July 13, 2011

Why I signed my kids up for School

I have given this post a lot of thought. I have written and re written (mostly in my head) the explanation for why my 3 oldest babies are headed to school September. Lara in Grade 4, Erin Grade 2, and Peyton JK.

My decision is complicated and personal and I was not sure if I wanted to share my heart or if I can explain it all properly. But I think it is important to be honest about what is going on in my head. I think it is important to be real here. Maybe if I share it will help someone out there...

I will start by saying that my decision has almost nothing to do with homeschooling itself. It has to do with me as wife and mother.

I realize now that it may take a couple of posts to explain myself.  The reasons I have chosen to homeschool my children are numerous, complicated, and wrapped up within each other. So are the reasons why I have decided to send them to a public education system for the year.  Do I feel the NEED to explain myself to all of you? no. But just like how I want to share my life and thoughts about homeschooling with you all, I also want to share with you the reason for my decision. I figure if I am real about who I am and what makes me tick, then I just may help someone out there who feels the same way.

I think it is very important to say that I still believe wholeheartedly in homeschooling. It is a part of me and I am feeling quite emotional about letting it go for a while. Only other homeschoolers will be able to understand this. No offence to my schooling mom friends, but there is a reason why I do things differently. We are different and believe different things, and feel differently about the school system.  No big deal. We are all entitled to feel how we want in life and about life's choices. That is why I love you and you love me ;)

But this post is not about why I love homeschooling, or why school is fine, or why school is not fine, or why homeschooling does not work for everyone. This post is about why I signed my kids up for school and the emotions and thoughts behind it.  Perhaps after reading this my friends will be more understanding when I freak out in September or cry every once in a while even though I am confident in my decision.

In order to understand me a little better I need to give you a little background...

When I married Adam 10 years ago, having children was not yet on my radar. So you can imagine my surprise when I became pregnant on our honeymoon. It was a HUGE shock and something I was not prepared for. I always joke that it took me 9 months to be happy about it. I had to work REALLY HARD on WANTING to be a mother. When there was no possibility of 'returns' what choice did I really have anyway? I figured if I had to be a part of this mothering club then Gosh Darn it I will be the best mother I can be. It took a while for me to get the hang of it, and before I knew it I could not imagine, nor did I want to imagine my life any other way. I never wanted to give up trying to be the best mother I could be for my babies. I wanted to do a great job, and to be honest, I started to LOVE BEING A MOM!  (so glad that God knows better what is good for me)

I haven't given up, and most of the time life has been wonderful.  My kids are learning, they are fed, they are having moments of joy. In fact for the most part I would say we have a pretty fabulous family and I've experienced Joy and love like I've never felt before.

But....As it turns out, just being there and not giving up, doesn't completely count as really wanting to be a mother. I've spent the last 9 years embracing this motherhood that I never really wanted. I have done everything that I thought I should want to do. There are times when I have been happy. In fact I think perhaps even years, but there are also other times where I don't recognize the person that is Alyson beneath my mothering skin.

There have been some incredible times but too often as of late there are moments I am ashamed to admit. There have been moments when I didn't want to keep being myself. When I was so low and so miserable with the person I was inhabiting, sitting locked in the bathroom so the babies wouldn't see me so broken, that I didn't know where I would find the energy to keep being who I was. When this happens I get worried. I want...no I NEED to be a good wife and mother for my family.

It is for THIS reason that I have signed them up for school. For THESE DAYS that have come all too often in the last 2 years. I did it to save my babies from their mom. I did it to save them from growing up with a mother that is too tired or busy trying to keep it all together that I don't have anything left for them at the end of the day. I did it to hopefully prevent them from experiencing the days when I just don't want to be me anymore.

Now the REASON for THESE days vary but after much prayer and reflection I'm pretty sure of the cause;

Ever since Audrey was born (Sept 2009), I have been so incredibly busy that I feel like I'm going to burst at the seams. I must admit that I did not think adding a fourth child would be THAT much more work than 3. But oh Moses! Most days I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The chickens, the farmhouse, the groceries, laundry, appointments,activities, supper, an active toddler AND a crazy baby AND trying to find the time for my running, the older girls, organizing and planning for school, my husband,friends and church. I just can't take it anymore. As wonderful as our life is and as good of a job as I think I am doing, something has to give.

I know that sending them to school is not going to solve all issues and expect that different ones will come. I just want to miss them. I want to have a little more energy to do the things I need to do around the house and greet them at the end of the school day. I want to be their rock in times of trouble and not the cause of it. I want them to come home to a safe and loving home with the open arms of a mother who adores them and wants to hear about their day.

