Tuesday, August 30

I Can't Do It All (and other shocking revelations)

So, after homeschooling for 6+ years, my first and second born children are off to a brick and mortar school. I feel...TOTALLY conflicted.

You see, I love homeschooling. The lightbulb moments, the lesson plan making, the TOTAL CONTROL over the curriculum my children are taught, the flexible schedule, the daily interactions with the people God put in my life, and did I mention the total control over the curriculum? So why the change? One reason: God's plan.

About 2 years ago, I became pregnant with our fourth child, which was at once a surprise and a blessing beyond words. However, since that time, I've struggled intensely with anxiety, panic, and mild depression. Hormones can be wonderful and they can terrorize. I muscled through the pregnancy craziness with extra sleep, adjustments to our home school curriculum and the addition of some more independent subjects, and lots of tears. I'd never experienced panic attacks up to that point. If you haven't either, let me tell you - they are nothing to shrug at. They are awful, terrifying episodes of torture. I was waking up multiple times nightly, unable to breathe, heart racing, and inexplicably in fight or flight mode. I'd take laps around the house, worried that something was wrong with the kids or the baby. I'd always been able to trust my instincts and "gut" and this was playing games with my head in a big way.

I thought maybe this "stuff" was a result of our previous losses during pregnancy and that maybe I was internalizing them. I thought, "surely it will get better after the first trimester and I'm past the most common time of miscarriage," and then when it didn't get better, I thought, "I'll feel better when the baby gets big enough to survive on the outside," but the 28 week mark passed and it didn't get any better. "Maybe when the baby is born," I thought, and then, "when I can get through these six weeks of intense sleep deprivation." But, here we are at just over a year postpartum and guess what? I'm still messed up. Irrational thoughts, anxiety, panic. So, I'm on the path to healing, to seeking some opinions and medical treatment, and praying that it will get better, eventually.

We, by God's grace, made it through the school year last year, finally finishing our pared-down-to-the-basics curriculum by mid-July. I was exhausted just THINKING about school for next year, but wearily scrambled to put together my curriculum for the coming year as my school room became more and more crowded with papers, craft projects, origami creations, and dust. I was trying to survive "AND THRIVE" of course, but thinking about trying to home school with an active toddler and a 4 year old desperately wanting to learn to read and thinking about managing the four kids (and educating three!) and the house, and additionally stressed out about other things beyond our control - well. Definitely Not Helping in the mental health arena.

But I would sit and ponder - what are my options? I REALLY wanted a university model school - 2 or 3 days with friends and a teacher, and the rest of the week at home. (I *still* think this would be an excellent fit for us!) I know many people use the public schools and it is a wonderful experience for them, but for our family, it isn't a good fit. I'm NOT saying that to be judgemental, and you'll just have to take my word for it! Anyhow, the elementary school down the street was not on my list of options.

We have a school attached to our church, but that wasn't an option either, mostly because we can't afford to pay more for schooling than we do for housing, and I know (because I went there and taught there) that there are tons of hidden costs when you add in uniforms and fees. Adding that huge reason of simple economics with a few other reasons, it wasn't really a good fit for our family either. Strike two. There is a charter school that I've heard great things about, and I looked into that one also, but it is quite a drive from our house - almost half an hour each way, so also not a good fit. Third strike. My panic built as I began to look into maybe a video school option, checked on some co-ops in our area, began talking with other moms about student swapping a few days a week. I was scraping the bottom. I felt that my only real option was to simplify and press on.

Then a friend moved to our area and found a small parochial school with intensely subsidized (by the church who started it) tuition. I mean, neither one of us could believe how reasonable it was. As in, compatible with my homeschooling budget. And they had extra classes like PE, Technology, Music, Spanish and Art, and sports opportunities and - SMALL CLASSES. And it is a school whose desire it is to teach every subject through the lense of Scripture. My friend's kids who had only ever been homeschooled "just happen" to be in the same grades as my boys...so we scheduled a visit. And then we prayed. And cried. And decided. And cried some more.

And two weeks ago, we quietly had our first day of school. I posted no first day of school photos on social media, because we're super involved at church and I didn't want anyone to think that we don't support the academy attached to the church. I didn't want to be "in your face" about this choice we had made. And I didn't want to feel even more defeated by the looks of surprise (or heaven help me, judgement) - remember that school attached to our church? I'm an alumni - K4-12th grade. My dad still teaches there. Awkward. (By the way, my parents are SO amazing. Supportive of us and this and just so so wonderful. They are treasures.)

The bottom line is, I can't do it all. I need help right now. This year has to be about prioritizing my health so I can be better for my family. One year in school, we told the boys. Enjoy it to the max, or endure it well. Our plan is to be back to homeschooling next year, because it is an important part of our family. I miss my boys. I am also enjoying my littles in a way I wouldn't be able to if everyone was together. There are good things and bad things. Equal parts wonderful and awful. The boys are adjusting well, I'm seeing improvements in that process every day. I still cry most of the way home from dropoff and count down the minutes until pickup. I love them so fiercely. I will admit, it is neat to see them become a little more independent, even as it tears up my mama heart. Letting go is so hard.

In the second week of school, I can hardly speak definitively. I cannot draw conclusions. I realize that I have a long way to go and a lot more lessons to learn. I have a lot of personal stuff to work through and a lot of adjustments to make to try to regain my health. It's going to be okay. God will use this year for all of us, to accomplish His awesome plan. It will make us stronger, grow us as people, as a family - and we will give Him glory. These hard choices - to do what's best even when I want things to be different - are so agonizing, but through it all, God remains steadfast and unchanging. He is my rock, my refuge, even as the storms of self-doubt, emotional instability, and wacky messed up hormones pelt me and try to beat me down.  I am so grateful for my God who does not waver.

As a post script - guess what this year's theme at the school is? God is my Rock. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.