October 18, 2013

5 Reasons Why It’s OK Not To Homeschool

Well, first let me just say this: I am not about to hate on the homeschooling mothers of America.  No, I am certainly not.  Indeed, I have many dear friends who home-school and love it!  This is not an attack or a post about home-school vs. public school, or the families who choose one over the other.  Homeschooling is a fantastic concept.  Do you home-school?  Yes?  I’m a fan of you.  I am.  But sadly and most definitely in this lifetime, you will not catch me at the modern day home blackboard waxing any kind of “this plus this equals such and such”.  No, you will not.  So those who are able and do...you have my respect!

Still...I seem to be coming across many mothers from all different walks of life who share an ever increasing guilt about the growing popularity of home-schooling and their reluctance to take part in it.  If you’re like me, home-school is just not happening en su casa.  And we all have our own set of reasons, don’t we?  Though admittedly – and increasingly – unpopular to admit or say in mixed mama company, I feel it's important  to be my own voice for mothers like me.  So I present...

5 reasons why it’s OK not to home-school


1. You work full or part-time.  A lot of mothers work outside the home.  Some inside.  All day.  Like all freaking day.  And you come home (or step away from the home-office) and you're exhausted, and there’s laundry and cooking and bills and dishes and laundry and bath-time and….

I don’t mean this in a snarky way – but please Type A’s refrain from the “it only takes an hour a day” business.  It may.  For you.  But for me and my house?  It’s a miracle we even wear clothes in public, eat off of clean dishes ever, or sleep lying down.  We have ZERO time.  We just do not.  And the time I do have with my babies?  I seriously don’t want to spend working out how a fraction breaks down.  Please and no.

2.  You aren’t teacher material.  Ok, maybe it’s only me – but I’m just keepin’ it real up here – barely. passed. school.  I think.  I mean, it was rough.  Did not enjoy my school career.  That whole “love to learn” and “reading rainbow” and “math-a-thon”?  No.  Stick a fork in me – because I was so done when I got my diploma.  Even though in college I was pulling a 4.0 – seriously – still…forget it.  Teaching for some comes naturally and easily.  For me, it’s that whole “easier to run a camel through the eye of a needle” business.  For reals.  I did my “time” – and I have ZERO – mark that – NEGATIVE ZERO desire to repeat that, times 2, with my kids.  The last thing I want to subject my poor children to is me…feebly attempting to teach them the square root of whatever….and spending more time trying to figure it out myself.  I don’t want to become “mommy monster”.  You know her.  The one who loses all appearance of patience and turns into a raging loon while trying to explain proper nouns and adjectives and adverbs?  Yeah her.  And while we’re on it - what the freaking frig is an adverb anyway?  Now I have to Google it.  Argh!  See!?!?  Gah!  Who cares?  Let’s just talk and pretend we know what we’re talking about.  Why do we have to label things verbs and adverbs. 


3.  You live in a great school district.  Or maybe just an “ok” one.  That too.  Some would heartily disagree with me and say this doesn’t matter one way or the other – but it’s my blog.  We do have an amazing district, a wonderful elementary school with a multitude of resources, and a plethora of eager teachers who have taken gentle care of our boy since before school even began.  Not every district has that, I understand.  But here?  We are so fortunate.  Quint’s teacher “gets” him.  And listen, I can’t – for my life – conceive of the concept that amidst working and not being teacher material (see 1 & 2) that I can even come CLOSE or hold a candle to the amazing things our school district has already offered Quint.  Am I crafty?  Yes.  Do I want to be crafty every. single. day?  No.  But I tell you what - every day, my little man comes home with art projects, wonderful creations, and science experiments, letter charts, reading books, and math journals.  People, I can barely SHOWER daily, let alone meet and match the amount of creativity he is getting at school.  The amount of play-time, social time, learning time, reading time, library time, math, reading, science and P.E. time my boy gets at school?  Well, it puts my wonky ABC fridge magnets to shame.  And I’m ok with that.  Amen.

4.  Your child has special needs.  I know I’m not alone on this one.  If you do not have a child with special needs, I just cannot explain the depth of this statement: we need help.  Some might say “all the more reason to home-school, so you can be sure…blah blah.”  No listen to me:  I don’t know about you – but I didn’t get any special training to raise a special needs child.  I didn’t get a special education degree.  I didn’t take extensive classes about how to handle or deal with extreme ADHD, Oppositional Defiance, Asperger's, RAD…or a whole host of other issues.  I just didn’t.  Guess what?  Most of us didn’t.  And like me, you might have spent hours and hours pouring over resources and methods and therapies and spending your heart and soul doing anything and everything you could get your hands on to help your sweetheart.  Still?  You do not possess ALL the tools to help your child along this path of need.  You just don’t.  No mom is an island.  I walked into that school ready to go to battle for Quint.  And guess what?  Turns out, I didn’t need to.  Turns out school has come a long way from when I was a kid.  I was met with warm and caring people who WERE trained specifically to work with kiddos who struggle like Quint does.  Who DO understand ODD, ADHD, Autism and a whole host of other issues.  Who were ready to help him meet his goals and exceed his own expectations.  Who integrated him into a class seamlessly and work every day to make sure he doesn’t feel “different” from his peers.  Who DO have a plan of action, tons of resources and tools to help him, and the stamina to do it day after day after day.  No matter what.  That is priceless.  That is more than I could do for him – not for lack of trying – but because, it’s exhausting.  We need help.  I needed help.  And that brings me to #5…