After many hours of talking and praying, my husband and I decided we'd rather have our kids in school (at least for a time), knowing our marriage is healthy and Mom is healthy, than homeschool just because it is our 'ideal' or because it is what we have always done.

I am admitting that I just can't do it all anymore and that I just need a BREAK,  and that I've failed at the things that are most important to me. I've failed at being the mother and wife my children deserve me to be and it is time that I fix it before the relationships can no longer be repaired.

I've tried creating space to breathe while homeschooling, but it is just not working out. I have found it so hard to juggle the babies and the two oldest girls. They are two separate groups and I'm ready to admit that I am not doing the best job at making sure all four kids get the best of me.

Some days are AMAZING...but it is the days when the girls need my help with school, the baby is standing in the toilet, Peyton wants to play a game, the laundry needs hanging and folding..ect ect ect, where I just feel like a failure to them.  I get it all done, but in the midst of it all I yell too loudly, I'm too harsh with my words, and my children just don't feel loved by their mother who adores them so so much. 
For me it is just not worth 'keeping it all together', if it is affecting our personal relationships with each other, and their spirits.

I need to have faith that God will be here with us. That he HAS been here all along and will continue to be there alongside us no matter what. I need to believe that HE is bigger than the method of education we choose for our family.
I need to believe that our family can still become the God honoring family I know He wants from us while entering a world that is not so 'ideal'.

I want to ENJOY being here with my babies. I want to be able to BREATHE. My oldest daughter just turned 9 and soon my other babies will follow. I don't want to be SO BUSY that I miss all the joy there is to be found being with them.

I have help, a supportive husband and my own hobbies. It is not that I am so overrun by JUST the kids that I just can't take it anymore. It is everything adding up that makes it overwhelming.

My cup overfloweth with goodness but sometimes it is just too much all at once for me to enjoy it.

In order to keep doing everything I want to do without losing my mind or blowing up something has to give. Homeschooling would work if I had very independent and motivated learners. perhaps some day that will very well be the case. OR at this point it would work if I only homeschooled Sept-end of April taking the month of December off. Maybe if I took a bigger life learning approach but until they have their ABC's and 123's down I don't think that is going to work.

So we are going to try school. I will be sad when they can't share in some of the learning that happens here on the farm or other opportunities that will arrive.I will be very sad not to be able to share in their day as much as we do, or do the wonderful things we have the privilege of doing because we are home. But we can't have it all or do it all and we must do what is important for the greater good. Right now the greater good and the greater good is a mother who is happy with her role and ready giver her all to the people that matter.

It has come down to this: My mental health, my marriage and my relationship with my babies is all suffering. I am exhausted, grumpy, losing it regularly, and, it comes out toward the people I love the most: my husband, and the kids I am trying to give such a wonderful life to. I have been so focused on “keeping the plates spinning” that my insides are rotting. Irrational as it sounds, I have been feeling angry ALL THE TIME because I have been feeling there is “no way out.”
What good would it do if I homeschooled, but lost my marriage and relationships with my children in the process?

In fact if you ask me point blank I will say that yes I do think that homeschooling or alternative education is a better option than what is currently available in our public school system. That is just my opinion and I'm entitled to it. Offering my children a different choice was ONE of the reasons I homeschooled my kids.
But this is not about my opinion of homeschooling. Nor is this about education at all. This is about me explaining my decision to change directions for a while.

Lara is turning 9 this year and Audrey is 20 months. I know now all too well that the years are racing by. I feel like it was only yesterday Lara wore those same shoes that Audrey is now wearing. I don't want to miss it. I don't want to be so busy trying to juggle EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME that I miss THAT. I don't want to regret. I don't want to wake up 20 years from now and regret the time I wasted away with my children.

I am so busy trying to remember appointments, thinking of what to take out for supper, and what the girls need to work on next, that I've MISSED out on the simple beauties of being a MOTHER. I MISS sitting in a park while my babies play. MISS having time to draw and snuzzle. Well that time in our lives is not over and I'm not going to miss another day of it.

There are some INCREDIBLE women around me that CAN juggle the household responsibilities and homeschooling. Frankly, perhaps I should say the same about my amazing friends that also balance having a job and keeping their kids and house together.

But I am not them and I need to eat my humble pie for a while and recognize that it is just not working out for me right now.

It could be burnout, depression or just plain don't want to do it anymore. Whatever that cause or reason I am o.k accepting that homeschooling my kids is just not for us next year.

...And I am finally for the first time in too long looking forward to what that may look like.

The Short of It:

I FEEL like for the past 2 years I have been running constantly in different directions and not doing anything as productively as I should. I feel as though I've gone through the motions and have not been present with my children.

