Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Not all Sunshine and Smiles

     We are on day two of the fourth quarter in our fifth year of homeschooling.  We've made it through newborns, toddlers, and tantrums.  We've made it through super busy phases and super lonely phases.  We've made it through, but today I almost threw in the towel.

     Do a little research on any homeschooling site and you will read that traditionally February is the month when most homeschoolers will give up.  This has never been true for me.  In our house it is always March, and March just slammed into our basement this morning.

     Homeschoolers, books on homeschooling, and homeschooling sites that pop up on google searches all do a great job of shouting the pros of homeschooling from the rooftops.  They will tell you all about how smart your kids will be, how much better (yes better) socialized they will be, how your children are going to be BEST friends, and on and on.  After almost five years, I call their bluff.

      I'm also not convinced that the whole world is out to get homeschoolers and shut us down.  I bought into that one for quite awhile, and in all fairness, it was probably very true a decade or two ago.  The reality of my five years of experience, just shouts a different story though.  The number one reaction that I get when I tell people we homeschool is, "Wow, that's awesome."  This is usually followed up with, "I wish we could do that, but we can't, I could never do that," or some form of admiration.  There have been a much smaller number of times when I can tell the person isn't in favor of our choice, but those interactions are far less frequent, and I have never felt threatened.  Teachers, coaches, the school district...ALL of our interactions have been positive.

     All of this leads me to this post today.  I believe that homeschooling is great.  It can be all of those things advertised above.  It really can.  However, I do see a lot of people almost putting a halo on the head of the homeschool movement, and while the support is needed and very welcome, the halo needs to come off.  It needs to come off because people discerning homeschooling need to know that it does not come without hardship, tears, and struggles.  So here goes:

What you will read:  Your kids will be brainiacs and love school!

My experience:
Yes, my kids are pretty smart, but no smarter than they would be if they were in a regular classroom. I do see a little more zeal for learning than they might have in a regular classroom (like they all come running for history even if it is not their history lesson), but they also complain about school and don't like doing the work.  This may be in part because our homeschool is very much a school at home environment.  I would venture a bet that a more laid back homeschool environment really can produce a greater love for learning, but again this can also happen in a traditional classroom with a motivating teacher.

Socialization:  Your kids will be socialized better than their peers!
My Truth:
My kids get lonely.  Most of the time they are okay.  We do a lot of stuff outside the home, and my kids even go to regular school once a week, BUT they still get lonely.  So sure, they are properly socialized (in the true meaning of the word), but they don't have the same opportunities to develop friendships as their traditionally schooled peers. No, they are not having to deal with all the junk found in a regular school, but that can also be a downside.  They are not LEARNING how to deal with all the junk.  Oh, and about my kids being best friends...they are, BUT they are also the bullies and the bullied, and instead of being hurt by someone outside of their family, they are getting hurt by the ones whom they love the most.  Socialization is more of an issue for our family than it might be for others because my older two children are lacking children their age in our homeschool group.  I don't see this as much of an issue with our younger boys, and to be completely transparent neither of the older two really complain about playing with younger children, they enjoy it.  However, as a mother I know they NEED a bit more interaction with their peers.  I am often reminded that children in a regular classroom can be lonely too, and this may not necessarily be a homeschool issue, but since we have chosen to homeschool I have to wonder what if.

Which leads me to...
The issue that brings me to tears:
The stress of knowing that this is a choice that we have made for them, and the possibility that it might not be the right choice.  The what ifs are never ending.  The pressure is high.  When your child isn't getting math, YOU are responsible.  When your child displays some awful behavior, YOU have been the role model.  Insecurity in my head runs rampant.  Raising my children is the most important job I will ever have and messing up something so big is completely overwhelming.  In all fairness, I am sure this goes through all parents' heads.  If I had my kids in public school or private school I am certain I would be wondering if I were ruining them by that choice as well.  Worrying about what ifs is just what I do.

     At the end of the day, or in the middle of the afternoon after a horrible morning, it just comes down to trusting God.  I have to trust that we are following His will for us, because He really did make His will very, very clear for us on this issue.  I have also learned not to make any rash decisions in the midst of a meltdown.  By noon today I had researched and mentally noted the pros and cons of our public school, the closest private school, and the private school our kids currently attend once a week.  I was a ball of tears and ready to send our oldest to the yellow bus tomorrow morning.  Two hours later the tears were gone, replaced by hugs and smiles. Our kids were gathered around me listening intently to the state capital quiz taking place between myself and my son.  I looked up at that moment and said, "Guys, THIS is what homeschooling is all about."  For me, for us, it IS worth it.  I really do love homeschooling.  It's just after five years, and a really bad morning, I just strongly feel that other parents need to hear about the not so sun-shiny moments too.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I Popped My Catholic Bubble: The Reason Behind the Name Change

When I came into the Church I went through a radical conversion.  The majority of who I was and what I had done for most of my life made me cringe, and I thought, "I am so glad that I am not THAT person anymore."  I got rid of everything that reminded me of who I used to be and promptly created a bubble around myself.  I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that my cringe-worthy behavior was over and I wouldn't have to deal with any of that again.  Little did I know that 11 years later I would be cringing again.  This time because of who I became within my bubble.

 I entered into my bubble with a heart bursting with love.   Love for Jesus.  Love for my new found Catholic faith.  Love for all of His creation and a profound gratefulness for His mercy.  I was on fire for the faith.  Unfortunately, over time the love in my bubble was smothered by fear and pride.  Instead of a beautiful sanctuary, it became a fortress keeping everyone and everything out for fear of contamination.   I saw evil in everything and was in constant fear of unintentionally opening a door to the devil. The joy was gone and I began searching desperately for the love that was lost.  I was beginning to despair and lose my faith.  Finally, it became clear that my bubble needed to be popped.

So I popped my bubble.  I popped it, and our family emerged from a place filled with fear and began to rebuild.   My heart needed to get back to the place it was in when we began this journey.  I felt like I had climbed a mountain just to get halfway up and jump off.  I was confused.   I questioned everything.  Was I going crazy?   Was this really what God wanted for us?  The answers were made very clear.  In my bubble, I had run up the mountain the first time.  Pridefully pushing people out of my way in my zeal.  Finally I reached a point where I was the recipient of all that I had been dishing out.  It hurt very badly, but  I needed to feel this.  I needed to feel the rejection.  I needed to feel what I had done to others.  It sparked a flame of compassion in me, and brought to light the need for my own repentance.  I needed to go through all of this so that I could start over. This time not trying desperately to bubble up and keep others out, but rather trying desperately  to hold onto the love in my heart so that others might see it and want to come with me.  I am going more slowly and carefully this time, because I am sure I haven't learned nearly as much as I think I have.  The only thing I can say with certainty is that I am never going to be done making myself cringe, and I think that the humility that comes along with making yourself cringe is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, this whole post already makes me cringe.