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Me? Homeschool? Never!

by Connie Shaffer

Gee, if I could stack up all of the “I will never” statements that I have mouthed since having children, they would make quite a tower. Well, I suppose it goes back even further, to the one I repeated for years: “I will never have children.” Yes, I made that foolish statement many times. In fact, my husband and I made an agreement before we married to never have children. This was actually one of the conditions of our marriage.

You guessed it; something happened. What was it? For me, it was my thirties. I suppose, I hit 30 and felt that something was missing. I informed my husband that I thought “that something” was children. He politely reminded me of our agreement. Consequently, he stated that if I wanted children, I had to find a different husband. Needless to say, this choice was not an option. 

Therefore, I busied myself with my career, my home and my friends. We were so free. We could go when we wanted, and we had money to spend. We took trips, bought clothes, furniture and things. I gave a great deal of time and energy to my career. I was moving up the ladder and being compensated for it. However, there was still something missing. Not wanting to trade in my husband, I trudged forward with the life I was building.

A few years later, my husband had surgery to repair a hernia. While recovering, he hit me out of the blue with “maybe we should have children.” Of course, this floored me! I was waiting for him to take off his face like they used to do in the old “Mission Impossible” series. I seriously thought the doctors did something to him in addition to the hernia surgery. Had they given him a new heart? What had happened to cause this drastic change?

After a great deal of “talking it over,” we began our journey into parenthood. We tossed aside the birth control, and two years later we held our first bundle of joy. When people started asking me what I would do with the baby while working, I simply said, “She will go to day care.” 

Wasn’t this what everyone did? I had a career. I needed to continue it. I could not throw away all I had worked so hard to achieve. I had to maintain the lifestyle. We found an older woman from our church to care for her and off to work I went. 

It soon became apparent that this just would not do. I was so troubled. I could not give myself fully to my work or to my child. What a dilemma! Then a lady I barely knew told me that she was moving away. She had a day care in her home and was willing to recommend to her parents that they send their children to me if I would consider it. What? Quit my well-paying career, which I had worked so terribly hard for, and become a babysitter? 

And if that was not enough, she had one child whom she homeschooled. Homeschool, what is that? Why on earth would anyone want to home school? Well, I may consider the temporary break from my career, but once my child was school age, its back to work for me. “I will never home school!” I said.

The home daycare fell into place. We closed in our porch to make a nice play room, and I had more children than I had patience for (having had limited exposure to children). I was scared. How could we survive on one income? What about retirement savings? How could we pay for college? 

Most of those fears were suppressed by the plan that I would return to work in five years when my daughter was shipped off to public school. In the meanwhile, I just enjoyed being with my baby so much. I showered her with love and attention. I loved being with her, and I could not imagine missing out on all of the wondrous things she did. My heart ached for the mothers who dropped their children off each morning. I was so very thankful for the opportunity to see my child grow and develop. But always, in the back of my mind, I just knew there would come that day when I would return to my career.
As the months passed, I was overrun with people who homeschooled. A number of families at my church introduced me to more and more families. 

All the while, I was getting first-hand exposure to children who attended public school and were left in other people’s care before and after school. I saw bad attitudes, children who were highly materialistic and self-centered, and I saw sad children who knew their place in the chain of important things. These mothers “had” to go to work, and the child just had to understand. I realize not every mother I saw was in the position to leave her job, but it was heart wrenching to see what it was doing to their lives. Needless to say, my mind was changing. 

Then something else happened, or should I say someone else happened. Our little boy arrived, and then, 16 months later, another baby girl came along. I adamantly said I would never have children. Now I had three. Wow! I was so busy with our children that I was too busy to care for other people’s children. I closed down my child care service, and all my plans, all my “I will never’s” went out the window. Even if I wanted to resume my career, with the present situation, I would not be able to afford the child care. I attended a homeschool convention, and as you guessed I was hooked. 

I had it all planned out. My children were very close in age, three years from the first to the last. I had a schedule for teaching each one to read and getting through those tough first years. It would all be challenging, but I would just do it. I was so proud of myself. I was confident as long as I stuck to my plan. Then – bam – baby number four was on his way. This did not fit into my plan. My timeline was wrecked. How could I possibly teach four children? How could I conduct school with a newborn, nursing baby? The baby would arrive in the middle of our first year of schooling our first child, and our second child would be potty training. How could I teach reading, potty train, nurse and keep up with a one-year-old? It simply could not be done! I was so discouraged. 

But, when you have a four-year-old, a two-year-old, a one-year-old and are pregnant with a fourth, there is no time to sit around and be discouraged. I just had to kick into full gear and get it done. Was it easy? No! Did we accomplish all the things I planned to each day? No! But, we did keep up the work. 

In the three years since my fourth child arrived, my eight-year-old has been tested at a ninth grade reading level; my six-year-old is reading on a second grade level; and my five-year-old is reading nicely. My three-year-old can put together a United States puzzle alone and accurately name over half of the states. It can be done. The time passes, and, if you use it wisely, (more often than not) progress will be made. Children were designed to learn. We just need to expose them to it. 

What have I learned from all this? Never say never! Now, I say, “At this point, I do not believe I will do this or that.” Things are always changing and that includes me. That missing “something” is no longer missing. Having four wonderful children and the privilege to be with them daily has more than filled that hole. I am thankful to those homeschool moms who were not afraid to keep telling me about something that I said I would never do. 
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Submitted by: Connie Shaffer, home schooling mother of four children in Gloucester, Virginia. Can be e-mailed at mcjeshaf@cs.com