Friends…I’d like to share an open letter to all homeschooling moms. Most especially, those of you who think you simply can’t do this anymore. In the past few weeks, I’ve encountered so many moms who are stressed, filled with self-doubt and discouragement. There are so many who are considering abandoning homeschooling for all the wrong reasons. I would like to share my story in hopes that no one ever undergoes the same suffering that our family experienced, or at least, offer the advice that I never sought.
I’m a homeschooling mother of 9 and had been homeschooling for many years when the stress of two back to back pregnancies and bed rest, coupled with near paralysis and postpartum depression, caused me to doubt my ability to effectively parent and educate my children. I began to feel that my physical incapacity and obvious emotional weakness was damaging my children. I told myself that I was crazy to continue this way. That they would get along better if they weren’t in each other’s faces day and night. That it would be a relief to not have to keep records or worry about being accountable for my “failure.” In other words…I felt more like a lousy parent than a lousy home educator and feared that my children would judge me harshly one day for the many ways that I was failing at my vocation. I didn’t want the guilt of it all, anymore. So I cried. I begged and pleaded with my husband. I told him I simply couldn’t do it anymore. Never once during this time did any of my friends have a clue just how much I was suffering. I didn’t seek the wisdom and counsel of mothers who had been down this path before. I was far too ashamed. I seemed to really have it all together, on the surface. Goodness, people sought my advice! They looked to me for solutions for their problems…how could I ever let them know how much I was suffering?
So my husband, out of his great love and concern for my physical and emotional well-being, allowed me to return the five children that were homeschooling at that time, back to public school. We lived in a very small town, with an excellent school less than three miles from my house. I packed lunches, loaded backpacks, signed up for PTA and Band Boosters and became a Homeroom Mother. My children joined the dance team, band, academic team, theater, basketball, tennis, track, drum corp and Raptor club. I (along with the younger children) spent my time in the car, chauffering to the next event, waiting for the bus and keeping appointments. I had told myself that we would continue faith formation after school…but there was never any time. If the children weren’t in some type of practice, then homework, dinner, bath and bedtime were all we ever had time for.
But those were the little things…the worst of it? The relationship the children had with one another completely disappeared. They became jealous and argumentative. They wanted to hang out with their school friends, not the pesky little brother or sister. And they were sick. Horribly, miserably sick. During our homeschooling days, none of the children had been on an antibiotic for more than 5 years. After entering public education, we were in the emergency room, doctor’s office or urgent care center a minimum of once a week. Three months after entering public school, every single one of them came down with community acquired pneumonia. Then strep. And so on. It was horrific. I watched our family relationships disintegrate, as we were all so very exhausted and sick so much of the time. This went on for eighteen months. During this time, I never once considered that perhaps we would be better off homeschooling. After all, what could I offer them compared to all the great things they were participating in at public school? My heart was broken as I realized that I had thrown away a beautiful thing…that I had sacrificed a temporary stress for permanent suffering. And I would NEVER ask them if they wanted to come back. It would be too painful to be rejected in such a way.
Then one day, as I was lamenting to a friend just how much my children had changed, how my family was not the same, and was also encouraging her in pursuing her goal of homeschooling, she asked me why I didn’t just ask them if they wanted to come home. “Right,” I said. “Like they would. Here, I’ll show you…Hey son…how would you like to come back home for school?” Without hesitation he says: “I could come home? Really? And not go back? Sure!” I sobbed aloud. I said “You don’t mean it! You have basketball and academic team…you would really come back?” He said: “Mom…I’m exhausted. I never have time to play anymore. I’m sick a lot. I want to come home.” A quick survey revealed that all of the children were ready to return home. That no matter the allurement, they wanted to come back to the place where faith, family and love reigned.
One month later, they were back. It has taken a few years to undo the damage. We had to rebuild relationships and trust, but we are all committed to this crazy idea we call home education. It is hard. Some days are harder than others. But we’ve remembered why we’re doing this. We want a strong family of faith. We are raising saints and not scholars. We want our children to love one another and look to the example of those who love them best. When they were away…there was just never enough time, no matter how good our intentions were.
Dearest mother…if there is anyway you can think a little longer on this, I urge you to. Just to be sure that you won’t suffer the way my family did. I offer you no judgment whatsoever, I’ve been where you are. I know how painful it is. I just wish that someone, anyone had offered me counsel…I just didn’t ask for it. I hope that by sharing my story, you will find within yourself the strength to persevere in the face of seeming impossibility. You can do it. God will give you all the graces you ask Him for.