Sunday, August 21, 2011

the end of an era, a new chapter beginning

This has been an emotional week for me. I've stayed so very busy, (if you've been following along with me here, I know it's not a surprise to you.) trying to ignore, to not feel the pain, the ache that is my heart. The warm lump that's lately found a home in the pit of  my throat. These eyes frequently are filling with tears. Working in the kitchen yesterday, while listening to Fleetwood Mac's Landslide, I fought the urge to sob when I heard, and felt, these words:

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I'm getting older too...

I knew this day would come. For years, even. I waited, I worried, I agonized, I regretted, I questioned, I anticipated. These changes, any change for that matter, are very difficult for me.

This week will mark the first time in 20 years where I won't have any kids at home. That I'll be alone all day. That my second child, my oldest daughter, is leaving my nest. That the role I played as homeschool mom, the role that I placed so much of my identity on as a person-- is finished. I'm done. I won't be homeschooling my children from now on. 

There were many reasons in the beginning why I wanted to homeschool my children. I loved teaching them, being near them. After trying public schools for a few years, we brought them home full time by the time Gary finished 2nd grade and Jane Kindergarten. I took each year as it came. It felt natural to our growing family of five children. It wasn't easy, but those years when we had so much time together, forging bonds and memories that can never be replaced, well, I can say from the bottom of my heart that they were all worth it. The happiest years of my motherhood. I can honestly say that I gave it my all.

I committed to teaching them full time by the time they finished 6th grade. All who have gone on have adjusted very well. Then, there was the question of little Isaac. He's my caboose. He and Eliza are six years apart. I knew that he would be the only child at home with me all day long. I worried about his happiness, about his need to interact with other children, about the fact that we no longer knew or interacted with any other homeschoolers. Keith and I took the matter to prayer.  We were blessed last year to find an opening in a former homeschool mom's Montessori pre-school. It was a perfect answer and fit for him to attend this school for a couple of hours in the morning, 3 days a week. As this school year got closer, I was impressed with the peaceful reassurance that sending Isaac to the small charter school where the other children have gone for 7th and 8th grade was the answer. In my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do. So, tomorrow school will start. And with it comes a flood of raw, honest feelings, memories, and thoughts. Here's...

...Some things I've learned about homeschooling:

  • No one would ever tell me how rewarding it would be to give the gift of reading to a child. To be able to open up the world to my children in this way.
  • No one will understand how emotionally and physically exhausting it is to homeschool, in addition to a mother's other home duties, until you've experienced it. It takes an enormous amount of diligence, perseverance, and commitment.
  • Burnout is real. Homeschooling gets old after the the initial excitement. The honeymoon doesn't last forever.
  • No one will know the pressure we feel to prove we are doing a good enough job of it.
  • You can't teach it all. No one can.
  • The freedom to homeschool is a beautiful, not to be taken forgranted gift.  
  • Not homeschooling my children doesn't mean I don't love them any less or that I'm not a diligent mother. Others can teach, love, bless, and inspire my children.
  • Most mothers are doing the best they can. Parents are the primary teachers of their children. Some of us truly desire to homeschool and some of us really don't or can't for many justifiable reasons. The educational choices we make for our children are not always a true reflection of how much love we have for them. Judging other's personal decisions can be very harmful and hurtful.
  • Witnessing the inexpressible joy that comes into a child's eyes when the light bulb goes off and he gets it. And you were the one to help make that possible
  • The funnest and happiest years for the children and I were when we met regularly with other homeschoolers. Whether it was through the various co-ops we were part of, the geography club I organized, participating in the university homeschooler P.E. class, the Christmas play we put on... These "extras" were essential.
  • Reading aloud to my kids was one of the best things I've ever done. Period. For me and for them.
  • It's easier when all the kids are homeschooling.
  • Homeschooling is not a magic bullet. It won't and never will solve or meet all the needs for my children. There are problems, inadequacies, positive and negative aspects of any educational institution or experience.

  • Loneliness is real for the homeschooling mom. It's hard when you're the only person on the block crazy enough to have their kids home 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sometimes you might feel like the "odd" family, in the neighborhood. It's easy to feel like you just don't fit in. Kids feel this way whether we like to admit it or not.
  • Being part of a peer group gets more important as children reach adolescence. Social acceptance and interaction, the sharing of conversation and ideas, meaningful friendship all are so important, crucial even, to a homeschooled teenager's happiness, attitudes, and success.
  • The decision to homeschool takes an enormous leap of faith. It's often difficult to get past the perceptions and judgements "well meaning" family members, neighbors, friends, and others make of your lifestyle decisions.
  • The most important lessons learned aren't always academic. The family is the school of life. The baby IS the lesson.
  • Trust the children. See them as individuals, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, gifts, and God-given talents.

  • I've come to terms that I will always question and wonder if I did enough. If I did my best. If I did right by them. If they learned the most important lessons I wanted to teach them.
  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It encompasses everything you do in your family.

  • Values, character, and life skills and are best taught in the home.
  • Parents should and often have the child's best interest at heart.
  • Children fall in love with learning when they see Mom (especially) and Dad model it.
  • Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.

With this door of my life quietly closing, comes an open window of possibilities. What will my life be like now? How does my mothering role change? In the midst of the sniffs, there's part of me that wants to raise my hands above my head and shout (with jubilation) "FREEDOM!!" What will I do with all this time, these empty days?

There will be more time for my own personal interests, hobbies, writing, and study. There will be time to be a better manager of my (somewhat neglected) home duties. There will be time for my aging parents. There will be energy to give my children more emotional support, my full "presence", if you will. I see how vital this is to my teenagers and young adults.There will be space opened up from being so preoccupied and stressed. There will be more time for friends. To go to lunch in the middle of the day! To read all day, to watch movies in the day, to nap, to clean, to shop, to go to museums. All if I want to!

So, I'm excited. 

Here's to the past.
And here's to glorious new beginnings. 


  1. It's bittersweet - No one can truly give without feeling empty sometimes. I believe you are ready for whatever comes next - Carpae dium! You have much to celebrate!

  2. oh happy to find you again...
    I was visiting renee's blog when I read her blog about her visit to your place...
    I have taken a blog break this summer but will also resume in September..oh how that is so very soon...too soon...
    I enjoy reading your blog...need to make some of those beautiful recipes you have on here...I strive to eat vegetarian...not always easy with meat eaters in the home...
    I home-school two special needs little times it is but it is a way of life for us...our Faith carries us through the hard days...Our oldest is on her way to University in Halifax...far far away from her momma in Alberta...hard transition for sure but thank God for computers and texting ...our visit on her school breaks will be that much sweeter...but how I will miss her...

    Have a great day :)

  3. while we have never home schooled - I would have to agree with everything on your list. You really do deserve to do all those things on your new list during the day. I'm excited for you.

  4. Oh, I know these feelings so well. Our oldest went away to boarding school (School of American Ballet) when she was sixteen. That was many years ago, and now we are already bracing ourselves with our son starting his Jr year. I can't imagine how quiet our home will be.

  5. Many blessings on the next stage of your family's journey (and yours!). I'm excited for you Emily.

  6. As someone who has just started on the journey of homeschooling I can't express how much I appreciated this post.
    I came across your blog recently. It is beautiful. The words and the pictures.