What in the World Was I Thinking??? One Family’s Decision to Homeschool

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We have some big news here in the Roder Family. No, I’m not pregnant, and we’re not moving to Canada. (Sorry, Justin. You’ll have to make do with Jason Priestly’s Family. I hear he’s still relevant, in some circles.)

Trudeau
Trudeau was disappointed, but he said he understood our decision. Photo credit: The Calgary Herald

No, our big news is that Target is having a BOGO sale! Just kidding. (Though they are having a BOGO sale, plus a coupon for $10 off any apparel and accessory purchase of $50 or more.) Here’s what we’re really doing:

Homeschool

As you may have guessed from the title, I am now a homeschooling mom.

I know, I know. I’m the last person you would ever expect to homeschool. I mean, I hate homeworkHate it! When my kids would come home from school with a backpack full of papers, projects, and research assignments, I’d shake my fist at God and say, “Why me?” I never wanted to sit down and convince them to spend their afternoon doing school stuff. I didn’t even think they should have to. They’d already spent 6 hours cooped up in school. Why should they have to do it at home too? Especially when they could be outside playing?

 

And now I’m signing myself up for doing homework all day? I must be insane! (We’ve already established that my children have stolen my brain. Little did they know what they were setting themselves up for.)

But speaking of losing my brain, how in the world am I supposed to teach them All The Things? There are so many Things. There’s chemistry and ancient history. World geography. The Civil War. Classic literature. Human body systems. The water cycle. And math! I am terrible at math!

Don’t forget, I am also easily frustrated. Teaching young children requires boatloads of patience. And in the case of my kids, when I say “boatloads,” I am referring to this boat, the CSC Globe Container ship, which holds 39,000 cars:

boat
Photo Credit: Frans Berkelaar via Flickr

Speaking of patience, did I ever tell you about the time that I planted tomato seeds, intending to transfer the seedlings to the garden outside once they were ready?

Me: Why won’t they sprout already!

Husband: It’s been 45 seconds.

Me: Ugh. Forget it. I’ll just buy tomatoes at Safeway.

Husband: You’re going to drive to Safeway now?

Me: You’re right. I’ll order them on Amazon.

Now does that sound like the kind of mom who should be teaching All The Things to a person who just watched me re-load the printer and remarked, “So you have to put the paper in yourself? It doesn’t just appear?”

Plus–and this is kind of a big one–I LIKE having my kids in school. I get time to myself! It’s a heck of a lot easier for me to write books and blogs without 4 small children running around!

By now you might be thinking, “OK, Nicole. If you’re so convinced that you’d make a terrible homeschooler, why the heck did you decide to homeschool?” Fair question. Let me explain.

A few months ago, my son, R, started to experience severe separation anxiety. It began when his big sister, S, had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks. Almost every night that she was in the hospital, I stayed there with her. When S and I finally came home, my once confident, earnest, dare-devil son had developed a long list of fears: Bad guys were going to come into our house; “Something bad” would happen in his bedroom; If I left the house, I wouldn’t come back.

But his worst fears were of leaving the house for school. Nearly every morning, he would cry, tantrum, scream, and kick. He’d refuse to get out of bed, and if I forced him to, he’d say he was sick or injured. There were times that he even vomited out of sheer anxiety. He had no other physical symptoms of illness, and the minute I told him he wasn’t going to school because he threw up, he felt fine. Jubilant, even. It was miserable. It appeared to me that he was having a panic attack every morning before school. There were so many days that I just kept him home, because how do you put your baby on the bus like that?

According to his teacher, he was fine once he got to school. And I’ve observed him doing well at school too. Lots of days, I had lunch with him or volunteered in one of his classes. He always seemed super happy! The teacher and I both put on our detective caps and looked into everything that could possibly be going wrong at school. Was he being bullied? Was the work too difficult for him? We couldn’t find a single thing at school that was going wrong. He participated in class, answered questions, played with other kids. Nobody was bothering him, and he was above grade level in reading and math. Not to mention, he always came home excited to tell me about something fun they did that day. The problem only occurred in response to one thing: leaving me.

We saw a therapist and a psychiatrist. They both agreed, R was suffering from severe separation anxiety. The reason he was miserable in the mornings but fine at school was because his anxiety was triggered by separating from me, but he had no social anxiety or generalized anxiety.

