Being Cool About School, a series: 5 Gifts in Our Transition from Homeschool to Public School



I’ve spent the last two weeks writing about this important thing of how we school. I’ve shared our own journey as we’ve anguished over how to educate our children and how we’ve made peace with decisions. A couple of posts then focused on the realities of homeschooling for us–the beautiful aspects and the messy parts. I shared the things I wish I’d known and how I’d do it differently. 


Many of you have told me how much the posts have helped you sort through some of your own ideas and concerns. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words in response to this series. I’m humbled and honored to be a voice of encouragement. But can I be perfectly honest? Writing about all of this has helped me too. 

As I’ve recorded our own journey in a more linear fashion, I’ve been able to continue coming to terms with life’s decisions. Not life as I’d planned it but life as I now gratefully receive it. This series has been unexpectedly therapeutic and freeing for me. If it’s helped you, I’m so glad. It’s helped me too and I thank you for allowing me to share our journey.

As you know, my kids are now in public school, a place I didn’t think we’d be if you asked me a couple of years ago. At least, a place I didn’t think we’d be yet. But God saw fit to plant our feet on a different path and though it is not necessary an easier path, it’s the one we’re to be on for now and I’m grateful for the “re-routing.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is not the place I would have chosen at first but it is the place I now embrace. A place of grace.

So I’d like to spend the next couple of posts talking openly about public school. Today’s post will focus on five gifts we’ve received in the transition from homeschool to public school. 

Now that we’re almost two years into our public school experience, I can speak with a bit more clarity and perspective about public school’s “gifts” to our family during this season of our lives. Some of these are generalities that may apply to many of you. And some of these are particular to our family. 


1. It’s strengthened my relationships with my kids.

That may sound weird to many of you. But placing my kids in school has enabled me to focus solely on being their mom instead of being their teacher and their mom. 

Though I was an educator in my “former life” and still love teaching, I had no idea how draining the daily life of teaching my own children had become. The planning, the supervising, the engaging, the grading, the question-answering, the helping, the actual teaching and explaining. And not just one subject, but all of them. 

Combine those tasks with the regular discipline, correction, and general child-rearing that goes along with motherhood. No wonder I had so little left for anyone else, including my own children. This may sound harsh but after four-and-a-half years of homeschooling, the work and constancy of teaching them at home had kind of steamrolled much of my joy for motherhood. Joy that I desperately wanted and needed. 




I’ve spoken with other moms who feel that homeschooling actually strengthened their relationships with their children and imparted greater joy into their calling as a mother. I can understand that. There were seasons in which I experienced that for myself as well. But the cumulative effect of homeschooling plus mothering plus dealing with some other really hard stuff on top of everything else had done me in. I was running on empty. Twenty months later, I have more of the joy and strength for motherhood that I went without for a long time. 


2. It’s strengthened my relationship with my husband.

I have so much more to give him now that I’m not doing the full-time job of homeschooling. I’m better able to prioritize the energy and devotion I pour into my marriage. He receives more from me now than an end-of-the-day list of all the ways I’m drained and discouraged. {Well, most days he does.} 

Though I knew my marriage was the most important relationship, functionally it had become very difficult to make that happen day in and day out. We suffered for it. Homeschooling was not at all the most important factor in all of this but we both recognize that teaching our children at home was not worth the energy and health it took from me, energy and health that I didn’t have for my most important relationship.

Thankfully, God has been immeasurably gracious, kind, and merciful. He has granted us repentance, wisdom, mercy, and grace. 

Removing homeschooling from my plate has injected new life and energy into our marriage and further cemented our union. It’s enabled us to have the partnership we need in order to live intentionally and make decisions together about the myriad dilemmas and situations that arise every single day in the life of our family.


3. It’s strengthened my relationships with others.

I’m an introvert by nature. Though I love people, cherish meaningful time with others, and am not on the extreme end of the introversion spectrum, I am nonetheless drained by human beings. Tiny ones included. Especially tiny ones. 

I have this theory that one child actually equals five grown-ups in their capacity to deplete your social energy. With that kind of math, I now realize that I had the equivalent of 15 people with me in my home every single hour of the day and needing me virtually all the time. One of my dearest friends has seven kids so she has the equivalent of 35 people needing her all the time. Well, more like 20…because her kids are much sweeter and more compliant than mine are. 

