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I never thought I would quit homeschooling.
When my oldest daughter was two years old I began to feel a pull toward doing school at home. I am a researcher by nature. So, I dove headlong into finding loads of books on the joys and how-tos of doing school at home.
The things I read gave me great hope and encouragement, mixed with a dose of unrealistic beliefs and expectations (not all directly planted, I might add).
As soon as I began to mention to others my inclination to homeschool, the questions started. What about socialization? What about credentials? How will you grade them? etc. etc. etc.
By the time my daughter was four years old (and two more children were added, with one more on the way), I decided to make the leap into homeschooling mostly so that I could stop dwelling on the fence. I immediately signed up for a co-op in the area and began a multi-year process of learning how to stop trying to do everything for everyone in every season.
Why I Quit Homeschooling and Put My Kids into Public School
It has been eight years since that time, and I have learned OH so much about homeschooling children.
What I have not learned, though, is anything that I expected to learn.
I expected to fall into an easy routine. This never happened. Additional pregnancies, auto-immune conditions, and just general life upheavals constantly threw a wrench in my perfect plans (hence the need for this post on simplifying home school).
I expected to LOVE spending my days teaching the kids. Nope, it was a drain. There have been SO many days when either my child or I ended up in tears. And, truly, I needed time to myself, just to think, and it felt impossible to achieve.
I expected to choose one single curriculum that would meet the needs of all of my children for all of their schooling for the next twenty years (yeah, I’m a dreamer). And, again, NOT A CHANCE. Every year and every child has brought new challenges with new needs and therefore an entirely new curriculum selection.
I expected for my children to adore learning at home. In truth, every. single. day. was a fight, especially from children with a streak towards “the grass is greener” syndrome…. They coveted the yellow bus and regularly talked about “real school,” no matter what I did to coax them away.
Hence, after eight years of daily struggle, especially these last three of living in a travel trailer with 9 people, I threw the white flag.
I surrender!!!! I surrender!
And I began the emotion-torn process of putting 5 of my seven kids into the local public schools (I’ll save you the drama – 3 out of those five came back home within two weeks…we also had a lot of moving back and forth in future years, and eventually they all returned home. Each step was a step of faith, not fear).
So, what have I learned?
Here are my 7 CRITICAL takeaways from this season of surrender, and truly, I would not change a thing.
#1 Burn Out is REAL
As much as I THINK I can do anything and push through (I mean, isn’t that the professed meaning of “I can do all things through Christ….”?), the reality is that I am a human being with limits, and they DEFINITELY can be reached. There is no love in trying to do it all and any such pressure and emotional self-abuse is not of God. It is okay to say no. It is okay to establish a boundary. And, it is okay to take a break.
#2 Education is NOT everything
I was faced with two choices: I could homeschool my kids and barely survive as a mom to my kids, OR I could put the kids into school and have the emotional balance to be the mom I wanted to be for them. The truth is, I could not do both. I know there are those reading who will belittle this experience or feeling, but truly I hope they are few.
The problem was…my continued desire to homeschool was no longer coming from a place of faith and trust, but rather a dogmatic legalism founded on the altar of the education god. I don’t do idolatry. I don’t condone idolatry. And it comes in MANY forms today, not to exclude the presentation of homeschooling elitism.
#3 Every family does life differently, and that’s OKAY
I know plenty of large families who homeschool their children, and it always seems to come so easily to them. Other families I know unschooled their kids. Guess what? That works, too. And then I know plenty of families with their kids in school. Surprise, surprise! No hooligans.
So, what’s that mean? There is no ONE way to do this thing we call life. We are all uniquely gifted and strong in our means of intellect, talents, worldview, and life experience, and ALL of this molds and shapes the way we will do life.
There is absolute right, and there is absolute wrong, and then there is everything else. Homeschooling falls into “everything else.”
#4 Not all children, or parents, will do BEST in a homeschooling environment
I had to face it. This current season is NOT easy. Having 9 people, three 5 and under, in 250 sq ft makes for a lot of noise a lot of the day. In my present household dynamics, the older children require a high degree of quiet to focus on their studies, while all the youngest children want to do is make noise and goof off.
All of these needs are realistic and vital, so we needed to make allowances. Let me tell you, my oldest children were thrilled for the chance to see how “real schools” operate. My second oldest is still in school and LOVES it. The oldest, however, returned home within a week of school, as she was greatly ahead of her peers academically. And then, my five year old was not quite yet emotionally ready to be away every day.
My seven-year-old special needs child remains in school daily, because I need the help.
Each of these unique children and their particular needs had to be addressed. My own emotional limits and mental needs ALSO needed to be attended to. To do both is to act in LOVE.
#5 Be kind to yourself
In my years of homeschooling, I stumbled into a subtle belief system of dogmatic legalism. This system suggests that homeschooling ALONE is the path of allegiance to God as a parent. To put your kids into public school (gasp) is tantamount to sending them into a pagan lair and handing them over to drug lords.
