6 years ago we made the decision to homeschool Emily. We homeschooled her for Pre-K through 4th grade. It didn’t come naturally to us at first. In fact, when we first became parents, we never even considered homeschooling. Through a series of events, and a whole lot of prayer, we felt that homeschooling was the path the Lord wanted us to take. At that time, we committed to praying about Emily’s schooling each and every year to determine whether or not to continue homeschooling or choose another option. We didn’t know if it was for a year, a few years, or forever.
This past year as 4th grade came to a close, my husband and I committed again to praying about her 5th grade year. Let me be clear – I absolutely love homeschooling! LOVE it! I love the flexibility in our schedule, I love the time with my daughter, I love seeing her learn and being a part of it. But, for a few months, I had been feeling something stirring inside of me that had me thinking it might not be the right choice anymore. I prayed about it. My husband prayed about it. We didn’t want to homeschool just because we always had or because we loved it, but rather we wanted to make the decision that was best for our daughter at time in her life.
We had some big things to consider.
One of the challenges with homeschooling for us is that Emily is an only child. As homeschoolers, we all laugh about the myth of “socialization”. It really is a myth because as homeschoolers, we are out in the community and interacting with people all the time. We also know that a room full of 20+ kids in a classroom setting are not allowed to socialize much anyway. However, there are some benefits to learning in a group. Many homeschool families have a built in group with their multiple kids. That is not an option for us. Groups of people can bring new ideas, new ways to do things, and a chance to build relationships.
Relationships. That’s what Emily was missing. Several of our close friends with kids her age had recently moved away. The Bible study I was attending with a “homeschool room”, only had a couple kids Emily’s age. Even then, we only saw them once a week and one of those two would not be returning the next year. The church we attend on post also does not have a large number of kids her age. This was becoming a problem for her. She was spending all her time with me, and while she thankfully enjoys her time with me, she was craving those relationships like we all do. People her own age that she can get to know and that can get to know her. She said once that she wanted friendships with people who “really know what things I like and I can know what they like”. Isn’t that what we all desire? People to really know us?
Ok, definitely something to consider. How can we best meet this need? We considered for a while joining a homeschool co-op, but the one that would have worked with our schedule just didn’t offer great class options. I didn’t want to have her just go take a class for the sake of taking a class. I wanted her to learn something if we were going to invest an entire day of our schedule to this co-op. We could still be part of the co-op just for field trips, but that didn’t really solve the relationship problem either, as it takes more face to face time to build those.
The more we prayed, the more we heard from Emily too. We made a point to really listen to what she was saying and found a lot of thought and wisdom in her words.
She expressed to us her desire to learn with other kids. She said she wished she could go to public school to see what it was like. She was concerned that she would hurt my feelings by saying that, but I assured her she did not. We wanted to hear her heart. She said that she wanted to be able to learn with a group of kids her age and be able to see where she stood in relation to them. I totally understood that. We know we aren’t to compare ourselves to others, but only to Christ. True, but there is something about knowing where you stand. She just wanted to know that she was on track. It’s not that she doubted my teaching ability, but she had nothing to compare her knowledge to. Are other kids learning the same thing? Do they struggle with similar things? Am I ahead? Behind? She just wanted to know.
She wanted the chance to make friends. To be around kids her own age several days a week and see the same kids. To build relationships. Even knowing that school would not be one giant field trip or playdate, this was important to her.
More and more, we felt the Lord was leading us to put her in school for 5th grade. Why? I don’t know. Maybe so we can serve someone at the school. A family? A teacher? Of course so Emily can be a friend to others and make friends herself. It would definitely give us as a family a way to reach out to others in the community and love on them. People we would have never met otherwise. We can serve the school and the people that work there. Be salt & light in the community by stepping out of our comfort bubble a bit.
I was starting to feel excited about her chance to go to school. When we first started homeschooling, I had a list of reasons why we shouldn’t. I wanted “me time” and a break. I had things I wanted to do. I wasn’t good enough to teach. In the end, I realized all of my reasons were either selfish or fear based. Fear is not from the Lord, so the more we looked at it, the more we realized we should homeschool. At the time, Emily had some special needs that we also felt we could better address at home. That turned out to be true for a few years, but as she grew, those needs diminished.
This year was different. All of my reasons for keeping her at home were selfish or fear based. I don’t want to throw her to the wolves. Is she strong enough? What if she gets picked on? What will she be exposed to? What was I really afraid of? I have MANY friends who have kids in public school and they THRIVE. I have many Christian friends whose kids are shining their light in public schools and thriving. But, I will miss her! We lose our flexibility over what we study and our schedule. Oh, our schedule! No more impromptu field trips just because we can.
In the end, I had to choose to trust GOD. Again, fear is not from the Lord!! Emily belongs to HIM and He is in control, always. If this is where He was leading us, he has a reason. I can trust Him to watch over her when I can’t be there. I trust that her faith in the Lord is STRONG and that she takes Jesus with her to school each and every day. I can trust that any situation that comes up, we can deal with it if we take it to the Lord in prayer.
So, we enrolled her in school and she was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement before it started. It was fun to see the excitement in her eyes. We as a family definitely felt this was the right thing for us to do, right now, in this season.
It’s been a month already and things are going great. I’ll share the details of how the first month went in my next post.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your path straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6