Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Confessions of a Failed Home-School Mom

I'm an organized, scheduled, ambitious person. Or, I was, before trying to home-school my kids.

I can't name one thing that ultimately brought me down. It was just everything. If parenthood is the equivalent of ten different simultaneous full-time jobs, then home-schooling parenthood is like running a company while running a marathon while stopping to wipe the nose of every person in the crowd. 

I spent ten years doing admin and office management work before doing this full-time stay-at-home-mom thing, and it was glorious. In the office, I was a coffee-driven superhero bringing order to the world around me. 

Once I became a stay-at-home mom, everything I thought I knew about time management and collaborative success went out the window with three babies and the bath water. Except there wasn't actually any bath water, because with three babies, it's really just wet wipes and baby powder over and over and over. You know it.

My children hated homeschooling. I loved the idea of homeschooling, but in practice, it was like saving a puppy from a burning building, only to have it gather every dog in the neighborhood and run back in. It was making cookies while cleaning the septic tank, and accidentally licking your fingers. It was sitting next to a five-year-old on a six-hour flight who just learned the theme song to "Barney." It was adding caramel sauce to the wash cycle to help get out the ketchup stains. It was feeding ducks and watching turtles and hiking trails and stopping by church, on a good day. It was also muttered curses, crying in the closet, and endless to-do lists, on a good day. (Rarely was it reading, writing, tracing, memorizing, or phonics -- even on a good day.)

Home-schooling should be incorporated into both the summer and winter Olympics, because it takes resolve and skill like no other, and it never ends. (Actually, a lot of those Olympians home-school, so I guess it's represented alright.)

But for me, for this season, I will drag my weary soul onto the glistening island oasis of our neighborhood public school, feel the sun on my face, and thank God Almighty that He has made a better way.

What started as a bid for free babysitting in the midst of a three-month move with one-year-old twins in the third trimester of pregnancy has become a joy for my kids, and a new hope for me.

I wanted my kids in sports, but didn't want the evening games and club fees: PE! 

I wanted my kids to draw and paint and create, but I hate messes in my kitchen: Art Class! 

I wanted my kids to learn typing and technology, but their mysteriously sticky fingers on my Mac make me cringe: Computer Class! 

I wanted to check out books and attend story time at the library, but quietude is not a thing with a chorus of three babies: A School Library!

I wanted my kids to love reading and writing, and to feel kind of okay and functional at math: They love it all!

We might go back to home-schooling, someday, if we discern that it's the best route to our kids' academic, social, and moral success. 

But for now, the best education we can give our kids is at our local public school with amazing, caring professionals who did more in two months at the end of the school year than I did in the eight months preceding. (And it's not one of those "private public schools" made up of white, upper-class kids whose families can afford the real estate. This is a Title I neighborhood school that's just doing really great stuff with their students.)

And so, I will take your 40 hours of free babysitting a week, by the most amazing "babysitter" I've ever met -- music, art, sports, technology, all the basics, and hot lunch. 

And I will pay attention to my babies at home, so they aren't in speech therapy as two-year-olds, because no one has talked to them in two years. (Or we'll just do our best to recover from this purely hypothetical situation.)

And I will have special one-on-one time with my "big" kids in the evenings and on the weekends, and it will not be Mom raising her voice with empty threats and lowering it with expletives. Or well, hopefully, at least not most of the time.

Thank you, Public School.

NBD. It's just THEIR FUTURE we're talking about here.

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