As school buses once again begin rumbling down the streets, we are reminded about the privilege and opportunity our family has to homeschool our children.
This week marks the beginning of a new school year for many in our area (and in our social networks), so I thought that would be a fine time share a little more about this aspect of our life.
We began this gloriously challenging adventure halfway through our oldest's first year of kindergarten; he is now entering third grade, which means we are starting our fourth year of home education, our third year of participating in a co-op (Strong Oaks Academy, which kicks off later this month) and our second year balancing the education needs of two full time students (Samuel in third grade, Elisabeth in first grade). Oh! And our first year doing all of this with a crazy, table-climbing, non-stop moving toddler in the mix.
And in case you're wondering, yes, it can be as overwhelming as it sounds. And no, I'm not anymore super-hero empowered than you are. It's just Jesus. ;)
So, why homeschool?
When we initially decided to take Samuel out of public school, we were faced with two options for education - small Christian schools, located about 25-30 minutes from our home, requiring $5,000-$6,000 per school year OR home educate. Gue$$ which one my hu$band liked be$t?? Yup, whichever one did not resemble the beginnings of college tuition.
That's when I found myself baptized into the oceans of homeschool curriculum.
What was so wrong with public school anyway?
Honestly? Nothing. And Everything. All at the same time. We had a fabulous kindergarten teacher; she was awesome and thought highly of Samuel. But between the 25 kids in the a.m. and 25 kids in the p.m., she couldn't provide much one-on-one attention and when we started seeing some downward progression in his behavior and emotions, we found ourselves living reactively to how his half day of kindergarten went and running a post-bus-ride debrief every day. It got to be exhausting.
The Lord had just called me away from vocational ministry with the Northern Kentucky Fellowship of Christian Athletes (something I LOVED, but a passion that simply needed to be tabled for the time being) and I now had the time to see our family needs with less distractions. It became clear that my attention needed to be more focused on our kids' needs and one of those was the character and growth of our oldest son.
There was a time when at the age of 6, children were ready to take off into this big world with a backpack of supplies at their feet as they rode away into the school day on a big yellow bus. But for us, our kid wasn't there yet. Oh sure, he was ready to read, could follow instructions, could tie his shoes, could stand in line and could rock out that cafeteria line at breakfast time (his favorite part of school seriously was the chance to get whatever he wanted from the cafeteria ladies. Cinnamon-roll day was his jam!). But it was his heart and character that needed some more time.
So, the husband and I discussed it and came up with a game plan - we would commit to homeschooling Samuel from kindergarten through 2nd grade. Come 3rd grade, we would evaluate his needs and go from there. We were definitely not planning on being a homeschool family come the high school years. (hehehehehe)
We bought a curriculum set, sought some wise counsel (most of our family did not support this idea) and started down the home education path!
But I would be a lying bag of dog poo if I let you think it was all glitter crafts, advanced learning endeavors and easy-going days of awesome since we began. <Clears throat> It has not been. Throughout our first few years, our days have actually included:
- Arguments. About the proper way to write an "a" or "p" or "q". Or that no matter how you divided it, 2+2 always equaled 4...even if our son did think he discovered a "new way" to add.
- Tears. By the student AND the teacher. He would cry that we did school EVERY DAY (Apparently, only crazy mean people would require school five days a week). I would cry that it wasn't all glitter crafts, advanced learning endeavors and easy-going days of awesome.
- A sense of drowning. No, I didn't ever have the desire to drown my child; it was more, I felt like I was drowning. Many, many times there were days of I felt so overwhelmed by what we weren't getting done and became anxious that I wasn't able to provide our son with the highest quality and most diverse education experience that I imagined someone else could give him.
- No school work. Sick days, errands, or even just emotional apathy could all very easily disrupt our routine and give me more than enough reason to call school off for the day and allow the kids to build a tent and play all day instead.
- Calling in back-up. When you home-educate, you get to be teacher, principal, lunch lady AND parent. This is indeed as amazing as you just imagined. >>sarcasm alert<< I have sent out an emotional SOS to my husband and interrupted his work day without consideration way too many times. I have contacted schools for enrollment information mid-school week, at least once a school year. And I have even outsourced the teaching to my awesomely retired MIL for a week at a time.
So if it can be that crazy, why do you keep doing it?
Great question! You reader friends always have the best questions.
The simple answer: Jesus. The elaborated answer: Obedience.
When we first began, we committed to homeschooling Samuel through second grade; which eventually led to committing to give Elisabeth the same opportunity. I wanted to throw in the towel numerous times but Ben kept me steadfast as he gently reminded me over and over of the commitment I had made. So I kept returning and trusting God that fulfilling this commitment was for my good and asked Him to help me press on.
Then, the last semester of second grade had arrived and I began making plans to enroll Samuel in public school for the fall. Second grade had actually gone really well - it had been our best and most enjoyable year yet! But with Third Grade looming ahead, I knew I would either have to step up my game immensely or enroll him in a great school where he could receive so many new and exciting experiences. With my pros & cons list in hand, I decided a traditional school structure was the better idea.
The beauty of that trip was that I had already made up my mind in regards to Samuel's schooling for the new school term. I wasn't looking for answers on our trip; I was simply enjoying our family time as we vacationed together. But God knew better (He always does, doesn't He?).
In tiny whispers, He affirmed our education investment and He graciously showed us fruit. Strangers, servers, and watching grandparents would take the time to compliment the actions demonstrated by our kids. When we answered the common question about our schedule (oh! is school already out for summer back home?) with "no, we homeschool so we are a bit more flexible." It was always received positively and returned with encouragement.
Once home, I was met with this response in my time with Jesus regarding the new school year:
Rebecca, you have fulfilled the commitment you made to homeschool Samuel. I am not requiring you to continue in this endeavor. You can choose what you would like to do in the fall.
That thought alone brought glorious freedom for me. I did not have to walk this out in disciplined obedience anymore. I could choose to send our son to a traditional school or I could choose to continue to homeschool him. There was joy awaiting me in this choice. There was joy and freedom and grace. Oh sweet redeeming grace!
And this day, as many of our friends congregate once again at bus stops and in school cafeterias, I sit home with a house full of kids, a sink full of dishes, a table full of books and a heart full of joy because I got to choose to do this all over again.
Happy First Day of School, friends!