Recently I read a meme posted by a conservative homeschool site. It had a picture of a child scribbling happily in the background and said in sweet curly letters, “Remember: Your worst day at home is still better than their best day in school.”
Homeschool mothers chimed in, grateful for the encouragement. Last year I would have been one of those moms, desperate for even the tiniest morsel of confidence. The last two years of homeschooling had been absolutely brutal. It was like being locked in a cage with no key. Multiple pregnancies. Our rental house nearly sold out from under us. My grandpa’s cancer diagnosis (that ultimately took his life). More than two months out of one year spent in North Carolina. And I’m supposed to do school?
Other moms encouraged me that there was grace, that we would catch up. The days slipped by and at the end of each one, I’d lay in bed in the evening feeling like a total failure. It wasn’t only that I’d miss a day (or three) doing school, but when I completed school with my kids I felt like I was ruining their lives. Our time together would start gracefully and almost always end with one of us crying. I’d changed curriculum dozens of times and even found a curriculum I loved, but balancing the subjects, with a social life, with plain ‘ole housekeeping was draining me of my will to even face another day [Feeling like you are failing your children is THE WORST].
Why did I persist?
Because I felt called. I felt convicted. I felt I belonged with this forerunning generation that wanted to have big families, live on homesteads, and have homechurch. There was this cliche that became so attractive to me because it looked wholesome and good. Please don’t hear me putting down this way of life, because I’m not. My point is, I came out of the jungle of 6 years of homeschooling and realized what I was doing was not working for me. It took almost two years of tears and shame and hopelessness to figure it out because I lauded the idea of doing hard things, of leaning into grace, and persisting whatever the cost.
I’ve realized in this season of my life that sometimes the HARDEST thing is giving up the life you thought you wanted to do what works best for your family. If you want to know what that looks like, it’s the sound my kids fixing their own lunches in the mornings. It’s the sound of my son messing up and making it right. It’s my daughter thanking me for putting her in school. Or my son, who said recently, “Putting me in school is the best thing you ever did for me.”
And I’m a good stay-at-home, Mom! I know that about myself. I make homemade snacks, we play board games, we sing and dance in the kitchen, we have fun. But one thing I’m not great at is challenging my kids. I’m also not great at getting out of the house for activities because I’m a homebody. My kids were desperate to get out often, which piled on the shame that I couldn’t be who they needed me to be.
Since my big kids have been in school, I’ve had the quietest days. I jump on the trampoline with Phoenix. I play at least an hour of board games a day with Trinity. I color with Cori and we’ve started on phonics and a workbook. And when I’m face-to-face with my littlest ones, I feel grateful, first of all, that I had that same opportunity with my big kids once upon a time. As they grew, however, the responsibility to school them PLUS discipline them and be present in their lives was removing the energy and time I so desperately wanted to give to my middle children.
Today I played Go Fish and cried. Why? Because I wanted this so badly for so long. I wanted to give this time to my sweet Trinity, who is only going to be 5 years old once.
One thing I have so loved about homeschooling is keeping my children close. But I’ve realized that at times I do that against their will. I clip their wings, so-to-speak. Again, this is ME. This is my experience. I’ve watched them the last several years trying to pull away from me but I just couldn’t let go. I couldn’t swallow my pride. It was never about rebellion or hurt or conflict with my kids- it was about maturity. They were ready.
So when one of my children says, “This is the best thing you’ve ever done for me,” regarding school, I take enormous offense to memes like I quoted above. It keeps moms like me stuck. It keeps us serving a movement instead of our children.
Do kids know best?
Not always. Obviously, I am the parent and I navigate what is in their best interests. I’m writing from the perspective of I know, now. Even on the worst days at school, they’d still rather attend school.
Jake and Sonora attend a hybrid school that only meets three days a week. It has been the perfect option, AND I still get to homeschool on Fridays. However, we are soon to be relocating to Austin and I am already on the hunt for the perfect school- not just for Jake and Sonora, but Cori, too. If it’s full-time, we’ll explore that route. My kids are worth it…and I’m starting to realize that I’m worth it, too. All those days I went to sleep weighed down by shame that I wasn’t who my kids needed me to be, now I don’t feel that. Now I feel good that my 2-year-old is my buddy, not the greatest hindrance to my day. I love to play games with my little kids in the morning, and my older kids after dinner. I still love being a stay-at-home mom.
Guess what? The whole giving up who I wanted to be still hurts sometimes. Every now and then, shame will attach itself to that and take me down a dark road (why wasn’t I enough for my kids?). But now I know that doesn’t matter. If I take each season for what it is, make the best decision I can, that’s what matters. Looking at each kid and asking myself what they need and how I can best fulfill that need, that is the kind of parent I want to be.
Intuitive. Flexible. Trusting. Safe.
And for myself, at peace.