I never thought I would be a stay at home mother, much less home school any of my children. Honestly, in the supreme wisdom of my college years, I viewed the idea as archaic and one of those masochistic mandates of the patriarchy. No man was going to force me into submission! I was going to earn my doctorate, move out west, and start a research firm dedicated to the study and treatment of adolescent psychosis. Thank the good Lord that His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are much higher than my own. I met Jon at Anderson College in 1997, fell madly in love in 1998, and married his fine self in 2002. About 5 minutes later, I was pregnant and delivered our first child two months before our 1 year anniversary. I had initially worked at the Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board as an Early Interventionist, but went back to school to obtain a teaching certificate because it was supposedly more “family-friendly”. Ha! I taught for 3 years and began to see the twisted irony of paying other women to tend to my own children while I tended to the needs of others’ kids all day long. In addition to this revelation, I began to see the subtle changes that were taking place within the school system. Power shifts were occurring that I was not comfortable with, curriculums began to stray ever leftward, and God was obsolete. (This was even before the introduction of sexualized programming and the clear stripping away of parental rights… I cannot imagine what occurs in many schools these days!) I told Jon I wanted to stay home, so then he went back to school to become a professional licensed surveyor so we could have enough money to keep ourselves and our children alive. We had 2 at this point, then quickly expanded to 4, then 5, then 7. Because we were crazy (and seriously running out of room), we decided to move into a rental and build a home ourselves while raising 7 children, including 6 under 6. It was a busy time, made even more so by an insane school schedule that included hours of homework every night. It was impossible. I was breastfeeding twins, and we were building a house, raising lots of kids, and trying to manage (what I considered to be) useless homework for far too long every afternoon. I hated it. With every fiber of my being, I hated it. I hated rushing in the mornings, and yelling at my kids to hurry up and get ready, and having to wake sleeping babies to load them in the van. I hated dropping them off at school, knowing I had barely made eye contact with them, much less hugged them, or told them I loved them in our frenzied rush each morning. I loathed the thought that their teachers spent more time with them daily than their own mother. I hated that my 9-year-old came home asking about things that no 9-year-old should be asking about. I hated the sickness, the stomach viruses and respiratory infections that spread like wildfire in a home with so many little ones. I hated that other kids were so mean to my daughter, for no reason. I detested the after-school work… when my children just wanted (and deserved!) to go play outside for a few precious hours after sitting all day long, but I had to force them to sit still even more… for the endless review of superfluous facts that they’d already been subjected to for 8 hours. I hated it more than I can portray in these meager words. It made me angry and sad and overwhelmed and guilty and so many other negative things… Until one day, I’d had enough. I came to the gut-wrenching conclusion that I was missing it. I was missing my kids’ childhood. The days passed so slowly, it seemed, but the years were flying by. And I was allowing other people to get the best hours of my kids’ lives. I was jealous.
Jealous and annoyed with myself for passively accepting this cliche, “boxed” way of life without questioning its efficacy. Were we thriving? Were my children happy? I knew I wasn’t. And I couldn’t get those wasted years back. I pulled my kids from public school, and immediately began an intensive and academically rigorous program that put their public school education to shame. Not. I sucked.
Seriously… I was so awful at homeschooling. I was lost, fumbling about madly for any sort of direction, and no time to pursue any. We basically made crafts and read stories and did a couple of math worksheets. I nursed babies and made lunches and read books and swept floors and changed diapers and quietly berated myself for contributing to the delinquency of my children. I felt like a failure. It was like herding cats for weeks. Months. Then it was like herding sheep, which was only slightly better. Sheep who stared at me with wide, vacant eyes, waiting for instructions I wasn’t equipped to give. It wasn’t long before I realized I had made a huge mistake, but my pride prevented me from admitting it. I was not cut out for this. Yes, I had previously taught in the public school system… but I taught 6 emotionally disabled kids in a self-contained room with an assistant and tax-payer funded curriculum. The students had their meals provided, and there were janitors and a school nurse, and a boss to tell me what to do. I got to send those students home at 2:30, and I didn’t have to do their laundry! What in the heck was I thinking, pulling 4 of my kids out of school? I was going to ruin them, I just knew it. But God. The Lord began to whisper to me that He is the one who gave me these children to raise, and I could do it well as long as I leaned on Him. I realized that I could not do this job without Him. I still can’t. And when I start to lean on my own abilities, I fail miserably and have to give it back to the Lord. I cannot do this alone. I can obey.
I can do my very best. I can love them deeply teach to the fullest of my abilities and trust that God will take care of the rest as long as I am following His Will. So for me, this homeschooling journey has in some ways been more of an education for me than for my children. I am still learning… in both textbooks and in matters of the heart. My faith has been strengthened as I see my shortcomings transformed into beautiful things by the hand of God.
It has not been easy. I can count on one hand the number of days where I have felt supremely accomplished and satisfied… the days where I checked off every box, and the kids knew the answers to all the questions, and no one peed on the floor or spilled their milk or had a meltdown or lost their notebook. Most days are a struggle, and I think for all moms of littles, that’s the norm. But that’s ok, because we are doing it together. We laugh together and learn together, and sometimes cry together. We argue over fractions and sweep floors during grammar and fold laundry while reading chapter books. We watch the baby and feed the hogs and gather eggs and weed the garden, and I get to know the divinely-given intricacies of my wonderful children while we live and learn and work together. I know that I’m doing my very best to obey the Lord’s command to raise my children up in the way they should go. I fail.
A lot. But I’m learning that grace is new every day, and I can start over each morning with 9 amazing blessings the Lord has entrusted to me. It’s messy and chaotic and frustrating and… wonderful. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know with all of my heart that this is one of the best decisions I have ever made for our family, and I’m so thankful for the blessing and opportunity to be such an integral part of God’s plan for my children.