Saturday, July 31, 2010

To Home School or not?

Everybody has different reasons for home schooling. As unique as each family is I don't think there are two families who have entirely the same reasons. In fact, what I have found is that as you experience more of the home schooling life your reasons change. And this is a good thing!

hanging up the washing

So why are we choosing did we choose to home school our children?

There has been no other time in my life when I have learnt more about myself and the Lord than this season we're in right now! When I was teaching, teaching consumed me. It was my life. My busy, all-consuming life. I can look back now on that time and see how the Lord was trying to teach me-but I was too busy to listen! Being in control of how, when and why things happened was the way I kept my sanity.
I didn't want to have a career which took me away from my child. When we chose for me to stay at home with our children I've learnt (slowly but surely) to live life one day at a time. Yes, there is still planning happening here-but I have to choose to not let the plans rule me. I plan, but I need to be open to change. Remembering to never be afraid to listen for that gentle voice which has guided me to let go of so many rules and regulations, is most important for me. Reason number one: Choosing to live life at a slower pace.

clay creations: my roundabout

clay creations: my game

In my final two years of teaching I had two very different classes. My second last year was THE toughest class I'd ever taught. There were so many challenging children with sad little stories that I struggled to teach and maintain discipline in the classroom. My final year was an absolute contrast. Teaching them was a breeze compared to the year before. When I reflected on the possible reasons of why the huge difference-besides my own imperfections that is-I discovered that the first class was largely made up of children from broken families, single parents or struggling marriages. The second class? Stay at home moms, married parents very few single/divorced parents. For me this just confirmed our desire for me to stay at home with our children. Reason number two: Relationships are important, relationships need time to develop and grow, relationships mean investing time in someone.

a few of their favourite pastimes: lego and drawing

Do I always plan to stay at home? Well, I haven't had a desire to go back to teaching, but I'm not sure if it's only for the early years. As Jenna grew I watched her learn so many things through daily living which I had taught children in Grade One. Watching the learning happening in our home environment confirmed what I'd always yearned for as a teacher: learning through life's experiences. Will it always be this way? I don't know. But I sure do like this way for now! Reason number three: Life prepares us for life, learning from everyday experiences can be done!

tea time

And then one day a friend challenged my thought processes: You can't home school out of fear! Ok, time to do some self-reflecting?! Had this little comfortable life of ours become a sheltered haven to protect my children from the world? Yes! Uh-oh, was I really preventing my children from going out into the world because I was afraid of it's influence on them?! Yes, I was. So what was I going to do about this? I did some serious soul searching. What was I really afraid of? The truth? What if they learnt something I didn't agree with and this caused them to not have a relationship with the Lord? It was then that I came to terms with the fact that I am not in control of their lives! I am not their protector. Even if I did send them to school Our Lord would be there to protect them. Ultimately He is in control. So I actually reached a point where I had to admit, sending them to school wouldn't be such a scary thought. If for some reason they had to go, I'd actually feel ok about it.

Until about a month ago....

creating a new game

My beliefs were to be questioned again. Was I really doing what the Lord wanted for this family?

Now if you read that sentence carefully you'll notice one very important word: I.

You see this home schooling journey so far had been mostly mine and our children's. I'd taken on sole responsibility for teaching and raising our children. Yes, Ray and I had talked about home schooling. I'd tried as often as I could to share with him what I was learning from all the research that I had been doing. He never disagreed with what I was doing-he could see our children were learning. He was involved in parenting and even in a lot of the natural learning, he was the best teacher for our kids. But I was the one spending most of the time with them. I was the one involved in most of the training moments. And I expected him to know what to do and do likewise (she says cringing!)

It was me who had the passion for home schooling, me who was driving the dream, me who felt like I was ultimately making the decision. My husband is a laid back type of guy. He lives life day by day facing the challenges as they arise. For me who likes to get things done, make changes, fix the problem this has been one of my biggest learning curves: life does not have to be all worked out! Worrying about tomorrow never solved the problems of today. As he so often tells me: We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Yip, God put two total opposites together because He knew we'd make a great team, if we could just learn to work together! And this is where my challenge with submission came in. How does one submit to someone who takes life a day at a time when you're a planner? (Do you see now why God had to get me to let go of planning ruling me?) To be honest, I can't give you a complete answer, as I'm still learning ;-) But this is what I feel the Lord has said for now: Wait, be patient he's learning too. It's not your job to teach Him-it's mine. And while you wait are you patient enough to let him learn and make his own mistakes? Phew! Not teach? Not fix a problem? Be patient?
Yes, Lord if that's what You think is best, but I can only do it with your help. And that's when the restoration process began when I finally realised I had to let go of telling him what to do with our children and to let him learn for himself. Am I getting it right all the time? No. But my hope is not in me, it's in Christ and trusting Him is what I'm asked to do.
The funny thing is when I do let go and wait patiently for the Lord to teach Ray-he somehow reaches the very conclusion I have but it's usually at the right time for our family. And if he doesn't reach the same conclusion, it's usually a better plan than what I had anyway!

reading in their "castle"

So as I mentioned I started questioning again:
Should we be home schooling? One of the reasons why I asked this question was because I wasn't 100% sure if Ray was agreeing for my sake or not. And so I had to step back and give him time to make a decision.

Jenna will turn six in January. This means she could go to pre-school (Grade R) next year. Is this what Ray wanted? So we visited some Pre-schools-who just happened to be having open days at the time! (How is it that You time things so perfectly, Lord?!)
This experience was quite scary for me. Old fears came creeping back. What if he decided she had to go to school, could I really let go? And then if I didn't send her, what if I was stopping my child from God's purpose for her? Phew! Who was I to stand in God's way! The only way for me to keep myself from worrying was to remember that God is in control. Whatever Ray decided, God was right there with us. School or not, my children are His and He would be their most important teacher and protector. One of the Pre-schools we visited was very impressive: I would recommend it to anyone who wanted their child to get a varied, challenging curriculum. I came to the conclusion that Jenna would easily fit right in. And then the old fear came back: What if they didn't teach her what she really needs to know?
So after a lot more soul searching and discussion with Ray I had to admit that, for the really important things in life, I am not her best teacher. And just as I'd learnt that the Lord taught me through life He can and will do that for her too.
But I still had to wait patiently for Ray to make a decision. And eventually he did.

It took some time. And lots of patience. And then some more time while we discussed and weighed up the reasons for or against schooling/home schooling. I went through a patch of feeling confused and uncertain of my own abilities to home school. But eventually we decided together that as Jen is actually capable of doing most Grade R concepts already we'll try a trial year of following a little more of a structured schooling lifestyle.

And that's what we've been doing.

Ooops, I've digressed from the original topic haven't I? Sorry, I'll have to share a few more reasons with you next time :-)

p.s. I must add that this has been a five year journey-all the letting go of fears and preconceived ideas hasn't happened overnight!