The Year of Simplicity: Decisions & School Daze {Part 1}

My kids entered public school a few weeks ago. If you know me or have read my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been homeschooling for the past four and a half years.

We had not been planning to put them in school. None of us had much time to prepare and as it turns out, that was for the best. No time to over-think, no time to over-stress, no time to work myself into more of a twisted mess of nerves than I already was.

Here’s how it all went down.

Thursday, December 8th we entered the office for our regularly-scheduled counseling appointment. I spoke honestly about my unraveling and the “symptoms” thereof. The counselor listened and asked questions and shared a few observations. And then he said, “I think you need to consider taking homeschooling off your plate for now. You need space in your life.”

I spent quite a lot of time telling him and my husband why that wouldn’t work, why it wouldn’t be best for the kids, how I needed time to get them ready, and so on. I cried and fought but as I looked at my teary-eyed husband nodding his head and listened to my counselor’s gentle, sincere words, I knew deep down that they were both right.

I just needed permission to let a good thing go.

Through a series of quick and miraculous events, my kids started at the public school of our choice just four days after that meeting. Instead of beginning in January, they began during one of the most fun weeks of the year: Christmas party week. The principal invited them to come early, make some friends, meet their teachers, and have some fun. So they did.

Though I’ve remained open to my kids one day going to school, I assumed I’d spend the entire year prior to their “re-entry” getting them ready and getting myself ready. An entire year to fill in curricula gaps, do the appropriate testing, ask a bazillion questions, etc.

I had four days. As it turns out, there was no reason for all of that stress and preparation. They have friends and love their teachers and get right on their homework {most days}. In the words of my daughter, “Mommy, they teach stuff so good there.” 

Clearly I have been a fine and upstanding homeschool mom with grammatically brilliant sentences like that one coming out of my 5th-grader’s mouth.

Because all of this happened so quickly, I couldn’t really process it in the moment. So I’ve been swinging like an emotional pendulum ever since then and while the kids have adjusted just fine, dear old mom is still trying to get her wits about her.

But here’s what it all boils down to. Sometimes the best thing is not the best thing if it’s just not realistic. A method or model or system, no matter how noble or ideal, is only as good as the one carrying it out.

Homeschooling, as beautiful as it still is in my mind and in my memories over the last four and a half years, is not worth one’s physical health, marriage, or sanity.

Sometimes we have to put a stake in the ground and pin down the bare bones priorities. Everything else is negotiable.

For me, it wasn’t so much the carrying out of the homeschool responsibilities. My kids were becoming fairly independent and relatively compliant learners. But we were with one another all the time. I was constantly overseeing something and being needed either directly or indirectly. My days hinged upon my productivity and the productivity of my student-children.

While I think I could have managed all of that during a season of relative stability, the stress of the previous year(s) had begun to weigh heavily until I was edgy and breathless from the dangerous combination of baggage and busyness.

My counselor and my husband were wise. I needed space. Space to rest and space to heal.

After season upon season of steady unraveling, we declared this the season of being knit. And so I am more still than I’ve ever been, more able to do business with the repressed emotions that lurk beneath the surface and undo me when I least expect it.

It is a balancing act and I am teetering at best. Too much introspection and reflection can become indulgent, narcissistic even. Not enough can lead to a desperate, dried-up, unhealthy shell of a person.

I know this but still, I’m struggling against the guilt of doing so much less than I ever have.

There is a difference between productivity and fruitfulness, another nugget of truth provided by my counselor and reinforced by my husband. Sometimes stillness is the most fruitful thing a person can do. This notion is obviously rocking my world and I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out.

But I do know this. I had become a mommy martyr, determined to keep doing the “right thing” for my kids even if it killed me. And while there may one day be a season in which any or all of them return to living and learning at home, for this season we are all getting a bit of space as I come up for air.

