Shortly after being put to bed, Allie decides that something isn't quite right.
A: (from her door way) Mama? Cup? Allie's Cup?
UK: (from the couch) No, Allie. No cup. Go to bed.
A: No, Mama! CUP!
I walk to her room and put her back in bed.
A: Cup, Mama. Cup.
UK: No cup, Allie. You don't need any more to drink. Go to sleep, Sweetie.
A: Mama? Um........ Ah Fun (iphone)? Ah Fun, PEES (please)??
UK: No way.
UK: (laughing now) No, baby.
A: What do??? (What do I do??)
At this point I totally lost it and gave in and got her a drink of "muk" as she calls Milk.
Is there anything cuter than a toddler finally, finally learning to say all those things you know they've been thinking all along? It definitely makes up for the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks she was raising most of today :)
Oh this story has many twists and turns, but I should probably just spill it before I get sidetracked:
When the kids finish the school year they will not be going back. We are going back to what we love - homeschooling.
Just like there were many reasons we put them in school, there are many reasons that they are leaving. I am SO GLAD that we put them in public school and just like we knew it was time that they went, Dave and I know it is time they come back home. We've all gotten the break we need, worked on the things we needed to work on, and realized that the tradeoffs are just not worth it in the end.
I have loved having time with Allie and Nolan. I have NOT loved missed David and Taylor during the day.
I have loved not having to be the teacher and I have loved both of the teachers we have had. Those women are nothing short of God Sent. I have NOT loved watched the kids not learn anything new and forget large portions of what we taught them due to a government-run monolith trying to meet so many kids on so many levels. The system is broken and I don't want to feed my kids to it.
I have loved watching them gain independence and a little more self confidence. I have NOT loved the attitudes and behaviors they have brought home.
I have loved the new experiences they have had. I have NOT loved missing the ones we could have had together.
I have loved seeing them learn how to act in a "real" classroom. I have NOT loved watching my square-peg kids try to squeeze into round holes.
When we decided to homeschool I could confidently say "Homeschooling is the best choice for our family." There came a point, however, when I was so burned out and the babies needed so much of me that I couldn't say that anymore. Now that a little time has passed and I am on better footing, I realized that I can confidently say that Homeschooling is again the best choice for our family.
It's so funny to me how these things change and how the path of a family can look different than how you think it will be. I never planned on homeschooling in the first place. Then I NEVER wanted to put my kids in public school. And then I was so tired that I couldn't imagine having it in me to homeschool again, no matter how much I loved it. And now, I see how I needed to know how my kids would do in public school. We all needed to know. I needed to know if I needed to QUIT homeschooling, if I was unable to go the distance, or if I just needed a BREAK from it because of the stress (lovely stress, though) of adding our 4th baby. I've seen such wonderful parents and kids in the public school system that I now see what a great place it can be. We had FANTASTIC teachers, a great school, and I can't fault them in anything. What I can do, though, is see how much better MY kids did at home. There are things that each of them need that a classroom just can not provide.
Now that I am out of the fog of what I affectionately call my "Post Baby Six Month Slump," I can see that I was tired. No lie, I was bone-deep tired. I was trying to do everything and be everything for everyone and if there is anything I have learned it is that I am not remotely capable of perfection. What I am capable of, is learning from my mistakes and lowering my expectations from perfection to "my best".
In January, my best meant putting the kids in public school. I don't regret putting them in school a single bit. It was, without question, the right call and it was my best. And now, my best means pulling them back out and continuing down the educational/lifestyle path we set out on. Dave and I love homeschooling. We love the philosophy behind it and we love who we are as a family with it.
I'm grateful for the rest stop and I'm even more grateful to be back on the road with my small people by my side :)
Well. That was a longer break than I intended. Best to skip the re-entry and just pick up where I left off, eh?
The kids have now been in school for almost a full four months. It is so weird to me how normal it feels. I'm sure that were we ever to go back to homeschooling that I would feel the same way. If there is anything that this major change has taught me, it's that our little family rolls with the punches pretty well. I am surprised, though, at how out of sorts I feel with what my "job" is now. For the past few years my job has been homeschooling. Just like Dave works full time, it was our position that my full time job was homeschooling. The rest of the house stuff we split. Now, though, I'm not homeschooling. And I am finding that my days have the tendency to be all or nothing and a little directionless. It's difficult to find a good, steady pace - particularly when I don't think my defining characteristic is "steady" :).
I am LOVING the time with Allie and the time with Nolan. It is so much fun to get to isolate my attention on to them for a few hours each day. I am getting to see the tiny changes they make each day so clearly and I am getting to REST with them. The difference in Allie along is nothing short of miraculous. What a funny thing. She has gone from a tempermental and almost sullen child to a bubbly, happy - albeit still tempermental - girl.
