Hello there. Is anyone still here?
I am, even though I haven’t written in forever.
While I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been so busy doing Very Exciting Things, the truth of the matter is that I’ve just mostly been busy doing Very Normal Things. Getting kids to and from school, offering (occasionally unsolicited) homework help, and getting meals onto the table. Also, making sure my oh-so-active nine-month-old is safe as she crawls all over the house, leaving behind a wake of destruction. (But oh, is she cute!) Most days, that’s more than enough for me.
In many ways, it’s been pretty quiet around here–or as quiet as it is when you have nine kids! We made the decision to take a nice little sabbatical and forgo winter and spring sports which has, frankly, been glorious. After enduring several soccer seasons of trekking all over the Denver metro, it’s great to have those Saturdays back. In the summer the kids will resume swim team and then we’ll reevaluate for the fall, but for now we are enjoying that extra bit of margin. And anyway, who needs organized sports when your husband installs a basketball hoop in your driveway? My kids spend hours out there, people. Hours. They’ve also ratcheted up their rollerblading, and most evenings can be found skating around. Also, kickball. Needless to say, Denver weather has been beautifully mild (read: warm!) for the past several weeks, and we’ve been taking advantage of it.
We’ve also been preparing for next school year. Because (hey!, here’s some actual news to report!) after many months of much prayerful discussion and discernment, we are bringing five (of our seven) school-age children back home in the fall. (Everyone except for my two daughters with Down syndrome, who will happily remain at their public school.) Yes, we will be homeschooling once again and no, I didn’t really imagine we’d ever be saying that but, you know, here we are. Time to dust off those denim jumpers.
When people ask me why we’re transitioning back to home education, I have a hard time explaining, because it’s complicated. There are a million reasons, really, some more significant than others but all played into the decision. The first year my kids were in their classical charter school, things went really well. Other than my initial freak-out early on in the year, I never really doubted that decision. But last year, a couple of things happened at school that had me concerned. Then dear Beatrice was born in June, we had a fantastic summer and I was actually a little sad to send the kids off in August. (Though don’t get me wrong, I do love my relatively quiet days! I say relatively because my four-year-old loves to talk, and has many things to say.) With my two sons now also in middle school, my husband and I were both feeling a little like family time was becoming harder to come by. Lots of kids needing that aforementioned homework help, and wanting to talk about whatever had happened that day. For the first time, we decided to try medication with a child to help them focus better and be more academically successful. (And yes, it did help. Quite a bit.) But then one November evening, as I was telling my husband that it was still so hard to meet everyone’s needs, even with the medication and my attempts at getting dinner on the table earlier to accommodate nightly prayer time, he asked me if I thought I’d ever consider going back to homeschooling. (Which we’d done for five years prior to putting the kids in, and which had certainly afforded more flexibility for our large family.)
Then he ducked, fearing my wrath. Just kidding. Sort of.
But instead I admitted that I’d actually been thinking about it for the past month or so, and wondering if we might just be able to make it work again. We both agreed to pray about it, and about our kids, most of whom have really enjoyed school. I knew they would be sad to leave, and that is something I do take pretty seriously. We grownups make the final decisions around here, but with a thirteen year old and two twelve year olds in the mix, well, we value their input too.
And then we watched as over the next few months, one thing after another began to fall apart. The medication was starting to produce some pretty bad side effects for my child, so it was no longer a feasible option–even though that means my child now has a harder time in the classroom. (Said child is legally guaranteed accommodations, but it seems they are just not receiving enough academic supports this semester). There’s been some bullying of one of my kids, and I felt like some things were maybe mishandled. But even when less-than-positive things were dealt with swiftly and appropriately (credit where credit is due!), they still happened. You know?
And, the technology policy in schools today is one that I just personally really oppose. In my view, kids ought to be socializing and playing at lunch, not sitting around on their phones and devices. iPads in the classroom seem mostly unnecessary, and kids inevitably misuse them, or are exposed to whatever’s on the screen after a prior student has misused them. Yes, I’m old and grumpy beyond my years, but the screen addiction is ridiculous.
So before long, we decided that the benefits of our kids being in school were no longer outweighing the increasing number of cons. That is NOT to say there is nothing good happening there–there are some fantastic teachers, administrators, and staff members, some really wonderful families, and a lovely music program. I am really going to miss the Latin instruction one of my children is receiving, the memory work the younger kids do, plus I’d always kind of assumed all our kids would graduate from there. We’ve had some great experiences being a part of this school community, and most of my issues probably boil down to public school in general. And it was nice getting a break from being solely responsible for the kids’ education, which had grown tiresome in certain ways. So this was not an easy decision for us as my kids have, for the most part, loved their time there. But I do believe it is the right decision, so, off we go.
And we go with confidence because as daunting as it is on the one hand to think about a return to homeschooling, God has more than made it clear to us through prayer, conversations with wiser and more experienced parents (and my retired-teacher dad), and circumstances, that home education is right for us at this time. I am grateful He prepared us by putting it on our radar again because, honestly, that would have been difficult to feel like on the one hand it was something we needed to do, once everything seemed to be going downhill, but that we had no real desire to do.
And I admit I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. It’ll be good to help the kids focus on areas where they need to grow, they can move at their own pace (either more quickly or more slowly), and there will be less opportunity for distraction. (And negative influences. Which yes, I do think is a valid thing to be concerned about in this day and age. No, my kids are not perfect angels themselves, but that is all the more reason to limit exposure to stuff like bullying, various forms of media, bad language and inappropriate conversation, etc.) They’re all reading so they will be more than capable of working at least semi-independently. My kids will also be returning to their once-a-week enrichment program where they can take things like piano, art, theater, and science. Homeschooling back in the day was, all told, a fairly good fit for us in certain ways. Not perfect of course, especially having had two kids who were late readers, but it had its charms. Of course my kids have grown a lot during their time in a brick-and-mortar school too, and I’m super grateful for that as well. I have always been pro-whatever-works-for-your-family, and one of the most valuable assets in raising a large family is the ability to be flexible, and to adapt, and to try new things when something isn’t working.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad to be an at-home mom with a wonderfully supportive and engaged husband, where I have the freedom to choose something different for my family, should the need arise. There will be challenges for sure, but as I’ve learned, there are challenges in school, too. Parenting is darn hard no matter what. No one form of education will change that. Period.
Oh and if you’re wondering, each and every one of my kids has come around on the whole thing, independently. God answered those prayers in big and difficult ways. The one child who was hating the idea of leaving the most? They wound up so frustrated over how their sibling was being treated that they looked up at me one afternoon, eyes filled with tears, and said we needed to be done. Now they’re even a little excited about being home. My other kid who didn’t want to leave (for purely social reasons) told me the other day that they were really struggling with school, and have decided they are happy with our decision. My kids are all pretty self-confident, and I believe they will do just fine making the transition. They’ve made me so proud this year, each and every one of ’em.
So now you’re all up to speed. And in the end, I suppose nothing for us is really changing so much at all–regardless what we do, life at my house continues to be a wild but completely entertaining and (mostly) delightful adventure.