If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I homeschool my children. I don’t really get the opportunity to talk about it much in my real life. Unless of course, I’m talking to other homeschooling moms or I’m asked specifically about homeschooling. I feel as though, I should write about it more. It’s something I feel very passionate about and would love to be a source of encouragement for those struggling with doubts of pursuing homeschooling as an option. Though I’ve shared some of our homeschooling life, I don’t think I’ve ever written about my journey towards it. This post is a little longer than my usual, so if you want to bail, no hard feelings!
When Jacks was 3, almost 4 years old I registered him for Pre School or as it’s known in Florida, VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten.) I really didn’t think much about it. I knew he would be going to Kindergarten the following year, so this was a step in the right direction. Other than close family, he had never been left with anyone else. We spent the weeks leading up to the big, “First Day” talking to him about what would happen. We wanted to prepare him just a little, for what lied ahead. I could tell even in our talks with him, that he wasn’t ready. He would never make eye contact with me, when I talked to him about his upcoming big day. Instead, he would just say, “okay.” But we persevered, because that’s what we were supposed to do. He needed to be around other kids and develop social skills. Right? I even ordered him a big boy backpack and a matching lunchbox. We were all set!
The big day came and there were pictures. I took so many pictures to mark this special milestone. Still, almost 4 years later, I cannot look at those pictures. His eyes say the same thing in every one of them, “please don’t leave me there. I need you. I’m scared.” But I did leave him. On the drive there, we continued to talk about how great it was going to be and how there was this awesome playground. He was going to meet so many new friends! We got there and I talked with some of the other parents. I think, I knew what was waiting for us the moment we dropped him off. Everyone said, “He’ll be fine. It’s better if you just leave. I know it’s hard.” And, I willed myself to believe them. We walked him in, found his cubby with his name, we helped him wash his hands, then we walked him to his teacher. I could feel his anxiety. It just leapt from his sweet, little beating heart. I told his teacher, I thought maybe he was going to have a tough time when we walked away. She promised to stay with him as long as he needed. She said the same as the others before her, “It’s best if you just walk away.” She told us we could watch from the window, but that it would be easier for him, if we just left the classroom.
With tears welling up in my eyes, my voice cracking, and with about as much excitement as I could muster up, I knelt down and told Jacks something similar to this, “Mommy loves you all numbers! You are a big boy now and you are going to have so much fun! We will be back to get you right after you eat lunch!” Then, in one of my most regrettable moments as a parent, I turned and walked away while my little boy cried out for me. I did watch him from the window as suggested, because I needed to feel better about doing what I just did. His teacher held him close, while he cried. I cried even harder at the sight of a stranger comforting my son. That should be me, but I didn’t make a move. We needed to do this, because going to school is just the natural course of things. After about 10 minutes of watching, we left him. I left him. If I could do it all over again, I would have stayed. I would have stayed right next to him, until he said, “Okay Mommy. I’m okay now.” I cannot talk or write about that moment without feeling the deepest, most painful ache in my heart. I listened to everybody that day, except for my son and my own better judgement.
As it turns out Jacks did adjust. By the end of the week, he conceded. I broke his will and he adjusted to life away from Mommy for 4 hours a day. There were no more tears and he was happy to go to school. Never excited, more like complacent. Something in him definitely changed after that week. Nothing major, but definitely a shift in his attitude. We never really had a problem with him, until after he started school. I chalked it up to growing up and pushed on with our new “normal.”
The following year came around and it was time for Kindergarten. That year, there were no tears, except my own. I did the obligatory, “push my child out of the car, because how dare you take more than 1 millisecond to say, I love you, have a nice day baby!…you are ruining our groove” parent drop off line. At some point, it just became routine and we were operating like a well oiled machine. “Bye, love you, hurry!” was what I would often say as he raced to get out of the car. Pick ups were not much better. I dropped off a somewhat happy child in the morning, only to be met with the grumpiest, most selfish, uncaring, unsympathetic child when picking him up in the afternoon. Halfway through the school year, homeschooling popped up on my radar. Up until that point, I hadn’t ever seriously considered it. I just wasn’t the homeschooling type. At least I didn’t think I was. It stayed on my heart for a long time, but I just kept ignoring it, knowing that it was something I couldn’t do.
It wasn’t until I had to start making decisions about Savannah’s schooling for the following year, that it really began to weigh heavy on my heart. My Savannah. She has an incredible heart and a most infectious spirit. She is also that child that drives you all kinds of crazy. She is emotional, but she is headstrong. She has cried, every single day of her life since exiting my womb. She has a hard time focusing. She doesn’t listen well. She hears you, but she has better plans. I knew if I sent her out there to school, she would be returned to me, defeated. She would not survive sitting in a classroom all day long. As much as I did not relish the thought of homeschooling my kids, I knew I had to do it.
I feel incredibly blessed that I am able and willing to stay home with my kids. Yes, they bring out some awful parts of me some days. I am human. I am not a Super Mom, nor would I want to be. I am not a patient person. Really, I’m not. Sometimes, when I’m teaching math to Jacks and he’s just not getting it, I want to face plant myself full speed into a brick wall. Then I remember, he doesn’t have to get it. We aren’t on any required timeline. There are no grades. This isn’t a race to higher achievements. We do things at our own pace. If he needs more time with something, then so be it. There is no labeling in our school. Homeschooling is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. We get to choose when and where we want to do school. There are no confines. Today, we did a nature study. They climbed trees, collected sticks, watched and identified birds. They were free, just to be kids, but they were learning too. I get to spend their entire “school day” with them. While I agree that’s not always fun, it is time I will always cherish and never, not for one second, regret spending with them. If you are ever considering homeschooling as an option, but don’t think you can do it, think of me. I thought the same thing and I am doing it!