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by Katie Fox

Katie is a writer, a teacher, a mezzo-soprano, and a lover of all things red. She and her husband Shaun are passionate about mentoring and equipping artists of all kinds. Find her online at katiefox.net.

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Education: simplicity and peace

Two years ago around this time, I had a post here at the Art of Simple about what had become my yearly ritual each January: the agony of figuring out my children’s education plan for the following school year.

At the time, my older daughter was in kindergarten at a private school across town, subsidized by a generous scholarship. We loved it about as much as I ever thought it would be possible to love a school. The re-application for financial aid loomed large each year, though; what if we weren’t offered enough? We needed a back-up plan – or two.

That year, we re-applied to the same private school. We also applied to a lottery for a transfer to a better public school than the one for which we were zoned, and just for good measure, we applied to a charter school lottery, to boot. It was, needless to say, stressful. Complicated. A bit overwhelming. Decidedly un-simple.

In the end, the decision that year was almost made for us. The private school lost their building and relocated even farther away from our home – too far for my sanity, especially with my younger daughter in a separate preschool for kiddos with disabilities. After copious amounts of both prayers and tears, we withdrew our application. Our name wasn’t drawn in the public school transfer lottery, nor the charter school’s. We had two options: send her to the local elementary school – one of the worst in the district – or homeschool. For me, there was no option. We decided to try homeschooling.

I WANTED to love homeschooling. I really, really did. I wanted it to be the answer for our family. If we homeschooled, we could buy a home anywhere and not worry about the local schools. We could spend our days together as a family. We could travel anytime.

My husband and I carefully chose curriculum that reflected our values and philosophies about how children learn and what they need to know. We began the school year that August with a hefty amount of trepidation, but equal measures of excitement and joy.

But by the time May rolled around, we were crawling across the finish line. Our school time each day had dwindled to only the non-negotiables, each moment like pulling teeth. My daughter said she liked being with me, but she definitely missed school even more. To say she didn’t like homeschooling is putting it mildly.

And me? It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost like homeschooling sucked the life out of me. I lost my creative energy. I even had a hard time keeping up with many of my friendships. Though life may have looked more simple on the surface, it was infinitely more messed up inside of my head.

I wanted homeschooling to be the answer for our family – but it just wasn’t. At first, I was incredibly disappointed, even a bit grieved. But I was also relieved. I was relieved to simply admit that we had tried it, but it didn’t work out – and that’s okay. It really was okay. We weren’t failures. Homeschooling just wasn’t a good fit for us.

The only question was: what to do now?

Well, we were able to buy our first house last July, and move into a neighborhood that’s zoned for great public schools. I went down to the school to enroll both my girls right after we closed on the house, a few weeks before school started. And then we sent them off on the first day, each of us with a hefty amount of trepidation, but equal measures of excitement and joy.

Six months later, we are as happy as clams. I think we’ve finally found our groove with this education thing. This is the first January in years that I haven’t spent all my free hours visiting schools, filling out applications, and waiting on lotteries. This January, we have simplicity and peace – at least as far as my girls’ schooling is concerned.

Both girls are at the same school for the first time, a twenty-minute walk or two-minute drive away. They have wonderfully devoted teachers, they’ve made friends, and they love going to school. We’ll continue to re-evaluate each year to make sure that this is what’s best for each of them, but so far, everything’s looking so good.

Have we had to give up some of our ideals about their education? Well, yes, we have. But I’ve come to realize that there are few perfect circumstances in life, and that includes school. There are drawbacks and flaws and challenges to overcome in almost any situation. For an idealist like me, this can be tough to swallow. The trick is figuring out what’s most important to you and your family, and then letting the rest of it go – trusting that you’ve done your best, and that’s enough.

Easier said than done, I know. But so worth it. And this mama finally feels like herself again. We really value education, AND we really value simplicity and peace in our family. For now, we’ve found all those things in a place we never expected, and it’s a happy place – and for that I’m thankful.

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