My childhood self always dreamed of growing up to become an artist, a writer, an interior designer and a teacher. I went to college and earned my degree in interior design. Check one. I got married, started a family, decided to stay at home with my children, and started writing a creative blog. Checks two and three. My childhood dreams of becoming an “artist” simply meant that I would be allowed to be creative and play with art supplies all day. Yep, that’s pretty much what I do. Interior designer, writer and artist – achieved.
It is with mixed emotions that I am now about to embark upon a journey that will check off #4. Teacher. We have decided to homeschool our boys and will begin teaching in mid-January.
We have talked about the possibility of homeschooling our children since our oldest son, Sawyer, was only 2-years-old. I loved the idea of learning at home and being my sons’ primary educator, but with a rambunctious toddler and a baby in tow, I was exhausted. I needed a break, and I was thrilled to discover an incredible Montessori preschool not far from home. Sawyer began attending there three days a week, and our younger son, Sutton, joined him when he was old enough.
We loved everything about our Montessori preschool, so it only made sense to us to enroll our children in Montessori elementary as well. In the first years, the boys loved their Montessori elementary school. They had wonderful teachers and a community of friends, many of whom they had known for most of their short lives. Still, they would often ask if they could “do homeschool,” and I found myself wondering, why not? The fact that Simon, our high needs baby, had grown into an even crazier toddler was the reason why not. As much as my heart longed to homeschool, and I felt pangs of sadness every time I dismissed their requests with a “maybe someday…” I knew that when the boys were at school they were in an environment much better suited to learning.
This year, however, several things changed. The educational requirements and differences between first and second grade sent Sawyer reeling. He was excited to learn new math ideas, but the amount of reading and language exercises overwhelmed him. Reading has never been his strong suit, and he began to shut down. He stopped trying to figure out what the words said, and started guessing instead. Eventually he stopped caring if his guesses were right or wrong. He would make himself physically sick, and he stayed home from school or was picked up early on many occasions with stomach pain and nausea. I started to feel an incredible amount of guilt, thinking that maybe a more rigidly structured classroom was actually what he had needed all along. He asked nearly every day if he could “please do homeschool.” My tough guy, who hadn’t cried in years, was suddenly having tear-filled breakdowns every evening before bed. My heart was breaking for him, and I cringed every time he would bitterly mutter, “I hate school.” My second grader. You’re not supposed to have that much contempt for school when you’re seven.
We had a productive conference with Sawyer’s teachers, and he received several months of additional help from a reading intervention specialist. Eventually his skills were strong enough to stop attending the specialist class, and his homework struggles lessened, but he still lacked motivation and confidence. His spark for learning was rapidly diminishing even though his skills were increasing. He says that being with his friends is the only part of his school day that he actually enjoys.
Sutton is in the opposite camp. While he also enjoys being with his friends at school, he has a voracious appetite for reading and learning, and is working far above his age level. He is in first grade, but placement tests say that he is reading at a fourth grade level. He’s a natural with math facts, and he loves researching answers to all of his questions. He also frequently asks us if he can homeschool, but I suspect that his reasoning is related to the fact that he’d love nothing more than to spend the entire day in his pajamas reading books and playing educational computer games. His teachers admitted to us at his conference that “It will be a challenge to keep him challenged,” and that statement is going to be especially true at home. Fortunately, his idea of fun is having me print multiplication tables for him!
Simon, our youngest, turned three in September, and has really been the catalyst for our entire homeschool discussion. Simon was delayed in his speech, and he didn’t talk much at all until he was about two and a half. We always knew he was an intelligent kid, but I had no idea the magnitude of that statement. When he was in his “crazy stage” my mom would often say that the reason he was so difficult was because his intelligence had developed far quicker than his verbal skills, and he was frustrated that he couldn’t properly express himself. Turns out, she was right.
