We Never Set Out to Homeschool
Had someone told me I was going to be homeschooling our kids before our oldest was 5 years old, I would have laughed. Um, no. Absolutely not.
I enjoyed being with Kennedy and Hayley, and the majority of our days were cheerful and carefree. Of course, we had those days too.
You know… the ones where the pot is boiling over as you trip over the dog in a mad dash attempt to grab the markers away from your little one who decided to become a pint-sized Picasso on the living room wall. Or when your preschooler dumps an entire gallon of milk on your carpet when you thought she was in bed napping. Let me tell you that you absolutely cannot get that smell out of the carpet without ripping it all out. Maybe most of your days are sunshine mixed with a bit of thunder. Life with kids can be interesting, to say the least.
Feeling Burnout as a Stay at Home Mom
By the time Kennedy was approaching the start of kindergarten, I was honestly getting completely burnt out as a stay-at-home mom. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my kids, but I was really looking forward to a bit of a break when school started up in the fall. Isn’t moving your kiddos to school considered a rite of passage in motherhood anyway?
Since we are creatures of comfort, sometimes it takes some prodding from God to move us along our life’s path. Claiming that I didn’t suspect the path we were going to be taking over the next year would be an understatement.
What I Honestly Thought About Homeschoolers Before We Were Homeschoolers
Homeschooling was something weird people did. Well, at least that’s how it felt 10 years ago. Didn’t all homeschool moms wear those denim jumpers, lock themselves away in their houses, and have socially awkward kids? (Never mind the fact that those jumpers seem to be back in style again. 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have been caught dead in one!) Weren’t they the people who either had geniuses for kids, a child who was a prodigy at some musical instrument, or worse yet, those types of people who make the Addams family look normal?
Feeling Uneasy About Public School Kindergarten
That summer before our oldest, Kennedy, went off to kindergarten, I started to feel uneasy in my soul. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t sure if it was just the normal mom feeling you got when transitioning into a different season of motherhood or what.
Both of the girls had been in preschool several days a week and absolutely loved it. And quite frankly, so did I! Kindergarten couldn’t really be that big of a change from preschool.
At some point during that summer, I felt that God was gently nudging me to explore that vague discomfort I had been feeling. Some of my apprehension likely stemmed from the fact that I was planning on Kennedy going to half-day kindergarten. I felt it was an easy way to tiptoe into public school. As fate would have it, midway through the summer, it was announced the school was no longer offering half-day kindergarten.
I felt a pit in my stomach any time I thought about Kennedy being gone all day long. This wasn’t how I had imagined her transition to school. I was a ball of mixed emotions. I felt excited for her, sad for the season that was ending, and relief that a little more rest was coming my way during the weekdays. I
excitedly jumped into homeschooling briefly looked into homeschooling Kennedy and Hayley at this point.
Tight Finances Were an Easy “Out” of Homeschooling
All of this was taking place just a few years after the Great Recession started in 2008. We had literally just bought our first house two months before the housing bubble burst and were officially upside-down in our mortgage. We had student loan debt from college, and also had made some unwise money decisions we were digging ourselves out of.
Times were lean, but my husband, Scott, was determined to make it possible for me to stay home with the girls. I confess that I didn’t always appreciate or understand what a gift it really was for me to be able to be home until much later. I was even resentful for a short time when I first started staying home. Having come from working a full-time job and full-time college, I felt like I wasn’t sure who I was anymore when I didn’t have that daily hustle. I know days can seem pointless in the midst of spilled milk and potty training, but momma, you have no idea how special and formative those days really are until they are gone!
I quickly filed away that uneasiness I had felt about public school after having a few short-lived conversations with Scott. The more I talked about it, the more I felt it was causing friction in our marriage. He was ready for me to go back to work so he could drop down to working one job. LIKE YESTERDAY. And who could blame the guy? He had sacrificed a lot by working two full-time jobs as a paramedic for me to stay home with the girls.
Even though I was feeling a prompting I knew was from God, I was relieved when Scott didn’t agree. It gave me an easy out. I didn’t want to go against my husband’s wishes.
If God wanted us to homeschool, He was going to have to change my husband’s mind. So that is what I prayed for. Someone should have warned me to be careful what I pray for!
Renewed Enthusiasm About Kindergarten
It was settled that Kennedy would be going to kindergarten at the local elementary school in the fall. We enthusiastically started the typical preparations for kindergarten: kindergarten round-up, back to school shopping, and we eagerly attended the meet and greet with her new teacher. We were positive and made starting kindergarten a big deal.
