I’ll be honest. I never thought I would home school. I was glad to send my older kids to school and have a break during the day. My college degree is Elementary Education, but I never seriously considered home school. However, I did often say things to myself like, “If I ever home school, I’d use such and such book/curriculum.” Funny, huh.
My mom was a school teacher before she married, and she did many school activities with my siblings and me as we were growing up. She had planned to home school, but a couple of months into my kindergarten year, our house burned to the ground. So she sent me to school, and I joyfully went. I loved being at public school and making friends. I was never sorry that I hadn’t been home schooled. All the home school kids I met at church were super weird.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Also I loved playing school when I was a child. When it was time for me to go to college, I chose a teaching degree because I figured, either it would help me be a better mom, or if I didn’t get married/couldn’t have children, then I could be a teacher and still have children. It was a great plan. But I fell in deeply love with teaching as I learned more about how it’s done. So then, when I did get married and have children, I still wanted to be able to teach as well. Each year as the August rolled around, I would eat my heart out, wishing I could go teach. I knew I was a good teacher. I could change so many children’s lives if I taught. It would be so much more fun than washing that stack of dirty dishes piled high in the sink. My new plan became hurry up and get all my kids I school so I could go teach.
When Blueberry Pie was little, he begged and begged me to let him stay home. His whole first year of Kindergarten, I had to carry him out to the car, peel him off me, throw him in and slam the door quickly. (Thank goodness he rode to school with his Grandma, who having raised her last child to kindergarten age, was going back to teaching public school.)
I refused to home school him because I was pregnant with baby number four, we lived in a tiny 900 square food apartment, and I was sure that “home school” would be him playing while I continued to clean the house and chase toddlers. He rarely did what I asked him to do, so I figured he needed a teacher that he would obey.
I did teach piano lessons. I taught preschool and children’s music classes in my home several times, and that kept me happy and quieted the hungry teaching monster within. I sold Mary Kay (and what is a Mary Kay party but me standing at a table “teaching” women about skin care and makeup?) I was terrible at selling the product afterwards, but I loved teaching those skin care classes.
There were many things I wanted my children to learn, but there never seemed to be time to teach them because they were gone to school all day. Evenings were full of me scrambling to get dinner made and nagging them to do their chores. I tried to monitor what they were learning in school, and some things frustrated me. But what could I do?
Sometimes I would consider home school but I had so many fears:
1. I was sure that I wouldn’t be organized enough. The kids would be sitting around waiting while I scrambled to throw together lesson plans.
2. I’m so terrible at keeping a house clean that I was sure that before a month was over, the kids would be running wild while I cleaned the house all day.
3. My kids would grow up weird and socially awkward, like the home schooled kids I had known.
4. I would accidentally leave out vital information that my kids needed to learn to be successful in college and life.
5. People would judge me.
Attempting to quiet the teaching monster within, I started projects. In addition to Mary Kay, I joined a quilting group. I played about with writing a book. Soon I wanted all the kids to go to school so I could work on my projects that I enjoyed.
When Key Lime Pie (baby #5) was 3, I made a big effort to become a Mary Kay Sales Director. But I didn’t quite make it before baby #6 was born, and I lost all the momentum I had built up. When Banana Cream Pie was a year old, I began working toward that dream again. In just 4 short years, I thought, maybe 3 if I put her in preschool, I would have all my children in school and I could do what I wanted.
But God had other plans for me. He made it very clear that I needed to have another baby. I didn’t want to. I did not want to be sick and pregnant again. I did not want to spend months of being up all night with a baby. I wanted to lose weight and stay the same clothing size for a whole year! I did not want to put off my dreams of having all my kids in school for another 5 years. But after some months of wrestling with myself, I knew what I would do.
When I became pregnant with Baby #7, my mind and heart changed. Putting off my dreams of Super Star Mary Kay Director suddenly made them too far out of reach to care about. I acknowledged to myself that my husband hated when I left the house in the evenings to do parties. I tried doing parties during the day, but I could not find a regular babysitter, and when I could get a sitter, the babies cried the whole time I was gone.
