I have been a homeschooler for seven years. Before we even had kids, I was super excited about the thought of homeschooling. The bonding! The fun! The books! All those school supplies! I bought a pre-k curriculum for Ethan when he was three. I was pumped, people! Then the actual attempt at “schooling” began. Almost from the very beginning, heels were dug in, arms crossed, chin tucked for a battle. Up was down, left was right, black was white. The kid who loved to read books hated it when it was “you have to.” And I mean I read the book to him.. Oh, the story of reading…. Lets take a rabbit trail here…
I worked some on teaching Ethan how to read. We mainly focused on just “learning.” Not on “how to read.” We studied letters and sounds, I read a lot. We played games that helped. Once it came to actually trying to read actual words in an actual book, nothing. He’d guess based on the picture (if there was one), or he’d say “hippopotomus” when it was “it.” I bought 4 different “teach your kid to read” curricula/plans. He was seven and not reading. I wasn’t super worried, I’ve read Ruth Beechik’s books, I knew he’d get it eventually. Enter my pregnancy with Riley. I puked/was nauseous daily for eight months. Four months in, when I finally realized the sickness might not stop, we enrolled Ethan in the Academy at our church, because I couldn’t teach him plus take care of the three and five year old. I talked to the teacher before he started school. I told her that Ethan was really smart, but he wasn’t reading and had a horrible attitude about reading (Noel even got frustrated trying to teach him to read. Noel NEVER gets frustrated). She was ready to work with him and do what needed to be done. First day of school: I go to pick him up, ask the teacher how the day went. She tells me, “Great! He read a couple books and….” I don’t know what else she said, because I fainted when she told me he’d read… He. Could. Read. He just wouldn’t. For me and his dad. I wanted to hug him and strangle him at the same time. Don’t worry, I only hugged him.
Anyway, that’s a little snapshot of what I’ve been dealing with. Add to all that a high maintenance toddler, a husband who works a lot and travels for work, almost constant/chronic migraines and two other school aged kids who have had this strong-willed defiance modeled perfectly for them and are wonderful mimics, and it’s a homeschool nightmare. At least for me. Last year I cried almost daily for two months. The energy and battle of just getting one subject done was exhausting. I felt like a complete and utter failure. As a mom. As a homeschooler. As a woman. Just at life. We switched curriculum (curriculae?) so there was less of Me teaching. Things improved microscopically. Through all of this, I have prayed. I have prayed. I have prayed. I have googled. I have asked for advice. I have homeschool-boards/blogs stalked. In the deepest darkest places last fall, I realized that this homeschool journey was similar to my breastfeeding journey. Yes, I think that breastfeeding is ideal. I also think homeschooling is ideal. Both of these are ideal- until they aren’t. Once your relationship with your child is negatively affected by something, that something is no longer ideal. Ack! My brain struggles with that. What’s best for one should be best for all! Just make it so! Right?!?!? ( I would make a fabulous Evil Dictator… Just saying…) I’m such a black and white person, this lesson is really hard for me to get. I do not believe in “situational ethics.” Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. God’s word is true, whether we like what it says or not. But there are areas of life that aren’t moral or immoral. Sin or not sin. Lots of those areas surround parenting. Each child really is different. Each family really is different. Families really do have different seasons. It’s not a matter of giving in, but of giving up control to God. Control is only an illusion anyway. Having kids just reinforces the fact that we are not in control of our lives. This is what I tell my married friends who don’t think they’re ready for kids. “No one’s ever ready for kids! Kids just show you, in the flesh, daily, that you are not in control. God is. We can only listen and obey Him and try our best to follow the path He has for us.” Thus speaketh Lindsey.
My kids were not flourishing. My relationship with my kids was not flourishing. The rate we were going, I was going to end up with an ignorant High school graduate who hated his mother. And I’m not exaggerating. I had a death grip on homeschooling. Hanging by my fingertips and struggling for survival when all I had to do was let go and fall back onto the soft recliner that was right under me the whole entire time (that would be sending my kids to the Academy.) Be glad you’re not me, people. It’s hard and exhausting having to learn everything the long, slow, hard way!
This year, my three older kids are attending the Academy. They all love it. Their excitement for school and learning is awesome. No, it’s not perfect, but my kids are happier. I have a huge weight off of my shoulders. We all feel free. I have had many opportunities to comfort Ethan, encourage him and support him. I am now the righter-of-wrongs and fixer-of-problems instead of “The Bad Guy.” And yes, I still have innumerable opportunities to teach my children and to soften their strong wills; those opportunities are just separate now from their education.
I don’t know what the future holds for my kids’ educations. I am now smart enough to know that it might not be what I envisioned, but I will obey God even if my pride suffers. I will listen and be patient instead of blustering through with what I “know” is best. It is hard for me though. I still have this idea in my head of what I wanted homeschooling to look like for our family. I spent years trying to make it a reality and now I’ve accepted that it isn’t ever going to happen the way I picture it- even if we were to homeschool again. It’s a grieving process. I get teary-eyed seeing homeschool blogs with photos of their children quietly working at a table. Then I remember that God gave my kids and I to each other for a reason and it might not look how I think it should, but by golly I’m going to trust in the God of all Creation and I will not mourn for what He hasn’t given me, but I will celebrate what He has given me! And he’s given me FOUR strong-willed, intelligent, awesome kids who happen to not flourish being homeschooled!
A wise person I was talking to about homeschooling asked me this question that stabbed right to my heart, “Did you ever ask God if He wanted you to homeschool?” Ow! That one hurts! Are there things we do because we know they’re best, but haven’t asked God about? Have we applied morality to things that are amoral? What a mess we make!
My conclusion is that you can be a great parent and have your kids go to the worst inner city school on the planet. You can be a horrible parent who happens to homeschool. The form that your kids’ education takes does not define what kind of parent you are. Your relationship with your children defines what kind of parent you are. Don’t get those things messed up. It all comes down to relationship. (I am of course, a parenting expert being that my oldest is 10. I’m basing this off of observing people, families, parents and kids.)
I am still adjusting to not homeschooling. A couple weeks ago I met another mom and we started talking about homeschooling. She was a homeschooler and she asked me if I was. I said, “Yes! Wait, I mean no! No, I’m not anymore! I used to, though….” Pretty sure she thinks I’m a crazy person. I make great first impressions… It’s a spiritual gift…