Tuesday, August 16, 2011


On Monday, we went to orientation for our new home-school co-op. It was:

A relief

As I mentioned earlier, we are trying something completely different this year. We are doing the academic program at a home school co-op, which is designed to combine the idea of private school with home school.

For the most part, I loved all of the teachers in my kids' classes. They seemed energetic, full of ideas and excited about the year. They all talked about their ideas to bring the subject matter in their classrooms to life through games, discussion, projects and activities.

I am a big list follower, so my idea of a successful school year is to complete every page in all of our workbooks. :) I am excited for my kids to get to experience a different approach with teachers who take the subject matter seriously, but also want to add an element of fun.

I also realized how much I enjoy being part of something that is bigger than myself. All of the families gathered in the auditorium where nearly every seat was taken. It made me feel good to be surrounded by so many other like-minded families and all of that noise and chatter.

The kids all seem to have a good mix of boys and girls in their classes, and the class sizes seemed great, as well. Most of them look like they will be between 10 to 15 kids per class, which I think is perfect.

All of the teachers went through their syllabi for the year and our assignments for the first week. I was overwhelmed by how I will keep track of everything, but at the same time totally relieved to have someone else planning out our workload for the year!

From listening to conversations and talking to other families, it seemed like a lot of families had entered this environment from a private school. It made me wonder if I'm part of a new "breed" of home schooling families. It seemed like a lot of people there still wanted the structure and classroom atmosphere of private school, but some of the flexibility of home school. The program is costly, but for those who have done the private school thing before, it seems doable.

Of course, not everything was perfect. But we are ready to get rolling for the year! The first day is Monday, and I'm starting to plan how I will spend those six hours while the three big kids are out of the house. Don't worry. I think I'll find a way to fill my time.


Monday, August 15, 2011

School choices: The conclusion

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

Why did I write all of this? Honestly, I kind of wish I had just written one simple blog post saying what we are doing for the fall. I kind of wish I had not revealed my inner struggle and all of my craziness.

But I have discovered over the past few years that a lot of people make assumptions about why people do things. They assume that because you have chosen a certain path, it must be working perfectly for you or you must have some superhero power that makes it possible for you to do what you do.

I guess I learned during the last few months that I make those same assumptions!

The truth is, it's a lot of work to have kids. It's a lot of work to have one kid... or two or three or four or more. They all have different needs and different interests. No matter what path we choose — home school, private school or public school — it is work!

All parents have to be involved in educating their children, parenting them and raising them, regardless of where we send them to school. Every option has different benefits and struggles. NO MATTER WHAT!

And that is another thing I discovered this summer. I need to stop looking at all of the other options and thinking something else would be soooo much easier or so perfect. An option might be better because of a family's situation and the children in that family, but that doesn't mean it's better for everyone.

Up until this year, I also thought people must be crazy to choose several different schooling options for kids within their family. Now, I can totally understand why a family might think it's best to send one child to public school, another to private and home school a third. I finally get it.

It's kind of funny to me that one of the scariest things for me about "real" school was entering back into the world of homework. We have been there before. I can't say home school is "easier" than doing homework. Either option has strengths and benefits. Both are work!

This also was a huge lesson for me in trusting God. I can't tell you how many times I asked him to just tell us what to do. I don't feel a "calling" from God that this new program we are going to try is going to be just what we're supposed to do. I wish I did. It would give me so much confidence every morning to fall back on that.

I don't feel a deep conviction that our kids HAVE to go to private school or that they SHOULD go to public school. I also don't feel a conviction that we HAVE to home school.

God didn't give me a lightning bolt that clearly marked the way. I know we are going to face difficult days, and we might even regret this decision at times. However, what I learned is that I can trust Him to go through it with us. And that is what gives me peace.


Insomnia sets in

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

We got home from vacation and I went to the web site of our local school district to find out what I needed to do to register. I downloaded the 58-page "Back to School Handbook." I read it carefully.