As soon as Simon’s verbal skills caught up to his brain, he took off like a freight train intent on learning and speaking as much as he can. It has changed his entire demeanor, and my wild child is now much calmer and content. I can’t even count the number of times that I have heard the comment, “It’s like he’s a whole different kid now!” Aside from his dramatic personality shift, Simon’s speech development made us realize just how intelligent this kid actually is. He has a firm grasp on phonics, and can sound out large words well enough to put him at a first grade reading level. He recognizes and can write numbers up to 1,000. He has an affinity for the Spanish language and often stops our conversations to tell us how to say it in Spanish. He loves books and wants to stop and read every word on every single product in the grocery store. Sometimes when we’re reading bedtime stories, Simon will know the words when Sawyer doesn’t, and I hope that doesn’t become an issue between them.
Due to school registration birthday cut-off date restrictions, Simon won’t be able to attend kindergarten for another three years. My husband and I used to joke that this kid will have to be homeschooled or else risk being bored stiff at school. Now we’re thinking that’s more of a reality than something to joke about.
Right around Simon’s birthday in September, I read a blog post from The Handmade Home as they made the decision to homeschool their children, and it resonated with me on the deepest possible level. Seriously, if you have a minute, read Ashley’s post, because so much of what she writes is exactly how I have been feeling, and she does a much better job of conveying the heart wrenching emotion involved in this decision (plus, if you peek around their blog, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with their gorgeous home!). One line in particular stuck with me, “Sometimes, you have to say no to a perfectly good option, so you can say yes to what really is best for your family. “
Suddenly, the homeschool pleas of my older boys seem less unrealistic. I mean, if we might actually have to homeschool Simon in three years, why wait? Why not take a leap of faith and let the older kids experience it for themselves too? Driven by their requests, I’ve spent far too many hours researching and daydreaming about this for years. I’m enamored with the idea of ditching the daily routine of back-and-forth to school, leaving behind nightly hours upon hours of homework and settling into a new routine of working at our own pace on their customized levels. The idea excites me as much as it terrifies me.
I wish that I could say that I am much more confident about this endeavor than I actually am, but confidence has never really been my forte. Luckily for me, my husband is always quick to point out all of the benefits and opportunities that this new lifestyle will allow, and he reignites my fire and passion for home education on a regular basis. He makes me feel energized and excited, but it doesn’t take long for me to fade back into self doubt. I’m terrified of making the wrong decision for my children. If it doesn’t work out, I will have no one but myself to blame. The pressure is overwhelming, but I realize that the only person putting that pressure on myself IS myself. It’s hard to let go of perfectionism.
Juggling a full-time blogging job, an Etsy shop, and homeschool is not going to be easy. I have shed more than a few tears over making this decision. I worry that someday my boys will resent this decision since there will be no way to re-enroll them back into their current school once we are gone, and our spot is given to someone else on the lengthy waiting list. I am worried that my blog will suffer or that I will lose readers if I add too many homeschool posts to the craft and DIY mix. I am worried that my boys’ mild bickering will escalate to new levels when they’re around each other all the time. I worry about how I will get everything done when I’m already spread thin as it is. I worry that I may never again see my house clean. I worry that my kids won’t listen to me or take me seriously as their teacher. I worry about a lot. I have no illusions that this journey will be all rainbows and sunshine. Saying goodbye to teachers and friends has been hard, and I expect that there will be more hard days to come. I just hope that we will find our rhythm easily and strike a balance.
Even though I am nervous, in my heart I feel that homeschooling our boys is the right thing for us, and I am incredibly excited to see where this path takes us. We are homeschooling through a public charter school where we will have assistance from a credentialed teacher that we will meet with once every couple of weeks. That thought is both comforting and restricting. We will be limited to Common Core aligned curriculum because it is a public school, but we will also have tremendous support and access to funding and resources that will be hugely beneficial to us.
Between neighborhood friends, a large extended family and sports team participation, we’re not lacking for socialization opportunities, and I signed us up for a couple of homeschool meetup groups as well. The boys are excited about making new friends, and honestly, I am too. It is going to push me out of my introverted comfort zone, and I am grateful for the nudge in the right direction. It will be nice to schedule play days and activities without needing to squeeze everything in to the evenings and weekends. We are going to look at homeschooling as a year-by-year decision, and we will see where this road takes us. One step at a time.