Plodding

The week of getting back to school is almost always a painful one.  Plowing into the grind of math and history and reading and advising and checking and repeating and prodding and encouraging.  We’re still awash in summer, all of us, with tomatoes and squash all over the counters, and apples and grapes ripening on branches, and the pool glittering next to our scalding-asphalt driveway, all begging us to stick with summer.

But I start to count the math pages that need to be done this year, to remember that my almost-4th grader needs multiplication tables and a gaggle of teenagers need chemistry and a certain sweet first-grader really needs a phonics review to get rock-steady at reading.

And so we plunge in, all unwilling, every single one of us, with me in the lead all heavy and grownup.  The first days the unwilling just about drowns me, coming as it is from me as well as the children, though some of them are less unwilling than I.

Always I know there are options.  In weary moments I try them on for size, striving for objectivity, even as a little voice inside whispers I’d be betraying my ideals.  The truth is we could send our children off to school, I know we could.  I know many families for whom public school works brilliantly, for whom it is an excellent choice. The temptation looms mountainous some days.  To let other folks battle unwilling ones, cajole kids past the clueless moments.

Except I know in my soul no one– no one — will coax our 15 year old to do her best as insistently as I. No one but I will care as much about the friends our children make.  Few others will know when English vocabulary words start wooshing over our Ethiopian daughters’ heads.  And I doubt that a teacher with 28 kids in the class will correct kids who randomly skip plurals and other small details of sentences. (If you don’t think little words matter, try sitting next to a kid taking a standardized test who just chose the exact wrong answer because he skipped the word ‘not’ in a sentence.)

And then there is the thought of my little 6 year old marching away with a backpack to be gone all day. Daggers to my heart.

Yes, I would have morning peace — but only after an hour or two of bleary-morning chaos, getting kids hurry-scurried to the bus.  My current morning math-checking and reading would be replaced by endless homework between 4 PM and bedtime, homework dictated by others. And the kids who had years without a mom– well, they’d be spending most of their waking hours away from a mother once again.

For many families, school away from home may be an excellent choice, with lots of good reasons to proceed peacefully and confidently in that direction.  In no way am I casting aspersions on the choices of other families. But even in my weakest, tiredest, unwilling-est, early-September moments, I cannot honestly find peace with that option for the family God gave me.  And so we plod forward, learning in spite of ourselves, with me reminding myself once again that though these first weeks are painful, if we don’t give up we will eventually gain momentum and settle comfortably back into the fall routine.

This is the path for us. Just keep walking.  One step at a time.  Don’t give up.

{ 37 Comments }

  1. Krystal Griffin says:

    We are finishing week 5 of our school year and the fun “newness” has worn off. Leaving in it’s place frustration and those thoughts that yes – I have a choice. But we always end up in the same place as you, plodding through the tough days because we don’t have peace about the other options. But, oh….. some days are so hard. Today was one of those days. It called for early nap time and sending the big boys out to play. Then some coffee and enjoying “Facing the Giants”, which I blubbered through the first half.

  2. Keep sticking it out. I’m reading your book “A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family” (even though I only have two boys and a step-daughter) and I was so envious when I was reading the chapter on homeschooling. My kids go to a public school–I send my wee little 5-year-old off with his backpack every morning, and my heart breaks–but he loves going to school.

    And then I go to the middle school where I teach and I love other people’s children and try to inspire them daily. Do I succeed? Sometimes. Not always. But I often wish my days were like yours, breakfast and Bible study and kids accomplishing more work in 3 hours than my elementary age children do in 6 and a half. And I’ve been biting my tongue every day with the amount of homework my 9-year-old has–and I KNOW he’d be a proficient reader if he were home with me every day.

    But the budget doesn’t cut it, and I do love my middle-schoolers. So I sigh with envy as I hear about your day….to be able to watch your OWN children’s AHA moments must be heaven.

  3. Thank you for this. This is the first year I have really faced all of those feelings. I’ve always been content to keep my kids at home. This year, the intense weariness I’m feeling is making it so much harder. It’s good to be reassured that it doesn’t mean I should jump ship. Like you, we know it is best for our family. Sometimes, best is just really hard.

    Blessings on you and yours!

  4. Yes yes yes. I could not agree more. Sometimes people ask me “wouldn’t it be a lot less work just to send them to school?” Well, yes and no. Yes, it would certainly give me more free time. But also no, because I feel sure that homeschooling is what my family is called to do, and it is never easier to ignore what feel sure is right. I remind myself that most things worth having take a lot of work. What better thing could I be doing with my time than this? Truly.

