Note: I had most of this post written several months ago before we had even the faintest clue about the new-job-in-a-brand-new-city-adventure that has plunked itself into our laps. As such, I’ve held off publishing while I gave some serious thought to my deepest motivations for this decision. I realized somewhere along the way that I was writing the safe version of my decision. Because I value authenticity and uncomfortable truth, here’s the truest version instead.
Here’s a sentence I never expected to write:
We’re quitting homeschooling. Our kids will be attending public school this fall, and we’re no longer a homeschooling family.
In the last few weeks, as I worked from morning to night feverishly sorting and tidying every last item we own (it was KonMari in ten days, fueled by copious amounts of caffeine and a ticking clock) in preparation for our house to go on the market, I came across many bits of evidence of my homeschool plans and dreams that have been building for seven years now.
I held in my hands our math curriculum choice that I anguished over and finally became excited about, the dozens of specific books I had sourced over months of planning, the sticky notes and scratch pieces of paper with notes and ideas that sparked my soul, carefully tucked away to be used later, the weekly schedule I perfected and laboured over for three straight days last winter while on a homeschool planning retreat, secluded in my parents’ guest room. Each time I came across another book or scrap of paper, my heart would constrict a little and I’d feel the weight of sadness.
It’s painful to give up a dream. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to do it (we planned and dreamed for years to be overseas missionaries, but it ultimately did not work out). Strange as it may sound, my feelings over the last month have most closely resembled grief as I’ve mourned the loss of my homeschooling identity.
I don’t know how to be the public school mom.
I think I’m doing the right thing. But to be honest, I don’t really know. I second guess our decision every day, but when my head hits the pillow, I feel like it’s ultimately the right choice for right now.
Most who know me know that we were very firmly convinced that homeschooling was the best choice for our family. In fact, I wrote a post last year that was literally titled Why I Don’t Want to Send my Kids to Public School.
What you didn’t know was that I had a follow-up post called “Why I Want to Send my Kids to Public School” percolating in my head ever since, but it never made it to publication. I was a public school kid for the majority of my schooling, and I loved it so much it’s almost embarrassing. But I felt conflicted about confessing my seemingly contradictory love and disdain for public education. I felt like “I definitely really don’t want to send my kids to public school, but in many ways I really kinda wish I could.”
I have big concerns about the public system today. I outlined them in that post last year, so I won’t get into them again here. They are still real concerns in my mind, so you’re probably wondering if I might please get to the point, and tell you why are we making this decision already.
Here’s the first reason:
My amazing husband has been steadily and faithfully pursuing a stable aviation career for years. We’ve moved across the country (and back) for training, gone through several periods of unemployment, endured poverty-level pay grades, and weathered the stress of a job with unethical pressures which resulted in a resignation that seemed like a big, fat, career dead-end.
Until recently, he was unemployed after being laid off in March this year. The job search in aviation is complicated, and he had resigned himself to pursuing a pilot position in the airlines (which wasn’t his first choice). That path is a long one, and the first five or so years don’t pay enough to support a family.
We finally came to the realization that I need to contribute to our bottom line financially so that he could pursue that path without guilt. This blog has been a side business for me for a couple of years, and has been bringing in a solid part-time income. It helped us get through the last five months while hubs was laid off, and we’re supremely grateful for that. But in looking to the long-term future, we realized that we needed it to continue to grow. Last year I attempted homeschooling and running my business at the same time, and I failed miserably.
I mean, from an outside perspective – nothing disastrous happened. My oldest was in first grade, and I taught him to read, we did tons of zoo and science centre trips, we studied the monthly Tom Thompson paintings from our wall calendar, and he picked up a bunch of math concepts from our daily life, because he’s a smarty-pants. (proud mama.)
But I didn’t even come close to accomplishing the homeschool I dreamed and planned for. Not even close. And worse than that – I burnt out. My adrenal fatigue got worse, threatening my health and ability to complete day-to-day tasks. My stress was at an all-time high, and anxiety was becoming an every day issue. I felt like I was losing my mind.
