Ever since I was a "wee thing" I knew what I wanted to do. I declared it loud and clear. "I want to grow up and be a housewife and homeschool my kids." And I did.
Somehow it didn't go as I had planned. I was homeschooled myself till 4th grade. I had plenty of experience working with kids. I had read many books. I should know how to do it well. Indeed, for many years homeschooling did go really well.
But there were a lot of variables I didn't expect. I didn't plan to move 13 times in the first 13 years of marriage. I didn't plan to have 6 kids one right after the other, either. I didn't plan for marriage to be so hard or to need to work outside the home for seasons.
In some ways, despite these variables, homeschooling was still the best fit for our family. It was less hectic than getting everyone out the door everyday or waking sleeping infants to follow someone else's schedule. And the kids weren't pulled and shifted from school to school during moves. And we could learn what we were interested in, at our pace.
The biggest challenge though, came from my children. Who would have thought the kids wouldn't want to be homeschooled!? And even if they didn't, shouldn't they honor their mother? Wasn't I a good enough Christian to keep my children in line?
But try as I might, my oldest vowed and declared homeschool was not for her. She fought and she fussed and she fumed. She made life miserable. And she took all my attention.
Character is the number one subject to attack... ahem...address...in homeschool isn't it? Once that is under control everything else will go smoothly, right? So, we had character development training opportunities day in and day out. That is tiring. And my fuse ran low without me realizing it. The other five were not getting what they needed or deserved and I didn't know what to do.
Finally, I read, "Drive out the mocker and out goes strife," and I immediately knew what I must do. And a strange sense of peace came over me.
Our children are not robots after all. They have free choice. God's children all do. Adam and Eve did. Jesus did. Isn't God big enough to keep them even if they aren't under our constant supervision? Even under my supervision I can't force them to do things against their will all their life and even if I could I couldn't guarantee they'd turn out any certain way anymore than I could if they went to public school. And why not let them begin to discover the consequences and blessings of their own decision making while still home under our roof.
So, I said she could go. This decision was obviously after much prayer and discussion with my husband who basically gives the reins of schooling our children over to me and encourages me to do the best I see fit.
Soon after I told her that, my second child came to me and asked if he could go as well. This surprised me as this child seemed generally more shy and content where he was and he had not been begging for years to go. But as they were basically on the same scholastic level at that time, I could just forget that grade and focus on the younger ones for once. And wouldn't there be safety in numbers if they went together?
To sting my pride just a little more it was November. Not even the beginning of a school year. Life goes on.
They loved public school. That hurt just a little. They were top of their classes and the teachers couldn't praise them enough so my pride was redeemed a bit.
On the home front things were peaceful. It was amazing how much can get done and how much learning can happen when there isn't one going against the grain.
Yet, God wasn't done working on me. As the year played out and stories of glories came home from the public schoolers, the ones at home began to wonder what they were missing out on and begging to go as well.
By the time the next year started I was sending four to public school including a first grader! I kept the kindergardner and toddler home with me.
What a different year it has been. Clothing has to be neater. Kids siting in desks aren't as hard on clothing as kids romping through grass and mud. Breakfast time was non-negotiable. Homework (especially for the younger grades) required almost as much if not more work from mom than homeschool did. Costs of field trips and keeping up with necessities that weren't necessities before became expensive. There were no big kids at home to buckle seat belts, tie shoes, watch the littles for a minute or to "help me with this, please."
There were also benefits. The house was quieter. Once I got the house clean it stayed clean for longer. It was easier to go shopping or do certain things with only two verses six tag alongs. And I enjoy kindergarten and preschool fun especially when no big kids are around to declare the activities uncool or boring.
I have to admit though, that my soul was on a roller coaster. I thought I knew what I was going to be doing for the next 16 years or so. Did God have something else in store now? What should I be doing? Did I fail? This time around the two new public schoolers were not top of their classes to start but were jumping by leaps and bounds through the year. Had I left them that far behind? Was the school teaching them so much more than I had? What did next year hold? Should I send them all and go get a job?
I had to let go. Then November hit again and the first grader began to have second thoughts about public school. Homework and every morning became a terror. It was all I could do to encourage- and bribe -and force her to go through till Christmas break. We hoped the break would be enough of a recharge to ignite a desire to finish out the year. But it wasn't. Fight after fight ensued. We tried to work through friend issues and not so friend issues. We made sure it wasn't a specific teacher, we tried a new outfit and changing routine so we could eliminate the bus ride. Each effort was met with short lived success followed by dramatic crashes.
