Michele’s Musings: Upon Christian Homeschooling
The transition from homeschool to school seems to be more of an adjustment for me than for our two teenage sons, attending school for the first time in their lives. Although I had the entire summer to get used to the idea of Asher going to school for grade 8, being relieved of my homeschooling duties regarding our other son caught me totally off guard. For a variety of reasons that I’ve already shared in previous articles, we enrolled 14-year-old Tymon in a few afternoon classes at a nearby high school. Basically, we wanted to give him a taste of traditional education in grade 9 so he could make a more informed decision regarding the rest of his high school years. Tymon didn’t share the same curiosity about school that his younger brother, Asher, had. Yet, after three weeks of afternoon classes, Tymon decided to go fulltime and I found myself out of a job.
As with most things in life, our new lifestyle is a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. Although it’s a relief to not be shouldering all of the responsibility of educating our boys, I’m experiencing somewhat of an identity crisis. For the past nine years I was a “homeschool mom”. My role was important and somewhat prestigious. Unlike the boys, who claim to want to feel “normal”, I’ve enjoyed standing out from the crowd. Although initially it was difficult for me to take the road less travelled, somewhere along the way, being “homeschoolers” became a part of my identity. Without the homeschooling part I am now only “mom”. I’ve lost my purpose…to help the boys become all God created them to be.
However, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay involved with our boys’ education even though they’re away from home for 7 hours a day. So far, I’ve attended a parent meeting about “Outdoor School” and an “Open House” at Tymon’s high school; volunteered in the kitchen for a full day at “Outdoor School”; helped Tymon with homework and corrections and read and signed countless forms. At Asher’s school I’ve attended a “Goal Setting” meeting and a family BBQ; volunteered for a field trip to The Science Center; donated hoards of paper we’d collected from the school board throughout our years of homeschooling; and signed his agenda noting that he’s kept up with homework assignments.
Having the boys in school has been much busier than having them home…at least in recent years when they haven’t wanted to attend the many group events offered by our homeschooling community. At times I feel too busy to take on another job, despite the fact that my day mainly consists of menial household tasks, afternoon walks, and talkshows. But I lack the fulfilment my role as a homeschool mom offered. My feelings fluctuate between bubbles of joy and windows of depression, loneliness, and boredom. I’m sure there are plenty of creative things I could do to keep myself busy and satisfied with my lot in life, but a lack of money has always been such a source of stress in our lives that getting another job is a priority right now. Ted’s job as a teacher’s assistant and my two shifts as a hair dresser have never been enough to keep monthly bills paid, food in the cupboards, gas in our vehicles, and clothes on our backs. We’ve had to rely on the help and generous support of family to keep up.
It’s time to find myself a “day job” because my desire is to be home when the boys are home but be able to contribute financially while they’re away. Because of the hours, my experience homeschooling, and prior experience working with young offenders, I’ve applied at the school board to be a teaching assistant like my husband, working with students with behaviour problems. My hope is to eventually be hired fulltime, although a half time position or even a spot on the sub list would be a good start. It’s a blessing to be freed up to add to our income, but the road ahead is unclear and will certainly be challenging.
I’ve also found it surprising how much it’s costing to send our boys to school. Between school fees, backpacks and supplies, clothes and gym shoes, fieldtrips, pictures, social events, and possibly bus passes, we have already spent more than we used to invest in homeschooling each year. We’ve always been fortunate enough to borrow or buy used textbooks and find most of what we needed on the Internet or at the library. If I didn’t have to work for any other reason, paying for the “extras” of school would be reason enough!
It’s fun to be their cheerleader instead of the “bad guy” all the time. I relish hearing about their lessons and seeing their work. I enjoy helping them with homework, yet feel free to step away if they start getting “snarly” with me (because now their schoolwork is their problem, not mine.) I’m relieved to not have the pressure of teaching them higher level maths and sciences. (I was dreading doing Algebra with Tymon!) I love it when they share their experiences. I get a kick out of seeing them challenged in areas they weren’t being challenged in at home. And I no longer consider them to be wasting time.
Although we gave both boys the choice to go to school throughout our homeschooling journey, and sometimes I even threatened to enroll them against their will, Tymon consistently refused to even consider it an option. Yet now, despite the fact that he’s making the transition so well, he’s condemning us for homeschooling them in the first place! It’s not that he thinks school is so great…just that it doesn’t seem to be nearly as bad as what we made it out to be. I also think that he carried within him a fear that he wouldn’t be able to handle school. He was a late reader, is a terrible speller, and just doesn’t like to conform. But homeschooling didn’t make him that way…it just allowed him to stay that way. But he blames us for that, despite what felt to me like constant pushing and prodding, trying to make him do enough. The other day a substitute teacher overheard him telling another student that he’d been homeschooled until this year. He told Tymon that he was considering homeschooling his own children and asked what he’d thought of homeschooling. Tymon told him, “Don’t do it!” Ouch! That really hurts.
Lastly, I feel like we’re disappointing other homeschoolers because we seem to be going against everything we’ve come to believe, with the boys now being in school. I also struggle with the gap between my assumptions about homeschooling and the reality of our lives. But I don’t regret one minute of homeschooling both of our boys all these years. Homeschooling allowed each of us to become who we are today. I don’t know what the future holds, but I think that for our family, during these teen years, school is the right option for this leg of our journey. For the boys, the transition from homeschool to school couldn’t be smoother. Now I just need to get myself in gear. M.H.■
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