When Plans Change

I had PLANS.

When Mr. Wonderful and I had two little toddlers, we moved to an area with a public school system that did not meet our standards for our children’s education.

We promptly decided to homeschool. I read a lot of books and an untold amount of homeschooling blogs online, and made my outline.

The main thing was that we were going to be one of those amazing families that traveled around the world.

I didn’t want to do everything twice, so we would wait until our youngest child turned five. Our children would all be in a good age bracket to experience everything that would be on offer, and they’d all remember it!

No complaining of, “I went there as a baby and I don’t remember it, so it doesn’t count.”

We’d take short trips through the baby phase and wouldn’t be locked into any scheduling restrictions – we could travel whenever we wanted.

When Youngest turned five, we’d really turn it up. There would be multi-week trips around the US and Canada, and we’d even look at selling our house to travel full-time overseas.

I fully bought into the mindset that the world and its people are better than reading any textbook while stuck inside the four walls of a classroom.

We added three more children to those two toddlers and made a cross-country move. We landed in a very high-ranked school district in our new state but continued homeschooling because … PLANS.

However.

While homeschooling may be associated with simple living, our experience with it has not for a single minute been easy.

It turns out that both Child 1 and Child 2 have special needs of the ADHD and autism variety that complicated things a lot.

Homeschooling had its bright and shiny moments with short road trips that we called “field trips” to everywhere we could think of. We’ve visited science museums and historical sites in almost every state east of the Mississippi River.

We’ve read literally thousands of library books. (I counted.) We’ve taken acting classes and performed in community theater productions.

But the day-to-day was an excruciating grind.

My structure-hungry children could never settle into a consistent routine because homeschooling activities aren’t daily. They’re weekly.

Co-op on Monday, theater on Tuesday, park day on Wednesday, etc. The Battle of Math was an on-and-off thing for years.

It eventually wore all of us out.

On August 30, 2017, three out of five children started public school. The youngest two have been registered to start first grade and Kindergarten in the upcoming fall.

Youngest Child turned five a couple of weeks ago. Nine years of waiting for that milestone birthday, all the wishful thinking and covetous following-along of world-schooling blogs, all of my PLANS…gone.

It has become very clear that I will never get to live in an RV and travel full time. My family – my husband and my five children, the people I have chosen to spend my life with – would not at all function well in that type of living situation. They don’t even vacation well for more than about ten days.

They need the stability of a home that doesn’t move or change, and a consistent every-single-day schedule. My husband’s job provides excellent insurance that covers all of the needed therapy, and we can’t leave that either. The kids need their therapist appointments.

They now get on the morning bus at the same time every day. They are in structured classrooms with amazing teachers. They have lunch every day at the same time. I pick them up in the afternoon at the same time.

Our children were doing well before, but now they are thriving.

We haven’t entirely ruled out homeschooling as an option for the future, but it’s highly unlikely that Child 1 and 2 will ever be pulled back out of public school.

I did then what was best for my children with homeschooling. I am doing now what is best for my children with public schooling. Many people, including their therapists, have assured me of this.

But there’s still an element of failure and loss.

Failure for never successfully establishing a comfortable routine and structure for my children to function within while learning outside the public school structure.

Failure for not being able to teach them myself, like so many other parents of special needs seem to be able to do.

Failure because I’m so darned tired, and relieved to not be homeschooling anymore!

And the loss of my full-time travel dreams, that I’ve fantasized over since I was about ten years old.

There is a grieving process when making a wholesale transition from one entire lifestyle to another very different lifestyle.

I ate, drank and breathed homeschooling for so long that I’m at a new starting point for myself. Kids are at school. Husband is at work. I have no paid employment or even volunteering positions.

I am rebuilding slowly. Now, I’m learning how to make quilts.


Trina Caudle and her family live in Connecticut. Instead of obsessively researching homeschooling methods and curriculum options, she is learning how to quilt and shares a blog with her sister to trade sewing and recipe notes: Operation Domestic Goddess.

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21 Comments

  1. Megan

    Good for you for knowing what was best for your kids!! Keep up the awesomeness, mama!

