Monday, December 16, 2013

A Homeschooling Hiatus





In addition to our newest "addition," our family has recently undergone another big change: Sophia, who has been homeschooled for the past 3 years, transferred to our local public elementary school in November.

Since many of you expressed interest in my homeschooling experience, I thought it would be meaningful for me to blog about this transition, the hows and the whys.

In order to explain why my husband and I reevaluated our decision to home educate, it will probably be helpful for me to first tell you why we chose to homeschool in the first place:

  1. To take seriously our calling as the "primary educators" of our children.
  2. To better foster close, healthy sibling relationships.
  3. To establish a "normative" of faith-lived-out for our children. (By this, I mean that our society is secular, yet we wanted our children to understand our Catholic faith as a "norm" in their own lives. This is something we always knew we would transition them out of, but it was a foundation we wanted to provide.)
  4. To allow our children to better participate in the ebb and flow of the household and, thereby, learn and practice essential life skills on a daily basis.
  5. To allow our children time to be. Quietly. Simply. Playfully.
  6. To provide a more well-rounded education that encompasses the sciences and history from an early age. (In traditional US schools, these subjects are barely touched on in the primary grades.)
  7. To be more proactive in understanding our children's learning styles so that we can be their first and best guides as they grow.
These values are still very dear to my heart. Very. But this year, as I struggled on and off with PPD and the exhaustion of a new pregnancy, it became clear that homeschooling was wearing the family thin. Me, especially. Knowing how important my daughter's education was, I was forced to sacrifice most of my other household duties on the altar of school -- because I simply didn't have the energy or stamina to "do it all."

In the end, my husband and I decided that the impact these sacrifices had on our family life altered the scales in favor of schooling outside the home.

As it turns out, the "how" of transferring Sophia to our local school (which we can see from our front window) was very simple. Less than a week after I'd contacted the administration, she had begun classes.

The transition was not altogether smooth. At first, Sophia was very dismayed by recess. She was uncertain how to approach children in so large a group and still has some trouble understanding that the other children don't necessarily need to "talk" to her to show that they want to play. (The idea of simply joining in a game of tag, for example, without some verbal feedback is still a very foreign concept to her.) But she is making some wonderful new friends, some of whom I have had a chance to meet, along with their mothers. 

While I will never say that homeschooling did not adequately "socialize" our children, I do admit that providing that socialization as a homeschooling mother was a heavy burden for me

I am an introvert, and the task of lugging my three little ones around town (usually 20-30 minutes driving each way) to playdates and co-ops in order to provide a more social environment from them was exhausting. I did it, because I knew I needed to, but I have been more than pleased with the socialization Sophia is getting at her school, and we have had the pleasure to meet some wonderful new neighbors as a result.

As to the values listed above: 
  1. Brian and I are learning how to remain our children's primary educators while enjoying the supplemental skills and care of her teachers.
  2. We have noticed no discernible difference in sibling relationships. The children have remained as close and affectionate with each other as ever and look forward to playing together once Sophia has returned home. James, also, is benefiting positively from having a little more one-on-one time with Mama, which has been very nice.
  3. It's really too early in the game to comment on this one, I think, but we do have a strong faith community, and we work hard to live that faith out in such a way that our children might be inspired to embrace it on their own. So far, Sophia's love for Jesus, her fascination with the lives of the saints, and her love of the liturgical year has not altered - and I even had the opportunity to go in on St. Lucia Day this year to teach her classmates about our family's traditions and share our faith and some yummy homemade Swedish treats!
  4. I am still trying to figure out a system that will allow Sophia both to learn and practice her skills in the home. I'm thinking a chore chart is in order.
  5. I have made every effort to be sure Sophia is well rested each night so that she is ready to wake up and have a leisurely family breakfast before heading to school. Every afternoon when she comes home, we have a treat and (usually) something special to drink (tea, hot cocoa -- in the warmer months, I expect there may be some strawberry lemonade) while we decompress and talk about her day. We might play a game. After her homework, everyone has an hour of personal "quiet time," a habit that I have found to be beneficial in so many ways for all the children. (And me!)
  6. I plan to continue supplementing Sophia's history and science curricula at home. 4-H and our local zoo membership also help in this regard, as she has a particular interest in animal studies.
  7. I am grateful for the years that I had homeschooling Sophia and getting to know how she learns. I am continuing to do preschool at home with James, and I believe I am getting a good feel for his style, as well. 
To be honest, the transition to traditional school has not be without its shortcomings. Sophia is more tired out at the end of the school day than she was at home, though this seems to improve each week. There are new schedules and routines to get used to. Vacations are more rigid. There have been challenging situations with friends that have given us pause but, ultimately, provided valuable parenting lessons for us and valuable growth for our daughter.

I do not know if we will keep Sophia in public school next year, if we will put James in kindergarten, or if we will become a homeschooling family again. I do know that for this year, our local school has been a godsend, and my husband and I are both very happy with the change.

