I wrote my first post about homeschooling in January of 2008. At the time, my oldest was learning first grade at home, #2 was a toddler, and #3 was on the way. In those days there were two things that I could never imagine: 1) I would end up having five kids, and 2) someday all of my kids would go to regular school.
Three years ago Bailey entered our local parish school two months into her 4th grade year. I was overwhelmed with trying to homeschool her and first grader, to take care of preschooler and toddler, and recover from the very recent birth of baby #5. It also had started to become apparent that Bailey had reached a point where she needed the structure and discipline of “real school”. It ended up being a life-changing move for her and for me.
Since then I have continued to homeschool and care for my four younger girls at home, even after coming through a divorce. But the fact is that I have to start preparing to reenter the workforce. Homeschooling has become very time and energy consuming for me. I need that 3-4 hours per day for other things.
I had originally planned to put Piper into our parish school last year, but in the midst of the divorce, I realized that she really needed the consistency of continuing to homeschool. Regular school would have just been one change too many for her to handle. But over the course of this year, I think she has begun to realize that school might be the better option for her. Frankly, she is starting to get bored at home. At almost 10, she’s becoming less interested in playing with her little sisters, and most of our homeschooling friends have younger children. So, Piper will be entering our parish school for 4th grade in the fall.
Katie will also be going off to the parish school next year for 2nd grade. She has been a delight to teach these past two years, but if she’s going to have to go off to regular school anyway, next year will be a great year for her to start. The teacher is a wonderful Dominican sister who will gently help Katie into the school setting and prepare for her First Holy Eucharist. And Katie can not wait! She is literally counting down the days until the next school year begins.
Next year I will only have a kindergartner and a preschooler at home. It will be completely surreal to only have two kids with me during the day. And I know that the next school year will mean a major lifestyle shift for us, which is both exciting and terrifying.
I know, though, that this is a necessary stepping stone to prepare us for the day when all of my kids will have to go to regular school while I work a full-time job. I am thankful that my kids and I have been able to make these changes gradually rather than having our entire lives turned upside down in the wake of the divorce.
We have only a few days left in this school year. As Piper and Katie finish their books, I am hit with the realization that this might be my last time teaching 3rd and 1st grade. If I could control the future I would homeschool my last two children through first grade. After the next school year, though, I need to be prepared to take a full-time job if the position I want opens up.
This means that Sabrina would start school in 1st grade, and little Cassidy may never experience being homeschooled at all. That idea makes me kind of sad; I might not be the first one who sees all of those lightbulbs go off inside of her little mind like I was privileged to do with her sisters.
My original reasons for choosing to homeschool my kids are just as valid as they were when I wrote them down 8 years ago, and I have no regrets about the decision. However, I have had to face at times that my realities for homeschooling have at times fallen short of my ideals. I have had to humble myself and admit that homeschooling is not always a good fit for every kid or every family, including my own at times. I have learned that both homeschooling and regular schooling have their pros and cons. And I have had to learn to trust other people to make up for my limitations as a mother, a teacher, and a human being.
I’m not finished with homeschooling just yet, but graduation is looming before me. And it’s kind of bittersweet.