The big day came, and like so many other moms, I was a mess while we took first-day pictures. We waited in anticipation for the bus. I felt excitement mixed with a sense of sadness. She, however, was ecstatic! Even though a little piece of me was grieving the season that was ending, I had a feeling of pride in her eagerness to move into something new. I had personally enjoyed elementary school as a kid, especially kindergarten, and was sure she would too.
From Enthusiasm to an Unimaginable Nightmare
The first day of school came and went. Kennedy came home absolutely exhausted, but her first day was great!
I wish the same could be said for the rest of that week, that month, that semester, or that school year. But, as we were soon to find out, something was very terribly wrong.
Our typically outgoing, bubbly, and fun-loving daughter came home and collapsed into a sobbing mess on our couch every single day at 4 pm. Every. Single. Day. Without. Fail.
At first, we just chalked it up to being overly tired from doing so much during the day. That was only the tip top of a very ominous iceberg.
In the Name of Confidentiality (The School’s Attempt to Stifle Our Involvement as Parents)
The phone calls from the teacher started a few weeks after school began.
These types of phone calls continued consistently over the course of the school year. They were always vague even though we were trying to hash out some major behavior issues. All the while, we were deprived of information that might help us parent our daughter effectively.
Now please don’t hear me saying I think my kiddo was totally innocent of any wrongdoing. No, not at all. However, as a parent, I can’t correct and teach my child a better way to deal with “isn’t being a good friend” while having absolutely no idea of what was going on all day with her.
Kennedy was now spending more time away from home than not. She was obviously struggling on an emotional level, as well as how she was relating to others. This was a new development. She had always been happy-go-lucky and always seemed to get along with her friends without much trouble. I felt shut out of my daughter’s life at a time I knew she was needing me. All for the sake of someone else’s confidentiality (if only that were the whole story).
Stomach Aches, Anxiety, and a Sick Kid
Then the stomach aches started. “Mommy, I don’t feel good. Do I have to go to school?” she would cry almost every morning. At this point, we knew something was really, terribly wrong. We were seeing personality changes in our daughter and signs of anxiety. This was not at all normal.
One day, she legitimately had a stomach ache, but I didn’t know it because of all the other times she had cried wolf in an attempt to not go to school (or maybe she really had stomach aches from anxiety, but we just didn’t realize it). She seemed really adamant that morning, so I told her if she really felt that bad, she could go to the school nurse. I told her if she really didn’t feel well to have the nurse call me.
She puked twice at school that day and spent almost the entire day in the nurse’s office. The nurse never contacted me, even when Kennedy asked her to. Kennedy’s teacher called me to tell me Kennedy had puked at school as Kennedy was getting off the bus and walking in the door. ALMOST AN HOUR AFTER SCHOOL WAS OUT.
When I called the nurse to find out why she hadn’t called me, she told me that they didn’t usually call parents when kids vomited. I asked her to please let me know if Kennedy ever got sick again at school, and I would come immediately to pick her up.
What Did You Say?!?
Around the same time the phone calls started from Kennedy’s teacher, Kennedy started coming home and using some rather colorful language. She also started asking me about lewd terminology that made me turn red as an adult. Our daughter was 5! Where in the world was she getting this stuff?
As I started asking her where she was hearing those words, she said her friend from her class was telling her about them. Over the course of the year, I found out through talking with Kennedy that this other little girl had been sexually abused by her mom’s boyfriend. Apparently, she was comfortable telling Kennedy all the details about it- including the things he made her watch and some of the things that he made her do.
I felt for this other little girl but at the same time was mad enough to spit tacks. Our daughter was reliving someone else’s trauma and had begun to internalize some of it. I felt like our daughter’s innocence had been ripped away from her.
Of course, all of this doesn’t hold a candle to the current state of affairs with the purposeful sexualization of young children openly happening all over this country in public school settings. It really is a form of child abuse. Our culture is becoming so morally decayed that it is increasingly difficult to parent children in our mainstream culture (schools, libraries, extracurricular programs, and even entertainment geared toward children).
A Frequently “Misplaced” Child
The school had parents put lanyards around the kindergartener’s necks to help them know whether or not they were supposed to be parent pick-up or riding the bus, along with their bus number. Within the first two weeks of school, Kennedy didn’t get off the bus when she was supposed to.
