I have homeschooled from day one. You can read about all my reasons for that here. I loved homeschooling. The extra time with the Monster Squad was awesome. They actually became the Monster Squad as a direct result of homeschooling. (Monster Math Squad anyone?) Watching their minds grow and being fully hands-on in their education was a wonder and privilege for me. Enrolling them in public school was a huge decision and an almost complete about-face.
Problems with homeschooling.
While most people were, in theory, on board with homeschooling it felt like I was the only person taking it seriously. Too many people wanted to take advantage of the flexibility but didn’t want to make up for the time. School had to be done by a certain time or it caused too many problems. It didn’t matter if there was a dentist appointment in the middle of the morning, extending school past 2 p.m. was a problem. We couldn’t commit to a set schedule for school because we had so many other things going on. There were people who were quick to criticize the way I was doing things but unwilling to help come up with other ideas.
The last three or four years of life actually. When it rains it pours. Monster 4 almost killed me when he was born. Monster 3 broke his leg twice and as a result, the hospital was under legal obligation to call Child Protective Services on us. Eventually, they found holes in 2 of his bones. We went through a cancer scare with him at 3 years old. An in-law went to jail and had ongoing legal problems for a while. Then, I was in court for a family custody issue for a month or so, making the 4-hour round trip daily. I got pregnant with number 5, the first and only girl. Shortly after, a close family member was on the not so healthy side of a hit and run while on his motorcycle. After that, I was traveling between two states over some other family-related issues. Monster 4 tested positive for lead and we tore down the house looking for a cause. Another family member was arrested more recently for reasons that sent everyone into a tailspin. Then we were served with a court summons.
I was being overwhelmed. At a moment’s notice school was being canceled for other things. Everything was on an emergency basis. I was on the phone with lawyers or social services. Researching custody laws. Running around in the middle of the night to bail someone out of jail. Trying to hold it together for other people. Add on top of that other daily stressors and I was all over the place. There were days that were an honest struggle to get out of bed. But because I was getting out of bed, I thought it was all under control. After being pregnant and or breastfeeding for 7 years (and counting) straight, my weight had ballooned and I was ALWAYS stressed out. I was getting into pointless confrontations with complete strangers. Problems at home were either being ignored or blown way out of proportion. Something had to give and I needed help. I started having sporadic conversations with my husband over the last couple of years about putting them in public school, but there were always reasons to keep them home.
Then it was time for the Squad’s yearly testing. Normally I would test them individually during the week of their birthdays. Last year we did them all at once in November. There are still several ongoing issues and I wanted to get them all done and out of the way. The Squad has always tested 2-3 grades above their age level. This year they didn’t. None of them fell below their grade level, but they were no longer so far ahead. That was a problem. Obviously, their education was suffering. With no end date in sight in regards to all the other stuff going on I had to make a choice.
The decision for public school.
I made some mistakes here. In my panic and guilt, I did not discuss it with all parties involved. I flat out ran roughshod over my husband, who did have valid reasons for it to wait. I went up to the school and immediately had them enrolled by age. This is such a huge change for them I wanted them to have work they were familiar with. Let them adjust to the setting and rules before any hard work comes up. I felt guilty because I had so clearly failed them. Too much of my time and attention was going other places. But I didn’t know how to pull back and refocus.
Is it working?
The first couple of weeks were rough. A little over a month in and things have smoothed out. There are of course pros and cons as with anything. I don’t like 2 of the teachers. I think they are burned out or just don’t want to do the work. The rules and schedules can be confusing. I’m not used to checking in with people, aside from my husband, when it comes to the kids. In a lot of ways, we are still adjusting. Homework is not an issue for us like it is for some families as we are more acclimated to doing it. I do worry about them getting enough sleep and that lunch time is so early for 2 of them. And I miss them. They are doing well in their classes though. So far only one of them has stated he would rather be back at home.
Is it a permanent decision?
I don’t know. They will at least finish this school year and we will re-evaluate during the summer break. If we go back to homeschooling a lot of things will have to change. I need to get me under control. Other parties involved will need to take school seriously. I still like the idea of having them graduate by 16 so they have a 2 year bumper between school and the “real” world. We may even decide to leave some of them in public school and homeschool the rest. If Monster 1’s A.D.H.D. becomes an issue I will pull him out before medicating him. Monsters 3 and 4 are in love though.
I do think a real break has been good though. I do have the time and space to figure out how to deal with the things going on. Some of the familial issues have resolved themselves. Some of them I just had to drop as “not my problem”. As harsh as that sounds, my focus needs to be with my core family. I can put together a curriculum that will actually work without the pressure of needing it right NOW if we do go back to homeschooling.
There are days that I feel like a failure. The important thing is that the Monster Squad is getting what they need though. Will we go back to homeschooling? For at least some of them, probably. Is public school best? For at least a couple of them, it seems to be. In June we will be evaluating what is best for our family as a whole and for each of them individually.