  2. Cherilee Moon

    You are an awesome MOM!!! I’m proud to call you my friend!😘

  3. Tiffany McIntosh

    This is the post I needed to read today. Thanks.

  4. madamdreamweaver

    Things change, we adjust. Sounds like you made all the right decisions at the appropriate times.

  5. Maryalene

    I can so relate to this.

  6. Hedy

    When your children grow up, you can travel then. I had four children but no money to travel except by camping in the US. When they grew up, I’ve been able to travel overseas. My children travel some, but they never had the desire I have. The years will pass quickly, too quickly. Just rest now and savor the time you have with them.

    • trina

      Thank you for your comment that your children didn’t have the same desire that you did to travel. I’d never thought of it that way, but it’s probably true for at least some of my children. My travel dream has been to do it WITH my children, especially in the “world schooling” context, but yes, I can still travel once they’re grown and don’t want to travel to the same extent, or to the same places, that I do.

  7. Missy Robinson

    Oh those darned plans! So glad you found what works best in this season – it’s okay to grieve, but celebrate, too. You’re doing a great job of using the tools at hand to best equip your particular people.

  8. Heidi

    I’m right there with you! I was homeschooled, and started homeschooling my kids seven years ago. But it turns out, we all like each other better if we aren’t together every minute of every day. Specifically, I’m a nicer person since my kids switched to formal school two years ago. I miss the ability to pursue their interests, and I wish we had more flexibility to travel in the fall and spring, but I also am learning what it is that *I* want to do with my time, and that’s been so life-giving. Frankly, I’d rather have my kids look back at a childhood of school and a friendly mom instead of a childhood of homeschool with a cranky mom.

    • trina

      HA HA HA!! You nailed it!! Better school and a friendly mom, than homeschool with a cranky mom!! That is TOTALLY where we ended up! My poor youngest two are still stuck at home with now-semi-cranky mom (#4 would be in K this year but wasn’t ready to be away from Mom for so long yet, and #5 just turned 5 and will start K in the fall) and they are cranky too even though we’re still out going to the library, the children’s museum, and play dates at the park all the time. They fight constantly. I hope the summer is better with everyone home, so they’re not stuck with just each other, and we can be outside at the pool as much as possible. And then – ALL in school!!!

  9. Guest

    Good for you for considering what is best for your children and not sticking to your guns for the sake of sticking to your guns! If I might suggest a small word change…failure makes me cringe and here’s why. I viewed not being able to breastfeed as a failure even though it was physically out of my control. The incredible, angel in human form, lactation nurse cried with me when she said that it would be best for my baby if I switched her to formula. And then she shared something that has stuck with me for all these years. She shared about her son being born with special needs and about grieving the dreams of what she thought would be her reality. But it wasn’t failure on my part. It was a change in reality and I needed to give myself some time to grieve that.

    When baby #2 came along, I decided to not torture myself through more lactation gymnastics and instead asked for a 6 pack of formula to be in my room when I moved out of labor and delivery and requested the lactation nurse not drop by. It was a much happier time for all of us.

    • trina

      Thanks for your comment. I had no problems breastfeeding but my sister had your exact same experience, so I’ve seen it up close. I did use the word “failure” deliberately though, because that really is how it feels. As you say, there needs to be a time of grieving and moving your brain from “failure” to “change in reality” and “new normal,” and I’m still very much in the middle of it. Maybe later I can submit another guest post about how I got out of the “I’m a failure” mode, but that day is not today. This was real-time writing.

      My older kids did enter public school last fall but my youngest two have still been home and participating in our homeschool co-op and other things. So this school year, I’ve been straddling between the two. It has probably dragged out my transition process, but based on the ages/readiness level of my little ones, that’s what had to happen for them. I hope that this coming fall with all in public school, I can fully embrace where my family is and what we’re doing.