What is my point in all of this ridiculous and very unscientific people math? Homeschooling nearly squashed my capacity to socialize beyond the four walls of my home. I still made myself socialize. I went to church. I talked to my neighbors…sometimes. We attended a once-a-week homeschool group…and I found myself wanting to sleep the rest of the day after we got home. Friends would invite me for coffee in the evening and they might as well have asked me to go climb Mt. Everest with them. 

But now? I’m beginning to like people again. I mean, I never hated them; I was simply too tired to be with them very much. Space, rest, and solitude have refueled me to the point that I’m beginning to feel like my old self. The self that looks forward to fellowship and coffee with friends and visiting with the other moms on the soccer sidelines. It’s a relief. At the rate I was going, I fully expected to be a crazy hermit lady living in a cave with unclipped toe-nails and a horde of cats by the time I was 50. 

Community is not an optional add-on. It’s what we’re called to. It’s what we’re created for. When life is so out of balance that you’ve ceased to care about community, it’s worth looking into. My husband and I both feel that we’re regaining the “where-with-all” to actually focus and really enjoy relationships beyond those of our family. And that’s not just a good thing; it’s a necessary thing. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, putting our kids in public school has not made parenting or life in general that much easier. You swap one set of challenges for another. You swap one busy part of the day for a different busy part of the day. But it has restored a sense of balance and wholeness that was missing. It’s certainly not the biggest factor in our family’s growth over the last two years but it has been an important part of making us healthier and more functional as a family. And that sort of fruitfulness has a way of spilling over into the world around us in the form of community and ministry and hopeful opportunities. 





4. My kids need other teachers. 

It’s been good for my kids to be accountable to authority beyond my husband and me. It’s been a joy to watch them light up because of their teachers’ enthusiasm for certain subjects. It’s awakened them to possibility and other ways of learning. Though my kids come home with complaints about this or that, they also come home, week after week, gushing about something amazing they’ve learned or an awesome experiment they’ve gotten to do, or how much they love this or that teacher. 

But what about the bad teachers? you may ask. Surely you don’t think they need bad teachers? Actually, I think they need both. {And let’s face it, Mary Poppins I am not. There were plenty of lackluster homeschool days in which my kids had a “bad teacher.”}

You may think I’m crazy for saying this but I consider everything to be part of their education, even less-than-desirable teachers. Because here’s the thing: life will give us “bad” teachers and “bad” bosses and corrupt authority from time to time. We won’t typically have the luxury to overthrow or reject authority figures simply because we don’t like them or agree with how they’re doing their job. 

Our family has been fortunate and I don’t take it for granted. We’re in great schools and have had mostly wonderful experiences with teachers thus far. Mostly. 

But when we haven’t, we’ve still gotten an education:

-Avoiding an entitlement mentality. 
-Showing grace and forgiveness. 
-Understanding that teachers are human beings and have bad days too. 
-Learning to be assertive and go to the teacher respectfully. -Accepting consequences and correction even when other kids got away with something and you were the only one singled out. 

These are not fun lessons to learn. But they are necessary ones. And they are just as much a part of education as math and reading. Negative interactions, if not dealt with at a heart level, can foster bitterness. But these same interactions, if guided by wisdom, can actually foster growth in grace. 


5. I’ve realized they’re not alone. And neither am I.

Despite what some ardent anti-public-school activists may tell us, putting our kids in public school is not simply throwing our precious children to the wolves. I mean, it can be if you’re not going to be involved and intentional about it, but it doesn’t have to be. 

I’m not at my kids’ schools as often as plenty of other volunteer moms. But I am vigilant about forcing my kids to “unpack” their days. And I’m also vigilant about paying attention to changes in attitude, mood, influences and other intangibles which serve as warnings that something may be amiss.

Why? When you relinquish a portion of control and give up your own presence with them seven hours {or more} a day, there’s going to be plenty you don’t know and see. Sometimes we have to read between the lines. I won’t lie. This terrifies me sometimes. I realize there’s a whole lot I’m not privy to. 

But here’s the powerful truth: God knows.

And He’s not only their Father; He’s mine

There are two verses that I’ve recently gathered great strength and comfort from as I’ve pondered and processed my kids’ move into public school.

The first verse is from Isaiah 40:11.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

    He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young.


This means I can trust the Father to gently lead me as I lead my children. Even though I’m not with them, I know He is. I can actually rest in that. Even though I don’t see things, I know He does. It forces me to trust God with my children in a way I haven’t had to yet. And it reminds me that He has a special compassion for parents. 


