So tomorrow my two little boys will go back to school. It will be more of an "official" start, as their real start was three days before a week and a half of vacation (just before Easter). Having just Bridgette at home is wonderful, and odd at the same time. It is very quiet in the house with just her here.
The boys being gone all day long is...well, I don't know how to put it. It's wonderful, and sad, and peaceful and too peaceful all at once. It's a break I was longing for, cloaked in a desire to be with them a protect them from all that could possibly go wrong at once. It's being free and happy and anxious and worried all at once. Simply put, it's a mixed bag of emotions.
And despite sometimes questioning myself, is this really the right thing to do?, I look back at our homeschooling year and realize that yes, we needed this break. I've always been a homeschooling mom that said "when" in terms of putting my kids in school, not "if". I just always thought that we'd wait until we bypassed middle school before taking the plunge. Sometimes, however, our best laid plans aren't to be. I love teaching, and love teaching my kids. I really do. But this year, they started to pull away from me. Longed for independence, and got sick of our routine. I'd consider myself (after six years) a homeschooling veteran - I've changed curriculums, and classroom schedule and set up so many times to try to keep them interested and excited about learning. But here's the deal (my deal anyhow)...I'm only one person. And I only have so many tricks up my sleeve. Even the seven year old has been schooling with me for three years, and he needed something new and different...something other than me. That's a hard blow as a homeschooling mom who is used to being everything for her kids. Used to being their alarm clock, their fashion consultant (sometimes forcibly), their short order cook, their chauffeur, their nanny, their nurse, their babysitter, their playmate, their teacher, their coach, etc. The list goes on and on.
For those of you who have been a homeschooling mommy, you get this. Being your kids' everything is all consuming. It becomes who you are, not just what you do.
So to admit that maybe you aren't up to the call, that you need help, is both humbling and humiliating. But we got there. Not because I couldn't control my kids, or because they were being "so bad" for me. In fact, the opposite is true. They are usually very easy to school, and they all learn well. It's just that school became lack luster for us all. It became a "have to", not "want to". They complained (loudly), they sat and stared out the windows, they had to be reminded again and again and again to get back to work. Can I get an "amen" out there? :)
Some homeschool moms call this "burnout", for me, I call it time for a change. I'm a teacher. Trained. I know what school should be, and what I want it to be for my kids. I want them to love it, period. And if they don't love to learn, they won't want to become lifetime learners. If learning becomes another chore at the hands of a grumpy mother who spends her day nagging at them to "get it done", my fear is that they will all start to hate learning.
A few months ago, this reality came to me, and made me think about the fact that maybe it was time for some help. Steve and I cautiously prayed about it. Surely we wouldn't consider the *shudder* public school, right? We looked at the cost of private schools in our area, and decided to stick it out at home, for a while longer. Each day it was getting harder for us all to want to do school. Aside from fun history and science projects, they dreaded all other subjects in school. Or at least they seemed to from the amount of complaining involved. We talked and prayed some more.
Then came time for our second quarterly reports, and I realized that my oldest child was really struggling in two subjects. Of course, I hadn't just realized it, but writing it out in narrative brought it to light again. I contacted the local school to get some testing in place for her, and that set the ball rolling in a direction I never thought we'd go.
As we learned more about our local public school, I was shocked at the number of things I had thought about the schools that simply were not true. (Another post for another day, perhaps?) We decided to tour both the local christian school and the local public school. Quite simply put, we were blown away by the public school. It had...well, everything. Beyond stuff, it had quality staff, loving teachers, and special education in all subject areas for children in need. We brought the kids in for a tour. They fell in love. And opened their hearts to us in individual conversations about how they longed to be "normal", and to go school.
I had no idea.
Especially from my oldest. She had been longing to go to school for some time now, and hadn't told me for fear of hurting my feelings. Cue a punch to the gut. Seriously? Their eyes lit up as we walked the school, and child after child said hello and welcome. These weren't the tiny foul mouthed thugs I had anticipated. They were - well, kids. Sure they weren't all the same, and they don't all come from tidy christian homes, but they were kind, welcoming and excited at the prospect of our kids joining them.
We came home.
And they begged us to start the next day.
It all happened so quickly.
But we knew it was right.
They were ready, and I was *mostly* ready. They're my babies after all, and they've been mine for eleven years now. Only mine. It's hard to share.
I know I've given them a valuable foundation both spiritually and educationally. Even the baby can read chapter books, something I'm very proud of. :) But they're ready for something new. And so am I. I love them enough to let them go and experience something other than me. And I love myself enough to admit that I need a break. And can I admit that I'm looking forward to it? Bee is home for another two weeks, and then she too will go to school. After that, I will be home alone, five days a week for the first time in almost twelve years. Some have suggested that I'll get bored, but I doubt it. There is always something to do when running a household.
Eventually I might get a part time job, but for now, I think I'll bask in my "retirement" and enjoy a well earned break.
And my kids? They'll be okay.
I just know it.