Over the last few months, I have been seriously dodging questions about our schooling situation here at the miller manor. I have come up to a 99% decision that I was just not going to talk about it here – or anywhere, for that matter. It’s been a struggle and I have SO MANY emotions tied into what has been going on. I feel too vulnerable for judgement from others, I feel too protective of my own cubs to share, I feel like I might be/pretty sure I am failing at this in one way or the other. I wince when someone asks me in real life, I wince when someone comments on my instagram “SO ARE YOU HOMESCHOOLING OR NOT?!” (It’s probably not in CAPS, but it feels like it’s in CAPS to me.) I am avoiding this situation and all of you because I HAVE NO ANSWERS. I don’t know what the wrong or right way is to handle things at school. I don’t know if I have made huge, gigantic mistakes already and my children are doomed for an educational life, or if I have handled it the same way any mom would have. I am taking this a serious day at a time, but reguardless – I made the best choices I could with the best intentions possible.
Harlo started kindergarten this year and I was hopeful for a great school year. We have had such wonderful luck with preschool and a tremendous preschool teacher (I’m serious.. if I could think of a better word than tremendous I would use it here.) I was so hopeful for a worry-free year that I forgot to worry about “what if everything doesn’t go smoothly? What if we don’t like our teacher? What if our teacher doesn’t like us? What if Harlo hates school? What if I hate having her at school? What if she doesn’t do as well as I thought she would? What if she does TOO well and is bored? What if, what if, what if????” I didn’t think to worry about any of these things, I really didn’t. I didn’t think it because I almost NEVER hear moms talking about problems their kids are having at school. I didn’t even know those existed with regular old kids like mine. Over the last few months I have kept telling Brady “I just wish I knew someone else with this issue that I could ask about it!” I have said so many times over the school year “I never hear anyone saying they have problems with their kid’s schools WHY ARE WE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH OUR KID’S SCHOOL??”
So today, I am putting on my very brave big girl panties so if you happen to struggle with your kids in the first few months, or years, or forever in school, you will have remembered that one time I did too and you will feel like you are not so alone and that maybe your kids are just 100% as completely normal as you think they are. I am hoping that this post is reaching you somehwere, mom of difficult teachers, kids with attention disorders, bored/unchallenged kids, and those of you who’s kids hate school…
The weeks following Harlo starting school, I was seriously shocked by how hard it was on me. Getting her here and there every day, remembering all the 204 pages that needed to be signed and put in different pockets of different folders, and homework completed and signed, and the books read and signed and put back in the backpack, and the other books read were marked on the paper and signed and hung on the fridge til the end of the week and on friday to remember to add that to the backpack. School shirts on Friday, moms and muffins the 2nd monday of every 3rd month, sisters and sardines on semi-annual saturdays.. I mean.. it’s a lot to keep track of! A lot. A LOOOOOOOT. And it felt like a lot, all placed directly on my shoulders and the pile kept adding up.
I am the type of mom that reads all about how to build up your child’s character, and how to encourage their love of learning, and the important things to say and to not say to little girls.. all that stuff is important to me. So I kept a big huge smile plastered on my face and swore not to mention how difficult it had been on me and to “just keep swimming” and all that good stuff. But as the weeks turned into months, I could tell something was a little bit off. A number of events happened to reassure me something was just not quite sitting right. Except I had no idea what to do because not a single soul had prepared me for this.
So I prayed and prayed and prayed some more and the more I tried to fix it, the bigger the issues were getting. I was being misunderstood, I’m sure I was misunderstanding, I was faced with ugly labels and words I wasn’t comfortable or familiar with my children being associated with. The mama bear came out in me, and when I had finally had enough, when I finally felt my territory was being walked on, when I felt like I was getting no where at all… I made the last possible stitch effort, and I took her out of school.
You read that right, I took my 5 year old out of kindergarten. I’m not going into a lot of details because there are so many feelings involed, but I will just say that we were not on the same page and eventually I didn’t feel like we were in the right place. I had considered homeschooling years before, and knew I had it in me. It’s amazing what you’ll discover you have in you if you’re pushed hard enough. I mean that. I got online and in a weekend, after HOURS of studying and putting together a schedule and curriculum and reading all I could about homeschool, we started it. We gathered around my kitchen table on Monday morning, and started our first of many bible studies for our first day of homeschool.