  5. Great post. We are finishing our third week today…and I think I drag the most. Just starting to find our groove now…but I know how you feel. Though some days it’s a temptation to put them in school, I know this is still the best choice for our family! Have a great year!

  6. thank you for this post. our littles are too young to homeschool yet, but it’s an option we consider. we’re purposefully not sending our almost-four-year-old to formal preschool because i know i selfishly would want to continue sending him to school — not because it’s necessarily best for him, but because it would be “easiest” for me. and there are days i am envious of my friends who have the “respite” of preschool. it’s good for me to know i’m not the only one who struggles with choosing to lay down my life for my children in this area. especially encouraging when it comes from an “older, wiser” mom. thanks!

  7. Yay! What a wonderful post on homeschooling. Loved it.

  8. adoptingmama says:

    I recently read “Lies Homeschool Moms Believe” by Todd Wilson. I loved the encouragement I read there. Perhaps you can put it on your list to read soon? You can do it! Take a sunshine break as often as you can before Fall sets in though too :)

  9. Narelle Galloway says:

    Thanks…we are on our second week, and it has already been a killer…usually we have a couple of “new” weeks before the grind hits! As others have said…it’s nice to know others struggle too, some days (OK, nearly all days LOL) the thought of sending them to school is very present…but like you, I love having them home…that doesn’t change the fact though, that sometimes homeschooling is just plain stinkin’ HARD! BUT, I don’t want to trade the struggles we have TOGETHER, for struggles APART…not unless the Lord definitely indicates otherwise…

  10. I was the one here dragging my feet…I really didn’t want summer vacation to end this year. The funny thing is, as soon as we started school, the kids got right into it. It has been going so smoothly, I am quite surprised! I am still hanging on to the last vestiges of summer, but I can see that fall is nothing to fear…as long as it keeps going like this.

  11. Excellent post, Mary. I think all of us homeschooling moms have thought about how much “easier” it would be to send our kids to public/private/Christian school. But you summed it up perfectly! The bleary-eyed mornings, homework and activities crammed into after school time, and others making educational choices regarding our children. When I think about those things I realize that I love our homeschool pace of life. If my 6 year old went to public kindergarten, I’m fairly certain he would come home with papers with backwards 3′s, 6′s, and 7′s. Would the teacher notice or take the time to correct him? I’m not sure.
    I wish you the best this school year! Your children are blessed by you!

  12. Great post Mary and love the title. We are on our fourth week and starting to get a groove. I am trying to get use to schooling five kids ages 15-5 and a little 2 year old running around. This past summer I really struggled with using some other options because I was not sure I was up for the challenge. And on top of it entering into the high school level, WOW!. I was gently reminded that I too know that God wants this for our family and He would help me work through it. So with faith I planned and prayed for His strength and courage to carry on. I wish you the best this year with homeschooling!

  13. Mary, I thank you so much for this. I feel as if you’ve been following me this week – I could have written this post. I don’t have the issue (yet, anyway) of also tending to the needs of adopted children (being away from their mama when they’ve spent years without one), but I spent years without my own, and so I desire so much to build something extra special with my children. I admit to feeling jealous at times when I hear of other mom’s having those seven or so “free” hours. Even if it’s only to get the housework caught up, or an extra craft done, or grocery shopping by one’s self, it sounds so NICE. I have been reading through Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe” by Todd Wilson, and he made the point that some of us believe that all the other moms who homeschool LOVE homeschooling. The truth is, many if not most do not LOVE it. But we do it. Because that is what we have been called to do. And because we believe it’s best – we do it for the results. I ended up posting 1 Cor. 10:31 on our bulletin board for all too see – it is our verse for this year. Even more than the benefits for my children and our relationships with each other, I do it for the glory of God. Blessings!

  14. Totally understand, Mary. We’re in our 22nd year of homeschooling, and the first few weeks are never easy here, either. In my case, it’s my idealism that crashes directly into reality. However, this year, I decided to accept reality, but slip a little “planned idealism” in for my (and the kids’) sanity. My new activity: 10:00 tea time with a special (usually store-bought) snack thrown in. We eat breakfast early, and by 10:00 are already a bit hungry. So, I’m bringing out the pretty cups, sugar, cream, and the snack. We pour, stir, eat, and continue our schooling–just a little happier. Sounds goofy–but it’s working! Hang in there, and remember Who we homeschool for!