We are spending a lot of our days watching cartoons and being a little bit lazy. I think that after the last few years of roping the family into a schedule, that I'm giving the littles and myself some time off. We are working on getting a baseline established. You know, best time to get the laundry folded, how to time naps in relation to school pick up, the right time to start homework after the right amount of mind rest for the big kids. That kind of thing. Not every day goes perfectly. I realized VERY quickly, that I couldn't expect the big kids to come home from school and not have any decompressing time. I'm still trying to figure out how to let David get his crazies out from a full day of behaving but then reign him in enough to practice reading and spelling. It's a process.
Slowly, I am doing all of those things that I wanted to do while homeschooling but I didn't have the time to do. It is hard to do a total room redo while all the kids are still at home wanting to play in that room :). I'm going through room, cleaning and organizing bit by bit. There is still a hefty amount of chaos, but it gets better controlled day by day.
All in all, we are doing well. I am SO excited to have the kids home for the summer. I miss them a LOT during the day. I miss our slower mornings and I miss the fun stuff. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that this was a good choice. We are all doing great, and when I let my mind rest and just relax, I am able to really appreciate that and be thankful for it.
It was a surprisingly easy decision. Not that I didn't hyperventilate the night before their first day at public school. Not that I didn't question our decision when I learned that one of my children locked themselves in a bathroom and cried because they didn't know how to shoot a perfect basket in P.E.. Not that I didn't wonder "What am I doing??" when waking up at 6am to make sure that everyone had time to eat a good breakfast and had their lunches packed and had clean clothes and backpacks ready. Not that I didn't cry a long, long time worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong.
I did all of those things.
But the reason we quit remained.
I think that there are times when you know that you aren't necessarily making a choice that will solve every problem, but that will trade you your big problem for some smaller ones. That is what is happening here right now. I have a big reason and some small reasons for not homeschooling right now and public school solves those problems while trading me for some other ones.
The big reason is that I realized that on most days, not just some days, Allie & Nolan were not getting good "Mom" time. Allie is starting to get a pretty wicked little temper and she needs focused discipline. Unfortunately, what she was getting was sloppy discipline. She was not getting near enough attention and has been acting out in a MAJOR way. My Gator needed her Mama to look at her and really SEE what was wrong, not just distractedly parent by guesswork. And Nolan needs all those great snuggles that I gave the other three. Unfortunately, what he was getting was distracted nursing time while I tried to maintain a regular teaching time with the big kids. It's hard to revel in your little nursling while you are helping another child read and making sure the other one does her math :). I wanted to be able to really focus on Allie's behavior issues and to spend focused time with her doing those wonderful preschool things I was able to do with Taylor and David. That just wasn't happening, though, while I was focused on teaching the big kids.
Now obviously, it is perfectly possible to homeschool and give each person the attention and parenting they need. Lots of people do this and they do this well and find that homeschooling actually makes it easier. But I, personally, was struggling with it. Dave and I have always said that we would homeschool as long as it was the best choice for each member of our family. We would not sacrifice any one person's best interest on the alter of homeschooling. For now, it's not in Allie's best interest, or Nolan's, for us to be homeschooling. Or mine, for that matter. I still heartily recommend homeschooling to any and all that think it would be good for them. Homeschooling is GREAT. It's just not great for us right now.
The small reasons? Those are the ones that I would never have quit over. I was tired of not having the time to keep my home as clean as I prefer. I was tired of being too tired to enjoy cooking. I missed feathering my little nest. I missed having some free time and the ability to go to a Dr's appointment with less than four children. I wanted the kids to have more friends their ages/genders. I was tired of using my every free moment planning and problem-solving. I was tired.
I probably wouldn't have quit over just being tired, though. It was the combo of being tired and really feeling like I was giving the little ones the shaft. And who wants that? Homeschooling is awesome, but not at the expense of enjoying - really enjoying - these little years. I wanted Allie and Nolan to have the same attention as I was able to give Taylor and David and I wanted Taylor and David to be able to write me a sweet little note without me feeling like I had to correct their punctuation and spelling. Everyone needed me to just be MOM more and it wasn't happening. Throw it all together with a house that is never quite as clean as you would like it and meals that are thrown together in haste instead of love, and you have a household that is surviving, but certainly not thriving.
And friends, I want this place to THRIVE.
So that's it. We decided to quit homeschooling so that we could get back to thriving again. I'm only a week into this new life, so I can't say for sure how it will all end up (like you ever can), but for now we are finding our way.