I'm sitting here tonight while my four kids play with Legos and chat about our new goat, Moonpie, who is coming to live with us in two days. There's an occasional shriek as one kid snatches a block from another or accidentally knocks a tower over but more often there are shrieks of laughter. These kids are my whole world. I absolutely love them and work so hard to give them all the best. But right now, homeschooling isn't part of "the best".
I'm a researcher. I like to dive in head first and gather up every morsel of information I can possibly find on a subject that has caught my interest. I look at both sides, neutral opinions, all of it. I find old sources, new sources, bizarre and even lame sources. My opinions are my own, and I love to find a cause and fight for it, tooth and nail. That's exactly what I did when it came to homeschooling.
When my oldest child was 4, I was pressured to place her in a public Pre-Kindergarten class. At that time, I hadn't quite formed a solid opinion on public versus private versus homeschool. I decided to listen to my parents, put her in Pre-K and spend that year praying about and learning about my options to decide what I should do.
My daughter was insanely excited that first day! She was a social butterfly and made friends really quickly. Being the sister of two boys, she was "one of the boys" at school just like at home and 80% of her stories were about the funny shenanigans of her male classmates. It wasn't long, though before she started coming home every. single. day. telling me how bored she was. The teacher was teaching at the lowest level in the class, and as hard as it was, we stuck it out. I had decided early on that I wouldn't get overly involved; I was going to use the year as an experiment and see what the quality of the education was. I did what most public school parents do; I sent her off to get her education and trusted that it was happening. When she got home, we socialized, had play dates, traveled and did housework. I had an online business and plenty to do, so I left the educating to her educator at school.
Here's what happened: In one full year of Pre-Kindergarten, they did not learn their ABC's. They couldn't sing them, they couldn't write them. Most of them were able to write their own names, but not with proper capitalization. (joHn for example). By the end of the school year, most of them were 5 or even 6. My daughter could, but ONLY because I stinking broke down and taught her everything she was craving to learn! Their end-of-the-year presentation did not consist of one nursery rhyme, one song, not even a recitation of the ABC's (or an attempt at least). I was totally appalled. When I asked the teacher about it during our parent/teacher meetings, it was almost like it shocked and amused her that I was hoping for a faster paced, more in-depth program. Yikes.
It was as if my decision was made for me. Public school would not work for us. Private school was too expensive. But was homeschooling really the life I wanted to live? I mean, it IS a lifestyle. And the truth was... No, it wasn't. Not at all.
At the time, I had just lost my fourth pregnancy to a late miscarriage. Less than three months later, we found out my dad had cancer. (He's totally cancer-free now, praise God!) and I was being tested for a boat load of blood disorders. For reasons beyond our knowledge, we were struggling to conceive again and our daughter was hurting for another baby to hold. (She was the only one old enough to understand that she had another baby brother on the way and then suddenly Mommy's belly was shrinking and we were looking at tiny footprints on hospital papers and talking about Heaven). My kids were 5, 3, and 2. I was already going through SO MUCH and yet I took on homeschooling. I thought it was the best I could give her, so it's what I did.
I finally got pregnant with our newest little one in August of 2016, after 8 long months of trying. I had, by then, become an absolute fanatic over homeschooling. I was going to have my kids out in the sunshine, listening to dramatic readings from Shakespeare, painting beautiful watercolor pictures, identifying local bugs, birds, trees and plants. We were going to be hard workers and SO organized. It was magical... until real life happened. In real life, I was exhausted. Pregnancy fatigue had hit me SO HARD. Chasing the first three was no big deal during my fourth pregnancy, but the fifth pregnancy was extremely taxing. I was a total mombie. My daughter was loving being homeschooled, though, and it wasn't the hardest part of things, so on we continued.
Then in May of 2017, I had my now 8 month old. I felt wonderful! The first couple of months were a breeze. I remember looking at her sleeping peacefully next to me and thinking "4 kids is amazing! I can't believe I was so nervous about how I would manage another!" Breastfeeding was a breeze, diapering was no big deal. I didn't mind the poop, heck I had seen it so many times that I could clean a huge mess with a single wipe if needed. (Yeah, I just bragged on my butt-wiping skills. #momlife). Then all that changed, and it changed fast.
