Peace With Our Education Choice

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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46 Comments

  1. Susie

    Hi! Thanks for your post – we have followed a similar journey! I didn’t send my son to the first year of primary school and decided that I’d know if we were a homeschooling family by the end of the academic year. I agonised and stressed and then made peace with the fact that homeschooling isn’t the right fit for us. We moved and we’re lucky to have a super state school with only 39 students, five minutes away. They took at leap of faith with us and agreed to flexi-schooling so my son is part home-schooled. It’s great – we are so fortunate. And isn’t it amazing to have all the different educational paths available?!

    • Erica

      Oh my word! You probably already realize how lucky you are! I would love to have a situation where my kids could be part time homeschooled. Right now we homeschool full time and my kids miss very much the social part of being with friends everyday. Good for you!

      • Lisa Z

        We part time homeschool and have for years. Some friends of ours did this too, in another district. I wouldn’t be shy about asking your schools about it. Go to the teachers, principal, and superintendent if needed. We’ve never had to go further than asking the teachers and school to allow them a flexible schedule. We still count as “homeschoolers” for the district and state of Minnesota, but they get a lot of school benefits too.

        • Katie Fox

          I wonder how that works exactly…it’s fascinating! Here in Texas, funding is linked to attendance so they wouldn’t allow someone to enroll unless they were going to attempt to actually be there each day – otherwise, the district would lose money. But you said you’re considered homeschoolers by the state, and not enrolled? So what do teachers do with your kiddos not being there all the time, assignments, grading, etc? Do you have a blog post you could share with more details for our readers? Very interesting!

        • Cassie

          I would also like to hear more about part time schooling. I live in MN and my oldest is almost three. Neither my husband nor I feel we would enjoy or be capable of full time homeschooling but I have often thought that it would be nice if they didn’t have to attend full time school.

  2. Tsh

    I love your story, Katie! So glad you’ve shared it here todayβ€”thanks. πŸ™‚

  3. Sharon

    It is nice to be in a good place with your kids education. We did the school hopping (well, three schools from preschool to grade 3) until we started homeschooling. I am in my fourth year and I finally am at the same point you are. It is January-the time when most people (including myself) are looking at schools and for the first time, I am not. We have final found a peace in homeschooling. Wow, what an amazing feeling! Glad you are at peace with that decision too!

    • Katie Fox

      That’s great, Sharon! Thanks. πŸ™‚

  4. Megan

    I would have given the “worst” school a try. With more involved parents the school will generally improve. Reputation isn’t everything, due to some strange school boundaries my kids went to one of the richest schools for JK – grade 6, but one of the poorest for grade 7 and 8. They flourished at that poor school with the bad reputation and were well prepared for high school. I will admit that they were in the French immersion program so this might have made a difference, but I loved that school even with its broken furniture and ancient technology. By the way, one of the graduates of this school was just accepted at Harvard! Another school in our neighbourhood has a poor reputation and very low test scores mainly due to a large immigrant/ESL population. It is one of the friendliest, warmest schools I have been in. It’s reputation is improving mainly because some parents have given it a try and worked hard from within to improve the school.

    • Leah D.S.

      Megan, so true! The h.s. we are zoned to has a bad reputation. But it is not a bad school! Devoted teachers, largely disadvantaged student body, very diverse population. Good experience for kids. Small group of involved parents.
      Sometimes we wonder what it would be like if those who were zoned there but bend rules to go to other “better” schools in the district, and those who wouldn’t normally send
      their kids to private school, if they attended the school. Most make the decision without even touring school and meeting administrators!

      • Katie Fox

        Leah, I replied to Megan’s comment, too – please come check it out. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your input!

    • Katie Fox

      That’s a great perspective, Megan. In our case, there were so many other factors at play that I couldn’t begin to delve in to in such a short essay. We lived essentially across the street from the backside of the school for many years. We watched children come and go, and got to know many of the kids on our street. In addition to low test scores, there was gang activity starting as young as 4th grade, and virtually no parental involvement at the school. If your “poor” school had a French immersion program, it sounds like it was a pretty great program to me. It’s not just about finances. Lots of schools with bad reputations are great schools – this wasn’t one of them. I did meet with the administration, but taking all the factors into account, plus the HUGE factor of the personality of my child, it just wasn’t going to be a successful match for us. I realize that we are incredibly fortunate to have had options – the kids at that school don’t have options. Education is very important to me, but not just my own children’s education – all the kids in my city! There are still other ways I can and do work for improved schools for everyone within our district.

    • Laurel

      Thanks for this comment! My son starts school next year at a very poor, but not necessarily “bad” school. We are planning on enrolling him in the dual-language program (Spanish/English) so that he can learn to communicate with his peers at the school. It’s encouraging to hear other people who have made that choice and done well. I am not a teacher and homeschooling would be “death” to my soul – nothing about my talents lines up with the skills/talents you need for that! I am surrounded by home-schooling friends and it’s nice to hear some positives for public school.