We were at the point that we were both OK with sending our kids to public school. We knew we would face challenges we had never faced before. But we also knew that could be a growing experience for our family.

Every morning, I got up and looked at the registration form.

And I would sit and stare at it.

This would be a big change for us. Were we really ready?

That's when the insomnia set in.

I should have been so excited to think about all that freedom! No home school! Drop off the kids five days a week!

But instead, I was having a hard time giving up a different type of freedom home schooling offers. I was willing to do it, but I was having a hard time with it.

I was having a hard time leaving the awesome community of home school families we have come to love. We would still see those families on a regular basis, but it would take more effort.

Mostly, we have worked really hard over the past two years on some difficult subjects. And we have seen tremendous progress in those areas. If you have ever had a child who struggled with something, you know that it's a lot easier to help him or her first thing in the morning when the child is fresh and alert than it is at 4 or 5 p.m. when he or she is mentally exhausted from a full day at school. So we were concerned that we might quickly fall back to a place we had been two years ago with those struggles.

But one of the big things nagging on me was that home-school co-op I had mentioned back at the beginning. The program was different from anything we had done in the past. The idea behind it is that it's supposed to be a mix of private school and home school.

The kids would be there two days a week, Monday and Friday. On Mondays, they would go to classes covering all of their academic subjects. They would have teachers go over the material with them for the week and do all the things kids do in a normal class room: group activities, discussion of literature, science experiments. And then the teachers (not me!) would give them their assignments for the rest of the week. They also would have tests and receive report cards.

On Fridays, they would get to do all of their fun classes: gym, book club, cooking, art and a whole range of other topics from which to choose.

During the rest of the week, we would work through their assignments at home. It would definitely be more restrictive. But compared with our other two options — private school and public school — it seemed like we would still get to experience some of the flexibility of home school.

I realized that all of the things that made public school seem attractive to me were also true at the co-op:

  • I want my kids to have teachers other than me.
  • No matter how hard I try, my kids aren't going to try to impress me by doing a good job on their assignments the way they would try to impress a teacher.
  • I'm don't want to argue with my children about the assignments I give them. Every home schooling mom out there knows what I'm talking about. My kids would never argue with a teacher about an assignment, so I don't want them to argue with me.
  • I'm very hard on myself when it comes to my standards. I always question if my standards are too high or too low. I just want someone else to set the standard.
  • I want them to get report cards. I want some way to compare how they are doing with the rest of the world.
  • I want them to have peer pressure in a positive way. I want them to try to get their math facts done in one minute because they want to do it faster than the kid next to them.
  • I want to get a break from them once it a while! (It's OK to say that!!)

I also realized that I was always going to wonder what it would have been like if we didn't give it a try. I saw it as a back-up plan when I signed us up in the spring. But after spending so much time thinking through the other options and after asking God all summer to show me the way, I finally felt good about it.

My husband was on board. And the kids were definitely on board.

We know of four other families who are already friends of ours who are doing all or part of the program. We are all very excited about that! 

Most of all, I felt at peace. I know it won't be perfect. I might even regret it. But I finally got to a place where I was OK with that. 

So... That's why I said at the beginning I should call this, "How I ruined my summer." I spent the entire summer searching for another way and ended up right back where I started!

And why did I just write six blog posts to tell you what many of you already knew?

I hope you will come back and read the next post to find out...


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hmmm? That's a revolutionary idea!

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

So... we were in the Smoky Mountains staring at that big white envelope with our application for private school. I explained in the last post why we just didn't feel settled about putting it in the mail.

I should add here that I was praying constantly about all of this. If God wasn't willing to give me a lightning bolt, then I would settle for peace about the decision. If I were to try to tell you what I learned about trusting God through this process, that would take another six posts, and I know no one has the energy for that!

My husband and I spent a lot of time talking. We realized that many times when you have done something for a while, you start to lose sight of why you started doing it in the first place. When you are around other people doing the same thing, you listen to their reasons and you start comparing yourself or telling yourself you are doing it for the same reasons they are.

