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From homeschool to public school: one mom's journey

A person who lives in faith must proceed on incomplete evidence,
trusting in advance what will only makes sense in reverse.
Philip Yancey

So it's official. After 10 years of homeschooling, my kids are going to public school. I am a little bit excited and alot terrified.

This is totally new to me. My kids have been home with me from birth, and I starting schooling them when the boys were 4 years old. If I'm honest, my decision to homeschool at first was a financial one. I had fun doing some activities at home when they were little toddlers, but when the boys were 5 and Hannah was 4, I looked into preschool. There was no way we could afford it for all three to attend, so I figured hey, how hard could it be? A couple hours a day a few times a week, no problem. Then it was time for kindergarten. I figured, hey, I did preschool, how much harder could kindergarten be? And so on and so on...

I know that doesn't sound like a very convincing reason to homeschool, but it was mine. I had read about classical education when my kids were babies, and it fascinated me. One of my greatest problems still is being able to tie things I know about history and literature and science together chronologically, and I thought a classical approach would be a neat way to learn multiple subjects. I have never (EVER) wanted to be a school teacher, but I had three kids all in the same grade (Hannah was always right there, ready to do whatever the boys were doing!), so it was like I was tailor made to homeschool my very own little classroom.

And there were other reasons, too, other positives to homeschooling. We had a high priority for a good education and wanted our kids in a more controlled environment for sure, where we could pass on our values and give them undivided attention in a way a classroom setting can't always provide. But we have never been anti-public school--this is just what worked for our family. And I always said to Joe--it's one year at a time.

I loved the flexibility it gave me. At the time, Joe was off on Mondays, and I loved that since we didn't really get a traditional weekend, we always had Mondays to look forward to for family days. We did school 3 days a week, and that left one day for field trips or playdates or co-ops. It was a good system, and worked for several years.

After we moved to Florida, my kids started 5th grade and we switched to a software based curriculum. I was sacrificing a bit of what I liked about classical education, but I loved how it streamlined my paperwork. The kids loved working on the computer. We ended up needing to add Mondays as school days, but homeschooling gave us the flexibility to take a day or two off whenever we wanted.

Last year, the curriculum went online, and it was even better for me, to be able to access my kids' work from anywhere. Computer breakdowns no longer set us back for weeks at a time--we'd just use a different computer or go to the library.

But my kids were growing weary. Each year, when we'd evaluate what we were doing for the next year, the kids were pretty compliant. But this last year has been different. Their independent learning has been good prep for self-discipline in college, but it's not good for kids that want and need some interaction to learn. They were tired of being home. all. day. long. They wanted to be around other kids. Sure, we'd go out, do things with friends, go to the skatepark, go to co-op---but it wasn't enough. They wanted more. And as they approach 8th grade, I'll be honest--the material has gotten harder. Up to this point, if they had a question, I could skim the lesson and find a way to teach whatever they were struggling with. But this last year that became harder and harder to do. It took me longer to figure out what the answers are myself, and while I may have been more apt in certain subjects, I was an expert in none. The ratio of time to teach myself and then turn around and teach them was growing, and my motivation was lacking.

And then there's Abby. Let's just say it's not been the quietest studying environment since she's been home. And I couldn't send her to her room away from me and the kids--that's just antithetical to everything we've tried to do to bond with her. She could only color and play with playdough quietly for so long. I could take her out and run a few errands, providing some quiet for the kids, but somehow it felt wrong to leave my kids at home doing school by themselves.

So the tide shifted. We began to investigate all of our options. And frankly, financially, we only had two: homeschool or public school. I'll just put it out there and say my first choice would be private school--a gradual shift for my kids out of the home and into a classroom in a more controlled setting. I'm not naive enough to think issues won't arise because it's private school, but it would not be the deluge that I fear with public school. However, financially, there is just no way.

So we made a list of pros and cons. And there are both pros and cons! Both for homeschooling and public school. Good things and bad things about both. Without taking you through them individually and through our last few of weeks of wrestling through them, you know by our decision where we landed.

This does not mean we love everything about public school and this decision. In fact, I've told my friends--I reserve the right to change my mind, to feel differently about what is best, especially as the next few months unfold. As I said, I'm terrified. I am not a controlling mother, it's just not my way. But I wrestling with entrusting my kids to people who don't care about them like I do. I wrestle with how kids will treat them, especially being the new kids in middle school (does anyone remember actually LIKING middle school??). I wrestle with what they will be exposed to, what the "norm" presented to them will be, what messages they will be bombarded with that are directly opposed to what we believe and what we have taught them. I wrestle with their vision of what it will be like being shattered--since what they perceive is some blending of Disney Channel and Glee--and what reality will feel like for them as they face the demands of a new schedule, new relationships, new teachers, HOMEWORK, etc---all at once.

At this moment, we feel like we have good, open communication with our kids. We feel like they have every advantage a kid could have entering into the flow of the world. I plan on being at that school every week volunteering and getting involved in the PTA and bringing brownies to the staff and talking to their counselors and teachers--it's not like I will sit idly by and hope for the best. We will pray alot and remind them daily of their identity in Christ and his love for them--just as they are. We are excited--we're church planters, after all--to get to know new kids and new families and have opportunities to share the gospel in word and action. I am excited to have time just with Abby to begin teaching her and planning our days around her activities.

But the verdict is still out. These are uncharted waters for us. It could be horrible. It could be wonderful. It could be some combination of the two. These are our kids!!! Much is at stake.

I guess I'm writing this post mainly because I need to write out my thoughts, for myself. It helps me. : ) But I know this is a touchy subject that many have very strong feelings about on both sides, so I'm taking a bit of a risk sharing my personal process. I just want to say up front: this is my journey, my story, and these are my kids. I am not making a statement about what is best for you or your children.

I'm just a mom, leaning into her Savior, and trusting He has a plan.

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
C. S. Lewis

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19


To God be the Glory! said...

May I add... yes many challenges ahead, but what a blessing it will be for the other children, parents and teachers at their new school!!! The Walser family is always in my prayers.

Christy said...

LOVE your take on it all, Rachel! You are such a great mom! Praying for this new journey in your motherhood!

Jennifer P said...

Great reasons and clearly you have thought it through. We sent our son (never been to school) to public school in 10th grade. I took his picture of his first ever day in school. I didn't walk him to the bus though. He has done well. You know when the time is right. He admits his home school years served him VERY well.

skitkat19 said...

i was homeschooled from 3rd grade through highschool and loved every year of it, but my brother went to school in highschool - it just fit his personality better. so i believe the best option varies from one family to another/from one child to another. i will be praying for your kids as they make this huge transition! that they will find good, like-minded friends and teachers who will truly care about them. and that you and joe will be able to discern whether this is the direction to continue in or not. and yes! you are always allowed to change your mind! :) but for now, enjoy your time alone with sweet abby! :)

Unknown said...

There are a lot of Christian teachers in the public school system who love their careers - myself included! I've no doubt God will give you the wisdom to make good decisions for your children and give them the strength to take challenges and change that come their way. I'm not against homeschooling at all, but remember, your children now have a broader influence and have opportunity to bless their teachers and peers.

Unknown said...

p.s. I love reading your blog.