I figured out the question, finally. I figured out the answer as well.
I know myself. I know when I’m trying to make a decision – a big one. It has felt that way over the past few weeks, though what decision it was I was trying to make I wasn’t exactly sure of. But it felt like I was on the brink of something – it still does. When I am making a big decision, I tend to feel very flustered, overwhelmed, introverted, and want to spend a lot of time by myself thinking and writing. And then, finally, all of a sudden, I know what path to take, and that is that. Sometimes the path that I’m meant to take is the one I’ve been stressing about, adding a change, usually something big. But sometimes it turns out that I feel that the path I’m meant to follow is the one that I’ve all ready been on, which can seem silly after stressing out about it. Either way, it always feels good when the decision is made, and I don’t usually waiver once it is because I’ve put so much thought into it all ready.
This decision I’ve been trying to make obviously is huge, huge to me, huge to my family. I thought it was about work, jobs, I thought that I was stressing because I didn’t have work, enough of it. That was part of it, but just part.
I have written that I’m not anti-public school, I just like being the one to direct Elizabeth’s learning, as such, I don’t feel that sending her will be the end of the world. And that is what the decision ended up being. Yes, I am, at this moment, planning to sacrifice my love for guiding her learning, and send her to school for 1st grade in September.
Since in a single-parent homeschool, time vs. money and money vs. time is pressing on me all of the time: there’s either not enough money, or not enough time. Because I was trying to work out somehow having enough time to homeschool, I was not applying to enough jobs (I became single about 8 months ago after being an exclusively stay-at-home mom for 2 1/2 years). I was also, for the most part, not applying to full-time jobs, and not even considering many that were open, because I wanted to make homeschooling work.
Partly, the way I’ve done it has felt right: it’s been a slowish adjustment that has allowed me to be home with them more than if I had suddenly just gotten a full-time job right from being home all of the time, it has allowed me to ease into the idea of working, have some more time to be home to put Paul down for his naps and for him to just get a little bit older (this was something that I really stressed about last year at this time – I was still nursing then!). It allowed me to become more and more comfortable with the idea of going back to work and contemplate public school here and there, rather than just going – Bam! You’re done! In July, when Chepe moved out, I wrote that I feared utter and complete annihilation if I had had to discontinue homeschooling – of my emotional stability that is, but I don’t any more.
But, after giving it much thought, the decision to send Elizabeth to public school feels like the right path to me. The idea of having the weight of the responsibility of schooling off my shoulders is a relief. I have struggled with the issue not so much of affording the homeschooling materials, but of paying a child-care provider while I am at work. Unfortunately, my biggest, involved homeschool supporter is my babysitter, but I have to pay her for all the time the kids are there. Many people have a support network that might allow them to trade child-care services, thereby reducing that expense, but I just don’t have that, because I’m a secular homeschooler and being very independent, I tend to be a little bit of a loner, I just don’t fit into the homeschooling scene here in my town. That I don’t would be fine if I had someone supporting me, but that’s not the case any more. So, after going around and around about it in my head, I still couldn’t figure out how to pay the sitter for all the time that I’d have two kids in day care while I worked, nor really justify paying for Elizabeth to be there. As well, it just doesn’t really make sense to have her spending all day with 0-3 year olds when she could be in school with kids her age.
Which brings me to the next issue that I was having a hard time resolving: the socialization aspect. I felt that I could probably fit the actual schooling in around working full-time, but when would we do the other stuff? If she is spending all day with little kids, when will she have time to have friends her age? There’s just not enough of me to do it all.
A few other things weigh on my mind too. Homeschooling has been my choice, Elizabeth never said to me that she wanted to homeschool, and as such I can’t be sure that she would not prefer to attend public school. I guess in the desire to homeschool is mine mostly, and she may be better in public school. She may be worse, and as such, homeschooling is not totally out, but I theorize that if the following year she were to prefer to homeschool, then the decision would be her’s and she would help make it a priority of her own, rather than it being driven by myself.
