Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Homeschooling Not So Fairy Tale

Son #1 - Handwriting Without Tears - 2nd grade
The plea on the page was like a time portal carrying me to days I navigated the same heartbreaking struggles:

My son and I have had a truly frustrating day. It took him a whole hour to write, "The king of Egypt was called the Pharaoh." Any suggestions for keeping a badly ADHD 6-year-old a little more focused than that?

I thought back to oral spelling tests when my six-year-old wrapped himself in a blanket and danced on first one foot and then the other to the tune of 'c-a-t'.

How strange we would have looked in my former classroom of twelve boys aged five to nine. Even in that setting, a psychiatric inpatient program for boys too disturbed to participate in a public school class, we expected our students to sit still in a desk.

In truth, they sat but were rarely still. They drooped. They draped. Knees and elbows bounced with the ferocity of human jack hammers. Pencils slipped out of wiggly hands, and rescue maneuvers required contortionist-like feats. Still, they sat.

Son #2 - Junior Olympian 2013

I had no idea how much my life as a teacher was preparing me for my future as a homeschool mom.  Ironically, I also had no idea how my past classroom experience would hamper my adjustment to homeschooling.

I still have one perpetual motion machine left to graduate. In two short years, my nest will be empty. How can it be? Only yesterday, my young friend’s heartfelt cry was mine. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was reduced to tears by a child who just would not sit still and do his work?

I am standing on your horizon looking back at you. I see all the days between the two of us. Perhaps today you feel weary, provoked, frazzled, puzzled and desperate. In fact, you may be wondering if it is time to throw up your hands and call it quits.

I shake my head in wonder because I remember those days. If I told you the truth, I’d tell you I’m not sure I know how we got through all the days I felt the same way you feel now. I can tell you we did, and I can say we are all better for the journey.

I am not an ironfisted homeschooler who will label you a failure or heretic if the day comes when life dictates you make another schooling choice.

Son #1 September K5 Self Portrait 
Among my friends are folks who have a child in public school, one in private school, and another in homeschool all in the same school year.  Some friends transition between private, homeschooling, and back again because of expense.

Over the years, I held my freedom to homeschool loosely. In fact, there have been times I have mounted desperate campaigns to join the traditional schoolers in brick and mortar schools.

I laugh at those efforts now. God made it plain his plan was for me to keep my nose to the homeschool grindstone even though I was buckling under the strain.

How did I know? My husband was laid off every single time we got the private school applications submitted. After a while, even I can take a hint.

We tried public school. I volunteered in our son’s class every day teaching advanced students how to read while the teacher worked with the others on letter recognition.

Son #1 May Self Portrait K5
One day, that courageous woman pulled me aside. “Get him out of here. He will never survive. My son is only in this school because I teach here.” 

I had never really been a snob about homeschooling. I just didn’t know many who had made the choice way back in 1997. 

I did spend eight years chanting, “I will not homeschool.” Every day from the day my pregnancy test came back positive till the day before I brought our son home to school, I sang that song.

God must have laughed at my song. He knew he’d spent a lifetime preparing me to do what I was about to do.

Eleven years later - just after returning from China
We brought our son home to school in the middle of his first grade year. The Valentine’s Day party was on Friday. We took him out on Tuesday. It broke my heart in two. 

I still think of that day every year around Valentine’s Day. Does that surprise you? As I begin to figure out the framework of my post homeschooling life, my friends tell me it is time for me to tell you our story.

I suppose I have hesitated because I feel so mediocre and ordinary. I’m just me, and we’ve just plodded along over the years doing the next thing. There’s nothing heroic or inspiring about that, do you think?

But, yesterday when my friend’s question transported me back across time, it was as if God said, “Now’s the time to tell these mothers all the things you wished someone had been there to tell you. Now’s the time.”

Courtesy B. Creasy -2010
So, I hope you’ll follow along over the next few months as I begin to tell you a once upon a time story that didn’t lead straight to happily ever after. Along the way, I hope we will both be empowered by my journey.

For the link to part 2:
click here

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.


  1. You have a lot of advice and encouragement to offer new homeschooling momma's. I am looking forward to your story. I have a feeling it will be similar to mine. I was also pulled aside and told for the best interest of my son, I should bring him home. Yes, you have a lot of wisdom to offer. You do need to tell your story!

    1. Maybe we need to tag team? I'm sure if that teacher's district knew what she said.....

  2. This is so heartfelt and wonderful. I can't wait to read more!

    1. Thank you Aadel. It's been a frustrating wait to feel like it was time to start writing and feels like a relief to be started! Your kind words make me glad I started!

  3. Great post! I know your story will encourage many people!

  4. I cried. Needed that verse today. Looking forward to reading more :)

    1. Oh, sweet Jenny. Don't cry! I'm just around the corner. If I can't do anything else, I'll cry with you. <3

  5. This is some very encouraging stuff! As a mom to kids who learn so very differently from each other, and had to switch from the one boy who would learn sitting still, to the other who learns while CONSTANTLY.MOVING, it's good to know I'm not the only one struggling. And we take our homeschooling one year at a time, not deciding now for the long term what we cannot yet see.

    1. Thank you! The longer I homeschool the more convinced I am that every family will eventually deal with one child who will challenge everything we thought we knew about how to 'do' homeschooling. If you had asked me when my older son was ten if we'd homeschool in high school, I would been emphatic with my negative reply. Yet, when we got there, my thought was, "Why fix what's not broken? Thank you for encouraging me today with your kind comment.