A few times a year, I have the same bad dream. It’s kind of like that dream where you forgot to go to a college class all semester and you suddenly realize it on the day of final exams. Or the dream where you totally forgot to go to work for two months, and you are trying to explain it to your boss.
But in this dream, I forgot to send my kids to school. For three years.
I wake up in a panic.
Although I didn’t “forget” to send them to school, I just didn’t do it. My mind starts racing. Is this really even legal? I get the notice in the mail every year, telling me when to register. I just throw it in the garbage. Shouldn’t someone come looking for us soon?
I start questioning myself. Have I really taught them everything they needed to learn the last three years? Have I given them every opportunity to help them become well-rounded kids? Have I ruined their lives?
The truth is that if some school official came to our house and examined what we do during a school year, he or she would probably be impressed. I secretly kind of wish we lived in a state that required testing only because it would make me feel more at ease with the fact that we are, in fact, covering all — if not more — of the material my kids would get in a traditional school setting.
The truth is that my kids have an awesome circle of friends and lots of extracurricular activities. We have time to do things and develop relationships that we might not have as much time for otherwise. Their circle of influence is definitely smaller than it would be in a typical school environment, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
And the truth is that my kids really enjoy our lifestyle. Sometimes I find that hard to believe. I can’t imagine being educated at home. But when I ask them what they would like to do, they ask me to continue to home school them.
Despite all of these arguments, each spring without fail, I have to put myself through a season of personal torture. As surely as the butterflies will burst from their cocoons and the flowers will bloom on the trees, I will investigate every other possible option for educating my children.
I envy people who don’t do this. I envy public school moms who wrap up the school year in May or June and look forward to a new school year in the fall. I envy home school moms who buy the next year’s curriculum in April or May because they know they will be continuing. And I envy private school moms who fill out their re-enrollment papers in March and mail in the first tuition check in May.
I make spreadsheets and lists. I compare the costs. I analyze the pros and cons. I visit school and co-ops. I get mad at the state of Illinois that I pay so much in taxes but they don’t offer my children the “ideal” school environment I would like for them.
I shut down when people ask me what we are doing next year. I ignore re-enrollment deadlines and try not to panic when I get e-mails reminding me that I need to sign up for classes.
I compare myself to other people. How do my friends seem to find so much joy in taking responsibility for the education of their own children, but I feel so inadequate? How are other people so organized? How do they make school so fun?
Then I remind myself that I can’t compare myself to other people. We don’t all have the same number of children. Our children don’t all learn the same way and have the same temperaments. While some of my friends also juggle toddlers or babies or part-time jobs, we all have different responsibilities.
I’m actually very thankful for this year. We have found a really good balance between sending the kids to classes two days a week and completing their school assignments at home the other three. Instead of saying that we “home school”, I have started saying we “do school at home.”
I think of a traditional “home schooler” as someone who wants to have control over her child’s education. After three years, I have realized that I actually prefer to have someone else decide what we need to do each week. I’m OK with using someone else’s choice of curriculum and having someone else grade my children’s work.
I’ve been trying to think of a new name for what we do. Alternative schoolers? Home sCOOLers? (haha!) Maybe that would make me feel better.
One thing I know for sure is this. No schooling option is perfect. They all have their own list of pros and cons. We have to decide which pros we want the most and which cons we are most able to live with. Mostly, we have to stay focused on our primary objective, which is to help our children come to know and live in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
So, here I am again. My personal torture season is intensified this year because my oldest will be going into 6th grade. I would really love for him to know that whatever we do next year, we will continue through at least 8th grade without his mom feeling the need to research every option. I want him to feel comfortable that whatever environment we choose will be where he will stay for all of middle school.
I’ve also given myself a deadline to end my torture much sooner. In the past, I haven’t stopped thinking about it until Aug. 23. This year, I plan to make this decision no later than May 1.
That’s progress, right?
I’m just wondering… am I really alone here? Does anyone else have these doubts? Please make me feel better and let me know. 🙂