It's the middle of summer for us since the boys got out of school six weeks ago, and they will begin the school year six weeks from now. Over the last month or so, I've been busy planning for what's to come this fall; there's a new season on the horizon, and it has nothing to do with falling leaves. My husband and I have determined that it is currently in our son's best interests to pull him out of public school and homeschool him. It was not a decision we made lightly or on a whim. It wasn't something we planned to do at this point, but after much consideration, prayer, and flat out providence, this is the decision we've made.
Let me back up a little. When our family moved from Maryland to Kentucky for my husband to fill a new ministerial position as a full-time worship pastor, Sam began his last year of elementary school at a brand new school in a brand new state, with brand new teachers, students, environment, culture, home, church... it was a HUGE change for him - for all of us. The transition was hard, too. He only seemed to find his way a little better just a couple of months before the end of school though, so he didn't have much time to be in a groove before school was out and summer began. Another transition. Then the new school year began, which as a 6th grader entering middle school, meant he made yet another switch to a brand new school, with brand new teachers, and several more brand new students. That transition was incredibly difficult as well. He did fairly well most of the year, but we had some issues with the school staff and had to have a couple of meetings to discuss problems that had arisen.
Challenges Turned Into Questions
Throughout the school year though, Sam began to ask me about homeschooling him. I felt that despite the problems that existed in school, we would still be able to work things out for Sam to be successful. To be quite honest, I really didn't want to homeschool. I have homeschooled before, when my oldest was younger, but homeschooling a pre-K/Kindergartner was a whole different ballgame than it would be for a 7th grader.
Struggles in school for Sam continued, especially after winter break, and we found ourselves having more meetings and emails and phone conversations with teachers, though I still didn't want to acknowledge homeschool as an option. Over time, however, thoughts of homeschooling began to float around, and Sam was still asking... rather, begging. He was having a hard time with friends and teachers and school in general. More pictures of homeschooling life grew and started gaining more consideration in my mind. Still, I didn't say anything about it to anyone. (Maybe if I stayed quiet, I wouldn't have to do it.)
Private Questions Confirmed
Until one day, when my husband said something to me out of the clear blue sky. I don't think we were talking about school stuff, but if we were, it wasn't an intense conversation. Then he said, "I want to say something to you, but I don't want you to freak out about it." I remember thinking, "Oh no. Something happened at church. We're gonna have to move again." (Because my mind always goes to the worst scenario!) Calmly, I asked him what he wanted to say. He paused, as he does whenever carefully considering his word choices, then quietly, and poised for my reaction, asked, "... Have you thought at all... about... homeschooling?"
Well... crap. Now I have to tell him.
(Disappointing sigh) "... Yes. Yes, I have."
I began telling him of the thoughts I'd been having. He already knew Sam was asking. We didn't even need to talk through the whole thing (though of course we did.) I already knew this was it.
Confirmation Through Unity
In our marriage, we have learned that when God unites us on something, it's His way of affirming for us what it is we need to do. It's usually about a major change of some kind. Sometimes it's about what we feel like for dinner, but mostly, it happens when one of us is considering a life-altering decision, like changing careers from high school choir teacher to worship ministry, or moving from one state to another. I don't know how it works for everyone else, but for us, this is when we know God's hand is on it. When each of us considers something without telling the other, prays about it, then comes to a tentative conclusion, only to discover our spouse has gone through the same process and arrived at the same conclusion and we are unified in what we think we need to do, we know there is blessing in it.
And so, this is what we plan to do. Oh, and that whole, "I didn't really want to do it" part? That's changed. As I prayed over it, considering what's best for Sam, what's best for our family as a whole, what's even best for me as a mom (yes, it's okay to consider yourself too!), my attitude changed. It took a while to get there, and many conversations with close friends (who also homeschool) who could tell this was what we needed to do before I could, but I can honestly say I'm excited about it. I have moments where I yell at myself in my head, "What are you THINKING, woman?!" but I know that this truly is best for him.
