dear mom who wishes she could home school

dear mom who wishes she could home school

I home schooled for a while.

While I did, we lived on one income. And my life was consumed with caring for four small children and making everything, including pudding, from scratch because it was cheaper. This family has eaten their fill of ham-less split pea soup and depression-era bread.

I know many families who choose to home school make sacrifices to make it happen.  I know it annoys them when people with professionally kept hair and nails who drive reliable and fairly nice cars and go out to movies and out to eat a lot comment, “It must be nice to be able to stay home.” Whether you home school or not, for any mom who makes financial sacrifices to stay at home the comment is equally grating. (Friends, if you home school or home schooled, please scroll down to the bottom of this letter past my signature right now and read a special note to you before you read any further.)**

And then again, mom who wishes she could home school, you know that it really must be nice. Because in spite of your home-schooling friends’ protestations that you can make it work you know there are reasons you cannot. Some are fairly obvious, and you wish your friends would just stop talking about how great home school is and how they’d never put their kids in school in a sort of way that makes you feel like somehow you’ve chosen a lower road and there is no hope for you ever of being a mom anyone would want to be like because not only are you not home-schooling but you put your kids in public school.

I know those reasons.

Because I home schooled for a while . . . and then I couldn’t.

And it wasn’t until I could and then I couldn’t that I noticed how much the Christian community often glorifies home schooling to a level of spirituality unattainable for a whole lot of women.

Dear mom who wishes she could home school and absolutely cannot, I know you’ve noticed this.

And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you were less than a wise, spiritual and sacrificial and mom. You are doing it all alone. All of it. With no one to earn even a small income to let you stay at home and spend exhausting days teaching little ones to read while feeding a baby, staying up late to prepare science experiments, learning advanced math to keep up with your high schooler, scrounging car change to buy a bag of split peas. Shame on us if we ever gracelessly rubbed home school in your face.

My reasons for not home schooling are different from yours. But we made a choice and you never had one.

Maybe you are like me. Maybe it’s not that you have no husband. Maybe at some point you had to choose between your marriage or home schooling.

Maybe you had to choose between health or home schooling. Maybe you had to choose between a healthy relationship with your child or home schooling. And maybe you will never, ever tell any of these reasons to anyone, so I will tell you mine just so you know you are not alone.

In my house, a raging battle with addiction elevated the stress level during the home school years to extremely unhealthy.

Our kids needed a break. I was unable to focus on anything but how on earth this marriage was going to make it. My strength was sapped by late nights arguing and worrying over how another unexpected debt would be resolved, and why I didn’t know about it yet again. My temper was short with the 5 year old who knew how to read and could not be taught the purpose of silent e because he already knew far better than me. Trying to teach math concepts to a variety of cognitive levels strained my patience and my brain to the point where there was no capacity to be both mom and teacher at the same time. No one learns math from a yeller. Or maybe they learn to hate math. We didn’t need the added stress of private school tuition — we couldn’t afford it. No. Really could not.

The answer for us was public school. And the school our boys landed in turned out to be the most amazing blessing we could ever have imagined. Sure, we had a couple of teacher struggles. Sure, as a former teacher, there were things I thought could have been done better. But our boys got the stability they did not have at home. Through losing a job, an amazing camp home, they went to a public school that wrapped their arms around our family in a way we never knew could come from anywhere but a community of believers.

For our oldest the transition from home school was harder. Middle school was not great time to jump into the system at all. But with the help and support of the district’s home school program for secondary students, some classes at the high school and some at a local community college, a very dear friend who generously folded her into her own daughter’s home school days to learn Latin and life, a few fantastic music teachers and a great base of support in local theatre, she managed to piece together a pretty incredible high school education.

Hear me, mom who wishes she could home school and cannot, God knows.

* * * * *

You would think that a person who had wanted to home school so badly would be really involved in their kids’ schools.

For a while I was. I was an art docent. I went on field trips. But I had to work, too (which is a topic for another post). I tried to get a job with the district, but there were no job openings for part-time English teachers (I will never teach high school English full time again — it’s actually TWO full time jobs), and the job I chose to stick with was consuming and not a good fit for moms trying to do it all who are not very adept at trying to do it all.

It wasn’t that I didn’t volunteer or go to my kids’ things. Just not a lot of school day things. I was at the theatre or soccer games or meets after school/after work. But it was hard to be at school. Hard because for a lot of years, being in a school reminded me of all I had given up.

And then I got to know you better, moms who wished they could and moms who home schooled until they couldn’tAnd moms who never did and never wanted to.  And I didn’t feel so bad anymore. In high school, there is a comfortable blend of all sorts of moms. As so many women around me who once home schooled are going to work, I’ve noticed that our lives are becoming more alike even as they have drifted away from the days of home school co-op.

* * * * *

I would be lying if I told you I don’t wish any more.

Still, the beautiful ideal to me is a hard but simple farm life and a dining room table school. But that’s not my life at all, and I think after kicking against the goads and wishing my life was something it wasn’t for too many years, I’ve finally accepted that it is what it is.

