Thursday, August 3, 2017

Home School is So Cool!

I have been wanting to sit down and write about homeschooling for a long time. It is 9 p.m. and all the kids are in bed and Eric is at a Men's Group and one of the first things I want to do is write. I miss writing and dream about being able to do it more.

Homeschooling has been on our radar for years.  There are so many families locally and nationally that we love and admire who homeschool.  We moved to our little town specifically for the top rated schools and the proximity to the city.  I homeschooled Simon with a friend his second year of preschool because although I see the value of preschool I do not enjoy the homeschool brigade.  Yes moms will tell you that they long for the "break" but for me having always had more children at home a break from the older/easier children does not feel like enough of a break to load/unlaod the littles four extra times. I am a (mostly) stay at home mom for many reasons, one being that I love to offer my kids freedom from schedules, freedom from rushing and freedom to explore and adventure.  I have found that once we invite school schedules into our lives it dictates our whole family schedule and so thus far each kid has done one official year of preschool.  I am super excited to get a break from the preschool brigade this coming school year.

Why We Homeschooled...
I regularly get asked why we decided to homeschool Simon.  The answer to that is not a simple one as you can imagine.  Simon started first grade at school and this was his first time being gone all day. This was for sure a big transition for Simon.  He liked school, enough. I never had to beg him to get on the bus.  But we quickly watched his personality change.  It was super sad b/c the whole family missed him and would be excited to see him at the end of the day and then we would frequently have difficult evenings.  I think Simon needed a few different things. He wanted to see friends and play outside after school and yet he needed to be alone and play legos and recharge.  I remember messaging a seasoned mom of 6 and saying "I feel like I've lost my son. I can't seem to connect with him."  She affirmed that this was a normal experience once kids went to school all day.  We continued to watch him struggle and we began to pray and seek counsel.

The Lord dropped a fellow Madiera Mom into my lap last fall.  I had heard of her as a Madeira homeschooling mom and then I ran into her several times in a few short days.  As the first semester continued on I asked her to coffee to pick her brain and her experiences with homeschooling.  The Lord was so kind in allowing me to meet her.  She was paramount to my homeschool journey.  She supported me, encouraged me, helped me with curriculum, and we became friends.  Having someone in my community to collaborate with was paramount to our success!

I lost so much sleep over this decision but Eric and I got to a place with Simon that we decided we were unwilling to continue to watch Simon struggle.  It's not that he was unhappy. It just seemed like he was not at peace.  And we began to gain confidence in doing something completely counter intuitive and we took Simon out of school after Christmas break.  I cannot describe the panic I felt at times.  I would worry that we would both hate it. I worried that I wouldn't be able to manage it all. You name it, I thought it.

So we took the leap and January came and within a few weeks Simon was back to himself completely!!! This was huge!!!  I pray that Eric and I continue to have the courage to help create circumstances where our children can thrive.  Around this time we ran into a homeschooling dad and were giving him an update on the family.  We began to share about taking Simon out of school and he responded saying "It's almost like Simon needs the family and the family needs Simon".  In that moment my heart soared with validation because both of these things were true and I was so grateful that someone could summarize it for me so succinctly.  What a freakish thing to say and claim in our society today.  I know it sounds weird and yet it perfectly summed up what was happening last fall in our family.  I can speculate about the dynamics of his classroom, about different social situations that might have contributed to his personality change.  I can guess a million things but at the end of the day our guts said that the one dynamic we could remove to attempt to reach our son's needs was school and it paid off in a huge way.

Reality of Homeschooling...
It is not easy!  It feels near impossible some days.  The younger girls are so busy and so distracting that it was hard to do any schoolwork when they were awake.  By the time naptime came around both Simon and I were tired.  There was opposition to reading, practicing piano, doing spelling, you name it!  Each day we had battles.  Something being right does not produce the absence of opposition and struggle.  But we worked through it together.  And I had my fellow homeschooling friend that I could text in the midst of a hard day to help talk me off the ledge.  Both Simon and I had to apologize to eachother for not handling things well but our relationship has grown through it.  There is just something about having significant time together that allows us to deeply engage into our kid's hearts.  And I am no doubt being refined through that as well.

God's Faithfulness...
I cannot recount all of the ways that God was faithful but I do want to highlight a few examples.

  • We found a perfect co-op for Simon.  Several friends were using this co-op and so I trusted it.  I randomly watched a video on Facebook that featured a family that adopts and fosters. It was an inspiring video but the thing that stood out was the oldest boy in the family.  He had a sparkle in his eye that struck me.  Would you believe that the first day of co-op I roll up to see this same boy opening the door to greet us?  This boy became Simon's favorite friend at co-op! Every week we pulled up and he opened the door with a huge grin and that same sparkle in his eye and Simon jumped out of the car excitedly and I thanked God! Sidenote: had I not opened my own counseling practice 5 minutes from our house I would not have been able to pick him up every Monday, another sign of faithfulness.  
  • Simon got invited to be a part of a homeschool field day.  He was put in a mixed aged group (K-12) with no one he knew in his group.  During the morning he competed against kids his own age and then in the afternoon his mixed age group competed together.  I mention this for two reasons.  People often express concern that homeschoolers don't get enough social interaction.  I put Simon in more unknown situations this past 6 months than he would have ever experienced staying in his classroom with the same 22 kids every day.  I watched him grow in confidence with each new experience.  Secondly, EVERYTIME we are around homeschool families I am amazed by their kindness and their acceptance of kids in different age groups. The middle school and high school kids in his group could not have been nicer and Simon's day was made because being with older kids is so awesome!  
  • We found that Simon was able to take piano and be in soccer so much more easily being homeschooled.   Our evenings were light. We didn't have to stress about homework and we didn't have to rush to piano because we were able to knock it out during the school day.  

We finished up the school year by the skin of our teeth.  May was HARD!  But we made it and our relationship is stronger than ever.  The Madeira principal was kind enough to administer Simon's testing to submit for our future homeschool application and his scores went up so I guess you could say we passed!  I took Simon to the school to test and every time I've asked him about it he says he does not miss "school" and he never wants to go back.  I can only commit to one year at a time.  So after more prayer and consideration we have decided to give it another year homeschooling Simon with a new co-op and new curriculum.  And I completely trust that the Lord will be faithful again.  Walker is going to Kindergarten and we are going to evaluate where we will go from there after we get through this school year.

I would not call myself a follower necessarily but I will say that I love for my people to do what I am doing.  My flesh wants to sell all of my closest friends on homeschooling. But I have felt convicted that this is my path and while it can be lonely to be in the minority this is my journey and I cannot put that on anyone else.  It is not easy for me to do something counter-cultural and different.  Life is so funny! I kicked and screamed my way into being a stay at home mom. God worked me through that journey to get me to a place of finding so much purpose and value in my role as a SAHM.  Just when I thought I'd be cashing in on that role and transferring my kids over to the school I felt called to start homeschooling.  I truly do not know what the future holds for our family. Some days I find myself hoping all four of  my kids end up in school all day and other days I see us all home schooling around our big kitchen table.  

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