This last year and a half so many monumental things have happened.
We began homeschooling.
We opened a retail store.
We opened an online store. (P.S. we shipped 280 packages this month–thank you SOOO much for your support and general awesomeness.)
We started writing a book.
We began homeschooling again….
I feel like so much has happened that I rarely delve into as much detail as I’d like, the meat of it all.
You guys know this is our second year homeschooling and you know my heart on it. But the question I get asked/emailed the most…is “why did you start homeschooling?”
For some of you, you’re probably on the edge of such a decision, and for others, just simply curious. I have struggled so with my crumbling heart this year with all we have going on, that I’ve been in constant reevaluation and reminding myself of the reasons I do anything…especially homeschooling.
And well, if it is on my heart, then it usually winds up on this blog. I know not everyone who reads our blog will want to read this post, but for those who do, I will start at the beginning.
I grew up in a very “normal” family, with a normal house and normal clothes and went to a normal school. We went to normal church and normal sporting events. We were, though, very close and the life we led felt extraordinary, even to this teenager. I see now how hard my parent fought to spend time with us amidst all the activity and how they had to say no to so many things I wanted to be a part of that others were doing…they were so purposeful. (P.S. Mom & Dad, I know sometimes you think I choose such weird things and live so differently than you did–but you know what, I think I learned so much about how to do it right, and I’m just getting there a different way. )
I did have some bumps and bruises along the way–especially in school. I’ve written about the start of it before, and I think I’ll reopen that chapter soon. Those bumps truly dictated many of my choices, and that dictated what I deal with now, struggle with, battle.
I met my best friend Lisa my freshman year of college. She was beautiful, attentive, kind, cheerful, intelligent, driven, and could literally sing like an angel. I remember finding out she was homeschooled and wondering how in the world that even worked. We didn’t spend much time together until her junior year, but when we did, we were fast friends. We were part of a Bible study together, and her heart for the Lord won me over–her heart for me and my struggles.
It was then that I warmed to the idea of homeschooling and from that moment I realized anything can be done well…or poorly. Matt and I met several more homeschooled friends in college, and little did I know, but there was a seed planted, and planted firmly.
Fast forward again…After having Grayson in 2006, I stumbled upon a homeschooling blog. This lady rocked. She had it together, and she was educated and well spoken and more importantly, I completely identified with her mission work and family focused heart. I began doing tot school with Gray, to give us fun, purposeful time together. It was a ton of fun and helped focus on shared moments with him. Looking back, I think this time spent with him is one of the many factors in shaping my heart for this life.
I began to occasionally let my mind wander, and allow myself to even think about the possibility. I really didn’t ever think about the exact motivations, though…just that I had fun doing this with Gray, and I loved the family dynamics of those I knew who lived this way. I still, though, struggled with all the doubts and concerns…but quickly dismissed the serious thinking.
So when the blog became a business and my job was part of our income, and we had another baby, and the time came for K-4, off to school Grayson went. He had been in mother’s day out programs since he was 18 months old, by the way. This was his first time going all five days a week, and I really struggled.
I don’t mean like, “aw, my baby’s off to school and I’m sad this week about it.” It was hard, and now I know it’s simply because this, what we’re doing now, is what I was always supposed to do…for now.
I tried to get very excited about school and involved and send snacks and all of the above. I adored Grayson’s teacher, Miss Cindy. She was everything a teacher should be, and I will forever be grateful. We were, though, not happy with other things. This is a delicate matter, laying our hearts out there, so I will try to treat it as such.
After a month or so (when I finally pulled myself together and began enjoying my alone time during the day), Grayson began to act strangely. He would get in the car (four years old, mind you) after school, and when I would ask how the day was, he would just shrug, “ok.” He began staring out the window, struggling with anger, and crying sometimes for no reason. At first I thought it was just adjustment, but then I realized…he wasn’t happy. At all.
I started asking questions about his day, and turns out, he was dealing with a lot of bullying…now, I realize he did his fair share, too, but when he started quietly tearing up at the dinner table and saying things like, “I know I’m not cool, mom. I know that i’m not a good boy. Everyone else knows, and I do, too…” and becoming distant and disinterested in fun school activities, major red flags started waving.
