Making the Tough Decision to Send My Homeschooled Kids Off to School
This month parents throughout America parents are taking their small children out into the yard with adorable letter 'K' signs, snapping pictures and sending them out into the cyber world, capturing for posterity their child's first day of school.
In years past, I have simply ignored these pictures as they float across the social media platforms, not because I don't like children or that I don't have children, but because I have homeschooled my children.
For the past seven years, our typical first day of school at home in late August begins like all other days all other years: bright and early with a steaming cup of coffee, myself and my three children wearing pajamas. We would gather around the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer and then the children would fall into bean bags, or a pile of pillows with books, pencils and erasers piled up around them. Sometimes the dogs or the cat would join them for their studies. It never once occurred to me to print out their grade on a piece of paper and stand them in the yard. I know what grade they are, and everyone else I know has been clued in that I am certainly too busy schooling them to print out their grade.
Suddenly that image of the smiling child holding his grade number seems terribly, terribly significant. Because this year my two oldest children will go to school. Real school. With desks and teachers. With grades and report cards.
I would like to stand them in the yard with a large number 8 and 6, indicating their respective grades to save for all posterity their first day of school, but I doubt their adolescent selves would consent to that, and so in our family's scrapbook there will be an apparent photo lacking. A coming of age ceremony that this homeschooling mom missed.
Back in February, sending them to school was clearly the right answer. Because homeschooling, no matter how rewarding is challenging. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying). As my oldest son became a teenager, it became even more challenging. On top of the normal challenging behaviors my son was beginning to experience, our academics became wrapped up in that turmoil. He was convinced that punctuation was something I simply annoyed him with; it was not an actual academic rule. I also made up the X in algebra -- in my spare time.
Every morning, instead of harmonious learning, I dug my heels in for a fight. Our fighting was negatively impacting the learning of my other two children. It took up a lot of my time and a lot of my energy. I began to notice that he had much more positive learning exchanges with his swim coach and the teachers at the enrichment program I sent him to once a week. It became clear that he needed someone other than me to educate him. While it hurt a little to acknowledge he had outgrown me, it also means he has grown -- which has been the ultimate end goal.
I spent much of the spring deciding where to send him to school and which program matched up best with the one I had used at home. I felt a wave of relief once I had made the decision. In the midst of this decision making process, I also decided to send my other son to school. He too is approaching adolescence, and while he is a different child, I have decided it will be a cold, cold day in hell before I try to homeschool another middle school child again.
I have felt firm and solid in this decision -- until this week. As I see these pictures of adorable children on their first day of school begin to circle around the web, as the supply lists begin to arrive in my inbox, as the school uniforms emerge from the laundry, all bright and red, blue and white, tan and navy, my heart begins to moan under the weight of this decision.
Visions of my boys curled up in beanbags dance before my eyes, lunches together, field trips -- their silly laughs, the fights and struggles. I don't know if I will ever heal from the hole they will leave in my heart and the aching silence that will fill my house.
While I feel my own pain poignantly, I am also afraid for them. I am afraid they will not make friends. They will hate school. They will not succeed. That I have not prepared them well enough.