Sam thrives in one-on-one environments. He needs help walking through new concepts, and the classroom environment has simply proven ineffective for him, or at least, not as effective as it could be. He struggles with authority, and teachers don't always have the time to explain to him every. little. thing. that he demands answers to, nor can he simply "let it go." He's turning 12 and entering 7th grade, a tender yet volatile time in the heart and body of a boy. Homeschooling will allow more flexibility with therapy schedules, not to mention everything homeschoolers everywhere already know - things like breaks as often as needed, extra help and explanation, bonding time with mom or dad, working through school material on his level (which is varied and gapped in differing subjects, such as being able to read words on a higher level than he is able to comprehend in context), and at his own pace. We look forward to getting to explore subjects he's fascinated with, like World War II, weather, and film production. I've already been to homeschool sales and consignment shops and collected his materials for the upcoming year. I can honestly say I'm excited! I'm definitely nervous as all get-out, but I'm excited. I think this will be really good for both of us.
Maybe you're wondering about changing course for your own child(ren). Maybe you have fleeting thoughts of something different, even if it's something you don't like, such as homeschooling. Maybe you see other options, but they're not as convenient or fun or accessible, or desirable in any way right now. Let me make a couple of suggestions that might help you through this period of wandering and wondering.
WHEN CONSIDERING NEW IDEAS
- Stop and think. When those thoughts flit through your mind, take a moment to stop and consider just what they are. Write them down. Write out what each of them might mean for your child, you, and your family. You don't need to make a decision about it right now. Just allow the time to think on it seriously for a bit.
- Pray about it. Take the list of thoughts and their impact to your Father in prayer. Pray through your worry, fear, disdain, whatever it is you feel about the possibilities in front of you, pray through them.
- Talk to your significant other about it. Be gentle, because they might not have done all this yet and they might react strongly and negatively. Let them know you don't know about it, but you've had the thoughts about it, and you'd like to open it up for discussion at some point.
- Talk to your child. Depending on your child's cognitive level and age, talk to them about it. Find ways to ask discreet questions. For instance, we have friends who homeschool, so I could say something like, "What do you think about your friend Paul doing homeschool?" Since he was already asking about it, I was able to ask him questions about what he thinks it would be like (and put to bed any ideas of staying at home equalling Minecraft all day every day!)
- Talk to people you trust. Talk to others who can speak to what they know of you and your family circumstances. Sure, my homeschooling friends were a bit biased, but I spoke to them about it because at one point, they were where I was - wondering if this was right, knowing it was, but not wanting to move forward. They could speak to my particular circumstances. My mom was actually the first one to suggest the idea. She's not biased towards homeschool because I wasn't homeschooled. It didn't matter to her whether or not I homeschooled my kids. She only thought about what was possibly best for her grandson. All of these people knew me very well, as well as my son and could offer honest considerations as we continued to think through it.
- Be ready for an attitude adjustment. If what you're thinking is something you don't like, be ready for the day when suddenly it looks all bright and beautiful, or at the absolute least, palatable. Also be ready for the moments of doubt that will come. Remind yourself in those times why you've made this decision. Re-consider whatever you need to as the situation arises.
- Move forward with confidence. Not everyone is always totally 100% positive about every decision they make, plus, most things take time. Whether it's moving, choosing to homeschool, or deciding on therapy, most of the time you just baby step your way forward until something presents itself as unwise moving forward. Not everything can be easily reversed, but consider your safety net. If homeschooling just does NOT work out, he can always go back to school. The same may not be able to be said after moving across the country. But think through what the worst case scenario would be, and have a plan just in case.
- Trust the Lord in ALL things! Whatever decision you make, He is right there with you. He is working out everything, even before you even know it exists. So as you move forward in your decisions for your child and the life of your family, trust the Lord who has given you wisdom to make these decisions. Trust yourself as the parent or caregiver for this child. You know him or her better than anyone else. If you have done your homework (see steps 1-7), then all you have left to do is to DO IT.
Now, go! Don't be afraid to consider new things. Do your homework. And then do what you must as in the Lord you trust.