Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homeschool Mom's Paycheck

As a mom who teaches her kids at home, often I receive the blunt end of compliments--it's very rare, really, when someone is altogether sincere in stating something positive about our lives. If this lifestyle we've pursued wasn't an inclination toward following God's will for our family, there have been many opportunities to hang up the books and send the kids to school. I could have a lovely, clean home. I could eat lunch with girlfriends without feeding kids first.  I could take a class, walk for fitness, do crafts with MY things and know where MY stuff is. I could read what I WANT to read all afternoon. I could grocery shop without $20+ worth of extra junk in my cart. . . .the list goes on and on. I, I, I, I COULD. . . .


We actually DID have our girls all in school for one. dreadful. semester. Four years ago. We had just moved into this new house, I was trying to unpack boxes for months. We were trying to keep the two year old OFF the stairs and "do school". I couldn't foresee trying to teach my 5 year old to read while continuing basic skills practice with my VERY active six year old and attempting to challenge my loves-to-read-but-hates-to-write, highly gifted fourth grader....and it was the elementary school my husband attended...he turned out okay. I caved and put them "in."

My little redhead marched off in her khaki and navy uniform to that big building of near-anonymity FIVE DAYS before she turned SIX. I cried. That morning and almost every morning afterward that whole year.
It was the worst decision of motherhood I've EVER made, to this day.

What a depressing time. First, we had to get up VERY early. OUT very early. BED very early. Have I mentioned before that our family are NOT "morning people"?  We're not. It was tough. I had to worry with packing lunches. I had to make sure homework was done. It didn't take long to realize we were spending WAY more time(and incidentally, MONEY) on the "free" public school education than we had EVER spent homeschooling. . .but we persisted in the madness. Homework. Grumpies. Sleepies. COLDS, FEVERS. Questions I didn't want to answer from a seven-year-old...word of hours spent playing computer games and watching MOVIES that I would never have approved, always after the fact. Fundraisers. More money for this or that. No family time at all by the time homework and baths(and the perpetual uniform laundry)were done each night.

As if this weren't enough, I continued to blame my roaming through the house, looking in their rooms and crying semi-constantly and my half-day trips to walmart on being "too busy". So we put my oldest into 4th grade in the middle of the year.(Madness, eh?)
She did okay. Made a few "friends". Good grades. Bored. I was apalled at how few BOOKS(and the utter lack of anything I would consider calling "classic") they read...we made up our minds to get through it.

And we did. It was a learning experience for ME. I'm not so sure WHAT they learned that year. :)

Lesson: family time is important. Most parents DO homeschool, only they do it after work when they and their kids are tired AND they do it without the freedom to teach their kids what THEY want them to know. It's called "homework". The content of it is decided largely by the State.

Homeschooling gives us FREEDOM that others don't have. We can go places during the day when stores/parks/streets aren't so crowded. We can take a day trip to enhance the study of something we're reading. We can focus on the positive aspects of things and our kids don't "have to" know all the not-so-desirable things other kids their age "have to" in order to survive the classroom.

I'm so thankful.
But there is almost always that nagging question--the one that sent me on a mission to put my kids in school four years ago. Can they MAKE IT with kids their age. Are they learning what they need to know? AM I DOING A GOOD JOB? All these questions really come down to a need for validation IN MOM'S BRAIN. I desire affirmation like any normal human, and face it, surrounded by piles of laundry and dustbunnies and a perpetually-messy kitchen, it's hard to feel like "this" could ever be the best choice. . .but Holy Scripture comes to whisper in my heart--"make every effort to lead a quiet life and to work with your hands," "charm is deceptive and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised". . .
calling me back to contentment in the lot the Lord has given me. Calling me back to thankfulness for being here, at home, for having a husband who works hard to provide for us, for having eyes to see that we CAN make it, because we WILL, on one income; calling me back to know that the things of this world are passing away so very quickly...calling me to truth, and to my calling. Wife. Mother. Teacher. 

And sometimes, every so often, reward in tangible form comes along, just a sweet reminder of God's goodness and provision in the physical realm. I was blessed with one of those this past weekend.

C. entered three pieces in a writing contest at a local university a couple of months ago. We received word this week that she won 1st place Poetry, 2nd place prose, and had received honorable mention on the third poem she entered. All three pieces received recognition. The ONLY homeschool student who placed at all, by my reading. My girl.

My little fourth grader who would NOT write...my little second grader who struggled so hard learning to read. My girl who drives me crazy with her scatterbrained subject-changing and lack of focus, and yet delights me with her creative ideas that come rapid-fire most often AFTER TEN P.M... My girl. WON.

I'm a proud Mama. Not in the "my kid did better than your kid" sense, but in the sense of joyful victory in Christ Jesus. He who has given us every good thing--to enjoy. He who promised He came that we might have  abundant life ETERNALLY. He who promised to prepare a place for us and to RETURN that we might be where He is.
He is good.
I am thankful.


Linking to L.A.C.E. at Lily-Rose Cottage!


ottszoo said...

awesome post!!!!

Gabrielle said...

I love this post! What you're describing sounds completely exhausting and overwhelming to me, but I can't wait to be there! It also sounds rewarding and full of the joy that comes from doing what God has called you to do.

And congratulations to you and C! Way to go!

Allison said...

I want to be you when I grow up. I'm so blessed to be on the homeschool/life road with you and your family.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Homeschooling is just another area where some women feel free to peck on someone else in order to feel better about themselves. Just like breastfeeding, epidurals and other such nonsense.

I am a firm believer in doing what is best for YOUR family. I homeschooled for a time and look back on it with great fondness. My homeschooler has gone on to do very well.

My son is now in public school and I am there several times a week and we suppliment his education regularly at home.

Stick to your guns and don't be persuaded by someone who probably just feels guilty they aren't doing enough. (Which probably they aren't and the truth hurts.)

Congrats to your wonderful girl!
You are wonderful. You are smart. You are doing exactly what you should be doing according to your family. Hurray!!!!

Lynn said...

April, way to go!! I am so proud of you!! Great job on the writing! That will be a lifelong skill that will never disappoint! Please send personal congratulations from me, a person who is so glad she learned to love writing at a young age!


Leann @ MontessoriTidbits said...

Thanks for posting on the workboxes group this morning. We'll begin our journey homeschooling this fall in Kindergarten, with an overactive soon-to-be 5 year old. I am so thankful that God called us to homeschool this past year, and despite my insecurities, it is encouraging to read that someone else felt this way and found that homeschooling really did work.

danielle @ RLR said...

Love that!


Momma said...

Can I say thank you so much for taking the time to post this... massive words of encouragement. I have felt those nagging questions all to often... Glad to hear I am not the only one...

Trish @ Lily-Rose Cottage said...

Hello April.
thank you for linking up to LACE today!
What a great post.
One that so many mothers -especially homeschooling mothers -can relate to!
Congratulations to your lovely daughter on her excellent achievement :-)
Well done to the both of you!
Homeschooling can be tough but it's so rewarding, and these days there's a large growing community of christian families involved and able to support each other.
So good to see!
God bless you..Trish

Judy said...

Love this post, April. I think C doesn't have much of a choice but to be a good writer. (Remember the "apple and tree" thing?