For the first time maybe ever, I waltzed in to the parent teacher conference arena last week in confidence that my parent/work/life/educator world was exactly what it should be. And I looked teachers in the eye as they told me some things I didn’t know about my kids, and I wasn’t ashamed that I didn’t know. I know plenty of good moms of teenagers — home-schooled or not — who don’t know them either.

* * * * *

If you made it this far in this very long letter, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve felt the same as me. Your wishes have been on my heart for so long, I just had to blurt it out all at once, as though you asked and I answered over coffee. I don’t want to go back and cut out words that might be important to you.

Dear mom who wishes, keep living the life you’ve been given and not the one you wish you had.

And please never feel like you’ve missed it all when you can’t do the thing you really cannot do. You know those things. You talk with God about them — a lot. And maybe you sometimes you yell at Him. Or maybe you yell at your husband. Or maybe you yell at the collection agent harassing you over your medical bills . . . . because it hurts.

God knows.

Give your wishes to God and pick up the now and embrace it. I wish I had done that a long time ago.

Deb's signature for blog











** Dear mom who home schools her children, I respect so much what you do, and I know it isn’t easy. And I know some of you who keep on and kept on in spite of incredibly difficult things in your home. But this post is for women who sincerely wishes she could home school, but for one reason or other cannot. And by that I mean a mom who is a single mom who has to work outside her home to provide for her children. Or maybe there is someone in their home battling addiction to alcohol or drugs and school offers stability they don’t have at home. Or she has health issues or one of her children has issues that make it impossible to give them both love and an education. Or her husband lost his job and they are struggling to make it financially. Or her husband is not supportive of home schooling at all. So please, I admire you so much and would be grieved if you took offense at my post. It’s meant to encourage women like me.


21 thoughts on “dear mom who wishes she could home school”

  • Deb ~ I’m so thankful for your honesty, transparency, and truth! Your “out loud” recollections of the journey you’ve been on have been an amazing example and encouragement to me! When we began to homeschool about 15 years ago with our 4 little girls at home, it was the most fun journey and I don’t think I ever questioned or looked at different options. Now, God has placed more children (boys) in our home, a couple of them unexpectedly, moving that number to 8 children, all teenagers now, and I question every day, “What in the world is God making me do?” In other words, why am I still homeschooling and why do we still feel like this is the right decision for our family? We do keep homeschooling, because we need to, and we feel like it is working to meet the individual and unique needs of our children. However, I do feel the burden of homeschooling almost every day, but God is not taking it out of my life; He has, however, given me some practical ways to manage it with help from the school district previously in WA and now in CA. And just that has felt like it has separated me from the conservative homeschool community, which I’ve always been a part of. The response of my heart has been to tell myself that my journey is not identical to anyone else’s journey, and the mandates that have been felt by these well-meaning individuals are not my mandates. It has also convicted me of EVER intentionally or unintentionally putting those mandates on others. God has placed many families around us in these later years of homeschooling, who have “public schooled” their kids successfully! When this became obvious to me about 7 years ago, I realized what a lie that I had bought into: that homeschooling is the best choice! Homeschooling is A choice, not THE choice. May God’s grace abound in our lives as we grow and humbly accept His journey in our lives. Thank you, dear friend, for your heart expressed in the written word!

  • Thank you for this quite wonderful post! It is so because of the deep truths in it. I know no one whose dreams came as adults. The messiness of life creeps in and one day the dreams must be let go. It isn’t just home schooling where this happens. It is any place in life where our dreams either don’t come true or the sheen on them wears off. I do home school, but every day is still difficult. Yet we are to look for God in these spaces of hard and full and painful and joyful. He is everywhere, in all of these, and your post is a beautiful, if hard and painful, reminder of that.

    • Thank you Kristin, sometimes it feels like acceptance and contentment are lifelong battles. But maybe not. Maybe the letting go of our own dreams and plans and embracing God’s is hard only until we fully embrace His plans?

  • Tears. You really hit home on so many fronts. I feel like I can move on… Additionally, you met me in the midst of some other major decisions, and I’m feeling free to make those decisions now that I am unattaching myself from guilt that I haven’t “fulfilled my dreams” yet, and not just about homeschool, but many things! How wonderful it is to give myself permission to “live the life I’ve been given, and not the one I wish I had”! I saw a news story yesterday, where some sea turtles had been cut free from fishing nets that they had been caught in and swimming with for who-knows-how-long. Wow. Your whole blog just acted as the scissors or knife that cut away that last rope holding the net on my flipper… So thank you and God bless us both as we glorify Him in the next sentence of our lives. 🙂 Pam

  • This is so wonderful. I homeschooled for 19 years and then had to send my 5 left at home to school because of burnout/depression. I felt so alone and like a failure. I wanted my ideal and my reality to match, but they didn’t. God wants me to rest and restore myself. I am going to promote this on my blog (that is for burnt out hs moms etc) because it is hard to find these types of posts encouraging moms who have put their children in school after homeschooling or who just want to but have never been able to. That is why I started a whole blog on it because I couldn’t find hardly any support and encouragement. Lots of finger wagging from the homeschool community about defecting but no encouragement.