For some reason, this decision is a tough one to write about. I have fought the urge to just sit on it and wait until things are a bit more crystallized in my mind. But I am nothing if not honest in this space I share with all of you precious readers. So I’ve decided to share our story as it unfolds and we’ll take this journey together.

Thank you for coming with me. I have more to share about this topic of simplicity and schooling and tough decisions, so stay tuned for Part II, coming…sometime.

………………….
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Comments

  1. says

    I can imagine how difficult that choice must have been for you. I’m glad God has given you peace, and that you are finding rest in Him in this season. :)

  2. says

    This makes me breathe deep for you. I love hearing the wisdom of your counselor and husband and you – I hope these next days, weeks and months are healing and heartening for you.

  3. says

    You know, Scoop, it seems that God really set things in motion and got everything all nicely lined up for your kids quickly and easily. I can only imagine all the feelings you must be processing, but you are so right that sometimes we just have to get down to the basic necessities and let everything else fall where it may. This is your time to heal and however hard it may be to simply focus on your own well being, it’s necessary. The old saying is so true, “If Mama ain’t happy (or well or stable or whole), ain’t nobody happy.”

    Thank God you have such a wise counselor and supportive husband.

    Praying for you as you navigate these new waters- waters of healing. xxoo

    • says

      Thank you Bonita! As a fellow homeschool mom, you can appreciate the tough decision. You know, I almost put that “If Mama ain’t happy” quote in the post! It’s so true. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful words and encouragement.

    • says

      Michelle, this comment makes me want to laugh and cry. Perhaps you and Lance should commiserate more. : ) I’m glad my crazy thoughts help you understand Matt a bit. He and I…we are quite the over-thinking duo.

  4. says

    From one struggling mom to another, thank you for being honest, real and bold, but thank you mostly for being an example of obedience to God in a extremely difficult situation.

    • says

      Hang in there girl! God shows us each {in his time} the way He wants us to walk. Whichever road it is, it’s one of complete trust. That’s really the only way to journey {I’m learning.}

  5. says

    Beautifully written. I know so many mamas that don’t have your courage. Enjoy this season. It is God’s gift to you. After all, He loves our children more than we can fathom. Hugs to you my friend!

    • says

      I don’t know about “courage.” “Crazy?” yes. “Courageous?” Debatable. Surrender is probably the best way I could put it. Thank you dear friend for your affirmation. : )

  6. says

    Blessings to you, sweet lady. It is so hard to let go of our ideal. Mine is being home, which I have been for almost 15 years. I have been caring for three additional children throughout the week to help with income needs. And, after one tiny step of obedience at a time, I now find myself with a 20-hour per week JOB at our church coordinating 1st & 2nd grade Sunday School. ADDING that to my “quite-busy-enough-thank-you” life is a challenge. My husband is very happy that I have a job (finally)… I may or may not come unraveled in the process. I was just thinking about you today because I got to sit across the room from Lily in Bible study. Actually you were on my mind last week, too because I got to attend the Children’s Pastor Conference in Orlando and Phil Vischer spoke on the first day! {But I missed my daughter’s one-and-only performance of the semester by being away…. sigh…} Bless you for your transparency. I will be praying for you. And, if you are interested, I’m having a scrapbooking retreat at the beach the 3rd weekend in April. Blessings.

    • says

      Terri, you are busy lady! Promise me you won’t take on anymore…or you may begin to unravel a bit too. : ) Give Lily a big hug from me! And thanks for your sweet words. I sure do feel the love.

  7. says

    friend? right now i am whispering a prayer over you. giving up what’s perfectly good for what’s best is both my biggest wrestling and my sweetest surrender. praying that this space is healing.

    know this. i am walking the same road.

    • says

      Ellen, thank you. I think we are a likeminded set. : ) I hope you’re finding some rest for yourself these days. Being still…it is a hard but good thing.

  8. says

    Less than four hours old . . . and look at all these comments!

    Exquisitely, honestly, openly expressed.

