We're just a few days away from wrapping up the school year in our house. If you've been hanging around these parts for an extended period of time, you know we've exclusively home-educated our kids (minus their time at a private school in Haiti). When I went back to school, we needed to make some adjustments to the way we were educating the boys. We like to joke that we've experienced the educational sampler this year. One child in public school. One in private school. Two boys experiencing a quasi-homeschool environment - at home, taught by a hired teacher.
At his first track meet. Fun times.
Apparently looking underwhelmed in photos is the way to keep-it-on-the-cool in junior high.
Our thirteen year old originally started in a public school in January. We quickly decided that wasn't the best idea. He loved school, had terrific teachers, but I think I underestimated how busy I was going to be trying to balance school, home life, and walking with my dad through cancer. I felt too distracted to really pay close attention to what was going on in Anson's world. This didn't seem like quality parenting. Thankfully there is a small private school in our town where several of our real-life friends are teachers and administrators. During my intense semester, it was a true gift to have so many people we know and love - who know and love Anson - partner with us to educate and shape our son. I only had to sell one kidney and Aaron only gave away all of his plasma once in order to fund this fancy pants, private school education - but it was worth it. I'm sure situations like these are why we have two kidneys and an appendix anyway.
Sorry for the semi-flip-off, but isn't he cute?
Hudson started public school at the beginning of the school year and has thrived in that environment. I'm not a very structured person (shocker!) so it's interesting to watch Hudson excel in a setting I grew up detesting. Part of the reason I have home-educated our kids is because I rarely enjoyed public school growing up. The structure and schedule left me feeling frustrated and crazy. Hudson seems to feel most content and sane in an environment where he can predict what will happen next in his day.
The care-free, creative Middles have been home this semester doing their thing. They remained involved in Classical Conversations. On the days when they were home (instead of at CC) we found a fabulous teacher for them. Tammy is the perfect mixture of responsible and whimsical. She stayed on top of all their school work, prepared them for their Memory Master testing, and filled their lives with art and interesting documentaries. She also kept my house clean (God bless her). For now, these two boys are most happy and fulfilled at home where they can dig in, get their school work done, and then get back outside where they are always up to something. I love having them here, and I'm thankful we found a solution that enabled us to keep them home.
Mid-semester I found myself wondering why I had never worked hiring someone to help me into our life. Having Tammy here was like magic. The parts of their school day that the boys normally fought me over (you know - any of the parts that actually require work and learning), they did without complaint for Tammy. I'm learning to not hold fast to a single method, but I do know this - if we continue homeschooling for years to come, I don't think I'll ever go back to trying to tackle it all on my own. Having someone capable to help out with this enormous responsibility restored a lot of joy and life to our school day. We practically begged Tammy to come back next year (we're pretty sure she is!).
Deciding to go back to school brought about a great deal of sweaty anxiety for me. Most of that angst revolved around our kids and what was best for them. How and where our kids are educated - these are big decisions. They feel awfully weighty, don't they? As we close this school year out, I'm thankful for the gift and freedom we've had to homeschool our kids. I'm also grateful for the gift of great schools - private and public - where our kids have been educated, loved, and supported this school year. I don't want to ever take for granted that we have all of these choices available to us. This isn't the reality for most people in the world, and not even for most people in our country.
Mostly I'm thankful for any opportunity that causes me as a parent to let go of unnecessary absolutes. It sure would feel a lot easier and less complicated if we could slap a neat label on ourselves. "We're a homeschool family." "We're a public school family." "We're a private school family." Being labeled any of those titles would feel tidy and neat. Then maybe we'd fit in better at a homeschool conference, a private-school pool party, or a public-school open house. Instead, we feel a little bit out of place everywhere we go. But we also feel richly rewarded for the chance to be near so many diverse groups of people who are all trying their very best to lovingly raise their children. Our perspective has been broadened this semester, and I'm not sure there is anything more valuable.
To everyone in the thick of making next year's educational decisions for your kids - much grace and peace to you (and maybe a margarita or two) as you walk with as much confidence as a parent ever can in what you feel is right and best for your kiddos. Going into parenting, I don't think I could have ever imagined how much I could possibly adore these tiny people - and how much sleep I'd lose praying and hoping we figure out how to love them well. This parenting gig is so weird, huh?