing reality that I was identifying myself with an organization such as this private school that flattered parents and lied to students about their real educational strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I'm an idealist. Maybe I strive for something that doesn't exist. Either way, I walked away and now I have already begun to enjoy the Turkey that I knew was here the whole time. I just never had any time to notice it because I was at work all the time.

Now I am responsible for what my kids learn. Jonathan has kindly stepped in to teach them about the American government. I spend some of my mornings making breakfast and correcting math. Other mornings I'm pushing myself through tight crowds on the bus to get to my new job. Sometimes I have time to buy a warm "pogaca", a Turkish bread, with toasted sesame seeds on top and cheese in the middle. The baker gives it to me in a small white paper bag with a napkin and sends me on my way. Everyone is on the move and in a hurry in Istanbul. I am too. But it feels great. For now, I'll work where I want to work and I'll teach my kids until they get permission to attend a school again. I know its hard for Jonathan because his research slows down when the kids don't go to school. But he's a good man and is making the most of this situation by showing the kids things like this:

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