I accepted that I was a mother of children and began to be happy just to focus on them and what they needed. But then life changed again. Blueberry Pie started High School and Key Lime Pie started Kindergarten. The dynamic of our house changed. Suddenly it seemed like no one was ever home except for meals and sleep. I got up early (as I always have) to fix breakfast. But everyone else just got up in enough time to grab breakfast as they ran out the door with a “Bye Mom!” Then I cleaned house and took care of the 2 babies and cooked dinner. The big kids and my husband came home, ate the dinner, and then disappeared off into the house to do their own things.
I became increasingly lonely. It was just me and the babies. I’d given up my quilting club because the drive was long and my Grandmother who had also been a member, was too weak to go anymore. I’d given up working hard at Mary Kay because it made my family miserable. I began babysitting to help pay off some car debt we had. Paying off the debt was good, but babysitting isolated me further.
Then, because I like even numbers, I talked my husband into having just one more baby. (It didn’t take too much convincing.)
That “one more” turned out to be the twins. When they were born, The Scooter Pies turned my world completely sideways ring-tailed crazy. Whereas before I had felt isolated and lonely, now I was massively overwhelmed, stressed out, and isolated and lonely. When the twins were 3 weeks old, my husband had to go to his weekend National Guard drill. For the first time ever, I cried when he left for soldier duty. Because life is like this, both his National Guard job and his full-time work began requiring more and more hours. Every time he left for work, I felt abandoned. I love my babies, but I was losing my mind. When the twins were 6 months old, I accepted a babysitting job to help out a teacher. With her 2 children, I was caring for 6 babies age four and under. I spent literally all of the day spooning food into mouths, changing diapers, and soothing sad babies. Spooning food into babies’ mouths is something I never have learned how to enjoy. Many times I just sat on the floor and rotated babies. I sang songs and read stories. I really made intentional efforts to stay positive. I worked hard each day to move my leaden arms and legs and keep up an effort to do anything besides sit on the couch a lot. But I sat on the couch (or the floor) a lot.
Where before I had always dreaded when the kids would get home from school because I hadn’t finished a project yet, I began to watch the clock, eagerly anticipating my children getting home from school. I needed their help! I wanted their company! One of my friends began homeschooling, and I listened as she talked about how much she loved it and could see how simply she added it into her day.
I thought about all the extra -curricular things that my children wanted to do. We didn’t have time to do them because they were gone to school 9 hours a day, over an hour and a half of which was just riding the bus!
I thought about how tired my 7 year old was all the time because she had to get on a bus at 6:45 a.m.
I thought about how my 6th grader never had time to read the books she wanted to read because her reading time was taken up with required reading for school.
I thought about how interested in art my 8th grader was.
I looked over the elective courses that had seemed more than adequate for my son whose time is taken up with Band, Jazz Band, and Swimming, and saw that for my daughter, the elective classes were shallow and worthless compared to what I could do with her if she where home.
I thought about myself and how lonely I was, and how desperately I needed a project that I could be excited about and use my brain for. I thought, home school is a project that would use my brain and yet be a benefit to my children instead of taking me away from them.
I thought about how as my kids have gotten older, they have gotten more fun to be around. I wanted more time with them!
I talked it all over with my husband. In the past, he has been very critical of home school in general–as an adviser at a local junior college, he meets several students each year who were home schooled and are woefully unprepared for college. To my surprise, he was supportive and even enthusiastic about what our girls could learn at home.
So, I asked the girls if they would like to try home school and they answered immediately and resoundingly, “Yes!” Then they paused and Pumpkin Pie admitted, “I will miss my friends.” Then one asked, “will we have to take the MAPP test?”
I said, “no”
In unison, they cheered, “Home school!”
And so our journey began.
And I can tell you, it may be overwhelming, but I am loving it. I haven’t been this happy in years!