I tried everything I could think of to make him more comfortable with leaving in the mornings, and so did his teacher. For a while, I took him to Mass with me every day before school, which would make him about 1/2 hour late, but I figured that was better than missing school all together. I’m not sure why this worked, because he kind of hates going to church on Sundays. But for some reason, he loves going to daily Mass. I actually came upon this “solution” by chance. One Sunday, we were at Mass. I’d taken R to the back of the church because he was acting up and being loud. Once we were back there, R cried and told me that he couldn’t go to school tomorrow. He was so upset about school, he was worrying about it the day before! I thought I was so clever. Since R hated going to church so much, I tried this little fib:

“Buddy, you don’t want to stay home from school tomorrow, because I’m going to church. If you stay home, you’ll have to go to church with me. You don’t want to go to church, do you?”

R crinkled his brow. “OK.”

“You mean you want to go to church tomorrow?” I said.

“Yes.”

I sighed. My fib had backfired. (I have a feeling God was up there telling me, If you’re gonna lie about going to church, I’m gonna make sure you go to church!)

“OK, I’ll take you to church in the morning, but you have to promise me that I can drop you off at school right afterward and you won’t complain.”

“OK,” he said.

And he kept his word. R and I became daily Mass goers for a while. We went every weekday morning, and I dropped R at school about 1/2 hour late. He walked into the building each time without a single complaint. I can’t explain the relief I felt at watching my son walk into the school without tears.

Then his teacher offered him this deal: If he would ride the bus and arrive at school on time, he could use the computer in the mornings rather than do his warm up work. R LOVES the computer. He was on board.

The computer incentive kept him happy for a couple weeks, then it stopped working. Everything stopped working. He didn’t want computer time. He didn’t want to go to Mass. He didn’t want ANYTHING that meant having to go to school.

So one morning, as R flailed and screamed and I wrestled him into his clothes, I thought to myself, We just can’t keep doing this. This can’t be good for him. He’s miserable!

So, on a whim, without having considered the idea for more than a second, I said, “You know what, Buddy. What if we homeschool?”

R’s tantrum halted immediately. He held his breath and blinked, mouth wide, tears drying up. When he finally breathed again, he said, “OK.”

Now this is the point when I started to freak out a little. “OK, I mean, I have to figure this out. I’m sure there’s paperwork I have to fill out. I’ll probably have to get some kind of approval or something. I’m not sure how long it will take.”

And of course, about 4,572 other thoughts swam through my brain. What have I gotten myself into? I have no idea where to begin! What if I can’t do it? And how in the holy heck do you homeschool???

But one look at R was enough to convince me that I couldn’t take it back. His face showed pure, unequivocal relief. Not to mention joy, relaxation, peace. This was the happiest I’d seen him in a LONG time. I told him that he had to go to school that day so I could get the paperwork started, and when he got home, we’d figure out which day he could start homeschool. He practically skipped off to the bus stop that morning.

But me? I was a mess! I’d successfully alleviated my son’s anxiety and heaped a crap load onto myself! I know I went over these reasons above, but let’s review. (Because it bears repeating.) I am impatient. I hate homework. And above all, I do NOT know All The Things!!

After seeing the kids off to the bus stop and breathing into a paper bag for a bit, I reached out to Carisa at www.1plus1plus1equals1.net. It’s a super popular homeschooling blog, and she’s got 10 years of experience doing this. Surely she could set me straight and confirm for me that yes, I was not cut out for homeschooling. I should run for the hills and get someone else to educate my son. Right? RIGHT??

Wrong.

Here’s what she said about her own decision to homeschool:

“It is NOT always easy and many days are a total struggle, but the big picture is good. I like these people. Even though they cause me the greatest stress most days, I want nothing more than to be with them as much as possible during these years. I used to think I could never homeschool {not patient enough, not educated enough, not “good” enough} and guess what? I am not enough of any of those things, but GOD is enough!”

 image

OK, she kinda had me there. My patience needs work, and we’ve established that I don’t know All The Things. But God does. I was going to have to trust. (Make that “Trust” with a Capital “T”!)

So I decided to look at the positives.

  1. I hate homework. Well, guess what. When I’m the teacher, I don’t have to assign “homework.” I mean, obviously, it’s kind of all homework, but we will do 100 percent of it during the school day and zero percent of it after that. I can assign as much or as little as I like, and we don’t have to do anything that I don’t think is worth our time.
  2. I get to learn The Things. And even though I may never know ALL of them, I at least know where to find the information. I can and will find the resources I need to educate my son. Besides, he’s in kindergarten. Kindergarten math is pretty easy. (OK, I admit that when E was in kindergarten, I had to Google her homework more than once, but NOW I get it! They don’t give these MSW’s out to just anyone!)
  3. I get to practice my patience. Yes, I’m really stretching for an upside here, but this is what I’ve got. (God, I’m gonna have to leave this one up to You!)