  • I was homeschooled K-12, when I got pregnant with our first child I spent most of my time dreaming about homeschooling her. But by the time she got to kindergarten I was nursing my 4th child, and Loosing My Mind. I struggled so much during that year, so when a bunch of my friends from church were sending their kids to school in order to missionally engage in community I sent my oldest two littles on that big yellow bus and cried as they rolled away. But then I noticed how much more time I had to raise my two littles, they were getting the time and the snuggles and the attention that they most definitely had not been receiving while we were homeschooling. And I noticed how much the routine of going to school was helping me, during a season that felt really unstable. My kids have done SO well in school. I talk about homeschooling them but it would be for selfish reasons, because I want to love out my fantasy, or to not be the odd one out of my two sisters who both homeschool and most of my best friends homeschool. But for me – public school has, oddly enough, been a means of grace for me. My kids are doing super-well. I feel God’s hand of protection and blessing because He knows I ache to homeschool them, but just really can’t do it. I’m so glad you wrote this post for all of the women like me.

    • Oh yes, my boys loved going to school so much — and still do, even in high school. And the new found time I had with my youngest was a wonderful blessing. A couple of years back, when our home was finally on solid footing, I told the boys I would quit my job and home school them if they wanted. Not one taker. At first I was really sad and then I realized that even in ancient times, the boys would have left my side to go work or apprentice somewhere at the age they were, and I took some comfort in that. That’s when I realized the only person in our house who was not content with our new life was me.

  • THANK YOU so much for this post!!! I do not homeschool, but wish I could…for so many reasons, but for us we have had to take the hard road with our eldest (aged 7) who also wishes she could be homeschooled…all the time! But we have prayed, and sought counsel, and as hard as it is to drop off my anxious sad little girl every day, for us it is the right thing to do right now. She is in a lovely Christian school with amazing teachers, and I have to rest in the knowledge that God knows best! Having said this, I am constantly aware of the homeschoolers in our circles who do make you feel like you’ve chosen the less spiritual path for you and your children. That they have made the “better” decision and you are looked at with pity. I do have a few homeschooler friends who are wonderful and in no way have ever made me feel like this. But still, with all the “perfect” mommy blogs out there (who generally all homeschool, and make pasta from scratch, and grow their own veggies etc) there is this invisible pressure put on moms. So thank you once again. Thank you for being real, and open and honest! And thank you for the reminder that God knows. I will stop wishing for the life I think I should have, and start living the life God has placed me in today!

    • Shanley, thank you for your comment. I hear what you are saying. Even on some blogs I love, I have to limit my time — not because of them, but because of me. I’m always reading past the words into the life (which I really only see on the virtual surface). When I feel that jealousy creep up, I have to look away and look at my life and the blessings God has given me.

  • And then there’s me. The mom who can homeschool, who did homeschool, but sent her kids to public this year because they wanted to go. My choices were never based on religious reasons, but on social/learning reasons. Who knows what choice we’ll make next year.

    Moms: no matter what you do, just know as a “mom” you rock!

  • oh wow – this hit home. I get asked it a lot, why- why aren’t you homeschooling? And there are so many many reasons, most of which I don’t want to share, and mostly because sharing those opens me up to hurt, shame, and loss on a level that unless you know me, and my family, really really well – you just aren’t going to get. So thank you for writing this and not just bringing up that it can be a source of pain, and that not everyone has the option, but also the really important part for me, which is learning to embrace now. . . . where I am at now, not where I want to be or thought I’d be.

  • Our family made a lot of sacrifices to homeschool for the two years that we did. Now our kids are back at public school and they like it a lot. Thankfully, it is a really good school as far as public school goes. And I have started working part-time again, which our family really needs. The right thing, at the right time, for the people involved.

    So from that standpoint, I really enjoyed reading this.

  • Thank you once again for saying out loud what has been on my mind too. I was dropped into homeschooling (I’m not a teacher) after giving up home and country in my 40’s to move to the US for hubby to attend seminary. We had no income and no support, so life had to be lived on the minimum for three years. My teenage daughter hit puberty at the same time as we landed there (what fun) and spent each of the next 5 years in 5 different schools/school systems. My youngest son started out being homeschooled until third grade and loved it but is in a lovely village school in England now. We can look back now at all we had to battle through and marvel at how God has faithfully kept the kids and their desperate mommy in one piece despite the tears of anguish we all shed at some point.

  • Thank you. As a homeschooling mom, can I just say, I think this is beautiful, and exactly the reminder we all need. Live the life you’ve been given. That’s all any of us can do…while (hopefully) being gracious to those in different circumstances than our own.

    • Thank you Veronica. It’s been a journey to accepting a different life than what I imagined, but I would rather have God’s plan for my life than my own. I know it in my heart, but I need to be reminded — often.

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