A few months ago, the dilemma my mommy-brain centered around was whether or not to send my oldest (almost 5) to school or homeschool. Since he has an October birthday, he barely misses the cut-off for Kindergarten, but we knew he was ready for something.
I looked into quite a few options. We actually have a wonderful Christian/Montessori preschool just down the road from us. Even though it was expensive, we went to the Open House. We applied. We got put on the waiting list for a few months. Then we got in! We attended a trial day. We applied for financial aid. We got it.
And yet, we couldn’t pull the trigger!
It really came down to a few factors, and, growing up in a family that did a combination of both homeschool and private school, I’ve come up with what I think are the 3 biggest factors in this tough decision. The first and biggest factor is the individual child and what they need. The second factor is cost-to-benefit, and the third seems to be how the mom/potential teacher feels about it.
When it came to G’s personality, we realized that he was NOT yearning for tons of social interaction, all day, every day. In fact, after just an hour or two at a play group or get together he is CRAVING alone time to play, imagine, read and work on things. Sometimes he even closes his bedroom door and says, “Momma, I need some alone space right now”, and proceeds to play by himself for over an hour. To put him in school all day would be exhausting and stressful for his personality. On top of it, we realized that Gregory’s personality and mine work really well together when it comes to learning new things. He is a very focused kid, and I really enjoy that he can concentrate without bouncing off the walls like most kids I know.
The second factor was cost-to-benefit. Even with financial aid, the cost was going to be prohibitive for us as a family. At a few hundred dollars a month, we knew that it would basically suck up the majority of any income I was making from home– money that we were using to grow our savings account. I contemplated working a little bit more to pay for it, which is when we had a real nuts-bolts conversation about our goals as a family. My husband pointed out that we had worked really hard over the past few years (selling our CA house, moving across the country, etc.) to put ourselves in a position where I didn’t have to work. We placed ourselves in a wonderful city, FULL of opportunities to expand our children’s horizons with activities and museum memberships. Why disregard all of those blessings searching after what we “thought” we should need?
The third factor was how I felt about it. Funny enough, this was the dramatic part of the solution! It should’ve been all child-centered, but a lot of it was revolving around my strong feelings on the subject. On the days where I wasn’t waffling back and forth, I was absolutely un-done by the thought of G being in school 5 half days a week. For many of you who know our story, I had to wait a LONG time to get pregnant with G, and because it was something I had wanted for so long, the pregnancy/post-partum craziness felt like a beautiful (albeit, sleepless!) dream. Even on the hard days, I never once wished for my old life before kids. I can’t remember a time where I whined about it, because I was just so grateful to finally be a mom! It made me realize that all the years of heartache, wanting to be pregnant, were actually just preparing my heart to be steadfast and positive, despite the trials of those first few months.
Ever since, I have cherished my two boys’ every moment. Every new experience, every new discovery, every new milestone. I can’t imagine not being a part of these moments– at least not right now.
As a result, the one trial day (literally, just 3 hours) was one of the hardest days of my life. I walked him to his classroom as he carried his little pencil box and backpack, and nearly broke down right then and there. When the teacher greeted him (ever so sweetly) and walked him into class, I watched from behind the corner, and it was all I could do not to take him home with me. I tried to go grocery shopping and run a few errands, but I just kept crying. I called my mom, which helped, but the long and short of it all is that I parked my car and sat outside the school in the pouring rain for most of the time, just counting down the minutes until I could go back in and get him.
I tried not to let any of this show. I tried to be excited for G, wait and hear what he had to say about his “day” before making any hard and fast decisions about whether to officially enroll.
And you know the first thing he said when he got into the car with me?
“Mom. There were lots of fun things. The kids were really nice. But I couldn’t have any fun. I was just missing you the whole time.”
After that day, I just knew, deep down, that we weren’t ready to be away from each other just yet, even for just a few hours a day. Every year is a new decision and nothing is forever, but the time just wasn’t right yet. Long before we received our financial aid package in the mail, I already knew we were going to decline. After making the decision, I felt so sure, so unwavering. I wondered why I had ever doubted myself in the first place! I mean, I’m a teacher, for heavens sake! I make money teaching homeschool kids from home! I teach piano lessons to his age group! Why did I ever feel unqualified?
I think a lot of it had to do with falling prey to peer pressure. I “looked around” (a dangerous pastime) and realized that making the decision to homeschool was going against the grain, and that others would probably view it skeptically. As a result, I started to view myself skeptically, wondering if I was really up the challenge, despite the fact that I work with empowering homeschool moms every single day of my online job! This whole process has been a great learning experience for me to realize that I don’t need to call into question my own parenting instincts, just because many others are doing something different. Moms have their gut instinct for a reason.
Once we made the decision to keep G home, I went into full-on research mode (for those of you who know me, this is, by my nature, an intense thing!). I studied the Montessori method all summer, reading countless books and articles. I didn’t just want to know what the basic Montessori tools and activities were, I wanted to know the why behind it all, so that I could improvise without losing the heart of it. Even though I was already very familiar with the Montessori method, having taught piano in half a dozen Montessori schools, I learned so much through all this research.
I also researched everything there is to do in Dallas, and came up with quite a list for ways in which to interact with others and get out of the house a few times a week! So far, we’ve been to the monthly children’s art day at the museum, the library down the street, and the YMCA’s Play and Learn class that meets weekly (we had to drive a little bit further away to get a time that worked for us). The Play and Learn was especially helpful, since they spend 90 minutes with us doing hands on arts and crafts, story time, P.E. time, and even have 5 or 6 stations set up for individual hands-on learning (and it’s all FREE!). And the best part is that I didn’t have to clean up after any of the art projects! WIN!!
In addition, since we are not busy driving back and forth from school every day, we have the time (and money!) to put Gregory in a few organized activities this semester! As of right now, he is on a soccer team and has weekly swim and ballet lessons. He will also be taking daily piano lessons from me in small increments. This may sound like a LOT, but since we’re not waiting in carpool lines twice a day, it’s actually quite the “right” amount of busy.
In a future post, I will go over where we bought all of our materials and which books ended up being the most helpful in getting started, but for now, a few weeks into our school year, I am so happy that we made this choice. I am loving doing preschool/Kindergarden at home with both boys, and I am looking forward to a great year!