5.  You love them to the moon and back, but GOOD HEAVENS – you need a break.  Enter angry people here who are outraged anyone would need a break from their own children.  Yes, sound the alarm!  God forbid mothers need to BREATHE or refresh or…you know, sleep?  Have a cohesive thought or go to the bathroom uninterrupted or eat a meal that’s still warm.  Shower, wear what I like to call “outside” clothes, or even have a freaking clue what current events are.  I have always – always – on this blog been very proud to stand up for the tired and broken mothers of the world.  Those of us who admit that it’s the hardest job EVER and not always enjoyable.  Sorry.  It’s just not.  Are children a blessing?  Yes.  But be honest with yourself – they won’t remember MOST of this experience.  Collectively – yes.  But individually?  No.  Guess who will?  You will.  And I for one – would NOT like to remember myself as a tired, cranky, irritable shell of a woman who could not feel good about any one thing without feeling incredibly guilty about another.

I am proud to say that I need a break.  I am, after all – one person, one woman, one human being – responsible for raising TWO other human beings (that brings the total humans I’m responsible for to THREE, including myself).  That is a monumental task.  In order to be up for said task – I’m going to require more than 3 hours sleep and some chocolate chips from the Nestle bag in the freezer.  Next year, both of my children will be in school.  Please don’t make me feel bad for celebrating the fact that I…. we….all of us…survived the baby/toddler years intact.  Please.  Mother to mother…let me have just a moment where I sigh and tell myself “we made it”.  Don’t fret – I still cry over all those pictures and videos of years past.  Honest I do!  But I need this moment.  I waited for this moment for 6 years.  Some of you waited even longer.  Much longer.  I’m so proud of my kids and I’m excited that they are privileged enough to be able to go somewhere safe every single day and learn from a gifted group of dedicated people.  And yes, admittedly – a big part of me is glad that said dedicated people will not be me for a few hours a day.  So shoot me.

Let me kiss the boo-boos, read the bedtime stories, share the family days, sleepy eyes over breakfast and chatty conversations over dinner, the prayers, the church time, the couch time watching family movies, the crafts we do together, the playtime, the game time, the life-guiding, the spiritual training, the teeth brushing and bath-times, and yes – even the homework time.  That job is a big one all by itself.  It just is. 

All the reasons on this list can be perceived as selfish, ridiculous, and “missing the bigger picture”. Still, I choose to make peace with all of the above.  There is A LOT of pressure to be ALL to our kids.  To pick up any slack and work our fingers down to nothing to make sure we fill those gaps for them.  There is so much insane pressure to get this parenting gig “right”.  To not miss a step among the millions.  To be the great all-knowing “mama in the sky” through thick and thin.

And, there is tremendous and growing pressure to home-school.  Not from the home-schooling mothers themselves - that's the interesting point.  Actually, I believe it stems from a false perception from within each of us...that somehow it means we must love our kids more if we home-school.  (And alternately - less if we do not.)  But the fact remains - there are those of us for whom home-school is truly NOT the better option.  Not better for us and not better for our kids.  It’s not just that it terrifies us.  No.  It goes way deeper than that.  It goes to the core of who we are and what each of us are capable of.  And newsflash – we are NOT all capable of homeschooling.  If there is no one right way to raise kids, or one right way to teach children – then there is no one right way in which to see to their education.  Not every child is a candidate for home-school in the same way not every parent – HEAVENS NO – is a candidate to facilitate a home-school environment.

Short and sweet: it’s not for everyone.  And I know the pressure I have felt and many of you have felt.  In some circles, I hesitate to say it – but it’s almost become the “trendy” thing to do. 

Still, I’ll say it again: it’s not for everyone. 

And it doesn’t make you “less than” if you send your kids off on the bus every morning. Say it with me: it’s not for everyone.

For the record: Quint loves school.  I mean…l.o.v.e.s.  He doesn’t appreciate there is a two day gap called “the weekend” wherein he has to stay with us boring people and miss out on playing and seeing his best buddies. He enjoys going and loves his teacher.  All my initial worry and fear of failure and guilt and self-induced shame…for what?  I have a happy boy who is learning, changing, and growing.  And I’m OK – check that, my own ego and mama status are not threatened in any way that many careful hands are to thank for that. 

As a woman married to a public school teacher – friends, I tell you right now: not every public school is bad.  Not every teacher unqualified.  Not every public school experience dastardly.

Absolutes have no place here in this arena.  You cannot be ALL to your children.  Even if it were emotionally possible (P.s. it’s not) it wouldn’t be physically possible.  Or vice-versa.  We are responsible for so much as mothers and parents.  Listen to yourself.  If like me you find that letting go of some expectations to make room to be your best in other ways is what’s necessary for you and your kids – give yourself the freedom to embrace that.

