Truth Time: School or homeschooling?

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It has been a year of transitions here. All three of my children went to school for the first time in September but only one is still registered there. My oldest returned to homeschooling after only a month at school and my youngest returned to homeschooling after Christmas. You can read about the decision to send them to school here and about bringing my oldest home here. It has been a very strange year with so many transitions.

Sending the kids to school and then bringing them home again forced me to confront the serious questions about why we were homeschooling and what I want. We started homeschooling in the first place because I thought my oldest son was not a good fit for school. We kept all three at home because it seemed weird to send some off and not others. I love my kids and their presence here at home.

Yet we sent all of them to school because homeschooling is hard, and we thought it might be easier and better for everyone to go to school. We had one meeting with the principal in which I was sold the idea that they could make the accomodations to make school a success for my oldest, and the idea of having the burden of taking care of all three all the time lifted off me was so tempting. Homeschooling is hard.

As soon as we made the decision to send them to school, I regretted it. I dreaded the thought of them going and because I dreaded it, I wondered how much I was keeping them home for my own sake. Were they at home because I wanted to prove to myself that I was a good enough homeschooler? Were they at home because I liked having them at home? Was it really the best thing for them? So even as I started to regret agreeing to send them to school, I committed to that path wanting to make sure I do what is best for them, not me.

Having one month to myself with all three in school was not nearly long enough. I do not have a problem finding projects to work on in my kid’s absence. I loved the time to myself but I could also see that things were not working out for my oldest. Yet he and I are both introverts. We could contentedly sit at seperate computers in the same room, working on seperate projects. I discovered that emailing him his school assignments for the day was better than putting them in a paper agenda, since neither of us can keep track of books easily.

Our dwarf hamster Wilbur likes to sit and think.
Thoughtful hamster just seemed suitable for this post. Today I’m a reflective hamster.

So given how well things were going with one child at home and two in school, I’m a little mystified by why I pulled my daughter out too. At six she needs more intensive schooling than her older brother. She’s clingy too, spending as much time as she could in my lap. Yet I missed her and she missed me, and the whole word reading stuff they were doing at school was just not working for her.

Putting them in school and pulling them out of school sets the bar. I see how they did in school. I tell myself that’s the bar to meet. I have to do better than that, somehow. It is hard, because I can’t spend all day teaching either of them or both of them. I can spend a few hours, and then I need to get my own work done too. I do all the fun activities my middle child still comes home talking about, but we do other things instead and it events out.

I say to myself that I’ve made this choice, now I have to make it work. I have to stop wondering if we’re doing the right thing or not and just try my best to make this work for everyone. I have to stop feeling guilty for what I can’t do for them, and start just enjoying what we can do.

I’ve been surprised how well my middle child is taking school. He explained it to me a bit the other day when I was walking him to the school bus. He said he doesn’t understand how people decide what is cool or not, but he thinks they just base that category around their own characteristics. He’s not sure why people would change who they are to fit into others ideas of cool, but he knows he doesn’t need to. He said as an introvert he doesn’t really need lots of friends. I think that amazing self-confidence and clarity of thought helps him.

Yet despite that proclaimed lack of interest in conforming to other kids interests, my little guy does try to reach out in his own way. He climbs into the school bus with a backpack full of books. He likes to try to share what he’s reading with his classmates and he’s told me which classmates he can get interested in which types of books. It’s a good compromise between his interest (books) and the topics individual classmates are interested in. I’m very proud of him.

There are days and weeks I wonder if he’ll return to homeschooling too. School isn’t a great fit for him academically. He’s spent a lot of time tutoring his classmates instead of learning new things on his own. I’ve tried to advocate at the school for him, mostly unsuccessfully, and with a sense of embarressment afterwards. I don’t like feeling like the demanding mother who thinks her kids is too bright for the class. I know I’m supposed to just embrace the idea that he’s learning all sorts of social skills and he’s happy and what does it matter if he gets challenged academically or not, but I can’t quite embrace that philosophy. Luckily he’s a kid who just can’t stop learning.

I wonder sometimes if there’s wisdom or skills that would have helped my other two enjoy school better. My youngest I can see trying again in the future. I suspect my oldest will not.



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One Comment

  • Lucinda

    Christy, I’m sure plenty of people can relate to this. I certainly can. It’s tough trying to balance what’s right for our kids, and for us as adults, and for the whole family – and that’s even assuming what know what IS right for each of us!! But when it comes down to it, with us as well-intentioned parents I’m sure our kids will all learn what they need to know, somehow!
    PS love the thoughtful hamster

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