  15. Yes and Amen!

    Kim
    (mom to 11 kids ages 0-11 … most of them “schooling” age)

  16. Oh goodness, Mary! I truly needed to read this tonight! Heading into year 11 and as usual, I feel as though I am brand new at this. But I know that I know that they need me, and perhaps I need them even more. Onward I go…

    Love Britt’s idea to haev a tea time in the a.m. Perhaps I’ll give it a try!

  17. Thanks Mary for sharing this with us. We are kind of finishing up our second week (couple of days off for our anniversary get away), and are still trying to get into the swing of things. Year 13 here and will be graduating my first one next spring. Looking back, God has been so faithful in this journey and I know He has been in yours too. Keep plodding along…many of us are plodding along with you… :o )

  18. Love this. 2 years ago I pulled my oldest child out of public school…I was terrified and it was hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was scared that I was going to mess up his chances for a beautiful future. He was 8 and hated school and I felt I couldn’t make him go anymore he hated it so much at such a young age. The transition was terrible. We fought every day. It was a constant struggle to get his respect as a mother/teacher. Then something clicked at the end of our first year together. He realized learning could be fun! He realized I loved him and wanted him to enjoy what he was learning and that I would be there for him. He realized if he worked hard in math that afterwards we could do any science experiment we wanted to do, we could read our way through history and spelling wasn’t all that bad if we worked a little everyday. I have seen my young man grow in confidence in tangible ways. It has been an amazing transformation. My middle children still go to public school and it is a dagger through the heart to watch them leave every morning. I’m going to be homeschooling them all next year and I am excited and apprehensive, but I know it’s the right choice for us. Thanks for being a support. I love seeing what you do with your kids every year. It’s inspiring.

  19. Amen, and thank you. This is what we are feeling at our house too!

  20. I have felt this way in past years, but for some reason this year (our 14th) I’m feeling excited and ready to go. I’m not sure what the change is between last year and this year, but I’m not going to complain. (Though I’m sure have two 2yos instead of two nursing babies has a lot to do with it.) My children sometimes have trouble getting into the swing of things as well, and it often involves tears over math. I sometimes wonder if it is just my children who need a good cry over fractions before they can be faced.

    I have also considered what it would be like to send the hoards off to school and that whole morning routine at such an early hour has always seemed far more work than having them all home all morning. And frankly, after the newness of being alone in my house wore off, I’m sure I would be terribly lonely.

  21. I agree so very much with your post. We finished our fourth week of school and are already trying to catch up. (My oldest was hospitalized — again– for complications of his diabetes… The ninth time this past year.) I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to let someone else deal with the whining about math problems and the eye rolling (pre-teens/teens) about composition. But then I remember, God gave them to us to raise. It is my not only my responsibility to deal with the bad times, but also the blessing and joy to see the aha moments and to establish a relationship that will continue as long as we live and create and impact that will last longer.
    Thank you for your words!

  22. Wow, just what I am feeling at my house this week!!
    Love, Rach

  23. Mary, we are just out of our second week, our first year. There have been some hard moments. Thank you for all your good advice about keeping our focus in the right place, and for your encouraging words in general.

  24. Yes. I read this with a big sigh. I know exactly what this feels like. I have 6 doing school this year, more responsibility on Mom’s shoulders than ever before.

    I hear those “what if” whispers, too, but then I watch them run to gather eggs, still in their pajamas at 9:00 and I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  25. Not homeschooling any longer but remember those days like they were yesterday. My days were busy and hectic while homeschooling as well as when kids are in public school. I applaud parents who decide to homeschool but only if they are truly educating their children.
    Several years ago had to enroll my children in public school and can attest to the fact that my days were not any more rushed either in the morning or afternoon because of it. And yes, while the kids were away from me during the day the time they were home was time we spent preparing supper, playing games, reading or doing homework. The homework they did have was not what I gave them but I was always ready to help them with it and encourage them in what they were learning.
    Homeschooling parents spending more time with their children is not always correct because there are many homeschooling parents who are spending less and less time with their children for various reasons the same as parents who do not homeschool.
    As a parent who has been both a homeschooling parent and a parent of children in public school, I can honestly say that there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

  26. I feel like I’ve just found a community of friends. So many are leaving homeschooling. I’m enjoying reading others thoughts that I also have daily as I endeavor to do the job I’ve been called to do.