    You, and your precious kids, are going to be just fine. In His hands. The same Father who is holding them at school is holding you at home . . . or wherever your somewhat-freed-up schedule allows you to wander (even the PCO flea market!).

    I believe in you. I believe in our Father even more. He teaches stuff so good . . . everywhere.

    LYF,
    MOM

  9. says

    Hi there,
    I am new to your blog but felt led to comment on this post.

    I have been where you are! After homeschooling my two children for several years, I enrolled them in the local high school with much fear and trembling.

    They have both absolutely blossommed. They have met some great kids and have some wonderful teachers. They play in the band and are both active in sports.

    God knows what He is doing. Homeschooling is a calling and it is He who determines the time frame. I thought we would go all the way but He had something else in mind…and He does all things well.

    I am so grateful for the time I shared with my kids during those precious homeschooling years. Yet, this new season is a sweet one too. Enjoy this time to yourself and celebrate what God is doing. Your kids will always have that solid foundation you provided for them during your years of homeschooling.

    Blessings,
    Susan

    • says

      Susan, thank you for commenting! Oh how we need to share these stories with one another. Thank you for encouraging me with your own story. I’m so glad to hear that it’s been a great transition for your children! You are right, it is He who determines the time frame.

  10. says

    I can barely see past the tears but I just have to tell you right now, right at this moment, your words are a major encouragement to me. We’ve, mostly I, have been struggling through this homeschooling journey. This year has been hard. Really hard. On Thursday I will be going to the local charter with my husband to get the kids on the list. It’s odd to think of it, I always thought that homeschooling is where we’d always be. But as we’ve gone on I’ve realized that it might not always be the best, even if it is very good.
    Thank you for being real and sharing your story, I don’t think there’s much said on how to end your homeschooling season as there is on starting your homeschooling season. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your heart. Really. Thank you.

    • says

      From one kindred homeschooling mama to another, it’s going to be okay. Keep praying, keep trusting. It is so hard! What you say here is so true–there is so much about how to begin and how to keep going…but so little {if any?} on how to transition to school. Maybe we should start a club. : ) I’m so glad you read and chimed in.

    • says

      Yes, we should start a club. I think I need a bit of support…mine will be starting public school at the beginning of next month. I spent the better part of today wandering the house in a daze wondering what on earth we are doing, but also feeling so much relief. I know we’re doing the right thing. Oh, and my kids are over the moon excited about it too. That helps a lot.

  11. says

    Scooper,
    Again — another well written posting. What a joy to read, I imagine this one was challenging to write? Every season has its challenges at the beginning, especially when one homeschools for awhile as you have.
    We thought we were done at the 7 year mark and took a one year break that showed we weren’t quite ‘done’. We graduated our son from our school (11 years total) this past May. On the other hand, our daughter (at home for 5 years, private school for 3) is in public high school and it’s a great choice for her.
    What is more important is that you and your husband are healing your marriage which is the best thing for your children — schooled at home or some where else!
    I’m praying for you and The Man to continue seek godly counsel, for your relationship with him to deepen and for love and respect to reign in your home.
    Here’s a virtual hug {{{{Scooper}}}
    Peace,
    Lynne

    • says

      Lynne! I’m so glad to “see” you here. I’ve missed you. I love your journey and your willingness to do something different based on each child’s needs. It’s just really encouraging. Thanks for your prayers and thoughtfulness.

  12. says

    One more thing: this morning I got up and read a post from one of my favourite bloggers, “The Lumberjack’s Wife”, and she’s posted about struggling with homeschooling her four kids. I posted a link to your post in my comment.

    Anyway, you both sound like lovely women and I’m hoping your post gives her the support she may need to make a change, if that’s what works for her.

    http://www.thelumberjackswife.com/2012/01/17/the-grumpy-post-plus-bread/

  13. says

    This post was very encouraging to me. I am learning to trust God and take it one year at a time. The schooling decision is so hard, and I just want to do what is best. Not sure what “best” is right now . . .

