Friday, October 12, 2012

School. It's Not an Easy Decision. Let's Show Some Love.

This is a post that could be a book. Except that it can't. Because I have 20 minutes.

We all know I put my kids in public school last January after years of teaching them at home. Perhaps you hope I will be quiet about this already. I doubt that will happen anytime soon. This space is like a washing machine. I toss my thoughts and worries into the drum, suds it all up, shake it around real good, rinse, spin, and see what comes out in the end. 

Writing here helps me clean up some of the mental clutter that, unprocessed or "unwashed," makes me feel kind of frazzled and messy. And because I still have thoughts about this school thing, I'm going to keep spinning them around from time to time.

{I cannot believe I just compared writing to laundry. Laundry! The domestic burden I loathe above all others.} 

I have digressed already and am quickly using up those 20 minutes.

Back to the point of this post. School. 

We love it. It's working for each of my kids. It's working for me. It is not at all perfect, but the blessings are too many to count. I thank God every day that He used a difficult season in my life to reroute my kids into public school classrooms. I've quit trying to predict the future. It may not work for us or for each kid forever. I'm simply grateful for the now.  

Why? Because I'm a better mom and my relationship with my kids is better than it's ever been. To quote my wise husband again: Many people can and will be their teachers, but only you can be their mother. 

I am enjoying the role of just being their mother. I think they can appreciate the change as well.

We all enjoy some space from one another during the day and then reunite in the afternoon and evening in ways that are more meaningful and intentional. 

I sort of stumbled into something that's now become a tradition: "Friday Family Fun Night." The kids {and their parents} are loving it, and I feel like I've become reacquainted with the vision of motherhood I once had but then lost somewhere along the way. I'm no Mary Poppins but I have "found my fun" again, my love of planning special meals and activities for us as a family. It's great to know that part of me hadn't vanished forever. Apparently homeschooling just swallowed it up for about five years. 

We have time to miss one another, to move in and own of our own God-given "sub-communities" and talk about our days and friends and teachers with one another at dinner. 

It may sound like a paradox but sending our kids to school has brought us closer together as a family. Homeschooling did that for us in the early years. And then it didn't. Seasons and circumstances change and sometimes we have to change along with them. 

I know families who have taken their kids out of school in order to homeschool. For them, homeschooling provides balance, closeness, health, and sanity that sending their kids to school did not. And I think that's great. 

At this point, life is still just as full but it's more balanced. Like any mom, I keep the plates spinning but I'm slowly gaining a bit of sanity and rest that enables me to spin with more cheerfulness and gentleness.

There's plenty to say about why we need to be more accepting and less judgmental of the way we choose to teach our kids. Plenty to say. But I'm not going to get into the why's right now.  

My point here is simple: I see all kinds of school working for all kinds of kids and moms and families.

There is no one, right way. I repeat. There is no one, right way. 

This isn't the kind of post I usually write. I avoid preachy people and preachy posts. But this post is obviously a bit preachy...about not being preachy regarding this issue of how we school our kids. 

It's on my mind because I spent some time this week talking with a friend who "jumped ship" like I did and is making the switch to public school after many years of homeschooling. There's not a lot of support and affirmation. Which is unfortunate. Because truly, it's such a hard decision. You're breaking with the nostalgia of what's already behind you and letting go of a vision you once held dear and maybe still do. 

I cried for a month after we made our choice, even though I knew it was the right one. Yesterday I was digging around in the attic and came across some of the artwork and projects of homeschool days gone by. I cried. Some days are still sad like that. Moving on is a process.

When homeschool kids aren't thriving at home or when the mom or the marriage isn't thriving either, we {or others} may be inclined to think it's a "character issue." I have actually heard people use that term. It makes me sad. And then frustrated. Talk about heaping false guilt onto a mountain of false failure! 

I told my friend it's not a character issue; it's a "common sense issue." Perhaps we need to be a lot less ideological and a lot more practical. Sometimes doing what's "best" and doing what works are two different things. Sacrificing our mental or physical health or our most important relationships on the altar of educational virtue ends up undermining the values we treasure over and above education. 

We'd probably all agree that education is not an end in itself. But we don't necessarily live and think that way. I'm as guilty as anyone.

Heap grace upon yourself. And then turn around and heap it on others. Don't allow someone else's different decision to threaten your own or evoke misplaced judgement. We are blessed beyond measure to have choices that most parents in most countries don't have. Be grateful that your children and everyone else's children in America can actually receive an education. 

And may your gratitude and mine spill over with Grace to the kids and parents around us who may be doing things differently. 

There's room and reason for us all.


  1. Refreshing! I am homeschooling one child and have one child in public school and get criticized in both places, I think people feel uncomfortable with others who make the opposite choice, and need to justify their decision. I agree, we are very fortunate to live in a country where we have choices and can decide based on what works for our families, and in our case, for each child. There are so many benefits for both decisions. I do regret the amount of judgement and elitism I see and hear in the homeschooling circles regarding public education.

  2. So true, so true. I encountered some criticism and judgement when we jumped ship too. And that is sad. It takes what is already a painful decision and draws out the pain. Like slowly pulling off a bandaid. Just because its the right decision doesn't make it the easy decision. Thank you for being a voice for me and many others in the same situation.

    1. We should start a support group: Recovering Homeschoolers Anonymous. : )

  3. Katherine, I hear you. Most people are either / or. It's hard when you support both ways...feels like you're stuck in the middle. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. As someone who has done the "some kids in/some kids out" thing for six years, I want to thank you for writing this it!! So happy to hear you're having a great school year. :) Looks like I'll jump ship completely next will be a new season of life. Hope to see you soon! :)

  5. Scooper,
    I am so thankful that you shared your thoughts on this challenging decision. Your analogy to laundry provides such wonderful humor.
    Sharing the reality of the fall out of this decision is encouraging to those who may need reassurance. As parents, we know our children and their needs best. We REALLY do!!!
    Jumping ship from homeschooling can be a lonely place. Some 'friends' may feel hurt and betrayed -- it can be so hurtful in return.
    I pray that you continue to listen to Him who will always be with you, guide you and love you.

  6. This year we enrolled our kids in school after home schooling for many years. It was a tough decision, and I cried a lot. The kids are loving it, though, I know it has been tough acclimating at times. It is a lonely road making the change from home school to "regular" school. I feel like my home school mom friends feel like I have betrayed them or just given up and my friends and family who have always sent their kids school think "What's the big deal?". I am so glad I can read your posts and know I'm not the only one out there who "jumped ship". Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Thank you for sharing your family's journey from homeschool to public school. It has been so encouraging to me! I have homeschooled my children for the last five years and none have ever entered a classroom. However, they will all be attending public school in January. It is such an exciting, yet terrifying time. One thing is certain...God is faithful and I can trust Him with my children. He is with them in our home, just as he will be with them in the classroom. Thanks again for being so real and bringing encouragement to moms like me!


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