Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

Where have I been? Oh, you know, stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place. I have been grappling with the homeschool decision for several months and finally, over the last few weeks I have become so stressed out about it that I am realizing I have hit the point where, no matter WHICH I choose...I am going to be unsure and maybe even a little unhappy with my decision. I had no idea that something that should be cut and dry can be so complicated! I have tried everything from weighing pro's and con's, asking Kayley's opinion (she is pro-homeschool all of a sudden), creating sample schedules, reading the full public school's handbook, touring homeschool cooperatives, private schools and hybrid schools, and the list just keeps going. I think I am officially at the 'analysis paralysis' stage.

I think the biggest thing that keeps me from taking the leap into homeschooling isn't the fear of actually DOING the homeschooling (academics, planning, etc) I know that I can handle it...and with the homeschooling we've been doing this year I've discovered that I actually enjoy it! No, it is the part where I will be with my kids ALL the time. I mean, all the time that has me stressed. And I know that many people think that is a horrible thing to say...and don't get me wrong...I do feel kind of ashamed to say it. I don't mean it the way that it comes out though. I mean, there is almost a right of passage in sending your kids to school...where, eventually you get to sit back and breathe a sigh of contentment...and enjoy your quiet house, read a book, take a bath, get addicted to daytime television, run errands alone, take a class, learn how to sew or play piano, spend time with just your baby (or little ones), exercise, surf the internet, make an uninterrupted phone call, take a nap, vacuum, or just whatever. I admit it. I want those things. I love my kids and I want to be with them, but I also know that it is healthy to get some down time. I know my limitations, and I am realizing that I really NEED some down time.

There is also the part where, I am totally disorganized... I have never been organized. I am the kid who NEVER had a clean room. Even when I was a young adult there were times where I had so much junk on my bed I just slept on the couch so I wouldn't have to clean it off. True Story. (No, I am NOT that bad anymore... but old habits...). I naturally fall to a state of chaos and maintaining order for me is quite the challenge. There is so much that goes into homeschooling. Did you know that in the state of Missouri kids have to have 1000 hours of homeschooling per year? Broken down that is an estimate of 4.5 hours per day, 5 days per week. You would get about 8 weeks off during the year and no weekends but 4.5 hours is quite a bit. It's an entire morning and part of an afternoon. And you have to document all that stuff! Yeah--how about that part where I said I am NOT organized. I have never followed a true schedule in my life and the idea of maintaining a daily spreadsheet makes me shudder. 600 of those hours have to come from a set core curriculum required by our state...keeping track of all that stuff accurately...well, lets just say I'm feeling overwhelmed. (No- we don't have to do 1000 hours right now since Kayley is only K4, but next year that is the expectation-I like to stress out in advance).

Then there is the part where Maggie...love her...has been more challenging as she has gotten more mobile. Which is totally normal I know...but trying to do phonics with a baby fussing in the background is near impossible. Well meaning people have told me to "wear my baby" to keep her content... uhm...no thank you. Maggie enjoys clawing my face and yanking my hair... And she wants up and down...not just up. I don't think I could concentrate on phonics while all this was going on either. If you tell her no-no (after she whacks your face), I kid you not, she throws a tantrum. Honestly, I had no idea babies this age threw tantrums. I like to joke and say that she is very advanced for her age. Ha-ha... Again, I know, normal baby behaviors, but I'm 'struggling with the juggling' and not sure how to make it all work. Teething this last month was brutal...lots of fussing and general unhappiness...and now we are into the 'pick me up! carry me around!' stage. I'm getting some awesome arm muscles, but I'm also getting run down by the constant discontent that comes with baby not getting her way. (Which is pretty much every time you put her down - lol) This too shall pass, I know...its not like she is going to go to college expecting me to pick her up and carry her around...but in the meantime...whew! I'm worn out.

