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I never thought I would quit homeschooling.
When my oldest daughter was two years old I began to feel a pull towards doing school at home. I am a researcher by nature. So, I dove headlong into finding loads of books on the joys and how-to’s of doing school at home.
The things I read gave me great hope and encouragement, mixed with a dose of unrealistic beliefs and expectations (not all directly planted, I might add).
As soon as I began to mention to others my inclination to homeschool, the questions started. What about socialization? What about credentials? How will you grade them? etc. etc. etc.
By the time my daughter was four years old (and two more children were added, with one more on the way), I decided to make the leap into homeschooling mostly so that I could stop dwelling on the fence. I immediately signed up for a co-op in the area and began a multi-year process of learning how to stop trying to do everything for everyone in every season.
Why I Quit Homeschooling and Put My Kids into Public School
It has been eight years since that time, and I have learned OH so much about homeschooling children.
What I have not learned, though, is anything that I expected to learn.
I expected to fall into an easy routine. This never happened. Additional pregnancies, auto-immune conditions, and just general life upheavals constantly threw a wrench in my perfect plans (hence the need for this post on simplifying home school).
I expected to LOVE spending my days teaching the kids. Nope, it was a drain. There have been SO many days when either my child or I ended up in tears. And, truly, I needed time to myself, just to think, and it felt impossible to achieve.
I expected to choose one single curriculum that would meet the needs of all of my children for all of their schooling for the next twenty years (yeah, I’m a dreamer). And, again, NOT A CHANCE. Every year and every child has brought new challenges with new needs and therefore an entirely new curriculum selection.
I expected for my children to adore learning at home. In truth, every. single. day. was a fight, especially from children with a streak towards “the grass is greener” syndrome…. They coveted the yellow bus and regularly talked about “real school,” no matter what I did to coax them away.
Hence, after eight years of daily struggle, especially these last three of living in a travel trailer with 9 people, I threw the white flag.
I surrender!!!! I surrender!
And I began the emotion-torn process of putting 5 of my seven kids into the local public schools (I’ll save you the drama – 3 out of those five came back home within two weeks…).
So, what have I learned?
Here are my 7 CRITICAL take-aways from this season of surrender, and truly, I would not change a thing.
#1 Burn Out is REAL
As much as I THINK I can do anything and push through (I mean, isn’t that the professed meaning of “I can do all things through Christ….”?), the reality is that I am a human being with limits, and they DEFINITELY can be reached. There is no love in trying to do it all and any such pressure and emotional self-abuse is not of God. It is okay to say no. It is okay to establish a boundary. And, it is okay to take a break.
#2 Education is NOT everything
I was faced with two choices: I could homeschool my kids and barely survive as a mom to my kids, OR I could put the kids into school and have the emotional balance to be the mom I wanted to be for them. The truth is, I could not do both. I know there are those reading who will belittle this experience or feeling, but truly I hope they are few.
The problem was…my continued desire to homeschool was no longer coming from a place of faith and trust, but rather dogmatic legalism founded on the altar of the education god. I don’t do idolatry. I don’t condone idolatry. And it comes in MANY forms today, not to exclude the presentation of homeschooling elitism.
#3 Every family does life differently, and that’s OKAY
I know plenty of large families who homeschool their children, and it always seems to come so easily to them. Other families I know unschooled their kids. Guess what? That works, too. And then I know plenty of families with their kids in school. Surprise, surprise! No hooligans.
So, what’s that mean? There is no ONE way to do this thing we call life. We are all uniquely gifted and strong in our means of intellect, talents, worldview, and life experience, and ALL of this molds and shapes the way we will do life.
There is clear right, and there is clear wrong, and then there is everything else. Homeschooling falls into “everything else.”
#4 Not all children, or parents, will do BEST in a homeschooling environment
I had to face it. This current season is NOT easy. Having 9 people, three 5 and under, in 250 sq ft makes for a lot of noise a lot of the day. In my present household dynamics, the older children require a high degree of quiet to focus on their studies, while all the youngest children want to do is make noise and goof off.
All of these needs are realistic and vital, so we needed to make allowances. Let me tell you, my oldest children were thrilled for the chance to see how “real schools” operate. My second oldest is still in school and LOVES it. The oldest, however, returned home within a week of school, as she was greatly ahead of her peers academically. And then, my five year old was not quite yet emotionally ready to be away every day. My seven year old special needs child remains in school daily, because I need the help.
Each of these unique children and their particular needs had to be addressed. My own emotional limits and mental needs ALSO needed to be attended. To do both is to act in LOVE.
