Wednesday, July 8, 2015

homeschool confessions

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
-Matthew 5:13-16

After five years of part-time homeschooling our children, we are making a change.

Last Fall, Mr. Fantastic and I felt our lives leaning away from the University Model School our children had been attending, and we shared long talks and prayed long prayers trying to decide what would be best for our family in this next season.

Our choice came down to public school or full-time homeschooling.

We have never ruled out public schools. We believe in our public schools, admire many of the families we know who steward their children through that world, and frankly, we would love to enroll our children in our neighborhood schools. The benefits are numerous. Mainly, for us these would be meeting more families in our area, access to school programs, and a simpler role for me as their mom. 

But as we talked about what we want for our family, full-time homeschooling won our hearts more and more. We want the flexibility of curriculum, the shorter school day, and to be deeply involved in what they are learning.

Not everyone gets to make a choice about education for their children. Education is a privilege of wealthy nations, and educational options are an even greater privilege. But as I sit and plan out week-by-week lessons, I feel less privileged and more overwhelmed as the weight of schooling four students at different levels weighs on my mind. 

Educating children is hard.

I know the miracle it will be if we stay on schedule. I can already hear the complaints, the frustrated whining, and the arguments about assignments. 

I can also already hear the siren song of other tasks trying to lure me away from our school day: laundry, emails, dishes, books, church needs, and (let's be real) mindless hours on Pinterest planning outfits I will never wear and house projects I will never attempt.

I have lived in these trenches and I know how angry I feel when my children won't do what they are supposed to do. I know the monsters these kids become when they lose all sense of reasonable thought and unleash the holy terror that is their wills. Kids who would never utter a peep to disrupt a class taught by a stranger will gladly upend a desk at home like the Hulk on steroids. It's not pretty, but it's true. Being mom and being teacher takes mental energy and focus that I don't always have in excess.

And yet, I choose this role with my whole heart. Not just because this year I believe homeschooling is right or best or good, but because it's what I want to do. I want to homeschool. I want to spend my days laughing at Pippi Longstocking and marveling over the Sistine Chapel with my kids. I can't wait to hear my oldest's thoughts about the Civil War and hear my youngest recite the Preamble to the Constitution. This year I will revel in the brilliant words my second son writes and marvel at the way my third son masters math equations in his head with precision and skill.

In the midst of all the mess we will endure together this year, my goal is to shine and be salty for my kids. I want them to feel the love in my patience and see the kindness I offer when they blow it. I want to apologize well and forgive with abandon. My kids will see me beg God for help and cheer for Jesus when we triumph in Him. The goal is not homeschool perfection, the goal is gospel living where real problems meet a real God.

There is no easy path in educating kids. Public school would mean incredibly early mornings and late-night homework. It would mean possibly supplementing state-chosen curricula with books and teachings that we find more helpful. It would mean navigating the complicated world of lots of other kids and adults we don't know very well, and helping our kids to process their words and beliefs. Someday we will probably do all of those things, but this is not our year for that.

This is the year we homeschool full-time. There will be good days and there will be bad days. There will probably not be any perfect days. But there will always be enough grace and mercy to get us through whatever each particular day holds. And in the end, I cling to all the reasons we choose this path, to every blessing in the midst of the brokenness, and to these four people I love more than I can bear. 

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