Last year was our first year of homeschooling. I really didn’t talk too much about it as the year went on, mainly because I was trying to keep my head above water and it wasn’t going well at all…but I managed to write one post about half way through to give an update after we got through the worst parts.
I figured I’d share more of the story here now, as we start year #2 we have higher hopes and a lot of failed experiences to draw from. We can only go up from here right??? 🙂
To begin I want to state that I was one of the least likely people ever to homeschool. I vehemently disliked the idea, for a variety of reasons, and can vividly remember promising over and over again that I would never ever ever do it….and……..sometimes I think God allows us to boast in our foolishness before He humbles us and makes us eat our words.
So how did I get here?? How am I now exactly the thing I swore I’d never be???
God’s grace. ALL grace.
Two years ago the older three kids, for all independent and unrelated reasons, requested to be homeschooled. I had Kate, then 10 at the time, saying she, because of the intense ballet schedule, missed time at home. I know that she will soon be a teenager and likely will want to spend far more time out of the house than in, so I knew I needed to hear her request to be with us at home more. It was either lessen her time for dance or try to teach her…
For Kai, he had quite an unkind teacher that year. I volunteered a number of times in his class and was shocked at the amount of children crying each day. She was stern, overly so, and lacked compassion for children who struggled to learn the concepts she taught. I think she may have lost the joy of her profession. By the end of the year he had lost his love for learning. He had become afraid to even try…
For Corban…he is so people friendly and intuitively aware of other people’s feelings and emotions that he would spend so much time analyzing his teacher and classmates that he forgot to listen! I could tell he was dropping behind the norm and he began to know it as well.
A few other reasons:
The amount of homework that was given at our school for those early elementary years was intense. By the time we got through everyone’s assignments the entire afternoon was gone! I realized that if I spent the same amount of time teaching those same concepts in the morning we would have the whole afternoon to play.
Also, their little school had staggered drop off/pick ups. Had I put all four kids in school I wouldn’t have been able to go far at all as I would have been tethered to my house so as not to miss one of the scheduled times.
I mulled over all of these factors in my mind the entire summer….playing out worst case and best case scenarios in my mind and deciding for certain what to do, only to change my mind in the next 30 seconds…I felt insane at times.
The clock was ticking and the close of summer was quickly approaching. I had to make a decision.
I remember taking a trip to the mountains at the end of the summer with the family and talking with Matt about it on the way. He finally asked me what the greater regret would be; trying and failing or never trying at all.
Clarity finally came: I knew at that moment that I wanted to at least try.
But when I really boiled it down…the main reason I eventually decided to homeschool is that that I finally quit. I’d finally had enough. The pace with five kids in sports and dance and juggling that with naps and meal times and cleaning schedules and grocery shopping and errands and family time was proving to be a dance I didn’t care to participate in. It wasn’t life giving. It wasn’t fun. I missed having more control over what we did and when we did it.
We also began church planning that year…and our service was at night. I knew we needed flexibility to be able to keep the kids up late and not have to hurry out the door each Monday. With Matt’s odd ministry schedule, sports and dance we needed to make sure we were more intentional than ever with how we spent our time.
So, I quit the rat race, the fast paced, the running around like madd to get everyone to all.the.places. to do all.the.things. I had had enough of the rushing, the pressing, and the fanatic stressed out life that school, projects, sports, early mornings, late dinners and around-the-clock-ministry required. I grew tired of having to do what everyone else told me to do and finally decided to make some decisions for the good of the entire family, including me.
I felt free. And finally like I was able to take control back of what had become an insane lifestyle. I wanted slower, more meaningful moments together as a family. I wanted to create the time to teach my kids things that the rat-race life style just didn’t/couldn’t allow. I wanted to set up an environment where I could have a better chance at making the changes I wanted to see in our home.
What that meant, though, is that I needed to learn a lot and grow a lot to make those changes possible. And I needed to do that FAST. You see, I made that decision the week before normal public school was supposed to start…which meant all the kids in the neighborhood went to class while we stayed at home trying to figure out what in the world we were supposed to do.
I knew I needed to figure stuff out fast, so I did what every normal mom would do….I put a comment out on Facebook asking for help, cuz we all know how accurate internet opinions are…
It didn’t take long before the responses and feedback came pouring in….but what surprised me was how different all of the feedback was. Women with the best of intentions would read comments left by other women and privately email me to share why they disagreed with other women…and then other women would email me to let me know they disagreed with the other women…it became overwhelming in a hot NY minute…why I didn’t see that coming is beyond me….(insert Matt’s “I told you so.”)
I then stayed awake for 3 nights straight pouring over the internet looking through curriculum choices. I finally put together my order of what I thought were good choices and sent it off to the gal who was assigned our family. Not having any idea what to expect I was hoping to get our order in the mail within the next 1-2 weeks.
However, that is not how that went down….much to my surprise I received an email 4 weeks later stating that my order had just been submitted. And it then took another 2 months for us to get all of our materials in…which put us into mid-November before we really even got started.
In the meantime I had decided to forget FB wisdom and put all of my hope into the charter staff. However it took me until February to realize the person we answered to didn’t truly know how to homeschool either, her oldest only in 1st grade.
I would often ask questions about what to do with my older kids and her response was that she could just go ask some other moms…(same problem that I had with the FB posts—too many, many, many mixed opinions….)
I felt frazzled, angry and constantly behind. Most of the year was a lesson in me learning to “unschool” myself (not so much the kids) and let go of all expectations. By the time we got our books I was mad, and rushed, and had lost a piece of my soul as I tried to learn to teach as fast as possible. I really didn’t have any support and I constantly felt like I was failing…failing the kids and failing as a teacher…but also failing as a mom.
My original goal of eliminating the rat race was gone.
My temper was short and I often voiced my frustration with everyone for not rushing as quickly as I had thought necessary through the assignments to get caught up. I pushed too many lessons and burned everyone out. I didn’t know how to manage everyone and every day felt like it just wasn’t working. (insert many, many tears….)
Finally I called up my friend and by the end of the call it was clear as day who had the problem…it wasn’t my kids, it was me. I had allowed myself to get so caught up in making sure we were “on track” (whatever that means anyway) that I’d lost my joy in teaching/learning. Man I had a lot of apologizing to do.
That day I decided to loosen up quite a bit and to reset my expectations for the last 2-3 months of school.
It went much, much better, and even though I know there was a lot we could have done better, we were able to enjoy one another again…
(I’ll share in the next post what we changed over the summer to prepare for this year, as well as our curriculum choices and why we made the adjustments we did….)