But home schooling is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. It's not something you can get up and do everyday unless you are committed to it. Like anything difficult in life, when the days are tough, you better know WHY you are doing it. Otherwise, it's way too easy to get discouraged.

We started discussing our overall philosophy on educating our children. Believe it or not, we haven't chosen to home school or private school in the past because we want our children to have a superior academic education. We have average kids, and we just want them to enjoy their educational experience.

We want them to learn a lot, but we also want them to have time to be kids. We want them to develop their own interests. We want them to learn to be disciplined with their studies and with their time. We  also want them to have play time and down time. Those are some of the things we enjoy about home school.

We know some public schools are failing, but we don't think the public school system in general is broken. We have heard lots of good things about our public school. We have great friends who send their kids there and highly recommend it!

So, after hours and hours of conversation, we decided maybe we should give it a try. Why not?

This would be the perfect time. Our oldest son is going into fifth grade, so it would be his last chance at the local elementary school. Our daughter would be going into first grade, so she wouldn't have anything to compare it to. Our middle son is going into third, and he adapts well to new situations.

The first thing I would need to do when we got back home is get them registered. And that shouldn't be too difficult, right? Well, unless you're me...

... and, of course, that's not the end! I won't leave you hanging for long...


The journey

If you are just starting to read, you should go back and start here.

Thank you for all of the comments on Facebook, the comments here and the private e-mails. I have been surprised as I look at my stats to see how many people are reading this. It actually gave me a little bit of a panic attack last night. I have written the rest, but I needed to think about it before I post it.

I've been told I'm driving people crazy with the cliffhangers. I didn't think about it beforehand. I just started to write, and it was a convenient way to divide the whole thing into bite-sized chunks. At the same time, I guess the way I am telling the story is a little like the story itself. 

It would be very simple for me to just tell you in one sentence what we are doing for the fall. That might be all you want to know, and that's OK if it is.

What I'm writing isn't just about the answer to that question. I'm writing about the journey. I'm writing about how I got to a point where I'm OK with things. 

I realize that a lot of people can't relate to this journey. But there are others who are ON this journey, and that is why I decided to write about it. It's taking me a lot of time, but it's also a little therapeutic for me. I have a feeling I will need to look back at this and read it myself again another day.

I had to pause here because I'm wrestling with my insecurity. I am afraid of what people will say or what they will think. I'm worried people will say I analyze things too much. I think about things too much. I make things too difficult.

.... because the ending is much simpler than the journey.

... and I will post that soon.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Bipolar Home Schooling Disorder

(If you are just tuning in, you should go back and read the last two posts.)

I had all of the paperwork filled out, in an envelope and all I had to do was add a stamp. And then what happened? Crazy as it sounds, I started thinking about all of the things I would miss about home schooling.
  • Our awesome network of friends.
  • The great family bonding we've experienced.
  • Seeing my older kids interact with their baby sister everyday.
  • Eating many of our meals together as a family (since my husband works from home most days).
  • Fun field trips with friends.
  • Watching my kids grow and flourish in other areas because they have time to explore their interests.
  • Seeing their self confidence grow.
  • Having flexibility to go places and do things on days other kids are in school.
  • Making great friendships (for ME) with other home school moms.
  • And, I will admit it... watching my kids grow to love grammar. Seeing my older son improve in math. Watching as my younger son decided he likes writing. Helping my daughter learn to read.

Now, the funny thing about all of this is that you would probably assume our kids would WANT to go to school. I always loved school and looked forward to seeing my friends everyday. So, I always think my kids would prefer to go to "real" school.

But they actually love home school. We sat down with the three of them and asked them what they liked and didn't like about it.

The first thing they mentioned was that they like the fact that if they worked hard, they could get all of their work done so they would have more time to do the things they like to do. My oldest son loves making movies in iMovie. Our second son loves sports. Our daughter loves gymnastics and is excited about taking classes with Christian Youth Theater. And they all love playing with other friends who home school.

