Well…we’ve done it.
Done what I’ve been talking about for months now. We’ve put our boys into public school.
This decision, just like the one we made over five years ago to homeschool, did not come easily. Nor did it come without an agonizingly long process of praying, pros & cons list making, crying, debating, wise-counsel seeking, and wish-washing-in-the-final-choice-making. I kind of work like that. Sometimes it really takes me a long time to wrap my brain around a new path, even if it’s staring me down with a flashy red sign blinking, “Hey you! You dummy…this way!”
Am I preaching to the choir?
We are into our second week now, and while on the surface I am working to embrace the change and look at the positives, I’m still busy filling myself with all sorts of doubts, worries, and fears. Did we make the right choice? Are my kids strong enough to stand firm and choose right from wrong? Will they get hurt? Time will be faithful to reveal each of those things to us, I am certain of that. Bottom line is that for us, it is time to test out the waters.
Aside from the emotional rollercoaster that I keep reloading myself onto, there is another big ticket item that’s been revealed to me through this. Ultimately, it’s staring me right in the face and is becoming the biggest and hardest thing to let go of….pride.
I will shamefully admit holding a certain amount of pride fullness regarding homeschooling. I put a lot of work, planning, time, and effort into our homeschooling efforts. I’ve made curriculum and poured hours into lesson plans. I’ve planned the perfect thematic units and sacrificed a lot of our family’s resources in order to make it all happen. And truthfully, I think I was secretly holding onto a self-defined sense of “mommy worth” that’s been dangerously wrapped up in my own performance as a hybrid homeschool-mommy-teacher-goddess. I know. Sick, huh?
Another disturbingly frustrating aspect to all of this, is realizing that I have tied my own worth to my kids’ performance and behavior. Now, I know this is faulty thinking. It certainly isn’t practical or biblical. No one but myself has put this expectation on me, and I am working constantly to remind myself where and Who my true worth comes from. But just for kicks, I’m sharing with you what I mean: I have given myself over to the task of mothering, a mission that I take very seriously and one that does not necessarily come very naturally to me. Even still, I want to be good at it. I can only be considered a good enough mom, and a good enough homeschool mom, if and only if, my kids are educationally excelled, hard working, positive, God centered, family/community focused, physically fit, emotionally stable, interesting, and interested…really the list could go on and on. If I work hard, give them abundant love, and all the time that homeschooling takes, then the end result will produce a “super child”, a pat on the back for me, and someone to tell me “job well done”. It’s kind of my educational/parenting formula, if you will, and it looks like this:
Excellent Parenting + Love + Time + Child= Job Well Done
Before you go trying to tell me just how ridiculous this equation is, allow me to explain how I came to understand that it was just that - complete nonsense.
What ultimately led us down the road to re-evaluate our homeschool choice (more than once), wasn’t that I was not working hard enough. It wasn’t my educational philosophy, my lesson plans, my eagerness and preparedness to teach, or my organization. It wasn’t my conviction that homeschooling was right for our family, and it certainly wasn’t a lack of love or time that I was devoting to each of the kids. In fact, if there was one thing I was certain about (insert pride here) it was that I was doing/had done everything in my power to make home education for the Sanchez 4 a raging success.
Only it wasn’t. There was some piece to the equation that I was missing out on and I could not for the life of me, figure it out. No matter what new system or technique I tried, or however we changed our game plan, at the end of each day, week, and month I was still dumbfounded. Not to mention exhausted, frustrated, and sometimes just down right angry. We set new boundaries, set consistent expectations, and tried to give a lot of grace. And it still wasn’t working.
It goes back to my flawed formula. Of course having a wonderful kid is reward enough, but add to that the way the world will view your child and the obvious brilliance that must be nothing less than parenting at it’s perfection, well, that’s just icing on the cake. Right? I myself as a young and inexperienced mother, would equate this logic as practically perfect in every way. Of course now after 10 years of parenting, I see that it fails to incorporate the sinful nature of both the parent and the child, and is innately flawed in it’s genesis.
There is, after all, no practical way for me to parent excellently. And no matter what super power techniques I may or may not physically poses (very few sadly), I actually have very little power over my kids’ will, their choices, and their sin. I can make life uncomfortable for them, and even boring if need be. I can love, pray, teach, remind, and encourage. But stubbornness runs deep around here. Creative and consistent consequences are no match for a hard headed kid. And truthfully, that makes homeschooling feel impossible. I had to come to the realization that keeping all the kids home was just no longer feasible. And it took me a really long time to come to terms with that.
Does this mean that I have failed? It sure feels that way. Did I do my end of the equation to the best of my ability? I’m still evaluating that daily. No matter my answers, we certainly can’t keep living in this world where I am forcing a lifestyle that is making everyone miserable, especially one little boy who seems to find himself in a lot of trouble. That’s not the kind of childhood I would ever dream for any of my kids to have, so it was time to accept that a change was not only needed but completely necessary.
The trouble with this sort of change is the big adjustment that it is for our family. It’s hard for me to switch gears, to transform how I feel about education, about childhood, and even about our family time. One minute I’m relieved to have some of the pressure off and to have a break from the constant conflict, and the next I’m really regretting this change of direction.
Today I’m actually feeling quite sentimental about the boys being gone. I missed Isaac’s vivacious laughter at breakfast. (Who knew a kid could always wake up so happy?) I missed both of them at our big table while the girls colored in their new Calendar Journals, and group story time over PB&J for lunch. And I’m super sad about all the plans and lessons and opportunities that we had to set aside. I really wish we could just keep on plugging away, that the bad attitudes and poor motivation to complete work would be fixed. I still dream that we are able to study what they are each interested in, encourage their special strengths and abilities, and still have time to spare at the end of the day for life.
For now I’m getting back to the basics, at least while it still feels like digesting this newness is burning my throat. I’m focusing on quality of time instead of quantity of time. I’m enjoying them for who they are rather than focus on what they’ve done (or haven’t done). I’m using the opportunity to see if my boys can bloom into children who are eager to learn, responsible to complete assignments, and work hard in all they do. Those are fundamentals that we have faithfully instilled in them since they were teeny, and now it’s time to branch out and see how it goes. I'm trying trying trying to let go of my unrealistic expectations on myself, to embrace my kids unique learning curves and distinct personalities, in order to do just one job for them. To mother them. And do my best to enjoy it too!
And I’m hoping that someday, I can figure out how to deal with life without boarding the analytical emotional rollercoaster that zooms through my brain and my heart every time our family encounters change.
Hey, a mom can hope right?