(Traditional) School or Homeschool?
It’s a tough question. This has been an annual question for our family for the past 21 years. Some years, the response to this question has been immediate, without a doubt, and very clear. Other years … it has not so obvious and certainly more difficult to make. Either way, we have always found a lot of peace with the realization that “we can always make another, different decision … next year.”
We have been fortunate that making this decision has been “choosing between two goods.” Starting our son in public school kindergarten in the small town of Cheshire, CT was a tough one. That little five-year-old being picked up by a bus was just hard to stomach …. my first little guy … backpack and lunchbox in tow. He was happy to hop on that minibus and go as I watched on with tears in my eyes, holding the hand of his 4-year-old sister, 3-year-old brother, 1 ½ year old sister and pregnant with the next one. It WAS the right decision for this season in our lives. But it was still a hard decision to make. Most, if not all, of our friends were homeschoolers; so, we were the odd ones in the bunch. But this worked well for us.
Moving to Baton Rouge not long after this brief entry into the school system, it was still very clear that traditional school was a good fit. We even felt drawn to a particular school in town. But to be fair, we considered all school options. It was important for us to feel like we were making an informed decision and that we were aware of what we were saying “no” to. Two entered school that year and now three were at home.
Next chapter …. four in the school system.
We rolled with it. It is a challenge to have one in the school system with so many activities, events, and school “to do’s” added to the academic calendar. After a few years, this became just too overwhelming. Waking up 4 little ones from nap to be on time for carpool became exceedingly difficult. Summer was right around the corner and was a welcomed time of “rest” from the school routine and the school “extras.”
Time to prepare for the next year. There would now be five in school. We successfully got everyone what they needed at the used uniform sale and now it was two weeks before school and time to review the school supply (excel) spreadsheet. Sigh. It is not often that I welcome that “sense of being overwhelmed” but this time I did. It was clear …. we needed another option … I couldn’t do another year of carpool, homework, spirit days, teacher week gifts, birthday cupcakes, gala donations, etc. All these things were good and fun but too much for us at the moment and in this season of our family life. The heaviness of the burden of school at this point allowed my husband and I to see very clearly and to accept homeschooling as an option. To be very transparent: WE DID NOT WANT TO HOMESCHOOL. Before this moment, this desire was absolutely never on my heart and certainly not on my husband’s heart. But at this time, we were thankful for the peace we experienced after making this decision …. of course, it had to be TWO weeks before school was to start. Help!
We scrambled, agreed on a program, enrolled in this program, and homeschooled for 9 years. We welcomed the freedom of schedule, the very short school day, the many opportunities for play and sibling bonding. Of course, there were numerous trials, obstacles, frustrations, doubts, and concerns along the way. Many moments of “I can’t do this one more day;” there was discouragement when children were either learning too slow or when they were just plain obstinate …. when the house was a mess and dinner had to be made … and books were EVERYWHERE! But there is not one bone of regret in my body, only gratitude for this opportunity we had to learn and grow in our home and within our simply amazing, better than ever, homeschool community.
And then it was time … 50-year-old homeschooling SEVEN children.
It can be done …but it was not looking very pretty, and it was time for yet another change. Why? Well, now we had a houseful of teenagers. One of our primary reasons for beginning the homeschool journey was that we wanted to have quality time with our children and not the time that only included rushing to school in the early AM and homework and bath routines in the PM. We wanted to BE with them. And so, again, this became the primary reason for change. The teenagers now needed more quality mom and dad time and less “administrative” time. With so many teenagers and children in general, the administrative time was taking over any quality time we desired.
The school visits began … again …. and all options were considered. Thankfully, not many schools were able to enroll six elementary students the next year, and so we had two options and found the perfect one for us. Of course, the children had their own opinion of going to school which sounded something like this: “Mom, but I could be done with school by noon and get a job.”’ “I don’t want to be the new kid.” “Uniforms???” But it happened. Four went to high school and six to elementary school.
There are a few details being left out …. a few sons went to or were at a minor seminary … one stayed 5 years and moved on to the novitiate for a few years, and later returned home (He is now in school and is the lead singer of Waverunner … you can follow this amazing, bearded young man on Instagram! Or look them up on Amazon Music or Spotify!). The others stayed for a year at the seminary and then went to high school; one teenager entered high school as a freshman (having not been in traditional school since PreK and will graduate next year (she has rocked the school thing!); and one did a year of high school and homeschooled to the finish. But those last six … they are still in traditional school. And they are all doing well. Even though my “street smart” guy still tells me he can homeschool and work and buy a car. But it is not his season for that.
Our Journey in a Nutshell
There are many pieces missing to this story. This is our school journey in a nutshell, and we don’t consider it over just yet. I look at my four younger ones, dressed in their school uniforms, jumping in the car (running late) to be on time for drop off … me getting ready now for work …. and I miss them. I do miss that homeschool journey. But it is not the season; it is not the time. We still have (and will continue to have) a houseful of teenagers. As many of you are very aware, it is challenging to “spy” the fruits of your labor, the fruits of “just being” when raising and forming teenagers. But they are there and they come mostly unexpectedly. And these fruits are just enough to fuel my heart to continue the journey.