Weird Homeschoolers: Kindling…

I can so clearly remember the dread that enveloped me as a child those nights after the first days of school.  Each year, I was typically excited about the first day back to school, even after a fun summer break.  I loved shopping for new school supplies, and I always looked forward to seeing my friends again, meeting my teachers, and getting a glimpse into how my school year would look.  First days were so fun.

That night, however, I would realize suddenly that after every first day…came a second day.  And a third.  And so on.  It hit me that those days would not be as fun.  And it occurred to me that I had no choice but to participate in them, to meet their demands.  Furthermore, I was depressingly aware that even my parents did not have much of a choice.  Since homeschooling never seemed to enter any of our minds (least of all mine), it appeared that we were all at the mercy of the traditional school system.

Since I actually kind of enjoyed the traditional school system once it got rolling, I usually rebounded quickly from my funk and moved on with the business of the school year.  However, there was always that brief time each fall where I suddenly felt trapped by the crushing burden of eight hour days, 40-hour weeks of enforced learning schedules.  I felt like a helpless pawn in an unalterable system, a system over which I had no control.

(And yes, I know that I might have been a morbid child to delve so deeply into despair each year.  I think I get that tendency from my father.  He once told me of a time when he saw an airplane fly overhead while coming back from squirrel hunting to his rural Kentucky home.  Instead of excitement at seeing the airplane, my dad was filled with depression at the thought that he would most likely never fly in such a contraption.  Like me, he felt trapped in his world.  However, I generally had much less reason to feel trapped than he, as I was the privileged daughter of a man who, as a business executive, flew in lots of airplanes.)

That dread came back to me at the beginning of this year when I sent my kids back to school after Christmas break.  Often, parents are somewhat relieved to send their kids back to school and to settle back into their normal routines.  Not me.  To me, it felt so incredibly wrong.  We had enjoyed such a wonderful Christmas holiday, and the few weeks of together time just made me want more.  Thus, it was with deep mourning that I packed my son off to his eight hour school day at the beginning of January.  I told myself that it would be good to get back into a routine, that once I started teaching and everything settled down, I would be thankful for our highly ordered days.

Instead, I found myself feeling slowly trapped by our routines, and that familiar feeling started creeping back up on me, that morbid awareness that we were part of a system that dictated most aspects of our lives.  For example, Luke’s school schedule dictated our family time, limiting it to the 3:00-7:30 pm window between school dismissal and bedtime.  Family time was further cut short by church commitments two nights a week at 5:00 pm, and by Greg’s work schedule, which took up three nights a week.  Then there was the homework for Luke and the teaching prep and grading for me, which stole away even more family time.  Because we felt so squeezed, Greg and I opted not to enroll the kids in any extracurricular activities, like sports or art classes, because we didn’t want to give up even more weeknights, and certainly not our cherished weekends.  That was a shame because I really think my kids would benefit from some extracurricular opportunities.  I also began feeling more and more stingy with our time, reluctant to do even good things, such as service or outreach, because our hours together as a family were so precious to me.

Now, I can just hear the chorus of those who have “been there and done that” saying, “Welcome to reality.”  This is the new normal:  two parents working (often both full-time), kids in school all day, a host of extracurricular activities in the evenings and weekends.  So many people’s plates are much more full than ours, and they seem to be managing, and even enjoying it.  So why can’t we get with the program?

I, on other hand, didn’t enjoy it.  Thus, my question was:  Does this have to be reality?  More and more, I feel squeezed in to this mold, this lifestyle, that I really do not want.  I don’t want to be forever frantically running around feeling two steps behind.  I am keenly aware that I only have one life, one chance at this thing, and I want to spend my time on what is most important to me, not on priorities that culture decides for me.  Maybe “this is the way things are,” but right now, I am rejecting the way things are.  I am blessed to be able to choose a different reality instead.

In my chosen reality, I want to spend my time serving my family and my world.  I want to devote my days to the relationships that are most important to me, which will in turn allow me to more freely give my afternoons and evenings to the other work that God has for me.  If I’ve spent a full day with my children, I will not resent going to tutor in the evening or volunteering some “family time” at World Relief.  I won’t mind going on a weekend youth trip, or worry that it is taking time away from the children whom God has given me.  In short, by taking back time for our family, it seems to me that we will have more time to give to others.  Service won’t just be one more thing to squeeze on top of a forty-hour school week; instead, it will be something we can weave throughout all our days.