Be honest with yourself and do what feels right for your family, your children, and yes – even for you. If that's home-school - go for it!  But if not?  Don’t let yourself swim in guilt. It’s ok. Deep breaths. You’re still a good mama. It’s ok and good to take care of yourself.  That’s all I got…



Unknown said...

Preach sister!!! Each family needs to decide what's best for their own children and family circumstances. We should never be made to feel guilty for trying to do our best for our kids no matter what are decisions are!! Thanks for being the voice for us Momma's who aren't "perfect" in anyone's eyes except maybe our kids! You know, the ones who matter most!!

Mussipitz said...

I love your blog... your honesty... your faith... your commitment...

we don't homeschool in Germany, because kids have to go to school here... but even if I would be still in the States... I agree 100 % with your statement...

I am not Teacher-Material either... ;-)
warmest regards...


Liene said...

I found this post because several of my China adoption cohorts posted comments about it on FB and it showed up in my news feed.

I would love, love, love to homeschool my kids. My problem (at least with my son especially) is I lack the patience. I love him with every ounce of my being, but we're like oil and vinegar. He loves to argue with me and that may be because he's on the autism spectrum, has ADHD as a secondary diagnosis and loves to push my buttons. With that being said, he is in a school of 90 kids in grades K-12 that uses Catholic Homeschool Curriculum. And that is what my husband and I LOVE! He is getting a homeschool education, we're just not the ones giving it to him. He's also learning things that kids in his grade are not typically learning in most public schools in our area. Really? Who teaches 4th graders early Algebra? They're diagramming and learning about all different types of insects. I didn't do that until Jr. High and I went to private school too! He's in a class of 6 kids total. He is so much more focused and his grades are so much better without 25 kids distracting him. He loves the teachers because although they are firm, they are nurturing with all the kids. And the school is like one huge family. I love seeing the upper grade kids and high schoolers talking to my son and interacting with him.

With our daughter she is in a public school. She's at the state deaf school because she has severe language delay. She is deaf without a hearing aid, but hears just fine with it. She was 18 months old when she came home from China and 2 years old before she heard anything for the 1st time. She's currently in kindergarten and has come a long way in a short amount of time. Our goal is that in a few years she'll be able to join her big brother at the school he goes to. We're fairly satisfied with her education, but there's plenty we think she's missing out on. Plus, her school uses Common Core as do most public schools and we just don't agree with the one size fits all mold. We can definitely see that with both of our kids. They are so night and day in their personalities and learning styles.

I am a huge supporter of homeschooling if you can do it. My SIL is doing it with 3 of her 5 kids. The 2 that aren't being homeschooled are still too young for school. I have quite a few friends who homeschoool too. But I have plenty of friends who send their kids to private schools and public schools as well.

Each parent has to do what they think is best for their child. That's what it comes down do and if it doesn't work, you try something else.

Debbie said...

Yes I'm a homeschool mom. However, I'm not the "everyone should be homeschooling" type mom. For a matter-of-fact, when my SIL was begging me to homeschool (I should add that she's a kindergarten teacher), I told her that would not be happening. For a number of reasons, we decided homeschooling was best for our kids. It has and is working for us. Not that everyday is great. There have been some tough days and I've had moments when I question what the heck I'm doing. But overall, it's right for our family.

It doesn't have to be nor should it be right for every family. Kudos to you for recognizing it's not what you want to do.

Catherine said...

Great post! From one mom to another who is not called to homeschool....thank you! Some can do it and others not and that's one of the manyways God made us differently.

likeschocolate said...

I am with you sister on every one of these points! Amen! I want to have fun with my children -not spend my day nagging them to get their school work done. It is all I can do to get them to do their homework. I love my children, but that doesn't mean I have to homeschool them.

Alli said...

This is a great post, and I completely agree. I think it's every family rights to decide on their child's education, but I think a lot of families do need to consider their capabilities as teachers. As someone who works in education and has a teacher husband, there is so much to learn about being a teacher and there is so much that contributes to someone being a good teacher. It's a real gift and not every one has it, plus it's an endless learning process to be a teacher.

abinormal said...

I'm struggling with this decision and I needed to see this today. I've been all about homeschooling since before I had kids but now that my oldest is four and in preschool I'm pretty sure I will be sending her to the public school when it's kindergarten time. I actually know my kids now, their limitations and mine.

I'm lazy. I'm unorganized. My kids would end up watching tv all day. Judge me for that all you like, but if it's true I think it only proves mine will be better off.

lynn said...

Thank you for this post. As a mama of three I have researched all school options. We reevaluate every year, but more and more of my friends are pulling their kids from public school and going the homeschool route. For this year I do not feel called to homeschool - but I do sense the growing trend as pressure and it's hard for someone on the outside. Feeling as though I'm not as good as a mom as these other moms are. They are 'better' than me for choosing homeschool. Of course I know this isn't true, but the trend toward homeschool in our community is so large that I feel a bit isolated. So thank you for reminding me of very good truths. I pray that God gives me the clarity and peace to see that I am and my kids are right where He wants us to be.