So one day last spring on the way home, we took a spontaneous right turn and drove past the neighbourhood public school.
The large brick building loomed high in the blue sky, and I felt the gravity of the potential changes on the horizon. I let them wash over me ever so slowly at first. I sat with the idea for a few weeks before broaching the subject with my husband, and then the kids. We all settled into the idea slowly, and then we visited the school and had a tour.
It went amazingly well. I nearly cried tears of relief at the end, having so many of my fears assuaged. They were warm and friendly, and most of all – they cared about my kids.
I realize how silly that sounds. Many of you reading are probably like, “duh – public school is not a dungeon of monsters.” I knew that intellectually, of course. I think it was just the fear of the unknown. Will the kids like it? Will they thrive, or struggle? Will the teachers and administrators see my kids for the gems that they are? Will the system crush my kids’ love for learning, or handle it tenderly and encourage it to grow? Will the bureaucratic red tape create a negative experience in any way? What about my oldest’s fears and uncertainties about the whole idea in the first place?
Despite my uncertainties, I took our first visit going so wonderfully as a sign of hope.
So, I was going to stop the story here. Everyone would understand finances and the tough spot we were in, I figured. If finances weren’t an issue, I’d be gung-ho for continuing our homeschooling path, right?
But our finances weren’t the only reason we ultimately made this choice. You see, I must confess to a small sense of intense relief at the thought of having my kids go to school every day, with someone else taking part of the responsibility off my shoulders.
As a major introvert, the thought of someone else to help bear the major burden of teaching my kids everything they need to know sounds, well, amazing.
A few years ago when I was seeing our counselor for a few personal sessions to talk about my innermost stuff (sounds so self-centered, but boy oh boy, do I ever highly recommend it. It was heavenly), we were talking about personality types. She was an expert in MBTI (which I adore… special snowflake INFP here) and something that she said struck me most profoundly.
She told me that my particular type may be the one that struggles the most with being a stay-at-home mother. My introversion and my idealism combine with a strongly empathic personality that readily internalizes the emotions around me (hello toddlers! yowza!), and is easily overwhelmed with the every hour, every moment wild roller coaster ride of raising small children.
I’d be lying if I said that this truth about the personality that God gave me didn’t play in to my public schooling decision as well. In this way, I’m very much (with trepidation) looking forward to our public school journey.
If we were to choose homeschooling again in the future then of course I’d make it work by seeking to maximize my strengths and giving grace for my weaknesses. But for now, I’m just resting in the decision we’ve made, and letting myself embrace it.
It’s funny how life chooses the curveballs it throws, isn’t it? The thing you think is the one thing you’ll probably never do ends up being The Big Change that you end up making. Ah, irony, you big jerk.
But things change. Life throws big fat curveballs that nearly clock you in the head because they’re so unexpected. Careers ebb and flow. Parents do their best, but sometimes ideals aren’t met.
And yeah, that’s okay.
That’s a hard statement for me to affirm because I used to live in a very black and white world. Right or Wrong. Best or Worst. No real in between. Both/ands, maybes, sortas, and half-baked decisions weren’t my cup of tea.
I’m living in the in-between shades now – the myriad of choices and scenarios that exist in that expansive distance between Absolute Best, and Absolute Worst, and how sometimes those camps shift and change anyway.
Most of you know that we’re moving to Ottawa in two weeks. Our public school plans remain the same, but we’ll be withdrawing our registration here, and registering at our new school in our new neighbourhood.
We’re no longer a homeschooling family. School starts on September 8, and I’ll bring my two older kiddos, all of us a bundle of nerves.
I’ll check back in later next month with how we’re all doing with our new schooling adventure. Until then, I’ve got school supplies to buy and lunchboxes to figure out. Eek!