  10. Dee

    What a brave, wonderful post! It’s so hard right now to be a parent. Keeping up with the Jones used to be about material things, but I think it’s very easy to fall into the trap of keeping up in ideas and methods, too. Simple living, world school, even just being a soccer mom can all look attractive from the outside. It’s easy to buy into what those phrases and styles mean and should look like. But just because something is attractive doesn’t mean it’s right for us. I applaud you for letting go of those PLANS – and I have had similar PLANS that have been hard to unclench from. But living is holding loosely. Trying things on to see what fits … and what doesn’t.

    Hooray for you and your family. You are a winner!

  11. Jessy

    That was a really touching post–thank you for sharing so honestly!

  12. Kathleen

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts. It was so helpful to me as a parent to read that you let yourself off the hook and changed the plan, that you knew your kids and yourself well enough to be willing to do something different. Not to be too dramatic, but that takes a load off my shoulders to know I can change our trajectory in mid course. I feel like I can take a deep breath again:)

  13. Pauline

    It is inspiring to see how you adjusted to the real circumstances, don’t feel guilty!

  14. Dara

    I find myself in a similar situation but on the opposite side. Our son is on the autism spectrum and public school actually didn’t work for him. The school district’s cookie-cutter approach to teaching kids on the spectrum was so off from how he learns and they were so inflexible in changing their approach that we had to bring him home for the sake of his self-worth. It has been so very difficult especially since none of our extended family have supported our decision. And, now our neuro-typical kid, who starts high school next year, has decided she would like to home school as well since she would like to control her own learning focus. I applaud her for this independent, thinking-out-of-the-box decision and her father and I are fully supporting her decision but all of this is so very different from how I was raised and what my plans for my kids were! Then to add insult to injury is, again, the lack of support … or should I say the freaking out of our parents/grandparents to our decisions. It has been very difficult for me and the worry has been overwhelming at times. It is helpful to read your blog and the comments to see that I’m not alone in facing these plan change-ups. Thank you.

    • trina

      I’m sorry that your local school didn’t provide what your son needed, and that your family is not supporting your decision to homeschool! You are not alone in that – your situation is far more common than mine. I hope you can find a supportive community among the homeschoolers in your area! Good luck!

    • Renee

      Dara – I was part of the big, vocal naysayers in our family when my sister and brother-in-law decided to homeschool their two children because the local school was just awful. We all thought: “Oh no!! How will they ever learn to talk to others – imagine their social skills? How will they have consistent learning? How will they get into a college? They will all be blobs sitting at home eating chips all day!” My extended family and I were – I am embarrassed to say – so opposed and so critical!
      Fast forward 12 years and we are all constantly eating crow when we are with our truly amazing, super intelligent, fun to be with, well-rounded niece and nephew! And in that time my sister had a third child – one with special needs and he is doing great, thanks in many ways to the older two being around him so much.
      People freak out when they are afraid and when they are uninformed, and maybe even a little envious that they can’t do what you are doing. I am ashamed I wasn’t supportive in the very beginning, but now, if I had it to do all over again with my three kids, I kinda wished I had the guts and ability to try homeschooling. From the information that is out there and from what my sister says, it seems there is a great big community to help you, and support you! Chances are your family will come around eventually. Best of luck!!

  15. Jane

    Oh my goodness …. You DID NOT fail! You did what worked for you and your family for a time, and then you modified your plan to incorporate the needs of your family now, and you will do that again and again and again. I call that a HUGE success. As a single Mom of 4 now-grown-with-grandchildren-for-me kids, I, too, shelved my dreams of travel for years. 3 years ago, I retired and I can tell you with no uncertainty at all — it is NEVER too late to travel!! I have spent 5 months backpacking through Australia and NZ; 3 months in France; a month in Argentina; countless cross-country trips to visit family; and I am now on an epic 7-month cross-Canada glamping trip with a friend. Please gently remind yourself that you are absolutely not failing, you are succeeding at the most important job ever. And that travel is not a “never”, it’s just a “not right now”.

  16. Carla

    thank you for this. I have one three year old on the spectrum and almost certainly with ADHD but too young to diagnose. I’m exahusted. I’m 37 weeks pregnant with number two and I’m terrified. I had plans, dreams and an idea of how life would look and now I’m trying to reinvent that plan to suit my family. It’s hard. So hard.

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