I called the school. They called back a few minutes later. She hadn’t gotten on the bus. She was standing outside the school waiting for parent pick-up even though her lanyard said bus and her bus number. No one caught it for almost an hour.
On another day, the bus didn’t drop her off again. 15 minutes past her drop-off time passed, then 20, then 30. I called the school. They didn’t know where she was again. They contacted the bus driver. She didn’t know where she was either.
Time passed. 45 minutes. 1 hour. An hour and 15 minutes after she should have gotten off the bus. An hour and a half after our daughter should have gotten off the bus, the school finally called. This was two and a half hours after school got out! She apparently had fallen asleep on the way home on the bus. The bus driver had finished her route and was already home by the time the school called and she realized Kennedy was still on the bus. With that amount of time elapsed, she obviously didn’t do a walk-through after she parked the bus.
Bites, Bruises, a Bully, and the Bus
Kennedy came home with bite marks on her arms from another kid on the bus. She started coming home with large unexplained bruises. I called the school. I called the bus driver.
It was explained to me that they had assigned seating on the bus. I asked that either Kennedy or the other girl be moved so that they weren’t by each other anymore. That apparently didn’t happen. The same girl spit on her the very next day when they were on the bus.
At this point, I was beyond fed up. I started waking Kennedy’s 4-year-old sister early in the morning and then again from her afternoon naps just so I could take Kennedy to and from school in hopes to avoid any issues on the bus. Ironically, she was put on the bus more than once after I switched her lanyard to “parent pick-up,” even after she said she told them she wasn’t supposed to get on the bus. Go figure.
At this point, we were dealing with:
- a kid who previously had no behavior issues at home or in preschool was now having major behavior issues and changes in personality
- the school was communicating behavior issues were going on during the day yet refusing to give us any details as to what those issues were
- our daughter was having stomach aches and anxiety issues to the point she begged not to go to school most days
- she was coming home cussing like a sailor and asking me what a plethora of sexually explicit words meant
- a multitude of bussing-related issues (our daughter was “misplaced” more than once when the school couldn’t tell me where she was other than she wasn’t at school for hours at a time)
- repeatedly coming home from school with bite marks and/or bruises
I’m mortified as I sit and write this that we let this go on for so long. We shouldn’t have. We were desperate to make school work for Kennedy. God had one more HUGE wake-up call in store for us. For the rest of the story, check out part 2 of Our Homeschool Story.
To learn more about us, check out these posts:
- Our Homeschool Story Part 2
- Our Foster Care and Adoption Story
- Our Journey to an Old-Fashioned Lifestyle
What a sad story about how the system failed your family. I’m so glad you had homeschool as an option!
I recently listened to a podcast from another homeschooling mom who had never thought she’d homeschool, and I must say, between that podcast and this article, it’s opened my eyes somewhat about the whole thing. My husband is a pilot, so he’s gone a lot, and we really like to soak up every minute together with the kids when he’s home. But when they’re at school during the day for nine months of the year, that makes it difficult. The flexibility alone is worth the consideration, nevermind the obvious benefits of tailored curriculum and focused, one-on-one education. Although I’m not yet feeling a strong prodding, this is definitely an article I’m keeping saved to refer back to once in a while. Thank you for sharing!
I’m glad it was helpful! When we first started homeschooling, my husband was a paramedic working 24/48 hour shifts (sometimes longer when he would go from one job to the other) so I understand where you’re coming from. Homeschooling is definitely a lifestyle, but the advantages are amazing!
I am so sorry to hear what you and your family went through. We’re expecting our first child in August, and I’m already planning to homeschool when the time comes. I was a 6th grade teacher for a few years, and it has made me absolutely despise public school. I witnessed horrifying teachings and practices that strip our young children of their innocence. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope others will hear it and be encouraged to make this important decision for their own families.
Thanks Megan and congrats on your baby! What an exciting time! I always find it interesting and encouraging that so many homeschooling families are have parents who worked in the school system.
So sorry to hear about your experience at school! I am glad you found a better route for your family.
It is so sad that the school failed your daughter. Should of not had happened. We had similar incident with our daughter in elementary school where another girl shared what happened to her. I was so upset not only for that child but for my own daughter too. Thank you for sharing your story!
What an awful first experience for school! Both for you and Kennedy! I’m really glad that you found some balance with homeschooling! We are a homeschooling family too 🙂
What a great story and testimony! I love it. We are also homeschoolers, but it was a much simpler story because I was homeschooled myself. So, it always felt like an easy decision. Thanks for sharing!