On a recent visit with my psychiatrist, in the course of asking how I was doing, she asked, rather seriously, if I had considered putting my children in public school when I have our third baby this fall.
I stared at her, taken aback.
She quickly explained how she believed it would be easier on me, how it could lift a load of stress off of our family. Regaining my composure, I explained how it would be exactly the opposite, as politely as I could muster, trying to keep in mind that she truly believed this would be for my benefit.
Much later that day, I reflected on her comments. I really did like her as a doctor, but she had, on almost every visit, brought up her skepticism about our homeschooling. I had never complained about it, or implied that it was stressful, so it could only be her own opinion on the subject. Right?
As a person with bipolar disorder and anxiety, I have sometimes been met with doubt as to my ability to homeschool – to parent, really. At the beginning of our journey, I even read a book that instructed that someone with a “serious mental illness” should not homeschool. I could not disagree more, but in reality, my family is my biggest reason for maintaining an active treatment plan with medication and counseling and self-care, because I need to remain well for them. But was homeschool – and parenting – really a bigger stress on me than I realized?
Okay, I do realize that parenting is an incredible responsibility, and stress comes along with it. For every parent. But as I thought about it, I thought back to the year when my daughter was in public school. And I quickly knew the answer: homeschooling had saved us.
The Kindergarten Year
Ellie was a little kindergartner with missing teeth, always looking so sweet in her school uniform. She attended a charter school, so there were no school buses. For the first half of the year, I worked at a high school in the suburbs as an instructional assistant, and so our neighbor, whose older daughter also attended the school, would take Ellie to school, and often pick her up and feed her a snack afterwards until I careened back into our inner-city neighborhood to take her home. This would be after picking up my toddler son, Micah, from wherever he had stayed for the day – with my mother, mother-in-law, or a friend. Then we’d head home and it would be time for homework, always in excess, dinner if we could manage it, and then bed. Life was insanely hectic.
At the end of the first semester, I decided to leave my job at the high school. I realized how much our son missed being with us, plus the stress of the commute and the changing situation of my job was taking its toll on me. I became a stay-at-home mom. Now I was the one taking the kids to school, and picking up. I thought things would be easier, but they were still difficult, though in a different way.
I realized how extremely tired my little daughter was. She was only six – and had to be at school before 8:00 in the morning, and pick-up wasn’t until 3:30. That was a long day for anyone, let alone a little kindergartner. I had the hardest time getting her to get out of bed in the morning, not to mention waking and readying our son as well, only to return home after dropping her off, with him fussy because he’d also been awakened too early. Ellie was grumpy, Micah was grumpy, I was grumpy. We were all too tired, and extremely frazzled.
Then there was the school itself. I have a degree in Elementary Education, and have worked with children for years in various settings – and over time, I have formulated very strong opinions about child development and learning… and this school, and Ellie’s teachers, were not jiving with my educational ideals. I disliked the approach they took with very young children’s learning, I disliked their discipline methods, and also how many of the students were treated. But what could I do?
Homeschooling Lands in our Laps
Needless to say, we were all very grateful once summer break rolled around. Finally, we had some much needed rest.
Two weeks before school was set to start, I was in the process of developing educational products for a project I was working on, and decided to check out books from the library on homeschooling curriculum.
Instantly, I fell in love. And I began to question, and wonder… what if… could we… could we do this?
It was crazy. We had only two weeks to decide. I talked with Ben about it. We talked with friends who homeschooled. We talked with my parents. And at almost the very last minute, we decided: YES. Let’s do this.
Our Homeschool Journey
So, in the beginning of Ellie’s 1st grade year, we became a homeschooling family. And over time, what our homeschool looks like has changed, but for the better. We are now in Ellie’s 4th grade year, and Micah is approaching Kindergarten, and Baby Silas is about to born within the next month. And I realize how much we would have missed if Ellie, and Micah for that matter, had been in a school building for hours every day.
We would have missed things like this…
We would have missed out on bringing Ellie and Micah to Silas’ ultrasounds. We would have missed out on impromptu hiking trips. We would have missed out on days that Grandma comes over to help with the house and reads to both kids before she leaves. We wouldn’t have been able to travel to Chicago one weekday to see Hamilton. We wouldn’t be able to do school with cats on the table and dogs at our feet. We would be more tired and stressed and frazzled – we wouldn’t be able to sleep in until our bodies wake us up naturally, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast together. We wouldn’t be able to take birthdays off, and sick days, or school days at the park where it’s just too pretty a day to stay inside.
We wouldn’t be able to learn together in our own special ways.
We would miss all of this, and more.
I am reminded of the scene in movie Pirates of the Caribbean, when Jack Sparrow says, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.“
That’s what this is to me… what homeschool really is… is freedom.
What is homeschool to you?
I hope you’ll join us in our journey. We’ll share more stories like this, stories of our messy, messy lives. We’ll share our creations, too, like the Fruit of the Spirit printable pack Ellie and I created together, and coming soon, our Scripture, Saints, and Hymns printable pack, free for our subscribers in our free resource library. Also, when you subscribe, you’ll receive access to our paid products for free for a limited time. We’re having a lot of fun here, and we hope you’ll tag along, and share a little about yourselves, too. May God be with you, friends.