For years I joked about the “magic yellow bus that came and took children away.” This year it takes away three of mine.*
After sixteen years of teaching my children at home, five years of medical crises, and a whole lot of other reasons, I’m tired. This past May I began researching curriculum for this school year and I started crying. I looked at the beautiful sleeping face of our newest baby, and I knew beyond any doubt that I didn’t want to still be homeschooling until she graduated high school. The thought of another eighteen years of this lifestyle were NOT the way I wanted to live.
I thought back to the woman I was when I stepped out in faith and self-assurance and made the decision to tackle my kids’ education myself. I was twenty six years old back then, the mom of three small children. My eldest was four and a half, and the boys were almost two and brand spanking new. At no time did I think I’d be homeschooling for the next thirty four years. It never occurred to me that I could be homeschooling until I was sixty.
Thirty four years. That’s how long it would be if I continued teaching until the baby graduated high school. It’s overwhelming to me to even write it. A friend of mine and I joke that you can’t “do the math” or you’d never be able to do anything, but in this case I can’t stop doing the math. I don’t want to homeschool for thirty four years. I just don’t.
I flirted with the idea of putting the children in school last year, but a hinky feeling and a general mutiny from the children put that on hold. Adding a new baby to the family pushed me over the edge, so I just closed my eyes and leaped. I’m so glad that I did. This school year has had the most peaceful beginning of any in years.
We prayerfully discerned what was best for each child, and my three extroverts are loving the crowded hallways and sea of faces in public school. They chatter away about recess, reading groups, and new friends. My two eldest sons are taking classes online and at the local community college through the dual credit program, and our eldest daughter is a college senior studying neuroscience. Which leaves me with only my 10 year old and the sweet new baby at home.
This one child just works best in complete silence, so the strange quietness in my house is suiting him to a T. He has his own learning nook by a picture window where he reads and works for most of the morning. We break for a walk with the baby after lunch, and then he learns until his siblings start coming home around 2:30. There’s a freedom for my child who has sensory issues to be able to be blessedly alone for most of his day, and in getting the one-on-one time with me that he desperately needs. He’s calmer and happier, and when his brother and sisters burst through the door in the afternoon, he’s got the reserves built up to roll with the chaos they bring in their wake.
During the day are these quiet hours when I just get to hang out with the baby. I haven’t had a baby without a toddler nearby since my eldest was born. I’d forgotten how fun it was to listen to screams of baby giggles without hearing “Do that to me, Mom” or “I need to go potty.” I have the time and the freedom to be just her mom for a little while each day, and it’s such a gift to us both. I have loved the joy of motherhood these past twenty-one years, but I’d forgotten about the quiet peace that can be found in the presence of a baby.
When I started homeschooling all those years ago, my husband and I agreed it was going to be a year-by-year and child-by-child decision. I confess that I lied. I thought I’d be doing it until the last child graduated and left my house. I was in it for the long haul. Then I suddenly wasn’t.
I woke up one morning and knew down to my bones that this was no longer the best option for every member of our family, and on that day I was done teaching all but one. This is going to be an interesting year as they adjust to learning from someone who’s not me in a place that’s not here, and I adapt to a life with all this amazing silence and learn how to spend all of this extra time that I suddenly find on my hands.
*Figuratively speaking. I’m driving them not the bus.
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