Friday, July 22, 2011

The Accidental Homeschooler

I guess most people assume that homeschooling was a choice for me. I can see why. Cause ya know... I love it, we've done it for years and think it's awesome. I didn't choose it though- until yesterday. Let me back up.

When Kaitlyn Elise was 3yrs old Zoe girl was 7 almost 8 yrs old and about to come home from Guatemala. She didn't know any English, couldn't identify any colors, shapes or letters even when asked in Spanish. She'd been raised in an extremely difficult environment and had been through more trauma than most people face their whole lives. She was coming home soon and I now had to decide how to best educate her. I was nothing short of TERRIFIED!

You would think my background would have prepared me. I grew up doing public school, then private school and finished up homeschooling till college. So I had experience in all three. I also taught private and public.

I knew I wasn't a fan of the typical public school for mostly social reasons at that time. I knew Zoe wasn't ready for the emotional drama that I faced in public school and saw many other kids face when I taught. Not that I was saying that some kids couldn't handle it. I have one child that could probably go k-12 completely unscathed cause of her personality.

I wasn't anti charter school but there were no great ones near me that I could find at the time.

ANYWAY, I also loved homeschooling as a student but didn't want to do it. Basically, cause I was terrified and I didn't want to sacrifice what I felt was required to do it. Even after my years of teaching getting a child caught up like Zoe needed to catch up seemed so scary. Inside I felt that I would fail her and then the burden of her failure would rest entirely on my shoulders. Shudder...

So I went after the next option. PRIVATE school. I investigated a TON of them. Some of them I loved. The ones I loved... we just couldn't afford. OR others I liked she just wasn't ready for academically AND we couldn't afford them. :-)

We tried university model private school. They go to class 2 days a week and then you do their work at home the other days. It was much more affordable and a nice compromise. However, I found that for Zoe they just weren't concentrating on what SHE needed to learn.

I knew in my heart homeschool was what Zoe needed. I knew I had capacity to do it. I knew that all that was keeping me personally from it was fear and a desire for more me time. S000000.... I cried for WEEKS and with fear and trembling I started homeschooling my kids.

Then a funny thing happened. I loved homeschooling. I mean there was stress and hard parts for sure. For the most part though... I loved it. I loved the flexibility and freedom and the time for relationships. So we just kept doing it...

...and then Kaiya came home and we kept homeschooling and made it work....

... and then Kai came home and we kept homeschooling and it wasn't working... :-0

THIS is were the crisis hit. Suddenly, I felt like I could NOT do this anymore. All the reasons I had started homeschool were no longer applicable. We could afford different options if we really stretched and tweaked things. Zoe is strong and healthy and academically pretty caught up now. Kaiya needed speech which I knew would be offered in school. OH and there was a brand new well rated charter school being built down the street. That did it! I was gonna put my kids' names in the hat and go for it.

I struggled through whether I was ALLOWED to do this. Was I selfish??? Was I doing something bad??? What would my homeschooling friends think of me?

It was a struggle. I prayed and sought God's heart on it. What I felt in my heart was that I had a choice on this one. That this one was about what I wanted. This wasn't black and white. This was grey. All my homeschool time had been about black and white... KNOWING in my heart that Zoe needed us to be a homeschool family.

I had invested so much into my kids I knew they'd be fine for awhile even if it turned out not to be awesome. Plus we could always pull them back out. Finally, just for a short season, this could be a decision about what I needed and wanted. I could let go of the guilt of taking care of myself. So if this was about me then it was a done deal right???

And so it looked like we were doing it! We filed paperwork and went for it. The kids were excited about this new adventure. I was excited about the potential freedom. We started making plans.

Then a funny thing happened. As we started planning for next year... none of us liked the plan. We didn't like the schedule, the requirements, the limitations.

Zoe, Kaitlyn and I started looking at each other realizing we were starting to miss homeschool before the school year had even started. Zoe and Kaitlyn started thinking that maybe they have it pretty good right here. I started feeling like... I don't think I want this thing I thought I wanted after all.

Could this be??? After all this effort and time and planning were we really thinking of going back to what we were doing when we started this whole process? Ugh... what was I thinking? Two of my kids were being offered spots at a free charter school that was really hard to get into and I was gonna call and say no? Was I CRAZY??? Ok, sure we all know I am but STILL...

Then it hit me. This wasn't about charter school, or public school, or private school, or homeschool. For this season this needed to be about what I could handle and needed. Even uttering those words felt so foreign to me. HOW COULD I DO THAT???? Ever since the day I got prego and with 3 adoptions quickly after it felt like the decision to do something significant for me wasn't even a thought. Was it ok to make a decision for me REALLY? Was I being horrible and selfish to think of myself?

If my kids would be ok then why wouldn't it be? Suddenly then I could breathe again realizing that God has so much more grace for me than I do. I could relax realizing that God loves me as much as He loves my children and that this was a season to make a choice for what my heart needed.

Then... this is the weirdest part. I realized that what I used to think I wanted- the dreams I used to have of kids in school and days to myself- those just weren't my dreams anymore. Now I wanted something so different. What I really wanted FOR ME... was to homeschool....

So yesterday we gave up our spots at the awesome charter school down the street. I still can hardly believe I did that but I feel so happy about it.

Yesterday, for the first time we CHOSE to be a homeschool family... not because we had to do it or it was thrown into our laps. We did it because we WANTED to do it. We scrapped the other awesome options because homeschool is what we love.

Now let me be clear. With 4 kids it became HUGELY apparent to me that I needed a lot more help than I've had before 4 kids. We have hired a friend to help with the little ones 4 and sometimes more days most weeks. This gives me time with just the older ones to focus on school and having some big kid fun with them. I am getting Kaiya speech therapy to help her. Also some friends and I are doing some exchanging time where I teach or help with their kids in an area where I'm strong while they help where I'm weak. We have dropped a chunk of the activities we were doing and are trading them for a more relaxed schedule. We're changing it up and making it what we want it to be.

I'm so grateful for this process. What a gift God has given me on this crazy little journey this summer. He isn't afraid of our freedom. He welcomes our questions and mistakes and craziness. He gets that we need to sometimes... as a friend told me... take the long route to get to an answer. We need to understand it to know it for ourselves and not just have an answer we were fed.

This summer I went from joyful obedience to the path God had given me to joyfully choosing that path for myself.

My children went from joyfully doing homeschool cause it was asking to homeschool because it's what they want for themselves.

THAT is worth some craziness.

Today is the first day I am no longer an accidental homeschooler.

Hugs, Angel


Flamingo said...

aaaghhh!! i love this!!!! wow...what a blessing to be journeying with you from a far!! i am so excited for you! and even though i'm not a full fledged homeschool family yet...and even though i don't walk in your shoes...i think you made the right choice because of what your heart has radiated from the beginning to everyone around you....very very cool. and now that you made the decision i can say that you would have HATED the brick and mortar school and yea for you for getting help!!

Tara said...

YAY Angel... So happy you came to a decision to homeschool! I could tell over the past few months that you were struggling - so the peace of knowing what you are doing must be welcomed! Blessings sweet friend!