Then there is the part where, due to the nature of my husband's job and church calling...he is not home much. Lets see, he works several nights of urgent care a month (so that is a full day when he doesn't come home), plus he works in another town 1 day a week and attends church meetings that night (another day of the week when he just doesn't come home at all). If you include Sunday where he heads to church 2 hours before the rest of us and comes home about an hour (sometimes as much as 3 hours) later than the rest of us...that is pretty much another full day during the week where he isn't home. He usually has 1 hospital meeting a month (another day where he doesn't come home) and 1 night of home teaching (he'll come home for dinner and then leave). I know! I know! I'm complaining... I'm sure there will be somebody who will come on here and give me some crumbs about their husbands being truck drivers or something...(commenter’s: please spare me the 'I have/had it worse than you' spiel-I'm not in the mood and I'll just end up deleting it.) Still that is 10 days a month where I am single-parenting. Or in other words -- 1/3 of the month. Of course, on regular days he gets home by 530 or 600 and that gives us upward of 2 hours in the evening before the kids go to bed. But, for the most part I spend long hours parenting alone with little respite care. The respite care that comes from regular school looks so enticing. (Oh and for the record, no we do not have a regular date night...a big problem I know.)

But on the flip side...there is the part where, public school standardized testing is killing the purpose of an education. Kids are stressed about standardized testing as young as the 3rd grade and teachers are forced to 'teach to the test'. It sucks the joy of learning right out of our young people and they are just pushed through the school system like the product of a big factory. Not to mention the homework. I could rant for hours on my personal thoughts on homework but really, why? School has our kids for 7 hours a day, why do they need to extend their reach into our homes and take away from our family time by assigning kids to do more work at home? I agree homework is a necessity by the time they are in complex subjects like Algebra or Chemistry...but, Kindergartners? Then there are the moral issues of public schools - things like immodest dressing, cussing, sex education, peer pressure, bullying... I know I can't protect my child forever, but I don't feel it is necessary for my 5 year old to be exposed to so much so soon.

But what about the part where, in regular school my girls would have recess? Yeah, I have to admit, we don't have recess at our house. In fact, we rarely play outside at all. I've been too afraid of the snakes, spiders, poison ivy and dogs that run loose to spend much time outside when James wasn't home. We can play in the front and we've done some kites, but we don't have a swingset...and I certainly don't have 20 other kids for Kayley to choose from to play with.

Then there is also the part where schools have music & art. PE. Band & orchestra. Student council and clubs. Parties and fundraisers. Show & Tell... and all the other things that I loved about school. And just the social aspect of having several friends to choose from her own age... Kayley is very social (we'll just have to see about Maggie). She enjoys being with people and doing things. I knew I couldn't do this part so I actively tried to join several co-ops in this area. 3 of which turned me down flat due to the fact that we were Latter-day Saints.

Wait! Back on the other side...
I know that homeschooling will provide the best education for my kids. I know them best, I love them and care the most about their learning and desire to help them learn those things... There are some homeschool groups who have invited us to participate. Classical Conversations looks very intriguing and doesn't care what religion we are...they meet once a week for 3 hours in age groups. They also have lunch and recess. Homeschooling also gives one fun perk that we wouldn't have in public school... being able to go on vacation during off seasons. We could homeschool year round and then take off the month of February and go to Disneyworld... We could travel anytime during the year and count it as 'school' too depending on where we go. We could go on numerous field trips. I'm sure that I would learn a lot too. We can jump on one child's interest and turn it into a full unit study. Kayley was really interested in butterflies over the summer, we made a whole unit out of it. We caught butterflies in her net, put them in her little bug catcher...we talked about their parts and their life cycle and in the end we went to the Butterfly Palace for a field trip. There is definitely something awesome about running with whatever catches her interest. But then again, there is the part where I have to be willing to be intentional to make all of these things happen...and some days (right now it feels like most days) I feel overwhelmed by it all and want to crawl back into bed.

Boy, there is something about that right of passage where your kids go off to school (like every other kid their age does) and you sit down at the kitchen table and read the newspaper... James tells me that I will be so depressed when Kayley goes to school. I know I would miss her a lot. She is my heart. My mom said she cried on my first day of school. I'd probably do that too. But I think after a week...I'd be ok and get started on the 15 projects that have been piling up... I have no doubt in my mind that Kayley would love school...and that makes the decision even tougher.