    I would love to get some encouragement and ideas as to how you all incorporate the other homemaking tasks that need to be done– cooking, cleaning, canning, decluttering, etc.

    • This suggestion is not for everyone but it worked for me because I had babies, toddlers, and school-aged children and the stress level was non-existent when it came to preparing meals.
      We had either pancakes, cream of wheat, oatmeal, eggs or french toast with sliced fruit each morning; for lunch we had tomato soup and crackers with open faced tuna sandwiches with a slice of cheese cooked in the oven for a few minutes and a vegetable and glass of milk. Supper I varied a bit more but was still very simple so that the teens could make it as their home-ec assignment for the day. The grocery list was simple to compile and shopping was a breeze.
      I do not can anything but freeze what produce I want. This enables the kids to help much more with the slicing, freezing, labeling, etc. needed.
      As for the cleaning of the house, I hate clutter and so don’t have anything that I don’t use everyday around me and if it is seasonal it is in a bucket in the basement or garage. I do not accept donations of hand-me-downs that I even wonder if we will use but politely decline.

  27. Thanks for keepin’ it real, Mary!! It’s a blessing. We’re still working on finding our groove this year. A first for us, one is gone! {college} THANKFUL for these years . . . even though at times the refining that God does in my own heart through it is painful! ;)

  28. Love this… Music to any homeschooling mama’s ears to know that she’s not alone at this. :)

  29. Just had to come back after ruminating over this post. My Momma heart has been weary lately with a new babe in the house and wondering WHY I’m taking the time and effort to home school when it could be so much ‘easier’ to just put our daughter in public school. I needed the encouragement!!! It was also good to think about other reasons that I hadn’t even put into words or fully formulated in my own mind. Thanks!

  30. Hi Mary, wishing you luck in your first weeks, getting into the flow of it all IS tough with competing Indian Summer days, and a counter full of garden produce!

    For the past few years I’ve changed our schedule a bit – one great thing about homeschooling is that you CAN be flexible…my kids do lessons through summer (at a reduced pace, with more free outdoor time and summertime sailing lessons) and then we (I!!) take a break from mid August through September. Some years I start up again in Mid September, last year not until the end of the month. Usually take advantage of bargains and weather for a family vacation after public school opens. I never have trouble making the # of required days, and kids seem more ready to get back to lessons after the weather cools off a bit. AND I get my canning and freezing done. Speaking of which, I’ve got a mountain of carrots to deal with…

    • Hi Jennifer, I think that is a good idea. We have been doing 4-day weeks, which allows one day for canning per week. Seems to allow us to keep up with the canning, at least!

  31. Enjoyed this article. I have spent 8 years having the same thoughts every September.
    However, this year I became one of those where homeschooling is not the best choice for my kids right now and my husband decided to put them into a good small private Christian school nearby. (it also has very small class sizes about 6 per class.) It has been quite an adjustment for us, but truly for the better in that the positives are far outweighing the negatives.
    Homeschooling doesn’t go very well when the teacher is so clinically depressed that she is having a hard time functioning at the very basic level. We made this choice for only this year. We may go back to homeschooling next year. I am doing better, healing is a slow process.
    Thank you for not coming across as judging those of us who have left homeschooling, even if only momentarily. (I hope.)

  32. We don’t all have a choice. My kids go to school all day while I WORK all day. Like you all, I believe my family and I are right where God wants us right now, and I am disappointed to learn that so many people think they are better than those who don’t homeschool, even within the Christian community.

    Also, I am a second grade public school teacher and I care about each child immensely, I don’t let them come home with “backwards numbers” and such. You readers have certainly only seen the worst in public education. Please don’t be so judgmental about the decisions of other families. We are all doing the best we can.

    • Hi Nicole,
      I intended no judgment in this post– I was simply sharing my personal reflections (mental wrestling?)over my family’s decisions. I’m sure you ARE doing your best for your own family, and I am so glad you have peace.
      All the best,
      Mary

  33. Hi – this is my first time here. I stopped over from simple mom who linked to you this weekend. This was a lovely post, and brought encouragement and perspective to my weary feeling heart.

  34. Terri Layne says:

    Oh, my, did I need this today!!!! From one adoptive Mom to another, thank you!