When she was 2 months old, I suddenly started losing my hair. Now, I have always lost hair after giving birth, but this time I had a MAJOR receding hairline. Wads and wads were coming out in the shower, the hairbrush was constantly needing to be cleaned. There was hair on my bed pillow, hair on the couch, in the dryer, wrapped into the clothes. It was literally everywhere. I became so fatigued that I literally could not recall anything about my day, or even things that had happened within the hour at times. I had lost way more weight than I should have. You could see my ribs beginning to show, my hip bones were squarely sticking out on the sides. My heart pounded and raced all night long. So, by the time it had progressed to that point, I finally called the doctor and made an appointment. (Because, you know, when it's you, the mom having an issue, you've got to be afraid for your life before you'll call). I had images of brain scans revealing tumors, all sorts of things running through my mind. It was very scary.
To make a long story short, here, I'll briefly touch on what happened over the course of the next few months and how it has impacted my decision. After lots of testing and visiting a specialist in Indianapolis, IN, it was discovered that I have a condition called postpartum thyroiditis. It begins with an extremely uncomfortable, exhausting overactive phase, then seems to get better, then switches to being under-active until it fixes itself. This process can take 12-18 months. This year, I have realized that I am no longer my children's best teacher. During the hyperactive phase of PT, I was so moody that I didn't even feel like a good mom sometimes. Now, during the underachieve phase, I am struggling with depression and loneliness. Yes, we get all our schoolwork done, but she's ready to move ahead. She is getting bored with our routine. She's struggling to find joy in learning with a tired, barely-making-it mom. I'm not finding joy in it, either.
So, this message may never be read by anyone else. It may be buried under a pile of much better articles and never touched again. That's okay with me. I needed to get this off my chest and to put this out there for any other mom who may be struggling with the "scary" idea of quitting homeschool and sending their precious kids to public school. It's okay to quit. It's okay. You have tried your hardest to give the absolute best that you possibly can to your kids. You are amazing!! Look at how much you have sacrificed, how far you're willing to go for those sweet kids. I know you would lay down your very life if that was what it took to keep them safe. Now, the absolute best can change with the seasons of life that we go through.
For me, it took a blow to my health and mental health to open my eyes. For you, it may be marital stress, loneliness, an insanely messy house (also me). It may just be that THIS IS NOT YOU. I can personally identify with literally every one of those things to some extent. IT IS OKAY. Can I tell you something?
My kids are excited about getting on the big yellow Twinkie and riding down the road to an amazing, clean, beautiful, security guard-protected public school. (NOT the one she attended the crummy pre-k program at). They can't wait. They will have daily friends, daily experiences that I cannot give them here at home by myself. Is it possible to have that with homeschool? Yes! There are so many programs that it is impossible to do them all. You could be out and about, doing co-ops and field trips and nature walks every single day of the week, including weekends. The homeschool community is amazing and I absolutely adore it and everyone I have met. No joke. But I can't keep up with all that. Homeschool is not for us anymore.
I first comforted myself with the idea that "maybe in a few years when the kids are older, I can do this again and it'll be wonderful again". Let me tell you that after imagining my free time of cleaning house, praying, reading my Bible without having to get up at 5 a.m. to do it, seeing how excited my kids are becoming, I don't think we will ever turn back. A little part of my heart hurts in saying that, and I will always be open to doing what is best for my kids; like this season of change now, it is possible for another season of change in the future that could draw us back into homeschooling. But I'm going to be listening to the Lord on that one; I'm not sure that I really did when all this first came about.
I hope that maybe this post helps someone, I hope that if you're feeling lost and afraid that you'll find someone to talk to. If you've got no one, pray. It takes a lot of humility to admit that you're at the end of your best and it's time to do something else. It's so hard. Ignore the little voice that wonders what they'll say about you, ignore the people who want to wag a finger in your face and say "I told you so". Keep your head up and look forward to the blessings in store for you as you move forward in humble faith. It is so hard, but so worth it.
Blessed is she who believed...