  5. Allie

    I LOVE this post, Katie. I think it’s important to remember that we all have options with everything we do, and we are allowed to make changes to our decisions. Thanks for reminding me.

  6. Katie Harding

    Love this post Katie, with 3 little boys I understand the difficulty in deciding schooling for them and what is best for your family. You will find the right fit!

  7. Jami

    Katie, This is a topic very much on our family’s heart as our son will start kindergarten this fall. Do we send him to the half day kindergarten that our awesome district offers and then have him shuttled back to his former preschool (He’d have to start at the preschool in the morning and be shuttled to the elementary school as well.)? Or do we pay for the whole day private Christian school, which is great, but then he may to switch to the public school for first grade? These are hard choices!

    • Katie Fox

      Oh, those kinds of decisions can feel so hard! I’m sure you will find the right decision for your family. πŸ™‚

  8. Beth

    We are a poor school district. However, our scores are good and the teachers are truly dedicated. I am one of them. I think public school education is good for the interaction, if nothing else. But even in the worst schools, there is usually something or some teacher that sets the school apart and makes it worthwhile. All it takes is one teacher to change a student’s life forever. Mine was high school English my freshman year. Mrs. Kinney is the reason I read the classics, which I fell in love with. That eventually led to me becoming an English teacher and I love it. I’m in my 16th year, but because of my age(will be 61) and health, I am retiring in May.
    I’m glad it all worked out for you. I do not think I would do well home schooling. I need the interaction of others.

    • Tsh

      I totally agree that individual teachers are what makes our school experience great or less than great, Beth. My life-changer was Mrs. Fleming. πŸ˜‰

    • Katie Fox

      Definitely agree with that sentiment, too, Beth! I didn’t mention that I am a former public school music teacher and the daughter of two retired public school teachers. πŸ™‚ And some of my former teachers have certainly been a few of the most influential people in my life. Good teachers are pretty much heroes, in my opinion.

  9. Rebecca

    There are so many choices for families. All families are different, have different needs and different stories. I am glad you have found what is best for your family.

  10. Sharon

    I am in the midst of my first ever homeschooling experience with my youngest (my 4 oldest have always been in public school). We chose to homeschool for first grade for attachment-related reasons, not academic, and we’ve seen some great gains in that area. However, I can relate to much of this – thanks for being brave and sharing your story.

  11. Suzanne

    Thank you for sharing from your heart about this topic. I think all too often people overlook the benefits of homeschooling because it is out of the norm in most places, but you a testimony to how well both cases work for you. Thank you again for sharing.

  12. Christie Elkins

    Oh THANK YOU for this. This post is like a breath of fresh air for me! We are currently on our 3rd year of homeschooling and are keeping our educational options open for a myriad of reasons. Thanks again!

  13. Amy

    We had to give up homeschooling this year for various reasons after 4 years of nothing else. To say it was hard is putting it mildly, but your words ring true in my life as well. I was drowning and didn’t even know it. Thank you for this.

    • Katie Fox

      Amy, I hope that you’ve found something that works for you and your family. Peace be with you. πŸ™‚

  14. Jamie

    Excellent! So glad that you shared your experiences so that we can understand that there is not a set formula which works for each family. As a teacher myself, I thought I would love homeschooling my kids. But I just don’t! Me working at the school they attend is a much better fit for all of us. Mom is happier, kids are happier…all around more peaceful situation. But it took me awhile to recognize that I wasn’t a bad mom just because I couldn’t successfully homeschool my children. Thanks for offering gave to those of us who have deviated from our original schooling plans.

    • Katie Fox

      So true, Jamie! I’m glad this resonated with you.

  15. Diane McElwain

    I’m so glad you were open about homeschooling. I did it for years with 6 children and it drained me. My husband thought I could do it but his job was so pressing that he didn’t give me much help at all. As the kids got older, the math in high school baffled me. Finally they went to public school and survived!

  16. Missy Robinson

    Gosh, aren’t we so blessed to have options? I’m thankful that you shared your story and thrilled you are part of a public education program. We desperately need to be active on these campuses for the sake of future generations. It is a passion of mine to get out there and be present even at personal risk.

    I have enjoyed reading what works for other families and even how they transition as the family needs and location or seasons of life change. Sometimes we think a choice now must be a choice for always and that just isn’t so.

  17. Rebecca

    Wow, this was the post I needed to read in my son’s first week of school after homeschooling for 4 terms. He loves school (so far) and it is definitely a better fit for our family. Home education was perfect for our son when he was 5 and not ready for school. Now he is older and craves social contact, but because of his SEN this was hard to achieve at home education groups. Now, his local, small, excellent special school is perfect. The needs have changed so the solution has changed. And as for his younger brother, who knows?

  18. MD Everly

    Thanks for being real about your experience home school. It’s not for everyone and in certain corners of the internet gets idealized a lot. There are great public schools and opting out means fewer parent advocates for good policies and practices.