So, that's where I am. And I still don't know where I'm going. The last couple of months have been emotionally overwhelming for me. Can you believe that I have seen 11 pregnancy announcements in the last 2 months? There has also been 2 successful adoption placements and 1 of my friends has given birth to a beautiful little girl. Wow. I'm really happy for them, but all of the announcements have sent my emotions swirling making it harder for me to grasp coherently at my thoughts. What a crazy roller coaster this life is. So many ups and downs.


Heather said...

I am with you on the kid juggling. I currently have a three year old and a 8 month old. My eight month old is starting to try to walk and I am having to teach my three year old how to play. My house is a mess. Paper work and bills are getting paid not as soon as I like. And I look around at everything that needs done and have no idea how to get it all done. My husband is home every night (don't hate me) and I still feel like I am doing all of it by myself. And he helps out a ton. So pretty lady you are not alone. I don't know if that helps knowing that or not. But thank you for your post

Anonymous said...

I am a 2nd grade teacher in the state of Virginia. Yes, they start testing in 3rd grade in our state, and I can tell you that is when my daughter started losing "real education" so she could "pass the test." It's not the fault of the teacher, it is the fault of the state. Anyway.....my husband works out of town 4 days a week. Stephanie, I don't know you, but I felt such compassion for you! You are a strong woman, but you have TWO small children! Of course you are stressed and no one should critize you! I pray for you to find peace in whatever your decision will be. Hang in there!!!

The Pollocks! said...

You just named a lot of the reasons that have kept me from home schooling! Right now, in this place in my life, I don't see how I could give the best attention to my school-aged kids when there are little ones under foot crying, needing constant attention, etc. .. Not to mention, I don't know how I'd ever find time to do ALL the other things that moms need / have to do - like keep up the house, shop and cook and do church callings and visiting teaching.

I do see myself home schooling someday - but not while I've got babies around. I enjoy the "reprieve" of sending them out the door in the morning. Was it hard at first - YES - but, you named all the reasons that she'll love it (If that's what you do).

I secretly enjoy homework because I can find 1/2 hour a day to sit down and see what they're learning, what their strengths are and what they need to work on.

And then summer time - that's MY time to teach. I do unit studies like your butterfly one all throughout the summer and focus specifically on those skills I saw that need tweaking. So, I feel like I home school for a few months out of the year. My oldest is only a 2nd grader, so I'm a little worried about what testing next year will do to her school-energy - who knows - I might be homeschooling earlier than I imagined. (I don't ever want my kids to step inside a junior high, though - that much I know!)

Good luck - and know there are lots of us thinking the same things!

The Wendler Family said...

I wish I remembered which blog I read it on, but this mother who home schools related her experience. She said that she would just pray and ask that Heavenly Father would let her know what to do, to home school or to do public/private/charter school and she didn't feel like she was getting an answer. She kept feeling like there was only one right answer. Then she got the prompting that either would be ok, and that she could choose what she wanted and the Lord would support her.

I feel like you are in that place. Neither homeschooling/ non-homeschooling will be perfect. There are pro's and con's to each. But decide what YOU want, what is best for YOU and YOUR FAMILY, and go with it. :)
Hope that helps. I know it can be such a dilemma but you'll figure it out.
I hear you loud and clear on the juggling. With three kids 3yrs old and under, it is a lot to deal with.

I think a lot of times, with homeschooling parents worry about their children not getting all that they should in the way of schooling. I don't think its too big a deal as I know children in public school have deficits in their education as well.

As far as time to yourself is concerned, I feel like that some times too. However, I know that I won't get this time back with my kids. I don't think about having my kids till they enter school and then I'll finally get a break. That's not what parenting is about. There will be time later to take breaks and do other things for myself.

I think doing something a couple of times a month is really important. I do a book club once a month and a girls night about twice a month with other mom's and we meet at a restaurant for one and the other we do a craft at a friends house. Its a great way to have time to myself, and we meet once our kids are in bed- after 7pm. When I come home, I enjoy it more, and want to do what I'm doing. If you are not getting any sort of a break, I would start there to see if a few things like that a month would work and be enough, or if you are needing more time for yourself. (My husband is still a student so $$ is not abundant for going out on dates, but we make sure to spend time together at least one night a week, even if it is staying in and watching a movie once the kids are down. Be sure to do things for your marriage too.)