Those feelings of dread and reluctance formed the “kindling” to our homeschooling flame.  Back in January and early February, Greg and I circled ’round and ’round the homeschooling option, mulling over its benefits and drawbacks.  Our exploration of this option was prompted by my trapped feelings.  When I am feeling romantic, I describe the “kindling” factor in our decision to homeschool as:

Systemic Rebellion.

Power to the people, and all that!  Down with the Man!  We are taking back our precious hours and devoting them to the pursuits that are most important to us.  So…in your eye, cultural expectations!

And when I am in a more prosaic mood, I simply say,

We didn’t like our schedule.

Because, you know, that’s true, too.

So how do you handle the busyness in your life?  It seems like completely rejecting one’s lifestyle is a tad on the dramatic side.  Do you have any strategies that are perhaps more reasonable?

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Um, ditto. And, yes ..I agree and feel all those same ways.

    This is one of the MAJOR reasons we do what we do. Its also one of the hardest things to adjust to – being okay with your kids being “weird” and doing things so different from the way the rest of the world does it.

    I think we are SO used to being on that fast pace of things that we simply dont even realize the ride we are on. I feel so rebellious on days when I see kids waiting on the curb at 6:30am ..knowing those babies have been up since 5:30 (had a mom tell me this this week about her 5 year old) and knowing my kids get another 1.5 hours of sleep each day. How I know that these kiddos have a full work day ahead, and that my kids will be done with their “work” by noon. It makes me sad to think of kids being on that 9-5p track starting at 5 years old – my heart rebells against it.

    Yet, our culture dictates that is the way it “should” be. Its how “reality” is – it seems so odd that anyone would question it.

    Being part of the Kingdom, just like being a homeschooler (not equating homeschooling with being a christian here ..just to be clear), calls for times when we note that we desire to be different than the norm. We have to be willing to step away from the tide of society, if the call is there to do it.

    We have to be okay with our kids being “weird” – and embrace all the ways that indeed, they are different than others. I am learning to appreciate that my kids are SO weird because they dont know the ins and outs of sex at the age of 7…I love that the concept of drugs (amongst SO many others) hasnt even made it onto their radar yet.

    Not that there wont be a time for that – of course we will teach them about those things. But maybe not the way that our culture typically teaches it. They may not learn it from another child like “most” kids do.

    We may not be up at 5:30am every day, 5 days a week, have two hours of homework every night, go from one activity to another every day of our lives, have to schedule “fun” and try to accomplish everything the world tells us we must the WAY it tells us we must. We may, rather, get up around 8am – play outside while mom does a load of laundry, have a wrestling match with daddy before he heads of to bed for teh day (he works night shift. …our schedules are opposite our world as well), watch a silly cartoon about adverbs, write a “chapter” in a “book” about how we love karate, cuddle with mommy for a minute before we dress up like Spider man and glue a few pieces of carboard together to make a “playhouse” …this is literally our morning so far. Its 9:36am..

    If I were to pick “normal” over “weird” ..I’d take weird every day of the week. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Posted by dreabraddock on April 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

    The scheduling issue has me thinking about this ALLTHE TIME. And it makes total sense that homeschooling would be a great fit for a ministry family. Right now we don’t have any in school and I’m already dreading losing my days–particularly with a half-day kindergarten schedule. I hate the idea that our entire family is going to be at the mercy of Adelaide’s schedule which will now dictate when naps can be taken, when I will be able to buy groceries, when we have to go to bed/wake up. Ugh. And Sam and I have had the exact same conversations you guys did. We both feel like going to public school was a good thing for us (as opposed to shelling out for private school) and we are so fortunate that education is readily available for our children. But, like you, I LOVE being with my family! Sam’s work schedule has him leaving by 5 every morning and often not getting home until after 6 or 7. We keep the kids up late so we can spend time together. Things are definitely going to have to change come fall. With these things it seems like homeschooling would be an obvious choice for us. The two things that keep me in the “thinking about it” stage are that Adelaide is such an extrovert I’m afraid I’d be doing her a disservice by keeping her at home and, to be honest, I’m afraid that I’m not smart enough or organized enough or disciplined enough to be a good teacher for my children. I keep thinking about it though.

