Your situation sounds very similar to ours. My son went from a vibrant, happy, magical kid to a joyless boy with little curiosity and a ton of anxiety. School wanted him on ritalin, they wanted him tutored, they wanted him in therapy, and like an idiot I went along with it. Fortunately for both of us, I eventually woke up and saw my actual child. He was miserable. His life was awful - one dreary obligation after the other, forced to do things he hated by those more powerful, stretching out endlessly before him into the foreseeable future. It knocked the wind out of me - I'd been making the demands of the system more important than the needs of my child! This realization forced me to rethink everything about learning and living -- made me really look at the things I had just gone mindlessly along with throughout my life and his. It's a profound source of regret that it took me so long to recognize it. How could I be so blind? How could keeping to
the conventional path be more important than his well-being? It really stuns me.
We also had a lot of conflict between us -- it seemed I was constantly engaged in power struggles over homework, bathing, food, bedtimes, practicing violin. In TV families, fighting and wrestling with your child like this meant you were a good, caring parent. The real-life truth was, he didn't trust me. Why should he? He was in my hands and his life was hell. I had the power to help him, and I wasn't using it.
He was 11 when I took him out of school and we started deschooling, big time. It's been about 18 months and we are just recently coming out of it into unschooling. He's needed the last year or so to heal and rediscover himself and his own interests. I've needed this time to reorient myself to a new way of thinking, not just about learning, but about love and relationships and how to be trustworthy. For about 8 or 9 months, Oscar just basked in the comfort of movies, TV, and video games and experimented with his sleeping schedule. He didn't want to "learn" anything (although he did learn a lot anyway from Dr. Who and Star Trek, the Suite Life of Zach and Cody and The Amazing Race and the hundreds of conversations we had as I kept him company). How could he think about learning when he'd been in in such distress for so long? How could he think about learning when he'd been cut off from his own curiosity by the adults around him who frogmarched him from
one boring study unit to the next since he was 5? He'd been too busy trying to survive emotionally to focus on anything else. That has now changed and he has many interests - baking, voice-acting, chemistry, comedy writing, the Rennaisance (thanks, Merlin and the BBC!), and on and on. He had to find a peaceful home in himself before he could start to decorate it with knowledge.
I am a single working mother unschooling. You can do it. Create a space at your business where she can nestle up and heal. Fill it with books and games, dvds, craft kits - whatever she enjoys when given a choice. Fill it with snacks. Order delivery to share a few times a week. My life with my child is absolutely wonderful now. I earned back his trust and he is just flourishing. His curiosity has returned with a vengeance. But it took patience from me, plus faith in my child's inherent worth and goodness. More faith than I had in society's methods and mandates.
And if you're worried about learning, Oscar just had to take a test as part of our state home shooling laws. He's right on target - around the middle for math and language and the top 20% for reading. That means that, without one single work sheet or pop quiz or mind-numbing lecture, he's doing as well as all those kids logging their 35 hours plus a week of institutional drills (and waking up at 7am, and needing permission to eat or pee, and some suffering bullying...)
Bring her home, surround her with peace and joy. Don't fight with her. Just love her. There is much more at stake here than her "education."
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