Thinking the Unthinkable (for me, that is)
Homeschooling has been a part of my life for ever it seems. It was something I approached initially with a lot of the enthusiasm and bravado that only youth can bring to it. Over the years I have gained experience, but the funny thing about it is that instead of getting easier, it has gotten progressively harder.
At some point the weight of responsibility that knowing my kids’ education rested pretty well on my shoulders became crushing. If I had only had two or three children it might have remained manageable, but when you add a lot of kids to the mix , at some point you can hit critical mass when you can’t spend the time with each one that you would like to. All the arguments in favor of homeschooling being more efficient because of the small teacher/student ratio flew out the window because what competed for my attention wasn’t merely children: it was also laundry, cooking large quantities of food, housework, appointments, and outside activities. If I could have focused just on the schooling and let someone do the cooking or cleaning, and running around things might have been easier.
The other thing that has made homeschooling harder is the sheer breadth of grades being taught. I know that there are systems out there like unit studies that allow you to teach everyone the same subject and then do work at their own level. However, I just couldn’t manage to do that program – it involved a lot of planning and tracking which meant time; something that has been in short supply around here.
The burden of responsibility was eased a great deal when I finally put the kids on a distance education program where we have a teacher to answer to. It has made a difference in how motivated the kids are to do their work and do it well when they know someone besides mom is going to be looking it over. It has also kept me from slacking off and taking off days when I just couldn’t seem to get started.
The question is not whether or not this latest approach works. It works if their grades are anything to go by. The kids are learning. The younger children that I have been more diligent in teaching are getting A’s. and B’s. However, this has all come with a cost – a burnt out and apparently over-stressed mother.
I was teaching the children the other day. James was on my lap being nursed, Elodie was trying to climb into my lap and I was teaching Garnet his grade one math. At the same time I was fielding questions on grade 11 accounting and grade 5 social studies. Sam looked at my red and distressed face and said, “Mom, go lay down. We don’t want a dead mother.”
I feel horrible about the whole situation. I try to involve Elodie with us as much as possible, but more often than not I am telling her to go away and watch PBS kids so I can spend hours in the attic schoolroom making sure that everything is getting done. My delightful baby becomes a distressing hindrance instead of the light of my eyes when he needs my attention. I feel like I am being forced to sacrifice their babyhood for the sake of an ideal that I am not so sure I really want to die for.
And so, I am doing the unthinkable – thinking of placing some of my kids in a local Christian school next year so that I can regain some sanity and start to enjoy my kids again.
What has surprised me about all this is that when I finally gave myself permission to contemplate this step, I really find myself not wanting to do it. Those who have read here for any length of time know that homeschooling is not something that I feel particularly well equipped to do. I make an excellent student, but a lousy teacher. My children will be grown and gone from the nest all too soon. I am not eager to see less of them especially as I know that my time with them is all too short. I also have this ridiculous idea that I have somehow failed as a mother in having to do this.
I realize that school is something that you can be withdrawn from once you start it. The kids and I aren't locked into it forever if we find later on that it isn't working. And who knows? Maybe by next summer some of the current situation will be eased enough that we won't have to go there at all.
Emotions aside, I need to make the best decision for the sake of the kids. It is their future that is at stake in all of this. Killing myself to keep them home will deny them a mother for good and ensure public school as a certainty. I definitely don’t want them to go there if they absolutely don’t have to. In any event, I have until next September to figure out how to homeschool without hurting anyone or find some money for the private Christian school. Pray for us if you think of it.