This line of thinking, which is completely unbiblical I might add, places the burden of control and sovereignty onto the shoulders of mere human parents. Not only this, but it entirely removes our dependency on the grace of God. It is a twisted thinking bound up in subtle lies and abusive control. It is NOT founded in the love of God.
When I hit the wall of my emotional and mental limits, I found the grace of God standing there.
HE offered love, understanding, and compassion for me in my pit of emotional exhaustion, and spoke kind words of peace and trust in Him. He gently reminded me that HE is ever-strong, and ever-able, not me. And, He placed peace in my heart to release the torment of lies from legalistic beliefs about Him, but not BY Him.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” ~ James 5: 11
He taught me what it looks like to truly show love and empathy. He led me in loving myself by loving me where I was. This single revelation has allowed me to love others in their broken places of human limits, and extend grace and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism (for these are not of God).
In order to truly love my kids, I had to first know how to receive the love of God. I had to learn how to love myself in a holy way. And, for me, this meant embracing my humanity, in the best sense of the word.
#6 When the student is ready, the teacher appears
I mentioned before that for years a few of my children coveted the yellow bus. They desperately wanted to go to school and experience this unknown world talked about and mispresented in just about every show or movie involving children ever written. My oldest, especially, expected a land of majestic social time, leisurely walks of engaged chit-chat with smiley, well-read fellow students.
Her experience in middle school, however, revealed a totally different environment. Her days were full of precisely what we begrudgingly predicted…running swiftly to and from class and having insufficient time to truly engage with fellow students. Not only this, though, but she also now rubbed elbows with some difficult teachers. We are learning that not all adults have mastered the emotional balance to lovingly engage with pre-teens in their season of rebellion and boundary testing.
It did not take long for her to beg to return home.
Since I refuse to repeat the struggles we’ve had, I established firm boundaries and criteria for her days. But, now that the unknown world of the yellow bus is unveiled for her, I suspect our struggles will not be as constant. Sometimes perspective changes everything.
#7 Make decisions ONE year at a time
I know, in general, how education looks for our family this year. Finally, I have learned to stop turning around and projecting this into the rest of my life. We have learned that the best plan for life and children is a season-by-season decision-making process, and taking life one year at a time. There is a very high chance that my school kids will again return home. And that’s okay. Maybe the unforeseen will occur, and I will need the provision of the public schools and all that they offer, imperfectly or not (is there a such thing as a perfect education?….)
Life is a process of unfolding, and the path changes a little more with every new season and turn of events. One step at a time is all we can do, and it is important to simply accept that reality for what it is.
Maturity Means Learning Our Limits and Embracing Our Humanity
I have learned SO much over the last five years especially, and the lessons continue. Growth does not mean learning how to beat ourselves into submission, but rather how to learn where we end and where God begins.
We do not have to be all things for all people. It is not my job to keep everyone happy. Though I may be able to do a lot, I cannot do everything all the time in every life season. And THAT IS OKAY.
If you struggle with these things as I did, the belief that faith means digging yourself into the ground in “submission” to God, I HIGHLY recommend this book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazerro (affiliate link- any purchases made will result in me earning a small commission.)
I love this book so much, ESPECIALLY the audible version! Drive time University is my most productive time for devouring books.
Have I mentioned I have seven kids….
There is an ugly pervasive lie that has some serious roots in our culture that minimizes healthy emotional balance and pushes unfettered work of any kind. Our Father is the God of the narrow Way, which embraces emotional limits and needs while encouraging movement and action when necessary.
This book will not disappoint!
Homeschooling is only ONE educational option
I may have started my homeschooling experience thinking that there was only one way to provide a quality education. But, I have learned through the failures that there are a million different ways to learn, grow, and become a quality human being who loves and serve God.
Though homeschooling is surely a beautiful and excellent option, it is not the ONLY option, and it is not a replacement for trusting God.
Each of us must learn to follow where God is leading us, as our paths of unique and special to the circumstances He has given to us. Not only must we learn to embrace where He has us, but we must also learn to support and extend love towards those who do things differently.
There is no one way to do this life thing. Homeschooling and education are no different. What works for one family may not work for another, and no two homes will ever be carbon copies of another.
You are unique. Your children are unique. The marriage you enjoy has its own flairs of personality and quirk. Every household will have different, yet equally wonderful focuses and ways of showing love and devotion to God.
We live and work to the approval of God, so let us lean into His Ways and embrace the freedom we have to do life as we each have been uniquely designed to do it.
I just heard God speak to me last week, through a surprising source, that:
1. I have limits.
2. When I rest, I can stretch farther.
Thank you for the confirmation!