Of course, we can still do all of those things if the kids go to a regular school.

But if we enrolled in private school, we would have to work those activities in around that 24-minute, one-way commute. That's nearly two hours of driving time for me (and the toddler) every day. And around homework for all three of them.

Then, we have to factor in the volunteer hours that parents are required to work at the school. And the fundraisers we would need to be part of. Plus, there's the financial aspect. We could make it work, but we would have to operate on a very tight budget and pray we didn't have any major home repairs or vehicle costs. The cost of private school for three kids would basically be like paying a second mortgage.

Of course, there is another long list of the downsides to home schooling, which would be eliminated, giving us more time to focus on the challenges of private school.

When it finally came down to it, the one thing that we discussed the most was the idea of building a community at the school. We have done private school before so we know that it's important that we work hard to be part of that community. Most of the other students live much closer to the school, so we would be on the fringe. We would want our kids to build relationships with their new friends at school, but with the distance, that could be a struggle.

So... we started talking about another idea... and that is coming soon...


Finally! ... or not...

If you missed the last post, "Live from Crazyville" you need to go back and read that one first...

So, a few weeks ago, we finally did it. After praying and thinking about this all summer, making mental lists of pros and cons, and studying my spreadsheet comparing the cost of every private Christian school within a 12-mile radius of our home, I sat down with my husband and gave him my financial worksheet on how we could make private school happen.

He is MUCH more practical, rational and even-tempered than I am, so he listened quietly and carefully. And then he agreed with me that this was going to work.

There is a school we have visited several times that we both agreed would be the best fit for all three of our kids and which best fits our values and educational philosophy. I e-mailed them, and they wrote back right away to say they had openings in first, third and fifth grades!

I got to work on the paperwork, which was quite labor intensive. I even made report cards for each of my kids since the administrator said we would need them even though we home school.

For a week, I drove to the school at least once a day. It's almost exactly 12 miles from our house. That seems far, but our old school was 9 miles away, so an extra three miles didn't seem that bad. I tried every route (without speeding this time). My fastest time was 24 minutes.

OK. In this area, that really isn't that bad of a commute. We could do it.

But for some reason, I was just not fully confident it was the right choice. I felt a little sick to my stomach. On the day we left for our vacation to the Smoky Mountains, I finished all of the paperwork and asked my husband if it was OK with him if I mailed it. He asked me if we could wait a few more days.

I packed up the big white envelope and tried to keep it neat and clean during our long drive down to Tennessee.

And then you won't believe what happened...

(This is taking me a while to write, but the answer is coming soon.)


Friday, August 12, 2011

Live from Crazyville

OK, so I still couldn't decide on a title, but here goes anyway.

When school ended in the spring, I was extremely happy and relieved. I'm not sure if I actually said this out loud to anyone, but the main reason I was SO happy was that I had decided it was my last day of home school EVER!

I wasn't sure what this meant. But I had three months to pray about it and think about it and work on it, and I knew that something would come together. It had to.

Yes, yes, yes... We had signed up for a new home-school co-op, but it was basically just my last-resort back-up plan. I was determined to make a change.

I have gotten to the point that I avoid talking about the subject of school unless someone specifically asks me about it. Basically, it's just embarrassing to have to discuss my Bipolar Home Schooling Disorder. As I've tried to explain many times, "I love the HOME; it's the SCHOOL that I have trouble with."

It seems that the rest of the world has this thing figured out. Most people wait for their child to turn 5 and sign the cute little munchkin up for kindergarten. They enjoy their summers, happy to have a break, and when fall rolls around they rinse and repeat. It doesn't seem to be a huge topic of deliberation. It's just what they do.

For others, they feel they have been "called" to do something different. For whatever reason, it is their mission to home school their children. They feel very strongly about it. From what I can tell, they don't seem to doubt themselves or wonder if they are doing the right thing. They enjoy it. It works for their family. It's all good.

