Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mom Seasons

It's 8:07 am as I sit down to type this out. My house is quiet, and I've already made waffles for breakfast, packed 4 lunches, washed the dishes, mopped the laundry room floor, folded a load of laundry and stood in the kitchen and watched the hummingbird at the feeder for a little while.

Today for the first time since 1997 on this Back-to-School-It's-Labor-Day-Tuesday, I do not have any kids in my house. No toddlers needing to be chased around or have a stinky-diaper-change, no little kids opening up their Bible workbooks getting ready for another day of lessons, no teenagers taking advantage of being homeschooled and sleeping in longer than they should. Nope, it's just me and the cats, and a nutty beagle wondering why she never gets to go on the bus with the kids. Today I am officially no longer a Homeschool Mom, and I'm entirely okay with it.

I can't even begin to count how many times in the last 15 years I've read the arguments both for and against homeschooling, or even how many times I've written about it myself, or responded to what others had written. It's a huge subject, an important subject and it will be debated and discussed for a very long time to come, I'm sure. As of today though, I'm out of the loop and that suits me just fine.

I would like to offer some parting wisdom however, before I leave that loop for good. It is with much regret that I have not always been as gracious as I could have been when stating my case for homeschooling, and I would like to stress just how important that aspect is. I suppose part of the reason for this is that there are so many ignorant myths about homeschooling that it quickly becomes very frustrating to try and debunk the myths for the billionth time. This is no excuse to be less than gracious, just one of the reasons some homeschoolers might come off as less than patient, myself included.

I have always seen (and so have you, if you've ever been in this situation) folks on both sides of the Public School - Homeschool debate come across as "my way or the highway" kind of folks, and I'm sure there were times when I was the same way. In a way, I would say that was back in the day of beign a Cage Stage Homeschooler. So zealous for doing the right thing that my zeal would often override my good sense and locking me in cage might have been a good idea.

I have been a Public School Mom, I have been a Homeschool Mom, I have been a 50/50 PS-HS Mom when some of them were in Public School and some were homeschooled, and now I am again a Public School Mom. So I've been on both sides of this fence and sometimes I was on both sides at the same time. It's been a unique and wonderful and frustrating and joyful and rewarding and nerve wracking experience all the way through. If there were ever any occupation harder than being a mother, I would have to say it would be that of being a homeschooling mother. It is the most demanding and important thing I think I've ever done, and I'm glad I did it for the 10 years that I did. I've taught from pre-kindergarten all the way through the junior year of highschool and I loved it. Okay I'll be totally transparent and confess some days I hated it for a few minutes here and there but that was only because it's SUCH hard work and sometimes I felt like I just wasn't up to the task. My respect for homeschool moms is immense. They are often made fun of, made the butt of jokes (even by well known Christian pastors, believe it or not) and usually just take it all in stride even though it hurts and is usually degrading. For whatever reason, Homeschool moms are generally misunderstood and that's a shame, since their devotion to their kid's education and well-being is top-notch and should be rather obvious why they're doing such a demanding thing.

What I wish everyone understood, is that one size does not fit all.

• If you're a Christian parent and you don't homeschool you just don't love the Lord and honor His word, or love your children or care about their spiritual well-being.

• If you're a Christian parent and you don't send your kids to public schools, you're stunting their social skills and denying them the opportunity to be salt and light in the schools and shame on you for not caring about evangelism.

Believe it or not, I've seen and heard both of those statements more times than I can count. I've even seen them from well respected Christian leaders, bloggers, pastors, speakers, etc. Allow me to just be real blunt here and say both statements are entirely ignorant and the people who make them seriously just need to shut up. Yes, I said shut up. Ignorant people do more damage with ill-thought out statements and broadbrushing generalizations than they realize and it's time someone told them to just shut up. Trust me, I am being gracious here.

Not all Christian parents are destined to homeschool. There could be a zillion reasons for this such as lack of resources, lack of talents in this area, disabilities (yours or your child's) a lifestyle that does not allow for one parent to be at home with the kids, etc., so on and so forth. There are some valid arguments for not homeschooling and those arguments need to be respected. On the flip side of this of course, there are also valid reasons and arguments for not sending your kids to public schools. Depending on where you live and the atmosphere of the local school district, it would be simply insane to send your precious children off to be devoured by wolves, as it were. The "trend" of homeschooling and private schooling is on a dramatic increase all across the US (and not just with Christian parents, mind you) as more and more parents make the decision to not have their kids exposed to gangs, drugs, violence, rampant promiscuity, etc., in the local school setting. If we lived in an area where that were the setting, our kids would never see the inside of the local school either. The decision to HS or to PS is a huge one, and it will vary considerably depending on many, many factors. Don't ever let someone tell you it MUST be this way or that way, because one size does not fit all when it comes to making this decision.

In our case, homeschooling for the last 10 years was both a huge blessing and in certain aspects a mistake. The mistake part was not allowing our now 20 year old to go to public school for at least part of highschool. She missed a lot of opportunities that living in the country doesn't afford kids, and we do regret that a great deal. It's different if you're in town but where we are, she was very isolated and that's never a good thing for a kid.

The decision to send the kids to public school last year (and our youngest this year) was a very, very good one. They have had (and continue to receive - that doesn't stop when they go off to public school) a solid, Christ-centered education up to this point, and that was our goal from the beginning. Now they also have opportunities to be involved with activities and interests and with kids their age and they all adapted quite well to the public school routines. All of them are very social people (I know, despite being homeschooled, imagine that) and made more friends last year in school than I could keep up with. This was a very busy summer with day visits and sleepovers all summer long with all their new friends and we expect it will be the same for Ruth now that she's in public school as well. We're very blessed that we live in the country and it's a country school where the majority of people (kids and adults both) come from at least conservative lifestyle if not Christian families. Nearly all the kids friends are fellow Christians, and that's a huge bonus.

So all that to say, one chapter closes and another opens. I have 10 more years as a mom with kids in school (unless they all go off to college or university, which would be awesome) and it will be an adventure for all of us. I was just as excited today to send them all down the laneway to the bus stop as they were. I remember the first day of school very well, and it was always exciting to see old friends, meet new ones, get back into the routine and start a new year. Right before they left this morning, Samuel said "I'm so glad we're going back to school today!" I'm glad too and look forward to another amazing school year and lots of discussions about what they're learning, things they've heard, field trips, special projects, school concerts and all that good stuff.

But for now, I'm going to completely enjoy the peacefulness in my house, and go have breakfast while I watch the hummingbird outside the kitchen window. It's a new Mom Season, and so far I think I really like it.

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