#5 Be kind to yourself
In my years of homeschooling, I stumbled into a subtle belief system of dogmatic legalism. This system suggests that homeschooling ALONE is the path of allegiance to God as a parent. To put your kids into public school (gasp) is tantamount to sending them into a pagan lair and handing them over to drug-lords.
This line of thinking, which is completely unbiblical I might add, places the burden of control and sovereignty onto the shoulders of mere human parents. Not only this, but it entirely removes our dependency on the grace of God. It is a twisted thinking bound up in subtle lies and abusive control. It is NOT founded in the love of God.
When I hit the wall of my emotional and mental limits, I found the grace of God standing there.
HE offered love, understanding, and compassion for me in my pit of emotional exhaustion, and spoke kind words of peace and trust in Him. He gently reminded me that HE is ever-strong, and ever-able, not me. And, He placed a peace in my heart to release the torment of lies from legalistic beliefs about Him, but not BY Him.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” ~ James 5: 11
He taught me what it looks like to truly show love and empathy. He led me in loving myself by loving me where I was. This single revelation has allowed me to love others in their broken places of human limits, and extend grace and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism (for these are not of God).
In order to truly love my kids, I had to first know how to receive the love of God. I had to learn how to love myself in a holy way. And, for me, this meant to embrace my humanity, in the best sense of the word.
#6 When the student is ready, the teacher appears
I mentioned before that for years a few of my children coveted the yellow bus. They desperately wanted to go to school and experience this unknown world talked about and mis-presented in just about every show or movie involving children ever written. My oldest, especially, expected a land of majestic social time, leisurely walks of engaged chit-chat with smiley, well-read fellow students.
Her experience in middle school, however, revealed a totally different environment. Her days were full of precisely what we begrudgingly predicted…running swiftly to and from class and insufficient time to truly engage with fellow students. Not only this, though, but she also now rubbed elbows with some difficult teachers. We are learning that not all adults have mastered the emotional balance to lovingly engage with pre-teens in their season of rebellion and boundary testing.
It did not take long for her to beg to return home.
Since I refuse to repeat the struggles we’ve had, I established firm boundaries and criteria for her days. But, now that the unknown world of the yellow bus is unveiled for her, I suspect our struggles will not be as constant. Sometimes perspective changes everything.
#7 Make decisions ONE year at a time
I know, in general, how education looks for our family this year. Finally I have learned to stop turning around and projecting this into the rest of my life. We have learned that the best plan with life and children is a season by season decision-making process, and taking life one year at a time. There is a very high chance that my school kids will again return home. And that’s okay. Maybe the unforeseen will occur, and I will need the provision of the public schools and all that they offer, imperfectly or not (is there a such thing as a perfect education?….)
Life is a process of unfolding, and the path changes a little more with every new season and turn of events. One step at a time is all we can do, and it is important to simply accept that reality for what it is.
Maturity Means Learning Our Limits and Embracing Our Humanity
I have learned SO much over the last five years especially, and the lessons continue. Growth does not mean learning how to beat ourselves into submission, but rather how to learn where we end and where God begins.
If you struggle with these things like I did, the belief that faith means digging yourself into the ground in “submission” to God, I HIGHLY recommend this book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazerro (affiliate link- any purchases made will result in me earning a small commission.)
I love this book so much, ESPECIALLY the audible version! Drive time University is my most productive time for devouring books.
Have I mentioned I have seven kids….
There is an ugly pervasive lie that has some serious roots in our culture that minimizes healthy emotional balance and pushes unfettered work of any kind. Our Father is the God of the narrow Way, which both embraces emotional limits and needs, while encouraging movement and action when necessary.
This book will not disappoint!
Homeschooling is only ONE educational option
I may have started my homeschooling experience thinking that there was only one way to provide a quality education. But, I have learned through the failures that there are a million different ways to learn, grow, and become a quality human being who loves and serve God.
Though homeschooling is surely a beautiful and excellent option, it is not the ONLY option, and it is not a replacement for trusting God.
Each of us must learn to follow where God is leading us, as our paths of unique and special to the circumstances He has given to us. Not only must we learn to embrace where He has us, but we must also learn to support and extend love towards those who do things differently.
There is no one way to do this life thing. Homeschooling and education are no different. What works for one family may not work for another, and no two homes will ever be carbon copies of another.
You are unique. Your children are unique. The marriage you enjoy has its own flairs of personality and quirk. Every household will have different, yet equality wonderful, focuses and ways of showing love and devotion to God.
We live and work to the approval of God, so let us lean into His Ways and embrace the freedom we have to do life as we each have been uniquely designed to do it.