Also, I am super fortunate to have a few good friends who homeschool. Two of them have talked me down off the ledge already, and given me a TON of great information. By the way, if you’re considering homeschool and have no idea where to start (like me!) I highly recommend this book:

100 top picks

My friend lent it to me, and it has helped to (almost) restore my sanity.

So, my homeschooling journey is just beginning. I’m actually pretty excited about it. Come back here in a year and see if I’m still saying that! LOL! But in any case, I’m a lot more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago.

So far, R and I have planted a garden; learned about soil, worms and plant nutrition; painted and drawn lots of pictures; read and discussed lots of new books; talked about foods that are healthy for our bodies; worked on his handwriting and improved it SO much; and even learned some math! R’s favorite part of the day is when we do calendar and weather, I suspect because he gets to do it on the computer, which we’ve already established is his fave.

Plus he’s been on two field trips with his grandpa. He got to sit in a real airplane and play with all the controls. And another day, Grandpa took both the boys to the nature center and wildlife preserve to learn about butterflies, wolves, deer, and bears. R told me several times, in a little more detail than necessary, about the picture of the wolf eating the deer.

The past few weeks of homeschooling, my son has been so happy. He no longer complains of headaches or stomach aches. He hops out of bed in the morning and happily gets dressed. He’s eager to do his school work. Plus, he gets a LOT of recess, and I get even more snuggles. I’d call that a win-win.

If anyone is wondering whether I made the right decision about homeschooling, I think these two pictures tell you all you need to know.

Look at that happy boy!

If you are homeschooling, and especially if you are just now looking into the possibility of homeschooling, please comment below and tell me about your experiences, thoughts, worries, or anything else that went into your decision-making process. I love hearing from you!

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18 comments

  1. Wow! I think you’re awesome for home schooling, and it’s great to read that it’s had such a positive impact on your little one – can’t wait to read your updates!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A big step for sure. I wish you the best with it. Home-schooled children have been shown to do quite well academically when (if) they return to a traditional school environment, sometimes even better. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! I’m afraid to say I don’t have the patience to homeschool and have it backfire on me, so I won’t!! I’m glad you’ve found a solution to work though his anxiety, for now, and best wishes for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am considering homeschooling my twins. The thought really scares me for multiple reasons (including some of the ones you listed) but if I may be selfish for a moment, we are a military family far away from friends and family and a good distance from our military community. My husband can be gone up to 270 days per year and I’m worried I may never get a moment to myself. To say that out loud sounds really bad but I think it could be really good for them. I am praying about it. And reading. And praying and fasting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Jennika! For the record, I don’t believe that a mom wanted no a little alone time is selfish at all. You’re a human being, and you deserve to take care of yourself too. Also, depending on your kids ages and the amount of space in your house, you can still have also be time with homeschooling. I send my son either outside or to the basement to play and n his own for an hour every day. Plus I have him spend another hour reading on his own. We plan this during the baby’s nap specifically so that I can have time to myself.

      Good luck with your decision. It’s a tough one. Whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be the right thing for your family.

      Like

  5. Bless your little boy – it looks like this was just the right solution for his anxiety! I love the idea of homeschooling but I don’t think I could do it so hats off to you for deciding to go ahead with it. Hope it all goes well for you xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I started down this road back when my oldest child was about to start kindergarten, for somewhat similar reasons. Today she’s a happy, successful college sophomore persuing her degree in music theory and education. Since that decision, homeschooling has really bloomed. There are so many more resources and sources of support; let’s face it, back then, we were just making stuff up as we went!

    What I’m trying to say is that you can totally do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am about to start our homeschooling journey. After years of everyone telling me put my kids in prek or daycare and me telling them just how uncomfortable I am with that, it gives me major anxiety! We have decided homeschooling is for us! We are very excited to do this, but I am also so overwhelmed! I have looked into so many different things, read many articles and wondered many stores looking at all the curriculums and accessories they have available. It’s amazing all the experiments and workbooks and different groups there are. I am just so nervous thinking about where to begin, every time I go to sit down and write a calendar and plan how our year is going to go, I go blank and feel I have no idea what I’m doing. Hearing stories like yours lets people like me know that we can do it! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you so much for your kind words! There is SO much out there! It’s so overwhelming! I’m lucky to have some friends who homeschool too, and they’ve been super helpful. I read Cathy Duffy’s book, and they helped me figure things out. I’ve been told it’s not necessarily the best for curriculum reviews, but it does help you organize and figure out what type of homeschool you want to do. Thanks again for your comment!

      Like

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