    Reply

    • I think those are all common feelings for EVERY mom who considers homeschooling – I think we all worry that we are not good enough to be what our kids need. One thing I have learned, that like anything – if God calls you to it, if it is something that you feel is teh best thing for your kids (and it may not be, but if you DO feel that way) then God will give you what you need to be what they need.

      I am learning about myself right along with my kids – I am learning that while I dont know “enough” to teach them, I can learn too. I am learning that organization has its place, but how organized I need to be is based on what works for us. Some homeschoolers are SUPER organized and some arent. Some need strict schedules, despite being home, and some dont. I am learning that i need to improve discipline in some areas and in some In need to chill out.

      This is my mantra to all the moms who come my way asking about hs’ing (I have had a TON lately!) …if you feel like you should, then God will give you what you need to do it when you need it. Just in anything else, you can trust him to provide it 🙂

      Reply

    • Drea, I definitely had all those same thoughts. And for me, it took actually trying the public school system to see that–for now, at least–it is not right for us. I still really do think highly of public education, and I could see myself sending my children back next year if this homeschooling thing doesn’t work out. As frustrating as some parts of this year were, I do think that Luke was ultimately where he needed to be. And next year, I think he needs to be home, even though I will definitely miss the social aspects of the classroom setting. As for our plans beyond next year, I have no idea.

      I guess what I’m saying is that I am not meaning these blog posts to represent some universal truth of what is best for all children–heck, this decision might not even be best for ours! We are just trying to figure it out as we go! I know that your children are so blessed b/c they have parents who think long and hard about the decisions they make for them, and what works for us, schedule-wise, might not work for you guys. I will say that I feel certain that you could be a great teacher:).

      Oh, and apparently my “invitation’ to read your blog has expired? Could you email me another one? After all, how can I stalk you if I am banned from your blog?:)

      Reply

      • Posted by dreabraddock on April 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

        Thanks Courtney (and Kim)! Sam will be deployed next year so I know we plan on sending Adelaide to kindergarten and seeing how things go. I don’t think I could start such a big undertaking while he’s gone. You’ve given me a lot to think about though and the supportive comments have gone a long way as far as taking the “am I good enough?” issue out of the equation. And Kim, I will definitely send you another invite! I didn’t know they could expire!

        Reply

  3. Posted by Tim on April 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Kim, we also mourned the absence of the kids when school started back up again. I took vacation during their winter and spring breaks so got to spend a lot of time with them, and my wife had that all summer long too.

    And as for not scheduling extra things, we did that too but I think for a slightly different reason. Our oldest needed to ease into transition as a child, so we decided early on that there would be no fall sports or other extra curricular for him. Starting school was enough on his plate. After that got going, then we’d add things if he wanted to. Our daughter did not need this particular type of scheduling, so her activities might have come at any season.

    We still made sure we were careful about adding things to the schedule, though, particularly our own. I am really good at telling people no when they ask me to join something – a committee, civic group, a night out for men’s ministry, etc. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Is there more pressure on pastors and their spouses to say yes to these types of activities? I suppose. But that doesn’t mean they have to, you know. 😉

    Cheers,
    Tim

    Reply

  4. Posted by bekster081305 on April 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I LOVE and completely agree with this statement:

    “I am keenly aware that I only have one life, one chance at this thing, and I want to spend my time on what is most important to me, not on priorities that culture decides for me. Maybe ‘this is the way things are,’ but right now, I am rejecting the way things are. I am blessed to be able to choose a different reality instead.”

    YES! At some point, everyone needs to break out of the Matrix. When you do, it is very exciting (and scary), but the most important thing is that, to do it, you really HAVE to trust in God. Our culture tells us to trust in our society. Go through all of the motions and you will achieve the American Dream. But, that is complete nonsense. You don’t HAVE to follow the world’s system. The only thing you HAVE to do is to follow God.

    Reply

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