The days are going by so quickly and my lists are so long that I CAN'T stop to breathe. I just...can't...breathe and I want to take a deep breathe so so badly. I want to take a deep breath to hold and nurture all four of my babies.

So I'm taking a year off of homeschooling and taking some deep....deep breaths. Once I've had a break we will go from there.

***Update...It is now July (I wrote this post in May)....I am already feeling better about life. Was I just burnt out? was I depressed? Who knows. All I know is now that our school year is over, and I have taken the time to enjoy being a mother again, our family life is once again thriving.  
Part of me thinks that all I needed was a break, and that I would have been refreshed again for another homeschooling year in September. But the other part of me is o.k with seeing how things go. I want to CONTINUE having enough energy to love my kids at the end of the day.  If sending my children to school is what I need to do to maintain my sanity than so be it. Only time will tell !!


Meghan said...

Thanks for being so honest, it really helps to see other moms struggle as well. Also, I totally knew near the end that this post was from a few months ago. I was like 'wait a minute Audrey is 22 months like Ben not 20 months'! hehehe

Kirsten said...

You are incredible, and brave. You are doing what's right for you right now, and that is what is important. I'm sooooo proud of you for putting yourself on the list of what is most important in your life.
Love you and all your family very much and I am looking forward to seeing how this all goes for you.

alltheprettythings said...

brave and wonderful and real and probably a little scared putting it all out there....

It takes an unbelievable courageous mom to look beyond the ideal of your mind, the vision of the "shoulds" and do what you know your children and your family need....

Thanks for sharing your heart....

We will sincerely be praying for you through all of this...

Carey said...

You are an amazing woman Alyson! IT may be hard, but you will never regret doing this for you and your family. Being a mom is the hardest job out there, one that I would never trade either, but there are times when we do lose ourselves and we have to find our way back. My mom lost herslef in rasing her kids, and when we all grew up, she didnt know what to do with herself. She suffered from depression(and still does), andthings like guilt, sadness, and a little depression fell on me because of the things that followed. I dont want that for my kids, so i try very hard not to fall into that trap, but i too find myslef falling all lot of the times. I will be praying for you. And know that you are doing the right thing for your family. And if/when the time comes, you will be ready to embrace homschooling again, and enjoy it!

Dad said...

Your doing just fine. The Kids are going to enjoy school and you will feel a lot different come the end of the first school year for them.
Its going to be a new adventure for all of you.
The good thing is its a small country school and not the big city massive schools. I'm sure the school will welcome your help and involvment. Just keep in mind, let the teachers do their jobs.

Stacey said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I admit, I really want to homeschool my kids, but my husband is totally against it at this point. So I reluctantly send my son to school (he just finished Kindergarten this year). And you know, this post is one of the main reasons that my husband doesn't want me to homeschool. He doesn't want me to be burned out, or stressed out, or struggling with the demands of life. This really helped me to see his point of view a little more clearly :)

RoryBore said...

Such an honest, and Brave post. Absolutely you don't have to justify your reasons to us your readers, but I so appreciate your honesty. I see all too many mothers at the local park, a restaurant, a play date and I can hear that tight control to their voice that tells me: they are barely hanging on. They are sinking. Who is there to throw them a lifeline? A supportive spouse? Do they call out to a loving God? Do they have what I have to get them through those dark long days that threaten to swallow them whole? Do they cry into their pillow at night for how they have failed that day, and vowing to do better tomorrow. But alas, it is still knotted up inside them, and tomorrow is no different. A never ending circle of failure and regret. So far from God's divine design for mothers.

Us moms -- we are WHOLE people - not just wives and moms. This idea that has sprung that we are to do it all - and with an ever present smile on our face - it's just not realistic. And its unfair. It's destroying moms, and in turn, the very family we are called to lovingly serve. We are faced with a hundred different judgements and criticisms for our choices. Baby wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and yes, schooling. Each one of us has to make the best decision for our family, for ourselves as moms, and as a woman with our own needs.
And how much easier would it be to do that with the support and encouragement of those around us. Those that should lift us up to walk the path our wise Father had long ago layed out for us. I have read your blog for awhile now. I know that He leads in all you do. I have complete confidence in you. Whats more, the God who resides in your home has equipped you to succeed! I think there is a gift of wisdom and a discerning heart, that maybe seemed lost or buried for a time, but is no less present. And of one thing I am absolutely certain: no matter the location of your childrens' schooling....HE will go with them. The shining beacon of truth that will light their path. He will always be there with them....even when you cannot, and all other lights have gone dim.

jacs said...

You are an incredible woman, my friend. Thank you for sharing this. Your kids and husband are amazing and I know that you'll all come through this stronger than ever!


water runner said...

Bravo Alyson! Well said. I hear you.

Love ya -