This year has been one of many changes for us. In April, we moved 1400 miles away to Oklahoma from New Jersey. We also started homeschooling our oldest child (more about that later). You could say that old habits die hard with me. I like familiar. I like comfortable. When I put down roots, I am firmly planted in that ground and don’t leave very willingly.
That brings me back around to homeschooling. When Colton was a toddler, I would take him to the playground near the elementary school behind our house. I dreamed of the day he would be old enough to go to that school. Not because I wanted a break from him, but because I loved school growing up. Aside from the occasional bully or bad teacher, it was a wonderful experience. I hoped it would be the same for my son.
Instead of thinking homeschoolers were weird and unsocialized, I was always kind of in awe of them. I thought they must be really super organized and super patient. Now I know that they are just ordinary moms who allow an extraordinary God to work through them to do incredible things. I had seen and read about the benefits of homeschooling, and followed the blogs of two prominent homeschoolers. They made it look so cool and exciting, but I believed I could never do it myself. I was still very much committed to our particular education plan.
About halfway through Colton’s first year of preschool, we did switch gears and decided against the public school in our backyard in favor of a private Christian one 25 minutes away. We were slightly worried about the cost, but trusted that God would provide the finances somehow. In fact, I began telling people that if we ever became unable to afford private education, we would home school. By this time, public education was simply not an option for several reasons, including Common Core.
In the back of my mind, I hoped that day was somewhere way off in the distance, but it ended up arriving much sooner than expected. Kindergarten tuition proved to be a great strain on our budget. We were also coming to realize that, despite an amazing school with the best teachers, great kids and small class sizes, Colton still struggled academically. He was one of the oldest kids in his class, too, which we thought would give him an advantage (we held him back from kindergarten for one year because of his August birthday).
I spoke with his teachers, working with them to find solutions, and did my best to implement all the strategies at home that they suggested. In spite of our joint efforts, during one parent/teacher conference I heard the words every parent dreads: “learning disability”. He did very well processing and retaining information when we worked one on one at home, though, so I began to think that maybe the only difference was the learning environment.
The two biggest factors were now already in play, and the third was about to come. My husband and I began to feel that God was calling him back into ministry. We knew that could potentially lead to a long distance move, and we would have to pull Colton out of school anyway. So we took the plunge. I researched curricula and ordered materials. We had the support of our family and many friends, along with a great home school group at our church, but honestly my heart just wasn’t in it.
I felt as if this was a door slamming shut on a future I had all planned out. I was nervous that I was going to mess my kid up, and scared that I wouldn’t be able to give my daughter the attention that she needed at the same time. I worried how I would possibly educate a six-year-old, entertain a three-year-old, AND do the laundry, prepare meals, and keep the house clean. I began to think that cloning myself may not be a bad idea.
With all these doubts and anxieties, I forged ahead anyway. And discovered it wasn’t so bad after all. Sure, there were rough days. Days when I thought I was crazy for trying this and had made a terrible mistake. Days when the laundry and the housecleaning went unattended. But… there were also days when I witnessed how proud and excited my son became when he finally “got” something he had been working so hard on.
There were days when I snuggled next to him on the couch as we read together, and days when we talked about his faith as we explored stories from the Bible. The many, many days that he and his sister played together, acting out something we had read in a book or conducting spontaneous science experiments. There was the day that he learned how to count to 100, and read Green Eggs and Ham all by himself. I wouldn’t trade any of them for one day of him being away at school.
Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” For years I misunderstood what this verse is really saying. I believed that God would give me what I wanted- a happy marriage, financial security, a good life- if I stayed in His Word and walked with Him. Now I see it the other way around; when I pursue a deeper relationship with God, and learn more about His heart, my desires become what He desires for my life. He has given me a desire and a passion for homeschooling that simply was not there before. I also have a peace about it, knowing that I am fulfilling a calling. In the next post, I’ll share more about the advantages of our decision to home school and what we plan to do for 1st grade and Pre-K. 🙂
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