Other issues that have weighed on my mind for a long time are the extracurricular programs. I’m broke, dead broke, and right now cannot afford any thing above paying the bills and food. I don’t have money for soccer, piano, gymnastics, nothing. I don’t have money even to fix the car if it breaks. It’s very stressful to live like this. As well, I can’t support her to the fullest; she misses out on educational activities, as well as spending time with kids her age. We have become quite isolated, which in part was intentional over the past months, but as healing happens, she requests to get together with other’s but they are in school, so it’s just her and Paul. That’s no good.
Other extracurriculars are sports. Elizabeth is very athletic, and our school district allows homeschoolers to participate in most extracurricular activities, but sports are reserved for students only. This has weighed on me since the very inception of the idea of homeschooling her into and through high school, or even just upper-middle school. I had her in t-ball and soccer this year, but the higher grades don’t have many community sports, it’s all run through the schools.
I don’t think it will hurt to try a year of public school. I think it will be good. I think it will show her what she has been missing out, and allow her to make her own decision about it. I would not tell her immediately that if she wants to she can homeschool again, but in my mind the option is still there. I have tried really hard to never speak negatively about public school to her, knowing that there always was the possibility of her having to go, or that she would really want to go to participate in sports or something. As well, I don’t spoeak negatively of it because we have family that attends public school and I don’t need to make life harder for them. I myself feel on the gate about it. I would wish for less testing, actually if left up to me, I would do away with all testing and all letter grades, but it’s not up to me, so…
Today I told Elizabeth, as I had actually made the decision at the beginning of the week but didn’t have a chance to publish it. I wasn’t going to tell her yet, but I think I’ve been talking about it enough that she’s caught on that something is going on, that it’s suddenly some part of the conversation for some reason. As well, I am completely decided about next year, I’m sure I will not change my mind no matter how the job situation goes.
What this decision does for me, besides make me feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, allows me to be open, finally, to securing full-time work. I think that before I could not let myself, perhaps I wasn’t even able to allow myself to find more part-time work than what I was doing before, because I was rigidly stuck on this idea. I know that for a while I was really enjoying the job I have and didn’t want to find anything else thus – those vibes go into your cover letters and your interviews. But now I am taking steps to apply to some jobs that I feel would be really good fits for me, and that I would be really good fits for. I have a number of applications that I have sent out and have in hand to send, and I feel like if any of them were to work out, I would be glad, like there is not one that I would prefer over the other – and that feels good.
The weight lifted off my shoulders lets me look ahead to spending quality time with the kids that is unpressured of the need to school. At the present moment, I’m not sure what my plans are for Paul. I have no intention of sending him to all-day pre-k, but the idea of schooling him around work makes me sad, as compared to mine and Elizabeth’s hours that we pretended we were baby birds in the living room, had picnics outside, went on nature walks, and built obstacle courses. Of course, he won’t need to do school while the younger sibling is taking a nap – he is the younger sibling, and no matter what way you cut it, it would have been different with him anyway as they are each their own. I don’t know if I will try to homeschool him through K too, because I support the idea of waiting until they are in 1st grade, or rather in the grade of ages 6-7 rather than 5-6, I feel it is a gentler approach.
I also don’t know what will become of this blog. Maybe I will end up turning into writings on how we do at-home activities to support Elizabeth’s school learning. Perhaps it will one day detail our homeschooling experience again. Perhaps it will take over my parenting posts. Perhaps September will be it’s finale. Since I will continue to school through the summer as feels normal to me, I will continue to post, turning more towards our activities again than these philosophical thoughts I’ve been putting up lately.
I am sad. Disappointed on one level, but I feel in my heart that it is the best course of action for next year. I keep telling myself that homeschooling is never completely out of question until the kids are graduated. I’ve got quite a number of years before that.
Thanks to my readers who have been sharing my story with me, your support has meant a lot to me.