  14. says

    your honesty and transparency are so refreshing
    just call me the public school teacher who has just about had enough
    enough of lots of things
    and i wonder where i should be
    and how i ended up here
    and yet the difficulty, frustration, and panic have forced my husband and i so much closer– to each other, and to God

  15. says

    As a long-time reader of your blog, I kinda know what it took for you to relent to this new arrangement. I think it is God’s handiwork. Everything just fell into place. Good luck on your new life, Scooper.

  16. says

    Scooper- As always I love your open heart and honesty. Last night I was looking at images of doors and windows…I want to do an entire wall with images of beautifully colored doors…closed doors and blue doors…but my favorite image I found was one of a white shabby chic door, slightly ajar with beautiful gleaming light coming through the crack. This post makes me think of that image. It sounds like you have walked through that door…bless you in this next season.

    • says

      Karla, that is the loveliest visual. Thank you for that! And I love your idea of a wall with doors and windows. It’s perfect. Hope you are doing well, sweet friend. : )

  17. Anonymous says

    Your post is so honest and real. I appreciate that. I have several close family members who homeschool (their kids are mostly older than mine) and I was feeling like I should do that as well. I am the same as you on the Meyers-Briggs but all three of my kids are definite extroverts. I prayed about what would be best for all of us and I felt like what I wanted to do was to homeschool each one of mine in the 5th grade. That’s it. They are close in age and this would give us some one on one time that we don’t usually have. Also, being in youth ministry for years I felt like it would be a good foundation for middle and high school years. That time came to an end a couple of years ago (my youngest is in 7th grade now) and I still kind of grieve it. BUT, I am so thankful for that close time with eac one of my babies and I will always treasure it. I know you will as well. Enjoy your freedom and your space. You have done well. You deserve it!

    Kristen in TN (you sent me Grace for the Good Girl from your giveaway) :)

  18. Anonymous says

    Can I just say that as I sit here, I could be writing this very same post. I’ve homeschooled for over 7 years and this year am homeschooling 4 children while being extremely blessed with our 5th. I wasn’t sure before Christmas I could even continue after Christmas break was over. Fortunately, with a bit of rest and a fresh amount of energy we are keeping on. I don’t give up easily and have reasoned all the things you have said. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but thank you for sharing permission with me, that if I should choose, I can release my children to the public school system trusting I’ve done them enough justice and given them enough love and learning that they can just pick up and run right where they are. Thank you for being so open and honest!

  19. says

    Wow. This was where I was at this time last year. I put my 5 dc in school after 17 years of homeschooling. I took my 4 younger ones out after Thanksgiving (not because the schools were bad) because I missed them and life with 5 kids in school was so busy that it stressed me out. But the depression and anxiety are creeping up on me again. I hope it is just that yearly burnout thing. I may have to re-evaluate again.

  20. says

    This just makes me happy.Is that weird? Because God’s got this. This is part of His plan for your kids. Can we trust that our kids can be bright and well-adjusted even when they aren’t constantly under our direct care? Do we dare believe that God’s hand of protection is stronger and wiser than our own? Yikes. :)

    For what it’s worth, I shipped Silas off to a daycare/pre-school for 3 hours every Friday (aka right now) for many of the reasons you listed.

    I get it.

    And I’m excited to see the plans God has for your babies in their new school digs.

  21. says

    Giving up homeschooling our children was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it was either that or lose my mind. This was when our oldest four were 8, 10, 12, and 14. I kept the 12-year-old home because he wasn’t up to par in math. I’ve been homeschooling all or some of our five children for the last 28 years. Next year the youngest will be going to our Christian highschool, and my homeschooling career will officially end. Am I sad? Heck, no! I’m ready for days when I’m the only one at home; for quiet time to play the piano or paint. Maybe I’ll actually be able to finish a thought without being interrupted!

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