And then there are those who are able to send their children to private school. They have figured out a way to make it work financially, and they enjoy the security and community of private school.

And then there's me. I don't have a strong belief that one way of schooling your children is best. I don't feel like I have been "called" to do it a certain way. I know there are strengths and weaknesses to all of these choices, and it's basically a matter of finding what works best for our family.

We have been in a private school situation. For the past two years, we've home schooled. We have a very long list of good reasons why we made this choice. And there are many things about it that we absolutely love.

But I doubt myself. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Am I permanently scarring my children because they won't have any wonderful childhood memories of their first grade teacher? Am I really capable of keeping them on pace with their peers? Am I isolating them too much from other kids their age? Am I ruining our relationship because I can't be just their mom who they come home and cry to when they have a bad day. I'm also the teacher who made them have a bad day.

These are the questions that are in my mind pretty much every day of the week. And since I don't want to look like an idiot by revealing what's on my mind, I try not to say anything. And then it becomes difficult for me to talk about other topics because I know that I'm avoiding the one thing that's really on my mind. And then my blog sits without any posts for months on end, all of my former readers give up on me and before you know it, even my blog is in a dire situation. You can see the tragedy in all of this, right?

So, I'm simply going to try to get this off my chest so that I can write about more important things... like jewelry... and some of our new favorite hobbies... and why I have to walk down the middle of the street because I'm so afraid of getting hit in the head by a bird.

As you can see, the sooner I get this done, the better!

... to be continued.


School choices

I can't decide what to call this blog post.


How I ruined my summer.


Why I can't sleep at night.

Insomnia is the loneliest number.

If you thought I was crazy before, this will confirm it.

Other choices would be...

Why do I make my life so difficult?

My husband talks me down from the crazy tree every morning.

Or, possibly...

Take a deep breath, cause here we go!

After I decide on the title, I'm hoping I will be able to write the post!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My world stopped spinning

When I woke up this morning, I did what I have become accustomed to doing lately. I sat up slowly and then gave myself a minute to readjust. Hmm. Nothing seemed to be spinning. I stood up. Still no spinning.

It was the first time in a week that I have woke up in the morning, and I didn't feel dizzy. It all started when we drove home from the Smoky Mountains last Monday. Every morning and evening, I would have bouts of dizziness. By the weekend, I was feeling pain and pressure in my left ear. I assumed I had an ear infection because my 10-year-old also was having ear pain and was diagnosed with an ear infection.

By Sunday, I was so dizzy and nauseous that I could barely make it through what I needed to do at church before I went to Immediate Care. I was officially diagnosed with vertigo.

I know it kind of sounds like a joke. Maybe I've just watched too many Alfred Hitchcock films. But it really wasn't funny.

To try to cope with a world that is always in motion is maddening. It gave me a constant headache and nausea. At its best, it was like being car sick all of the time.

During the past few days I also have gained a better understanding of what it would be like to lose my brain function. I spent most of the time lying down or sleeping. (The doctor prescribed medicine for motion sickness, which actually made it difficult to stay awake.) I found out that the key was to move my head as little as possible. If I did need to turn my head, I had to do so slowly. 

Although the dizziness was horrible, the scariest part for me was my inability to focus or answer simple questions. When I got to the doctor's office, the nurse started asking me routine questions, such as, "Are you allergic to any medication?" OK. I have answered that question many times in my life.

"I know the answer," I said slowly.

Then it was like I had to dive into a deep ocean and swim around trying to find the information. This has happened to me numerous times over the past few days.

I feel like I need to apologize to my brain for taking it for granted. I have spent way too much time thinking about what it would be like if I were to permanently lose brain function. And I now have a lot more sympathy for older people or those who have gone through a stroke who have to cope with the loss of their brain's ability to work properly.

This morning, it was a huge relief to wake up to a room that wasn't spinning. I've been told by lots of people that once you have experienced vertigo, you are likely to get it again. But I am hopeful this is the end of my roller coaster ride.

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