Thursday, May 03, 2012

We Started Homeschooling! Wait, Seriously?

This past January, I started homeschooling AJ. Since I only have one child in my class, it only takes a fraction of the time that first grade would normally take. So, while Gracie is in morning kindergarten at Prairie View Elementary from 9 to noon, AJ and I do school.

AJ and I are loving our mornings together. It is such a blessing. I feel as if the Lord has given us back our lives.

Homeschooling has definitely slowed down the revision process of my book, but I still progress with the book slowly but surely. I have to trust the Lord with His timing, and am convinced that if I maintain His priorities for my life, I can trust Him to take care of the timing of whatever He calls me to.

Some people imagine as a single mom that homeschooling will add an impossible amount of work on my plate. I was nervous about that myself, but I have found it to be quite the opposite. When you have your children in school full-time, you still have the same responsibility of training your children as those who homeschool, you simply have less time to train them and at a time of day when both you and your children have already spent the bulk of your energy.

I should stop to say I'm not one who thinks everyone has to homeschool. I am extremely grateful for the schools my children have attended. I believe the schools my children attended last year saved my life and was a wonderful blessing to us. Additionally, it's not my business to criticize people's school choices. After all, there is a very good reason why Jesus commands, "Do not judge lest you too be judged." There may be caveats to that passage in regards to being a discerning person and encouraging others in ways they need to honor the Lord, but I think people love to come up with far more caveats to that verse than they ever adhere to that command at all. I think the profuse caveats are often an excuse for arrogance and self-righteousness. It's amazing that in our arrogance, we can simultaneously disobey that very command while telling others everything they are doing wrong.  So you won't be hearing in this post about me telling everyone to homeschool. Most of the people I know are dying to themselves every single day as they seek to honor the Lord in their parenting, regardless of what type of schooling they have chosen. As an older woman at my church has wisely said in an attempt to explain why one should live their lives before the face of God, regardless of what others think of them: "I have invested my whole life into my life. So, who is another person to walk in, see only a snapshot of my life that I've invested my whole life into and think she has anything to say." And so this post has nothing to do with others' schooling choices. It is simply an update about what I've chosen to do this year in the unique situation of being a young widow and single mom.

Back to homeschooling. As a single mother the past few years, I have learned my limitations and how to manage them. I am on all the time. Their dad doesn't come home at 5pm. Not ever. So there is no tag-team parenting. There is no parenting together. There is no consulting one another about how we should handle a certain parenting issue. No phone calls to him. No emails. No texts. It's just me. And it's always just me, at least humanly speaking. I may get sitters, but I'm still the only parent. I'm still the only one who has to stand before God for them. And I'm still the only one who loves them to the degree a parent loves a child. And since 4pm has always been my lowest energy time of the day, when AJ was returning home from school at 4pm, I had nothing left to give him. And so in my particular situation, I find it more restful to have parented and trained children, who feel that they have had enough of their mother's time and energy and thus feel loved. For me personally, I didn't feel I could do a sufficient job of parenting AJ after 4pm by myself. It may sound like having my son in school 7 hours a day would be a break, but it was not restful for me to be away from my son the whole day, only to feel incredibly frustrated that he was not happy and not getting the energy and parenting he needed from me.

At the same time, don't worry, I do get breaks. I still have Lydia, the college student who lives with us. She babysits 10 hours a week. And if I need more, I have another babysitter that I hire.

Our family has obviously been through a lot. And now that I have been doing better this year, I began to desire to homeschool. This is the first time since AJ was 15 months old that he gets me to himself this much. This is the first time since Gracie was 9 months old (she's 6 years old now) that my parenting has not been incredibly distracted by cancer or grief. So I am incredibly grateful that I get to be a mama - a real mama, who is so much more mentally present for my kids than I have been in a long time. I am so grateful that my children seem relatively happy and content. That's not to say that I don't still encounter grief or sadness or difficulty or frustration to distract me from them. I live with the consequences of my children's fatherlessness every single day. I experience the consequences anew of our loss every single day. But I am more emotionally here, more mentally present, than I have been in as long as I can remember.

While AJ had a wonderful school experience in half-day kindergarten last year, being at school 7 hours/day this year was just too much for the both of us. Now that AJ feels he has what he needs from me, he is so much more happy and content than he was this past fall. And he is flourishing! I praise the Lord for His Spirit's leading and His faithfulness to our family. I think His leading in this way and how he has caused this decision in our lives to bear much fruit intellectually, relationally, and many other ways, is another example of how He has been a father to the fatherless and a Husband to the husbandless.

I get to be a mama again. A present mama. The kind of mama I had longed to be, but had always been distracted from due to the horrors and turmoil of the past several years. And for that reason, I feel as if the Lord has given us back our lives.

Never Met Anyone Homeschooled?

For some of you, homeschooling may sound completely alien. But when we lived in Washington state for 3.5 years, all of my friends homeschooled. And so from early on in my pregnancy with AJ, the desire to homeschool was already being planted and began to seem very normal.

I love homeschooling for a few reasons. One is that I've always had a passion for my children's education and instilling in them a love of learning from their first breath. And so homeschooling is really what I've been doing since their birth. This is just the first grade version now.

But I also love homeschooling because I love books. Books have always been a refuge for me. Going to a book store and being surrounded by books is refreshing to me like sitting beside the ocean.

And so we use Carol Joy Seid's curriculum, which is made up of reading real literature to teach not only reading, but science, history etc. Teaching AJ from real literature, stimulates and refreshes me, rather than wears me out. It makes me so excited!

For math, Carol Joy Seid's curriculum recommends Math-U-See, which uses manipulatives to teach math concepts. Definitely a different way than I learned math as a child, but I think it is so much more effective. It also comes with DVDs that we can watch, if I prefer to use those rather than the teacher's manual.

I have to say, homeschooling has been one of my most favorite things in my life. It is up there with writing and dancing. My children are my passion. Learning and books are my passion. Teaching my children about the Lord is my passion. And homeschooling combines them all.

I'm not sure what we'll do next year yet. I get nervous that homeschooling two children will be a world of difference from homeschooling one child. It may not be simultaneously exhilarating and restful like it is right now. In which case, I have to evaluate whether such demands may exceed the limitations the Lord has given me as a human being, so that I can be a sane mama for my kids. But right now, both children are telling me they want to be homeschooled next year. We'll see how the Lord continues to lead. Please pray for wisdom for me as I seek to parent my children.