Wednesday, November 30, 2005

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.


Willena said...

It isn't going to be an easy decision no matter which way you go. Praying for you as always, Cheryl.


Samantha said...

Hi, Cheryl. I have been out of cyberspace for a while, so am only now catching up with you, although I did know about your hospital experience, and prayed for you then.

Have you ever considered unschooling for a while? I don't know how you feel about that in academic terms, but it's a way to have your children home and not burn out on doing academics...and have the older ones there to help you with all the regular chores of daily life.

You don't have to answer this, necessarily...I was just thinking that might keep the kids home and also give you a break.


Yr Blog Sis,


Anonymous said...

Cheryl, have you read R.C.'s book yet? Valerie and I both agree that this is *the* best book on homeschooling out there. It is the only homeschooling book my husband has read. Don't know what your husbands beliefs are but it might be a good gift for him.


Joyce said...

Dear Cheryl,
Yes, I agree with Sam; please do not stress out. Also, I like what your friend Samantha had to say about unschooling. For unschooling to be successful, it will take a real commitment from the children to do "educational" things, as opposed to just "vegging out." I could so identify with your upset of having to play so many roles, and your sincere desire to do a quality job at all of them. Please do remember to love yourself, too!

Trista said...

Well here is my best opinion, I dont actually thing Unschooling is the way to go ( It sounds kinda like "far above Rubies" which was kinda a load of crap and a waste of time. I think that sending them to school is a really good idea, it doesnt mean that you wouldnt be involved, you would still be doing homework with them, but I think it will motivate the older kids to finnish school and by not being under constant stress you will be able to give the younger kids your help with out getting all stressed out (this only makes their brain shut down :) sorry been there) and on top of all that, you talk to me about taking on to much, but you are the queen of it! Being a successful mom does not mean that you have to be supermom it means that you do the best you can with the ability you have been given, and although i believe you can teach, like you said its a little hard with all the other responsibilitys that are on your shoulders. Even when you were teaching us it was hard with everything and now their is even more kids!
So basically everybody has a opinon and this is mine, but remeber it will be really easy for ppl to say that putting them in school is not the right thing to do, but really, unless they are in the same situation they dont know what it is like. Oh and you have always said that school was not the way to go but you havent tried it out so what is the harm right? maybe it will give you time to get the house in order and do those things you keep putting off, then maybe you can teach the younger ones at home again once you have had enough time to get back on your feet, and haveing your kids in school is alot better then being have already proven yourself, i think its time to stop being so hard on yourself.
Oh, one last thing, I believe that Cedars does give funding or discounts to certain ppl that cant afford it, you guys might fit into that catagory