Soon after Valentine's we had a particularly rough evening and as I lay beside my daughter, both of us in tears, begging God for wisdom, I heard "Do everything in love." I knew it wasn't love forcing her to finish the year. It was pride. What would people think of us, never able to finish things?
Truth is, she hadn't truly know what she was getting into and she was in first grade. A year is forever at that age and I suddenly hated to think of requiring her to finish a year out for the sake of pride. Why make her hate school all the more and possibly cause her to hate me in the process. Why not let her come home now. I went down stairs and the first words out of my husband's mouth were "I know it's not my call because you're the one home with them, but why not let her come home to finish out the year?" Confirmation. Two days later, at the end of the week, she came home.
Then the fifth grader surprised me again. He said he wanted to come back home for middle school. He wanted to learn at his own pace, faster. He wanted more exercise. He wanted more library and reading time. He didn't like the boy-girl drama of public school or the foolish teasing and perveted joking. And finally he didn't like hearing lies from the teachers specifically in Science class.
How could I argue with that? But then he began to despise finishing out the year. I told him he was old enough to know what he was signing up for and he had gone a half year the year before so he needed to finish what he started. At first he was ok with that, but as the weeks drug on he, he could hardly wait to be home again. In fact he started playing sick every couple of weeks to get a day off. He finally declared one day he simply wasn't going back to school the next day.
Now we had a problem. I about lost it. I was angry and snappy. "You are Not quitting mid-year!" But in the back of my mind, I was yelling at God. "Seriously?! You are going to make me change my life mid-stream again?! Will you leave no shred of pride left in me? What will people think?" I cried out for wisdom both directly from God and from my husband and a few friends. By the end of the day God worked a miracle.
This day that started out as a horrendous anger bomb became a wonderful teaching tool. I sat down with my son and encouraged his maturity in deciding to homeschool through middle school and his reasons for doing so. Then, I told him how disappointed I was in this uncharacteristic display of disrespect from him. I told him this was a big decision and was not as simple as deciding one day to quit. I told him we need to pray and talk about it. I declared a compromise. I would pray, trying to lean towards bringing him home with only ten weeks left, if he would go to school the rest of the week (4 days) and pray with an open mind for God to lead him either direction as well. He begrudgingly agreed.
Throughout the week we prayed together and talked about big decision making. We learned how to make a pros and cons list. We talked about how our decisions affect other people. Mom's schedule to teach. The others at home. The kids at school who would miss him. The atmosphere of the classroom where he is a leader, and so forth. We talked about what would need to happen legistically. We asked God for words, signs and His leading.
I could tell something was changing because my son was softening but not talking to me. I didn't press him until Friday.
"What had God been showing you?" I knew I was believing that he needed to finish out the year. There was no real good reason not to and plenty of good reason to complete the year.
"What did God show you?" My son countered.
"He has showed me that he told you something but you don't want to share."
He bobbed his head shyly.
"Yeah, I think he wants me to finish the year public."
"Really? How do you know?"
"He showed me a picture."
Praise you God! From this one who says God never speaks to him...
So, here we are in the final stretch of the year. And the fourth grader has decided he also wants to come home next year through middle. Only our oldest continues to staunchly defend her decision towards public. And you know what? That's ok. She'll be fine. We will enjoy her when she's home but homeschool works a whole lot better when all involved are of the same mindset and working to get towards the same goal. And God very well may have a plan for our oldest in the public realm right now that no one else can fill. Or he may be doing things in her that she just couldn't have gotten at home or building relationships she needs for future. I don't know, but I'm not going to control it. God can handle that, and I'll just praise him where I am and do the best I can with what he has put in my hands.
And the year "off" certainly provided some new perspective and even a few extra moments to breath and think and recharge myself. I certainly don't think I can do this on my own anymore. In fact, I've been seeking much wisdom from God because i know I can't do it without him.
As I keep asking, confirmation keeps coming. The $80 per year math curriculum I desired, was found at $30 for two years. A friend gifted me with almost 250 " living " books, just what I had been hoping for and wondering how I would find or afford. And a Peace that passes understanding hangs around. We're still in a smallish house. The kids don't always get along. My husband is sometimes so busy we don't see him in daylight for days and weeks. I don't know all the details yet, but God is taking care of them little by little, and he'll continue. I know he will. I choose to believe even when I do get scared and nervous. :)
(This entry was actually created spring 2015. The saga continued and further updates to come.)