When all six are around sometimes it's easy to get impatient with the little ones. Why can't they grow up quickly so we can play big kid games without the tiny pieces flying or papers being wrinkled or things lost. Or we could play sports as a family or go on longer hikes if the little ones could keep up. But when the big kids are gone I remember how precious the first few years are. I like reading picture books. I like snuggling and rocking. I like holding hands and pushing swings and braiding hair. Play dough, crayons, paint, bubble baths-messy maybe, but fun and relaxing. Toddlers think I'm funny and like to dance with me. They trust me. Little ones don't talk back and roll eyes either...unless they are copying a big kid. :) Yes, baby days are sweet. Let's not rush.
I always start my morning in the Word and journal. After breakfast with the family and getting the two oldest off to school, I realized it was time to revisit some books that have been collecting dust on the shelf for awhile. We had been using the NIV for our family devotions at the beginning of our homeschool day. With the older ones gone, I remembered it had been a long time since we had read through a children's Bible. The younger kids are really enjoying it. They know most of the stories, but a few are new. They beg me to keep reading every morning. After lunch we have another read aloud time. Again the realization that the younger ones wouldn't remember going through the little house books, caused me to reach for those coverless treasures. Always a good read. Grandpa's sled and the pig had us all laughing out loud. In the evening when the older kids are here, before bed we are reading The Hiding Place. I love good books.
Sometimes life takes unexpected twists and turns. Am I flexible enough to bend and flow? Or will I be rigid and brittle and break? We may think we know what's best, but God has a way of reminding us his ways are not our ways and his thoughts not our thoughts. I had thought I would homeschool my children all the way through to graduation. I thought there would come a time when my older children would begin to teach their younger siblings and take initiative to head up their own learning. I thought I would become good friends with my children once much of the training had taken place and they would see service within our home as joy. These things did come in a measure, but my children are not puppets. They have desires of their own, and they have voices. My oldest let hers ring clear that she really wanted to go to public school. I did everything I could to talk her out of it but she was adamant. I told her to pray about it, and I continued to do the same. God began to ask me questions. What would it look like if they never tested their wings until after graduation? Do you really want six kids living with you forever? Do you want them to be blindly obedient or do you want them to be able to make wise decisions? When can they start making their big decisions? Are you training them in the way THEY should go or in the way YOU would go? Do you trust me enough to take care of your children when you are not around, or are they only safe where you can see them? What if I want to introduce them to people and experiences outside your home that will profoundly impact them and therefore bless those around them? What if keeping them at home begins to crunch who I've made them to be and they begin rebelling to be heard and it negatively affects your family dynamics? What about the younger ones? Are you able to give them what they need when you are striving so hard to keep the older ones growing? Would the world fall apart if you let them make this decision and are there to help them through it? So, we set up entrance to public school-in November no less! Couldn't we have waited till a new school year? Trust. After the ball was rolling our second child decided he wanted to go as well. This was a bit if a surprise as he tends to be more introverted. Somehow the decision to let him go was a little easier. Now there would be two. They could at least know their sibling was down the hall and catch the bus together. I taught them in the same level at home so now I could just forget 5th grade and focus on the younger ones. Sure. Then our oldest decided she wanted to stay home. She changed her mind every day for several days and time was running out. We had a start date and things at home were rocky.
I finally said, "the decision has been made. You will start Wednesday."
" What?! You're making me go to school? I thought it was my choice! This is junk. I don't want to go!!"She became very angry and declared she wasn't going. I knew part of this was a control battle and preadolescent hormones. That didn't make the next few days any easier. I also firmly believed now that she would enjoy public more and that inside that was her real choice. I also felt that this was the route we were to be taking as a family. So yes, I forced her to go to school! The first morning she was up at 5:30 waking up her brother and preparing to go. She was ready two hours early. She came home from school talking a mile a minute and was ready early the rest of the week. She hasn't said it but I think so far she's glad I 'forced' her. Her brother also has said its awesome and is ready to go each day. At home, I am amazed at the release I feel. I enjoy the younger grades. I enjoy feeling like I can relax and take more one on one time on the couch with each child. There just never seemed like enough time with six. Now, I know some families are able to work well with six or more at home, but I'll admit it. I was stressed! I have also been dealing with a seemingly never ending poison ivy battle since a recent move in April, the side effects of medicines for that and other circumstances that are part of all our worlds. God knows what we can and cannot handle and always finds a way. I'm sure there will be stressful days still. I'm sure there will be days getting kids to school will be a fight. I'm sure sometimes they will come home tired and fussy. I'm sure there will be issues we need to face that we may not have had if we all stayed home. I'm sure there will be family trips we have to skip or reschedule due to a public school schedule. But, we will keep pressing on and trusting that in all things God is working for our good!
Ps-Someone may ask-Where was your husband in these decisions? He was right here and we made decisions together. He has always said as far as school goes, he didn't feel like he could homeschool our children but if I wanted to, he was fine with that. He would make it possible for me to do so. He also said, if there ever came a day I felt I couldn't or that they would be better off elsewhere, he understood and would support me in that. He has prayed with me and heard me cry. He has listened to all sides and stood by as a strong covering. Leading confidently by handing the education of our children primarily to me and not trying to control like I would have if the roles were reversed.