Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why I quit homeschooling

I never thought it would happen to me. I’m not a quitter. But, after six years of homeschooling, I found myself at the spring curriculum fair, walking through aisle after aisle thinking “Where is the booth for people who JUST WANT TO QUIT homeschooling?” Since I couldn't find one, instead I bought my entire curriculum for the next year, packed it in my car, and drove home. We started the fall semester and by January, we enrolled my four school-aged children in our local public school. It was like sending everyone to Kindergarten on the EXACT SAME DAY. I drove straight to a moms-in-touch group, and cried silently through the entire prayer time.

Back when my first child reached preschool age, I could hardly wait to crack open the complete preschool curriculum package my husband had given me as a present for my 30th birthday. My daughter and I spent precious hours every afternoon as the babies were sleeping, snuggled together on her bed, reading out of children’s book treasuries, the Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Lion Storyteller Book, then working on writing her letters, numbers, and learning the sounds. I loved opening up the world through stories and giving her a Biblical world view. I wanted her to see Christ in history, science, and literature. I wanted to open her eyes to God’s incredible creation through studying seasons, and stars, and butterflies. We read about brave missionaries’ incredible adventures of faith around the world. I delighted as each of my children became school age, and we could all sit and read together. It thrilled me to see after weeks and months of monotonous sounding out of words, they finally began reading independently and fluently. I wanted to be there for every minute of learning, and to give them the same passion for life and learning that God gave to me. We stayed up late to chart the phases of the moon. We dressed up as pilgrims and snuck to a “secret church” through the woods at night. I wanted family closeness that happens when you share day to day life together. I wanted AWE and WONDER and creativity and exploration outside.

While it was beautiful, it was also sometimes hard. Days when the kids fought too much, days when they didn't listen, days when our schedule flopped, and not enough math happened. Days when homeschooling didn't look like my ideal. But if it were just these things, I think I could have pressed on. But there was more. In the midst of all my DOING, I forgot about sitting. SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS. Knowing Him and letting Him guide me. Because I drifted away from him, I wasn't close to him, and I couldn't feel him, I began to doubt his very existence, FOR YEARS. Doubt gave way to anxiety, and depression, and then just ugly selfishness. While everything looked okay on the outside, I became inside someone I hardly recognized. I sometimes stayed in bed all day, neglecting responsibilities, and escaping my stressful life. Finally, I had to admit to myself what my husband had already seen: I needed to heal, and to facilitate that, we decided the kids needed to be in school. As my husband put it: I needed a sabbatical.

While I’d love to be able to say that the semester my four children attended school was the semester God reached down and healed my heart, I can’t. He did. Eventually. But that part came later. But I can say that we learned some incredible things when the kids went to school. A friend asked me to evaluate what I was teaching my children by sending them to school. "Besides that fact that their mom is a failure?" I asked. But this dear friend helped me to realize the positive side. Were they not learning to face their fears? Having never been to school before, my older two daughters were slightly terrified. I hate to admit it, but we actually bribed them with new backpacks to get them to agree to go. To face new challenges? My oldest daughter, who very timidly stepped onto the green grass headed towards her classroom in the back of the school emerged triumphant as six girls crowded around her after school. To interact with other children from so very different backgrounds? My other daughter, whose classmates used foul language and stole from each other. To be brave? To show love to classmates who may never have heard the story of Jesus? We talked each night and we prayed for protection, for learning, and for classmates and teachers. Being in the school allowed us to interact with our community, one of the poorest in our state. My girls saw for the first time, how blessed and privileged they are to have the things we do, and to have parents who care, and love and engage. One year we had the opportunity to bring a classmate of our daughters into our home for four months, caring and walking thru difficult things with her while her mother was in jail. It gave our family an avenue to focus a little more outward where before we were mainly focused towards ourselves.

At the end of that first semester, two of my children really wanted to homeschool again. I missed homeschooling terribly. I missed having my children at home with me. My teacher’s heart isn’t satisfied unless I am passing along nuggets of truth and wisdom to the next generation. I long to work on Deuteronomy’s command to “impress them (God’s commands) upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” While parents of children at home or in school can do this, maybe because I am lazy I just found for me it is easier to have all day to work on it!  And so now we are what I call a “blended family.” Currently two are in school and the other three I teach at home. It is a good balance for me and while I think that my heart will always be with homeschooling, but I have also seen the benefits of sending them out. Sometimes, it isn't either homeschooling, or public school. God has called our family to both right now.