* I have addressed this in the comments below, but I thought I'd place it here, as well, for clarity:
I want to point out that I have titled this post intentionally. Hiatus. As my husband and I continue to take this matter to prayer, it is the fondest desire of my heart that this period of traditional schooling will be only temporary, and that we will be able to return to homeschooling Sophia in the fall. I know, however, that she is ultimately in God's hands, and we must see what the future brings as we continually discern.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post, Bethany. I have been wondering a lot lately about these same questions. Depending on what is available to us, schooling outside the home may very well be in our children's future as well. As I become more and more amenable to that idea, I have struggled with feeling like it would be a failure on my part, and that I should be able to do everything (provide rigorous education, run the house, tend and love on the babies, spend time with my husband, not to mention take care of myself!). Seeing other women I respect make the choice to delegate some of the education to others is helpful and reminds me that being a godly woman does not necessarily equal homeschooling. I don't know what is in store for us, but I look forward to finding out over the years.

    Best wishes and prayers for Sophia as she continues her new adventure!

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  2. I admit, Bethany, reading this left me feeling a bit let down... As a fellow homeschool mother of four (going on five in April), I hear you entirely on feeling overwhelmed at times. And of course your family must make your own decisions for your own children (Of COURSE!). But one thing I have been learning as I have homeschool my two oldest (who are 8 and 9) for the last coupla years (and getting the younger's feet wet a little!), home education is like any other venture in a family. There are times when it is rigorous and times when it is "get by"... The season of life with a new baby IS stressful with the addition of breastfeeding, diapers (and we used cloth for the first four--that might change this time :) ), sleep deprivation etc. And homeschooling should, in some ways, reflect that. I do not anticipate that homeschooling will look then as it does now. But I like to remind myself that it is a SEASON. It won't last forever. And my other children will live and grow through it. Perhaps "schooltime' might only be 1-2 hours a day, and we might only cover math, spelling, reading, and watch science videos for 6 months... but for now, it's enough... And I also must fight the feeling that somehow, if my children don't get piano lessons, art lessons, theater lessons, sport involvement etc that they are somehow "behind" or "left out" or "disadvantaged". As a public schooled woman, myself, I struggled with trying to match the classroom experience for my oldest to start with, but as life goes on, I see how unnecessary it is to approach home education that way. Most days, we spend the morning in housework and the afternoon on schoolwork. Also, hubby does 90% of the math and a little science here and there. That is a great boost and a practical help! And just so you don't assume anything, we are a one income family(at under $35k/year), with one car, in an average house in an ugly little coal town in PA... I am NOT a wife whose hubby makes six figures and can afford a maid or anything else! LOL It is true that the household CAN get a little bit chaotic and cluttery, and there are times when I wish there was some way to make it a little easier... And I can sympathize with you on PPD... I've had my own struggles in that way as well... Overall, NOT trying to criticize you, but simply provide a gentle reminder that different seasons of life require different things-- and you don't need to feel like a "failure" in homeschooling if you don't spend 6 hours on 8 subjects EVERY day... or if you don't do a craft project every day, it's fine--it can still be successful, even in a bare bones state, for a season...

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  3. Jenny - I'm glad you found the post encouraging and wish you all the best as you prayerfully consider your schooling options.

    Anonymous - I am sorry that you felt let down by my post. I did not intend for it to be discouraging. I agree with you that there are seasons, and I had already pared down to about 1.5-2 hours of school a day. You offer a lot of wonderful ideas and perspectives that I hope will be encouraging to other readers who have gone through similar circumstances but chose to continue with home education. Having your husband help with some subjects is great. Since my husband was working long hours for the last year and a half (and 7-day weeks for the last 4 months), that wasn't an option for us :) but I am glad to know it has worked for your family. I can see other things that might be a wonderful support - having family around to help out with the littles or some chores or cooking throughout the week, for example. Again, this is something I do not have access to, but I can see how it would give that extra needed support during this season of schooling young ones.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

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  4. Your blog is absolutely, hands-down one of my favorites. You keep it real and your beautiful family is such an encouragement to other young mothers like myself. I felt so happy for you upon hearing the news of your newest blessing!! Thank you for this post and sharing your experiences. Your daughter looks likes she's having a blast. Best wishes to her and you all!
    -Danielle

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  5. One of my best lifelong friends (we met in 3rd grade) alternated between home and public schooling. She switched to public school when she moved to my hometown in 3rd grade, went to public school through 6th grade, then came back for 8th and 9th grade, and then decided homeschooling best suited her needs. Even after that, though, she still came into school for orchestra and an extra-curricular activity or two.

    I wanted to share this to hopefully encourage you and iterate that you're not alone in making this sort of decision. :)

    Best of luck in everything and congratulations on your new addition!

    -Paige

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  6. I too was a little sad to hear about the switch from homeschooling - but only because your posts on education have always been my favorite, and I had been looking forward to hearing more about your pre-k (and possibly your kindergarten) curriculum. But I know it's so important to do what is best for your family! :)

    That being said, are there any websites or blogs that you could recommend that might be helpful to moms who want to create their own curriculum for younger children? I really liked your style of education in general and wish there were other home educators I knew of from whom I could glean advice and inspiration.

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  7. Jessi - Just so you know, I am still continuing with a pre-K and K curriculum at home with my son and plan to with my two youngest, as well. So, I am still working on getting that up, and I apologize profusely for the delay. This pregnancy has got me moving slowly! :-)

    Also, I wanted to say that I titled this post intentionally. As my husband and I continue to take this matter to prayer, my heart remains hopeful that this is only a season of outside-the-home schooling. It is my deepest wish that we will return to homeschooling Sophia in the fall. In the meantime, I continue with James, and I hope to continue to bless you all with my posts on this ever-enlightening journey.

    God bless,
    Bethany

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