I am not going to lie … back to school euphoria is hard on me. In my early days of homeschooling I had a devil may care attitude about the whole thing. Back then I was excited about homeschooling and most of my friends still had kids at home all day, too. Our lives didn’t look dramatically different. But each year more and more of my friends find themselves with empty homes on Sept 7 and leap for joy at “getting their life back” for nine months.
Me? My life is like the movie Groundhog Day. And somewhere along the way I lost my back to school bravado. I get jealous. I ache for what I perceive regular school moms get – or at least what they claim they get – peace, quiet, sanity.
This summer I have especially struggled with the decision to homeschool. For the first time in eight years I had zero – I mean Z-E-R-O desire to homeschool and thought I had found a great alternative. Last spring we signed our kids up for a brand new charter school. It appeared to be everything we had wanted in a school academically and philosophically. Plus it was going to be a mere 15 minute drive from our farm. We were so excited that our kids got spots and eagerly awaited each announcement from the school officials as their plans came together.
I was disappointed when the school changed location and leased a building 35 minutes away from me. I mean, you can’t get ANY further from my house and still be in the same community they hoped to serve. Then came the news that the school hours were much later than I’d anticipated, making transportation an issue on the days I work. I held out hope that bussing would work out. It didn’t. It turned out the kids would have an hour long bus ride – AFTER I drove them 25 minutes to the bus stop. I knew neither a 9.5 hour day nor a 35 minute commute each way to school were options for us. The charter school was not happening.
The realization that I was going to have to homeschool again hit me hard. I sank down on the bedroom floor and heave-cried like my mom just died.
Some well-meaning friends said, “Just put them in public school.” when I expressed frustration with the situation. Homeschool moms know it’s not that simple. Honestly, the advice to drop them off at the front door of the public school was discouraging. I have heard it umpteen times in my homeschool career. But this summer it smarted just a little bit more.
Believe me when I tell you that homeschool moms KNOW the public schools exist. We know the tuition rates at all the private schools and the educational philosophy of all the various charter schools. We know all the fun that can be had at school. We know public schools are a fine way to educate kids. We know there are great teachers. We know all the pros and cons of each option. Really, we do. But for a myriad of reasons we have decided the best route for our children is to homeschool them. Even though its hard.
I remember watching my husband run his first marathon. A lot of people don’t understand why anyone would want to run a marathon. I’m a runner, too, and never ever want to run a marathon. But I supported my husband as he trained for race day. He started the marathon ready, strong, and focused. Even at mile 16 he was smiling, pumping his fist, and looking great. But just three miles later I saw him approach the spectating point and immediately knew something was amiss. His stride was labored and he was sucking wind. He looked like he was about to cry. I couldn’t imagine what happened in just three miles. He looked at me with defeat in his eyes as he approached and shook his head, silently telling me, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
Now what if, at this point I had said, “Awe that sucks. I don’t blame you if you want to quit. Just drop out of the race and let’s go get a Starbucks.” Nice sentiments for sure, but not helpful. Worse, what if I had lectured him? “You wanted to do this. Don’t complain to me. You did this to yourself. Quit now and cut your losses.” No one would dream of saying that to a marathoner mid-race.
I started cheering for my man like a crazy person. Because THIS moment was when he needed it most. “You GOT this baby!! I am SOOOO proud of you!!! WOHOOOOOOOO you’re DOING IT! Just SEVEN MORE MILES! Come on! Whatever you do – Don’t Quit!!!”
Like marathon runners, homeschoolers have chosen a different path for our families that probably doesn’t make sense to onlookers. People think we are crazy. People worry that our kids aren’t socialized. People freely share their opinions about our choice as if we are complete idiots. We actually hear a lot of similar remarks about our educational decision as do runners. I know this because I both run and homeschool.
“I could never do that.”
“Why do you do that?”
“You know, you don’t have to do that.”
Those sorts of remarks are incredibly discouraging to a homeschooler.
What if, even if you think she’s nuts, you cheered for your homeschool mom friend? What if you jogged alongside her a ways shouting, “You got this, mama! Don’t give up!” when she is struggling. Trust me – she needs to hear it. Often.
And homeschool mamas, what if we encouraged our regular school moms? I sure hope we don’t flippantly say, “Just homeschool them.” when our regular school mama friends encounter frustration. Because homeschool moms do not hold the patent on frustration and discouragement during the school year.
I am friends with moms in all categories: homeschool moms, public school moms, private school moms, working moms, stay at home moms, and empty nesters. What if we cheered for each other, prayed for each other, and leaned on each other this year – knowing we all love our kids and are doing our best to give them an education.
I have been beyond blessed by friends who listened and let me cry it out about homeschooling this summer. I know this is my choice and I know the alternatives. I know I can quit and put my kids in the awesome public school down the road. I am grateful for friends who let me process my choices with them and be vulnerable and for the encouragement and thoughtful advice they gave me. It was exactly what I needed.
Truthfully, I would rather swing by my toenails than homeschool yet another year. But I have decided that’s not a good enough reason to quit. There are countless blessings found in this path and I sense it is exactly where I and my kids need to be. I don’t know if this will be my last year homeschooling. But I do know I have dear friends who are rooting for me and praying for me. And I have renewed my resolve to be a good friend right back. Because we are truly in this together.
P.S. To my regular school mom friends: I have always – ALWAYS – wanted to protest your back to school supply lists on your behalf. I mean, really? You have to supply the entire 3rd grade with Kleenex? You have to bring 3M brand post-its to the teacher? You are only allowed Crayola markers? Please let me know if you ever plan to go picket the school because I will whip up a sign with my Rose Art markers and be there in a flash. Solidarity mamas!