Apparently St. John Vianney said that “our greatest cross is our fear of crosses.” This is certainly true for me when it comes to making a decision for this upcoming school year regarding whether to homeschool or not.
I guess I am now something of a veteran homeschool mom, though I certainly don’t feel like I have anything figured out. It has been rough. So far we have only homeschooled my son from kindergarten through half of fifth grade. My next oldest child is going to be starting kindergarten next school year. So, we have been at it a while, but only with the one child. Every child is different, so we will see how things go with her.
All along, the boy has been less than excited about learning, though he is very bright. His main interests in life have been sports and playing with friends. Anything that takes away from that, for him, is a thing to be avoided, argued about, or rushed through. As he has gotten nearer to adolescence, this has only gotten more intense. He compares our family to his friends’ families, and our homeschool ways to his friends’ public school ways. For him, if it is not like the rest of the pack, it is wrong and embarrassing. So we, being homeschoolers and serious about our Catholic faith, are wrong and embarrassing to him. No matter how I tried to modify to accommodate his desires and preferences, we got to where every day from the morning on was a total suck fest. Even one assignment, enjoyable even, was too much, and would prompt carpet-rolling, whining, and refusing to do the work for hours. It was a bit of a living nightmare–not to mention I was having postpartum depression and a midlife crisis to deal with. It was too much and we decided to try public school. We had lost our way and thought that perhaps it could be helpful.
Today was the last day of the school year for him. Overall, he had a good experience there. I wouldn’t say he learned a whole lot academically, but he learned what public school is like and got to do a lot of things using technology, which he liked. He learned how to prepare for and take a high-stakes test. He met some friends that he would like to keep in touch with. If it were his choice alone, he would prefer to go back next year for junior high.
We have been really praying, discussing, thinking, rereading, visiting the new school–hoping we can make the right decision for my son and our family. Of course, there are pros and cons to every situation. We are blessed to have 2 good options, but sometimes it seems like it would be nicer to have no choice because it is so hard to choose–what if I choose wrong and my child is at a disadvantage in life and not able to live up to his full potential and it is ALL MY FAULT?!
Mark Manson writes in his book The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck that we will never get to a point in life that will be perfectly peachy with no problems–that we will always have problems and suffering–the thing is to choose which set of problems you want to deal with. I think that is helpful advice for this homeschooling dilemma. Yes, I do fear the cross that I will bear when we take up the homeschooling again with him. I would love to choose the path that leads to rainbows over dewy meadows, singing birds and forest animals helping me clean my kitchen, and distant laughing children on the lawn hanging my wet laundry on the line to dry. But that is not an option. We are going to have problems no matter which path we choose. The thing is which would we rather deal with?–enjoy, even.
If we homeschool, we have to deal with the laziness, attitude, and arguing possibly all day and every day until he quits and learns. Also the juggling all the kids and their needs, plus the housekeeping. And the overwhelming weight of the responsibility for his education and future, the self-doubt and second, third, thousandth guessing of the choices I have made.
If we choose public school, there is the lack of control over who is teaching him and what he is being taught–the official curriculum and the real curriculum–everyone has an angle, and only the most self-aware and scrupulous teacher will avoid teaching the children his opinion if he really believes he is doing a service by teaching it. Also, the peers that he will be with for the most part of the day establish what “normal” is–and if we oppose it, then we are setting ourselves up for more strife. He will be theirs to schedule, assign how much, test on what they find important, teach about changing bodies and sexuality, think critically and question–not bad in itself, but could be if taught in a certain way, despising traditional knowledge and beliefs. He will learn to work on their schedules and study what they tell him to, rather than learn to seek knowledge that is interesting to him and learn time management skills. I know that there are good teachers and schools. I know that we can opt out of some of these things but opting out makes you stand out, and he will be even more upset.
So, since we are going to have problems either way, we are going to go back to homeschooling–I choose that set of problems. I pray for the grace of God to enable me to live this vocation for the good of my children.
Making the choice to homeschool is hard, but once we have done our due diligence by praying, educating ourselves, and thinking about the best options and have made a choice, then we can assume that this is God’s will for us–unless proven otherwise. If it is God’s will, he will give us the graces we need to carry it out. It is a cross to bear–but that is the way to salvation, and he will help us carry it. He will use it for our transformation into saints. This is not to be feared, but embraced. Also, all this hand-wringing and thousandth guessing ourselves is only making the cross heavier. We do the best we can with what we have and know, and God will intervene at the right time to grow that child into what he wants for him to be–they are his after all, and we are only loaned them for a short time to raise and return to him. He will send the right people, experiences, books, and opportunities into their lives. We could never know those things, but God does, and he has the power and wills their highest good, so we have to trust him and let that weight drop off. We have to live the faith we profess and offer our few loaves and fishes trusting that he will perform the required miracle with them.