But simmering inside me these past couple of months has been a personal crisis that I had no choice but to finally address. I hesitate to write about this here because it has the potential to offend, but I imagine others have dealt with this same anxiety before, and sometimes it’s nice to hear that another soul can identify with your experience, right? So, here goes:
Homeschooling the chicks is one of my utmost dreams in life. Up there with having a little homestead, being financially stable, traveling the world, writing books, and living a fulfilling, creative life is the desire to homeschool my girls. My reasons are many, and I could talk about them for days on end, so I won’t even touch them in this post. I think it’s important to say, however, that my desire to homeschool is not a judgment of anyone else’s desire to send her children to school.
This is one of those dangerous territories that many of us hold dear to our hearts (of course—it involves our children), and it’s so easy to feel judged for your parenting choices. But I have no judgments about how any other families handle their children’s education. I simply have ideas about what is best for me and my family. And please don’t take this as a judgment of teachers. I know I count quite a few among my readers, and I believe they perform an honorable, challenging, and severely under compensated job.
But for us, I wanted homeschooling. Homeschooling my children is perfectly aligned with so many of my goals and values. And it’s not just that—I think it would be absolutely great fun. And so, thoughout the past year, I planned to start a gentle, play-based home kindergarten with Ninna in September. I ignored the creeping voice in the back of my mind reminding me that my current circumstances may not support that, and I moved forward, conversing with others who are homeschooling, visiting our local homeschool group, and planning and daydreaming about all the fun projects we’d do and about the peaceful, sweet rhythm we’d follow.
Then, early this summer, the creeping voice became too loud to ignore. It forced me to face facts: I’m a single mom. I’m saddled with student loan debt. I desperately need to devote more time to income-providing activities, not less. I live in a foreign country and have no family to help out. And…I’m only one human.
So after much agonizing, many tearful phone conversations, and a lot of soul-searching, I determined that the only logical and reasonable course of action would be to put Ninna in school this fall. It took some time to settle into this decision, and at first, I felt like a huge failure. What I had set out to do for my children would no longer be possible. I know I’ve read about other homeschooling, work-at-home, single moms. Why could they do it, but I couldn’t?
I ultimately reminded myself that all of our circumstances are different. I really know nothing about these people. Maybe their children were older and working independently when they became single moms. Maybe they didn’t start off their single parenthood with no money. Maybe they have grandparents nearby who help out. Maybe they didn’t move to a foreign country where they have no work history the year before they became single parents. Who knows. All I can focus on is where my situation is right now and how to best handle it.
For a couple of weeks, I felt mocked every time I opened my Google reader and saw all the wonderful things the homeschooling families were doing. I felt sickened when I walked by my bookshelf and saw the John Holt and John Taylor Gatto books. I considered unsubscribing from all the homeschooling blogs and putting the books in the basement. Thankfully, that dramatic response was short-lived. I don’t have to (and can’t, really) pretend that homeschooling doesn’t exist just because it’s not an option for us right now.
And then, in my online travels, I came across the most beautiful thing. Erin Goodman, of the blog exhale. return to center. gives this description of her family:
- We are a homesteading, Waldorf-inspired, life-learning family supplementing our experiences with public school.
And suddenly it clicked. It’s not all-or-nothing. While it is true that simply sending my kids to school all day does, in itself, violate some of my beliefs, their attendance in school doesn’t cancel out all of my homeschooling goals. We can, and will, still live according to those beliefs during the hours that they aren’t in school, and my job right now is to figure out how to best put coordinate all these pieces.
This doesn’t mean that I have abandoned my homeschooling dreams altogether. Who knows what may happen in the future. I’m not putting them on hold necessarily, either; desperately clinging to the vague idea that I may be able to homeschool at some point later in life is not productive. For now, we will use a local school and remain open to the changes that life may bring.
As for Ninna…she’s fine with the idea. This is a child who is very open to new experiences. When I first told her she’d be going to school, she was nervous. School here, for my children, is in French. All immigrants to Quebec are legally obligated to send their children to French school. Ninna wondered if I could come with her and help her. After I assured her that her teachers would make sure she learned French, she became less concerned about her nerves and more focused on her lunch box. Is she going to help me pack it? Can she bring a treat? It’s amazing how much more we agonize over these things than they do.
And so right now, I’m working daily to reshape my feelings about this whole situation. I can’t, in good conscience, send my child off to school in the morning in a cloud of anguish and anxiety. Nothing could be more unfair to her.
I’m focusing on the positives, beginning with the most obvious: my five year old will be bilingual by the end of this school year. You can’t argue with the value of that. Instead of spending my time planning homeschooling and getting deeper in debt, I’ll be spending my time finding more work and climbing towards a financial situation that may not buy us homeschooling, but may eventually buy us some of my other big goals. I’ll officially move on from the limbo of what-might-happen to a more solid footing that acknowledges that one person can only do so much, and if that means delegating tasks (in this case, some of my children’s education) so that I can successfully achieve other tasks, so be it. And I’ll have some time alone with Bojey, to really deeply explore her interests and strengths, in a way that I’ve never had before.
So here we go—on towards supplementing our life with public school. I think I might actually be starting to feel good about it.