We talked with his teacher, and she said he was a normal busy little boy, who didn’t want to sit still or raise his hand, but it was all normal behavior. I won’t go into too much detail, but we didn’t have pleasant talks with other staff. We wanted to help, to see what we could do to reinforce discipline and yet, encourage him. Nonetheless, things there began to feel foreign, and just not right. We felt like we just didn’t belong there…for now. I can tell you things that would make even the most lackadaisical mama fighting mad–like him being made to run the football stadium stairs with the football team as a disciplinary action, but honestly, it really wasn’t about that stuff at all. The school or administration isn’t bad, but it wasn’t working for us.
Bottom line: homeschooling was a calling for me. That may sound cheesy or silly or too Jesus-y, but it’s the honest truth. Something felt off about our life then. Not everyone feels this way, but because we had opened an online store and the internet never sleeps, my jobs were never done at 3 p.m. or even 5. I felt like all my time with them was spent carting them to and from school, and trying to build Gray back up…all the while working when they were home.
I began in the spring to feel that the once gentle tugging that this wasn’t working had turned more like violent slapping against my forehead. I began thinking about the life I wanted, what I wanted our days to look like.
I pictured our kids enjoying us, not because we want to smother them, but because we want them to experience everything in the right time. We want to bring them more life, not hide them from the world. We wanted to be able to train their little minds as we went along. We wanted to travel, and for heaven’s sakes, I wanted to feel like I could work at 7 p.m., and not feel like I barely said hello to them that day.
I pictured learning with them, and knowing it was going to take a whole LOT of Grace to get me through. I pictured them one day maybe becoming graphic and interior designers or a business man or a marketing guru (here’s hoping, right?) and wanting to work alongside their mom and dad. I pictured teaching them life lessons…now, not when they’re 15, but now, each day. I pictured less video games and tv and more play. I pictured a lot of Love. I pictured children who were motivated, driven, passionate, and urged to follow their dreams. I pictured a full life, but a simple life.
I struggled, though.
Would they be socialized? Did he need to be around 4o other kids every single day? Why did I feel this way when so many around me didn’t seem to at all? Was I some weird smothering mama who wanted to lock her kids in the basement? Would I miss things like plays and Thanksgiving feast day and report cards and honor roll? What about sports? Would they play? Would they be missing out on cafeteria food? Would they grow up being looked at as “weird” or “unsocialized” for every mistake they make? Would I be able to teach what they needed to learn?
Last summer, though, after having surgery and winding up in the hospital afterwards, I had some time to ponder. One morning on our following beach vacation, at 4:30 a.m., I wrote a manifesto if you will, an unpretentious declaration of what I wanted and what I was scared of. I laid it all out there, not being afraid for being too quacky or too unfaithful to voice my concerns.
My husband, who had been really skeptical, read it, and without hesitation he said, “Why not? This sounds wonderful to me, and if this choice helps us pursue this life…then why not try?”
And I wept. For the life we were leaving behind and for the freedom to lead a new one.
I wept for my own insecurities and fears and my crazy-supportive husband, but mostly, I wept tears of joy and vowed I would never again knowingly put my children in a situation they weren’t thriving in because it was the “normal thing to do.”
Looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to our family. We share so much with our kids, and I love that about our life. I recognize, though, that families doing the “norm” do this all the time. There is no perfect way to raise a family, and really, we never made this decision planning for permanence or thinking everyone else should do the same. For now, it feels right and the kids are thriving. This is a per-family, per-year thing…so as with everything else in my life, I fully accept I have no idea what I’m talking about half the time. There are plenty of struggles, and don’t worry, I’ll lay more of those out there, too.
Gray still struggles with anger and frustration and being too rough and selfishness and Ava still throws fits and screams too much and is a shade too entitled. They will struggle with those things in traditional school or at home. Now, though, I feel like I get to hear from them more, and find out why they are frustrated or angry.
This journey is teaching me so much about how much I lack, and how little life has to do with how “good I am” or how “patient I can be.” That’s why when other moms say, “Oh, I could never do that…I’m not patient enough,” I’m quietly cracking up. Well, join the club, sister. Neither am I. #hotmess
So that’s our story, our why. I want to tell you some specific things we wanted for our learning together and how we addressed certain concerns and insecurities. I’ll save that for another day, though, as I know you can’t help but be glazing over at this point.
Sending love to you and your little people today, friends. Hope you have an incredibly blessed day, fully thriving in your normal.
P.S. If you want to read more of our homeschooling posts, you can check out these links below:
Homeschooling This Year (2013)