  19. Sarah Dunning Park

    Thanks for voicing all this, Katie, and for sharing your story! So much of this resonated with me… we’re transitioning out of homeschooling right now. It was the best choice for the year we moved, but now it’s time to change. I’m breathing a big sigh of relief.

  20. Eileen

    my parenting motto (well, one of them) is “good enough”. the school my son will go to next year is good enough. Are there better ones I could research/lottery to get accepted/coordinate his transportation to achieve “possible excellence” sure. But I will instead save that emotional energy, the time and the resources for some future endeavor. Sometimes dinner is a multi-course prepared meal, and sometimes it is a sandwich that is eaten in the car. Either way, bellies are filled. (One of my other parenting motto is taken from the Princess Bride “get used to disappointment” which sometimes accompanies the peanut butter sandwich dinner.)

    • Katie Fox

      Ha! I love this, Eileen. A lot of wisdom there.

  21. Lisa

    You know, homeschooling isn’t for everyone. It is an awesome and important thing, but I felt like the life was getting sucked out of me, too. We were fortunate enough to get our kids into a Charter school. What a blessing! And now, I work at the school, too.

  22. Christina

    I think one thing that often gets overlooked on the topic of schooling is that parents still have a major influence on their children’s education when they go to public school. Homeschooling is full of numerous benefits of course, but I hate when parents place guilt on themselves for sending their kids to public school. Teach your children a love of learning after school, on weekends, and during breaks! Isn’t that ultimately the goal? It might be hard to convince your children to love learning if homeschool is leaving parents stretched thin or just isn’t possible. No need to feel like your child is missing out, there are plenty of ways to create lifelong learners.

  23. Ashley

    Thanks for sharing, it’s not easy to talk about things that aren’t successful.

    I wanted to homeschool, too. My husband didn’t agree so we decided to give kindergarten a try and if it didn’t work we’d homeschool. And my daughter loved every minute of school. She’s so much more extroverted than I am so I’m grateful for the opportunities she gets every day at school to be a part of a group and for the relationships that have grown between us and the other families in our school community. Despite some inherent flaws, schools do have the potential to be awesome communities to support us and our children. It’s been three years now and she still wakes up excited to go every day.

    • Katie Fox

      That’s a great story, Ashley – thanks for sharing it. I agree with you about the relationships that can form with other families, teachers, etc – it’s pretty awesome to see that happen.

  24. Stephanie @ EntreFamily

    I appreciate your story, Katie. For us, after 6+ years of homeschooling our now three school aged kiddos (with a toddler running amuck and another baby on the way), we are inching towards the excruciatingly hard decision of putting our oldest three in private school next fall. We have adored homeschooling for the reasons you mentioned- flexibility and freedom to travel, being at home together and more time for relationship with my kids, the ability to select our philosophy of education and curriculum that matches it, a child with learning challenges who I feel benefits from my one-on-one teaching, and so much more. But this past year (even past 2-3 years, really), it’s become too much in our current season of life. We’ve (a bit sadly, and also with a bit of relief) decided that we need to try a year of having them in school to get our heads back above water, and then we’ll evaluate and take it from there. Hard as it is, I feel like it’s the right decision. Maybe next January we’ll feel more peaceful, too, rather than how tired and hectic we feel right now.

  25. Angela

    Katie, thanks for sharing. We are long-time homeschoolers. It has helped (and is helping) keep our life simple. I loved hearing about your journey to a simpler, more peaceful life (and January)!

  26. Marcy Axness

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience w/ this, Katie. It’s such an important illustration that valuing and embracing simplicity isn’t always (ever??) a simple proposition. Nor is it a “put it into place and it’s done” kind of thing. Rather, it’s an ever-evolving process of shaping and massaging the Great Venn Diagram of Life!

    When you saw that the “Mom’s Sustainable Sanity” circle of the diagram getting squished it was time to re-assess and revise… and you did. As I often say, parenting for peace isn’t about perfection, it’s about striving. Shaping & massaging! Wishing you a great 2015.

  27. Kathleen

    Katie, I am so grateful for this post. I’ve been beating myself up after sending my oldest to first grade after homeschooling her for K. I love the idea of homeschooling but realized that in practicality, as an introvert, I just couldn’t stand the daily chaos and noise. I’m slowly coming to terms with sending my oldest to public school and your post is helping me along. Thank you.

  28. lisa

    How wonderful oh were able to recognize homeschooling wasnt for you. Many moms slog through homeschooling because they think that is what good moms do. Like you said, there is no perfect solution.

  29. Jamie

    Katie, So happy to hear you found the right fit for you all – I know what a relief that sense of peace is for a mama’s heart!!

  30. Tiare

    What’s more important than fitting into one box or the other is having enough self-awareness, honesty, and courage to go with what works for you. Every child learns in their own unique way and you’re a fine parent for being able to give them whatever it is they need most.

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