But how will He show us how to lead them?

Well, He leads us through his Word. But He also leads us in another way, a deeply personal and specific way.

That’s where the second verse comes in. It’s from John 14:16-18. Jesus is speaking with his disciples who are greatly distressed that’s He’s leaving them. But Jesus comforts them with this promise that they will not actually be alone:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

This “helper,” this “advocate” that we have is the Holy Spirit. When I read this familiar verse a couple of weeks ago, it struck me in a new way as it relates to my children. We have help. We have not been left as orphans. We are promised counsel from the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

This has brought fresh comfort and strength as I relinquish my own presence with my children for a portion of the day. Often I don’t know what’s really going on in the hearts of my kids. I can see certain symptoms and behaviors, the good and the bad, but I don’t always know what’s at the root. 


I’ve been so convicted that I don’t pray for more wisdom and help to see what I need to see. I pray for my kids’ protection every day. But rarely do I ask God to reveal, through the counsel and help of the Holy Spirit, what I need to see about their hearts.

Homeschooling can give us a false sense of control. But public schooling can give us a false sense of being out-of-control. 

And both extremes can blind us to the reality that God is ultimately the one in control

He’s leading those of us with young. He’s promised us a divine helper and an advocate, and He’s told us that in all things He works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Where is your trust? 

Is it in you, the parent? Is it in the way you school? Or is it in the One who leads us as a shepherd with sovereign love and grace?

I’m still prone to worry over these weighty decisions and realities about school. At times I struggle with missing our days of living and learning together. But I’m realizing that none of us are alone, even though we’re no longer together in the way we were day after day, year after year. Sometimes this is sad. Sometimes this is restful. Sometimes this is freeing. 

Often it is scary. 

But I don’t want fear to motivate my decisions and motor my thoughts. God is with us and with our children, wherever we are, leading and guiding and revealing. 

Take counsel from Him instead of taking counsel from your fears.

……………………..



There’s more to say about the public school transition than the five points I’ve mentioned here. These are just the reflections and realizations that are particularly meaningful to me right now. They’re really just the tip of the iceberg and I look forward to sharing more.

If you’re on the fence about how to school or if you’ve just made a similar transition yourself, I encourage you to look for the gifts and to trust that there are lessons and blessings in the midst of some of the less-than-ideal realities. 


In case you’re curious, here’s how I’m planning to wrap up the series:

On Wednesday I hope to share some thoughts on how we might approaching our communities’ public schools, regardless of whether we send our own kids there. 

On Friday I plan to discuss some issues you may want to consider before you make the switch from homeschool or private school to public school. 
Next week I’ll finally finish up the series with my favorite {and most nerve-wracking} posts: How can we come together? And somewhere in the midst of all of this, I want to fit in some thoughts on recognizing fear-based motivation in favor of one way of schooling over another.


……………………

This is the sixth post in a series: 



Being Cool About School: 
Finding Grace & Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Educational Choices

{Whether We Teach Our Kids at Home, 
in School, or on the Moon}


You can read the earlier posts in the series here
  
Feel free to subscribe to the blog if you’d like to receive the rest of the series in your e-mail’s inbox. You can do that in the right sidebar. And you may unsubscribe anytime you like. 


Comments

  1. says

    We are cut from the same cloth. Our family is enjoying these same gifts as our kids enter their second full year of public school. It’s been hard, but it’s been right and good as well.

    Thanks for unpacking all this, simply because it’s helped me to process the transition from homeschool to public school too.

    • says

      Gina, we are in our second year of school too after homeschool until our oldest was in 7th grade. It’s a transition, to say the least. There are many gifts. There are many things I miss. But we take each day as it comes and I’m watching my children blossom this year. Last year I was such a mess…..trying to redefine who I was.
      It’s a crazy transition!!!
      Julie
      http://www.raisingthreeknightsandaprincess.com

  2. says

    I know this is redundant, but it seems that everything you are writing now I am seeing as a section in a book. Dear daughter, you have so much to say, you say it so penetratingly and transparently and honestly, and it resonates.

    Ahh . . . community! As you well know, I’ve not been given an option on that for most of my life. It’s been a given. But I see that God has actually been demonstrating His prevenient grace in that. Left to myself . . . I’d have been left to myself. I would not have chosen wisely in way too many situations.

    You are so wise . . . so young.

    LYF,
    MOM

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