Amen. That is beautiful and I am thankful this spoke to you. It is okay to say no. It is okay to have boundaries. It is wise to rest. When we are centered in Him all of these things become the fences that keep us from falling off a cliff. He is listening to your heart =0), and sending answers for sure. Praising alongside with you =0)
I believe that home schooling can actually be damaging to kids. Kids like to fit in. They like to be like all the other kids in the street. And in the UK that means going to school. I was privately educated instead of going to the local public school, and I still despise my parents for their cruel choice. I just wanted to be normal. Hence, my son attends the local public school!
Sure, I don’t disagree. I think that there are pros and cons to both and cannot make blanket statements about either. The fact is that each home must find its best fit for education and simply trust the Lord with the results while also having a soft heart towards change if needed. I do think that especially as a child grows that there should be a dialogue between the parents and child, so that there’s openness and engagement between both sides. Never is it wise for a parent to simply act as an authoritarian to their growing child, but rather a guide as their life unfolds. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m sorry for your experience.
Bakeca Incontri Milano says
We all attended public school … well the majority of us. There we made friends, got into fights, had girlfriends etc … this is what social meant those days. Homeschooling takes all these away from the child and leaves him with Facebook
I went to school too and I by no means think that homeschooled kids are without social intelligence or live in a box. Neither is at all true. I don’t prop up one form of schooling against the other. It really just depends on the values of the parents. This post was simply pointing out that there is importance in having balance in life as a parent who home schools. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, though. Have a blessed day.
Loved this post and your heart behind it. I’m currently a homeschool mom, but only in my second year. We went public until last year. And I’m honestly not convinced that this will be our path until they’re all out of the house. We are taking it year by year as you said. I love how you repeatedly voice that it needs to be the individual choice of the family and that there’s not one perfect way. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience.
Aww, thanks Meg. I appreciate you writing. There are some things in scripture that are just crystal clear, and some things that are there that must be searched out. Then there is everything else. I believe that each of us must constantly be in that place of humbly going where we are led and extending grace and mercy to ourselves and others when life is not what we may have hoped, and yet precisely what we are given and need. Only our Abba knows why some things happen, and why some seasons are what they are, but we do our best when we simply trust Him and place everything into His hands in prayer and openness to His guidance. Hugs.
Thank you for this! So well written!
Aww I’m glad. P.S. my husband speaks fluent Russian so his nickname for me is Yulia ❤️. Such a pretty name. Thanks for commenting, too. Have a blessed day.
Danielle V. says
Thanks for sharing. I’ve been legalistic with homeschooling and surrounded by those who felt the same. But, I’m finally giving up and we’re trying our well-rated public school.
I have made new Christian friends that are successfully raising kids in public school. God opened my eyes to my legalism and has brought me to the end of myself. My husband has wanted to try public school for our kids for a while, too. So, anyway, thanks!
Hi Danielle! I apologize for the very delayed response. Somehow I missed your comment, but I am thankful I read it. I so completely agree that God has a way of showing us His grace outside of the fences and boxes that we humans LOVE to throw around Him and His Ways. While He so carefully reminds us that His Ways are NOT our ways, we still tend to miss the message. I pray that your schooling adventure and time of child-rearing is a true blessing full of following hard after our Loving Abba, no matter where little bottoms are sitting for “education.” Hugs!
I’m sitting drinking coffee and I came across your post. My kids are all almost out of school BUT something you said hit me right in my heart “there is no love in trying to do it all and any such pressure and emotional self abuse is not of God”. I needed to hear that today.I wish I would have heard that years ago. You go into mommy mode and stay there for years , self inflicting yourself with the burden of it ALL. We do it to ourselves. That’s not how He intended it to be. Thanks for reminding me
I still require this reminder for myself just as much, lol. Even now I feel the weight return as I get stuck in comparison or “perfection” mode. It is a noose that we all must learn to release into His hands. Thanks for the comment. I always enjoy hearing them <3
Kristen Waldrup says
Thank you for sharing your heart. My husband and I actually just had this conversation concerning 2 of our older children and the upcoming school year. I’m praying for wisdom and discernment. I, too, have felt the the guilt of putting a child in public school for fear of what my homeschooling friends might say. I would covet your prayers as we work towards a decision.
I have not written a post in a long time because, life…but we have weaned and waned when it comes to out of the home school. We used its services for a few years with a handful of kids and it was not a horrible experience. As of now, though, all of our kiddos are back home again and we are still working our way through the homeschool journey. If there is one thing I can encourage you on it is that nothing is final, and if God is leading you to put your kids into public school and you are doing so with an open and God-fearing heart, then you have every reason to expect that if He should lead you back to homeschooling you will be equally equipped for the task (even when it does not feel like it). I surely send you all my heart on this matter, because I know without a doubt how weighty the decisions can feel. But, do not let a spirit of fear hold you back from trusting God in what He wants to teach you and your children in this time. Life is full of seasons. Let Him lead you into whichever one He has for you next <3 Much love!