I felt lighter that day than I had in months. We moved through our schedule as gracefully as possible until I had crossed each item of business off my list for the day. I laid next to Brady that night and said, “I think I’m going to really like this.” I was right. Day after day got a little bit easier and smoother. I began feeling more comfortable in my role and I noticed a huge difference in the girl’s behavior. School time was serious and they didn’t give me a bit of grief during our school lessons. As we read and discussed each day, I felt our whole family changing. I felt the conversations we were having to be more deep, I was feeling so good from the daily bible study and wonderful conversations about Jesus and His people we would have. I loved watching the girls experience not wanting to put a book down (Charlotte’s Web) and I loved meeting them where they were at academically and being present as their brilliant little minds grasped onto a certain concept. My life was blessed in so many ways during these first weeks of homeschooling. I watched our dynamic change as a respect and calmness in our family settled right in.
Although our inside life was going smoothly, it was hard to deal with all the judgement we faced on the outside. The school’s opinions, friends and family’s opinions, random strangers opinions every time my girls were asked (daily, I swear) what grade they were in or if they were already out of school or this or that. It made me uncomfortable to have conversations like this, and I could tell the girls felt it too. “Homeschool?! I didn’t know people still did that!” strangers would chuckle, “Well did you ever suggest a change of teacher,” another friend would offer, “What about private school?”. I know this about myself, but learned deeply that I have an issue airing my personal stuff just anywhere – namely, taking opinions about stuff that matters to me in life. Getting unsolicited advice was excruciating to me, because I already had so much guilt and so much confusion in my own mind and these words would just send my head spinning on whether or not we did everything we could. I carried on though and prayed for a bit thicker skin. Instead of thicker skin, God gave me a different sort of an answer. One I least expected.
Several weeks in to homeschooling, Harlo asked if she could go visit her friends at school. We would talk that out, and then the next week she would be asking again. She missed her friends at school, her classroom, being a kindergartener. All of that stuff that I could completely understand, but it broke my heart anyway. I felt like we were just settling into things, and here we were back to the drawing board. I scheduled play dates and planned more elaborate activities for school hoping this would curb her appetite for going back, but she just began to ask more and more. I saw something shift in her these weeks. She had done so well with homeschool, but now I could see that little light in her beginning to dim. Weeks of being at home by my side had taken it’s toll on her. She is the oldest of her siblings and relishes in having a bit of her own life outside our home. Stella continued going to preschool a few times a week and I could see Harlo’s longing for school every time we sent Stella off.
One night, as Christmas break was coming to a close, Harlo came to me and said “mom, can I talk to you?” My precious girl let me down easy and told me she liked having me as her teacher, but that she missed her friends at school. She missed the parties, and the playground, and the toys they had during free time. During this conversation, I had no anxiety. I had peace knowing she knew what was best for her. I realized that I could make up whatever she was missing academically, but that I couldn’t make up for the friends and atmosphere of school. The next day we called to meet with the principle (again). We had a great meeting and communicated better than ever before. It seemed like we were slowly getting on the same page. Harlo started back to school the following Monday. I cried each of those 7 nights.
I had a lot of feelings to process over the next few weeks. I felt the sting of failure and guilt. I had uncertainty and regret. I had hope for what was to come. Harlo did so well going back to school. She seemed to skip ahead and was suddenly just flourishing. Even for me, things didn’t seem as heavy and hard as before. We were taking it a day at a time, but finally things felt like they fit. At first I wondered if taking her out was the right choice, but it was the right choice for us. I’m starting to learn that making good decisions and making good decisions for us are two different things. We enjoyed our break, and our trial with homeschool. I think Harlo and I both grew in ways we needed to grow in those weeks. I think I needed that maybe more than anyone else. The bottom line is that at the end of the day, both of us are happy. A happy kid was always my goal.
Since Harlo was born, I felt like the Lord used her in my life to really direct me. From my initial finding out about being pregnant with her, God was using her as an important and crucial lesson in my life. Sometimes I feel like God is using me to uncover the road less traveled. It seems that this is the path for me at times. We don’t always seem to “fit” with the same beige shoes everyone else is wearing without complaint. We like the red sparkly ones with the pointy toes that give you blisters at first. I don’t mind, though. This is where faith comes and rescues me away. My God has not failed me yet. Not a single time. He has brought me through hell and back and I have been blessed times a thousand for my trials. I am willing to do what the Lord wants me to do, even when it means taking a big huge swallow of my pride.
So that is the story of our first year in Kindergarten. It wouldn’t be our story without getting off the beaten path at least once, I tell you what.