Discovering God’s Plan
Before I was even married, people were already asking me what I planned to do for my future children’s education. They were curious to see what this homeschool girl turned traditional school teacher would choose for her own family. And each time I would answer them truthfully saying, “I don’t know. We’ll see what God has in store.”
My Homeschool Background
The oldest of seven children, my parents decided to begin homeschooling when I was in kindergarten. Initially, their decision was motivated by my father’s dream to sail around the world with us after an early retirement. And so he encouraged my mother to begin homeschooling saying, “Sweetheart, how much could you mess up Kindergarten?”
Well, the sailing dream never ended up happening, but what began as a trial continued in our household as I matured through grammar school and then high school. That’s not to say that there weren’t times when we considered and even desired “real” school. But God revealed repeatedly to my parents that this was his plan for our family.
Though I didn’t always “love” being homeschooled, looking back I consider this to have been a blessed time in my life. I love that I received a classical education where I was able to read Aristotle, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Federalists and Antifederalists, and much more. I love that I was able to work at my own pace, preparing me for the college years when self-discipline and time management are crucial. I love that I was never held back, forced to wait for others to catch up, or desperately trying to keep up with more intelligent classmates; that I received an education tailored to my individual learning style and needs.
Becoming an Educator
I’ll never forget a conversation that I had with my mother following one of my first teaching interviews shortly after college. Here I was, fresh out of a small, liberal arts college with a degree in Literature. I had absolutely no formal teaching experience or preparation. All I had was my desire to teach and my resume outlining my work ethic. What was worse, I had never even been in a traditional classroom. I remember telling my mom, “They must think I’m crazy!”
Even still, I was (miraculously) hired as a 4th/5th-grade Religion teacher. What followed was a year with a stiff learning curve. I remember sheepishly asking one of my colleagues, “What exactly is a homeroom teacher?” Thanks to my classical education, I had plenty of knowledge to share with my students, but I had much to learn about the practicalities of teaching—things like classroom management, grading systems, alternative assessments, and differentiated instruction.
After three years continuing as a Religion teacher, I was able to finish my alternative certification and transition to my true passion as an English Language Arts teacher. And though I wasn’t by any means a perfect teacher, I loved every minute of it. I was privileged to meet and help form hundreds of wonderful students, each of whom will forever remain in my heart. I also learned much about myself in those five years, receiving valuable preparation for motherhood.
Navigating the Waters of Discernment:
When my husband and I were going through our marriage preparation, our future children’s education was one of our many topics of discussion. Both educators, we obviously have lots of opinions on education in general. We agreed that this would be something we would need to remain open to and to discern together.
And though it’s hard to believe, with our daughter turning four this fall that time for discernment is upon us. A few months ago we began the painstaking process of figuring out what would be best for our child. Should we teach her exclusively at home? Should we do a homeschool hybrid program? Or, should we pursue a traditional school? If so, which one and for how many days a week? As possibilities and seemingly endless questions continued to pile up, I found myself becoming increasingly overwhelmed. My melancholic temperament began to despair, worrying about failing and making the wrong choice.
Beware a “One Fits All” Mentality:
I am a firm believer in that just as every child is completely and totally unique, so too are their learning needs and styles. So, when discerning your child’s academic future this has to play part in the equation. This also means that there might not be a “one fits all” decision. One child might thrive in the one-on-one, catered environment of homeschooling, while the other might feel stifled and isolated.
I think this is important for us mothers to remember with other families as well. Just because homeschooling is what my family feels called to, doesn’t mean it’s what everybody needs to do. Or, just because I personally feel like school is the right fit doesn’t mean people are “crazy” or “wrong” for homeschooling their children.
Your Decision isn’t Permanent:
I also had to remind myself that I was making a decision for this school year only, and not for all eternity. That may seem dramatic, but I was becoming so overwhelmed by the prospect of making the “wrong choice” that it quickly became debilitating. Stepping back helped me remember that whatever decision we made for the year could always be changed and revised. We could always go back to homeschooling or vice versa. I just had to figure out what was best for us now, in the present moment.
Let Go and Let God
I think often times when we’re faced with a big decision, we tend to focus on our own experiences and fears. In my case, I had a tremendous fear of allowing my daughter to go to school. As I tried to get to the root of that fear, I learned that it came from two sources:
1) Having been homeschooled myself, I began to feel like I would be a failure if I didn’t feel I could do it. As if I wasn’t enough.
2) I feared the lack of control. I know that I can’t protect my daughter from everything, nor do I want to. But I do want to protect her innocence as long as possible. One of the benefits of sending your child to school is the peer interaction and the way it broadens their learning and concept of life.
But this is a double-edged sword. Because with that larger community also comes things I’d rather my child not learn. I can’t control the words she’ll hear or the mannerisms she’ll pick up from the other children. And as a former teacher myself, I know that the teacher can’t always monitor what is going on amongst students. Faced with this prospect, this first-time momma suddenly saw herself transforming into the dreaded “helicopter parent” we would talk about as teachers.
My conclusion in all of this was that I had to let those fears go. If I truly felt that school was best for my daughter, was what God desired for our family, then I had to surrender it all to Him. That doesn’t mean that I won’t relapse into fear or that it won’t be a struggle, but I choose to trust that God loves my child much more than I do. That He will not lead our family astray when we are honestly seeking His will.
Where We Are Now
So, in case you’ve been on pins and needles, here’s where our family is in the process. Through prayer, we felt that God was leading us to try out school with our daughter. We’ve chosen to put her into a precious two-day program at a nearby parish school. I love the school’s philosophy of education and their emphasis on a “play-centered” learning experience. The blessing of this program, too, is that my daughter will still be home with me three days a week. This allows us to ease into this whole school thing and to even homeschool during the other three weekdays.
By doing a little bit of both this year, I hope to use it as an opportunity to further discern the Lord’s will. If my daughter is thriving at school and we are happy with her progress then we may choose to become a full-time school family. However, if I feel like our time at home is filled with quality time where she and her brother are being pushed to their fullest potential then we may begin entirely homeschooling.
We’ll see what the Lord has in store. But either way, we’re doing our best to remain open to His will. No matter what, though, I know it will end up being an adventure. I hope sharing this process with you assists you in your own discernment journey and would love to read your thoughts/additional points in the comments below.