School choices: The conclusion

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

Why did I write all of this? Honestly, I kind of wish I had just written one simple blog post saying what we are doing for the fall. I kind of wish I had not revealed my inner struggle and all of my craziness.

But I have discovered over the past few years that a lot of people make assumptions about why people do things. They assume that because you have chosen a certain path, it must be working perfectly for you or you must have some superhero power that makes it possible for you to do what you do.

I guess I learned during the last few months that I make those same assumptions!

The truth is, it’s a lot of work to have kids. It’s a lot of work to have one kid… or two or three or four or more. They all have different needs and different interests. No matter what path we choose — home school, private school or public school — it is work!

All parents have to be involved in educating their children, parenting them and raising them, regardless of where we send them to school. Every option has different benefits and struggles. NO MATTER WHAT!

And that is another thing I discovered this summer. I need to stop looking at all of the other options and thinking something else would be soooo much easier or so perfect. An option might be better because of a family’s situation and the children in that family, but that doesn’t mean it’s better for everyone.

Up until this year, I also thought people must be crazy to choose several different schooling options for kids within their family. Now, I can totally understand why a family might think it’s best to send one child to public school, another to private and home school a third. I finally get it.

It’s kind of funny to me that one of the scariest things for me about “real” school was entering back into the world of homework. We have been there before. I can’t say home school is “easier” than doing homework. Either option has strengths and benefits. Both are work!

This also was a huge lesson for me in trusting God. I can’t tell you how many times I asked him to just tell us what to do. I don’t feel a “calling” from God that this new program we are going to try is going to be just what we’re supposed to do. I wish I did. It would give me so much confidence every morning to fall back on that.

I don’t feel a deep conviction that our kids HAVE to go to private school or that they SHOULD go to public school. I also don’t feel a conviction that we HAVE to home school.

God didn’t give me a lightning bolt that clearly marked the way. I know we are going to face difficult days, and we might even regret this decision at times. However, what I learned is that I can trust Him to go through it with us. And that is what gives me peace.

aug2011emily

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Insomnia sets in

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

We got home from vacation and I went to the web site of our local school district to find out what I needed to do to register. I downloaded the 58-page “Back to School Handbook.” I read it carefully.

We were at the point that we were both OK with sending our kids to public school. We knew we would face challenges we had never faced before. But we also knew that could be a growing experience for our family.

Every morning, I got up and looked at the registration form.

And I would sit and stare at it.

This would be a big change for us. Were we really ready?

That’s when the insomnia set in.

I should have been so excited to think about all that freedom! No home school! Drop off the kids five days a week!

But instead, I was having a hard time giving up a different type of freedom home schooling offers. I was willing to do it, but I was having a hard time with it.

I was having a hard time leaving the awesome community of home school families we have come to love. We would still see those families on a regular basis, but it would take more effort.

Mostly, we have worked really hard over the past two years on some difficult subjects. And we have seen tremendous progress in those areas. If you have ever had a child who struggled with something, you know that it’s a lot easier to help him or her first thing in the morning when the child is fresh and alert than it is at 4 or 5 p.m. when he or she is mentally exhausted from a full day at school. So we were concerned that we might quickly fall back to a place we had been two years ago with those struggles.

But one of the big things nagging on me was that home-school co-op I had mentioned back at the beginning. The program was different from anything we had done in the past. The idea behind it is that it’s supposed to be a mix of private school and home school.

The kids would be there two days a week, Monday and Friday. On Mondays, they would go to classes covering all of their academic subjects. They would have teachers go over the material with them for the week and do all the things kids do in a normal class room: group activities, discussion of literature, science experiments. And then the teachers (not me!) would give them their assignments for the rest of the week. They also would have tests and receive report cards.

On Fridays, they would get to do all of their fun classes: gym, book club, cooking, art and a whole range of other topics from which to choose.

During the rest of the week, we would work through their assignments at home. It would definitely be more restrictive. But compared with our other two options — private school and public school — it seemed like we would still get to experience some of the flexibility of home school.

I realized that all of the things that made public school seem attractive to me were also true at the co-op:

  • I want my kids to have teachers other than me.
  • No matter how hard I try, my kids aren’t going to try to impress me by doing a good job on their assignments the way they would try to impress a teacher.
  • I’m don’t want to argue with my children about the assignments I give them. Every home schooling mom out there knows what I’m talking about. My kids would never argue with a teacher about an assignment, so I don’t want them to argue with me.
  • I’m very hard on myself when it comes to my standards. I always question if my standards are too high or too low. I just want someone else to set the standard.
  • I want them to get report cards. I want some way to compare how they are doing with the rest of the world.
  • I want them to have peer pressure in a positive way. I want them to try to get their math facts done in one minute because they want to do it faster than the kid next to them.
  • I want to get a break from them once it a while! (It’s OK to say that!!)
I also realized that I was always going to wonder what it would have been like if we didn’t give it a try. I saw it as a back-up plan when I signed us up in the spring. But after spending so much time thinking through the other options and after asking God all summer to show me the way, I finally felt good about it.
My husband was on board. And the kids were definitely on board.
We know of four other families who are already friends of ours who are doing all or part of the program. We are all very excited about that! 
Most of all, I felt at peace. I know it won’t be perfect. I might even regret it. But I finally got to a place where I was OK with that. 
So… That’s why I said at the beginning I should call this, “How I ruined my summer.” I spent the entire summer searching for another way and ended up right back where I started!

And why did I just write six blog posts to tell you what many of you already knew?

I hope you will come back and read the next post to find out…

aug2011emily

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Hmmm? That’s a revolutionary idea!

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

So… we were in the Smoky Mountains staring at that big white envelope with our application for private school. I explained in the last post why we just didn’t feel settled about putting it in the mail.

I should add here that I was praying constantly about all of this. If God wasn’t willing to give me a lightning bolt, then I would settle for peace about the decision. If I were to try to tell you what I learned about trusting God through this process, that would take another six posts, and I know no one has the energy for that!

My husband and I spent a lot of time talking. We realized that many times when you have done something for a while, you start to lose sight of why you started doing it in the first place. When you are around other people doing the same thing, you listen to their reasons and you start comparing yourself or telling yourself you are doing it for the same reasons they are.

But home schooling is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. It’s not something you can get up and do everyday unless you are committed to it. Like anything difficult in life, when the days are tough, you better know WHY you are doing it. Otherwise, it’s way too easy to get discouraged.

We started discussing our overall philosophy on educating our children. Believe it or not, we haven’t chosen to home school or private school in the past because we want our children to have a superior academic education. We have average kids, and we just want them to enjoy their educational experience.

We want them to learn a lot, but we also want them to have time to be kids. We want them to develop their own interests. We want them to learn to be disciplined with their studies and with their time. We  also want them to have play time and down time. Those are some of the things we enjoy about home school.

We know some public schools are failing, but we don’t think the public school system in general is broken. We have heard lots of good things about our public school. We have great friends who send their kids there and highly recommend it!

So, after hours and hours of conversation, we decided maybe we should give it a try. Why not?

This would be the perfect time. Our oldest son is going into fifth grade, so it would be his last chance at the local elementary school. Our daughter would be going into first grade, so she wouldn’t have anything to compare it to. Our middle son is going into third, and he adapts well to new situations.

The first thing I would need to do when we got back home is get them registered. And that shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Well, unless you’re me…

… and, of course, that’s not the end! I won’t leave you hanging for long…

aug2011emily

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