Saturday, 4 October 2008

Dreaming within my means

A few days ago I was driving through Wanneroo to visit a friend and saw this property for sale. If I had a million dollars handy, I'd love to buy it. It has a lovely back yard for the kids to play in!

But I have to be realistic. We sold our first house to finance three years of theological studies for Jeff and I cannot see us ever being able to buy another. Which is terribly sad, but by no means the end of the world.

There are other things in life about which we have to be realistic as well. Jeff and I have been reassessing our priorities and resources over the past week and we've just made a very sad (for me) decision. Next year, Joshua will be going to a local Christian private school for Year 1 instead of homeschooling.

Unless Joshua experiences a lot of difficulty fitting in socially because he hasn't been to an "away-school" before, we will still homeschool the others for the pre-compulsory years. This means I'll essentially be doing Year 1 with Anna at home next year because although she is too young physically and emotionally for five full days a week of institutional school, she's ready intellectually for the academics. She's done fine with the K5 maths along with Joshua and she'll be as good (if not better) at reading and writing as he is by the end of the year as well, I think.

There are a lot of factors in this decision, some good, some bad, some surprising. In part, I think this decision could have been avoided if I had been better organised (or rather, more disciplined in carrying out all the things I had organised to do). A big problem for Jeff is that I haven't been giving the littler kids enough attention and loving care because I have been so focused on the bigger kids' education. There are only 24 hours in a day and homeschooling has been taking more than two of them. I've been doing much of the homeschooling in the morning when the kids' brains were fresh, but this has really cut into my time with Abi and Sam. I didn't realise how much I had been relegating them to a far second place until I spoke to Jeff about it at length. As of this week, all sit down academics has been done in the afternoon after Abigail and Samuel go down for their naps, and it has helped free us up to do family things in the morning.

However, looking forward to the future, Jeff doesn't think homeschooling will be sustainable with (not too far in the future) our four kids all learning together. Part of the problem is that we have chosen to have our children so close together in age. (Not that I regret that at all, but that's another post entirely.) This means that if we were to continue homeschooling for the junior primary years, there would be a lot of individual tutoring needed, while I taught the kids to read and write well enough to do more of their work independently. There are things that all kids would do together (history read alouds, for example), but not everything could be done in this manner. The kids would always need some or all of their maths and literacy done separately, and much of it would need to be heavily supervised. I do wonder how early primary school teachers do it. I mean, they have not just four but 24 or maybe more kids who cannot read. Of course, they don't have to keep up with the laundry and cooking and cleaning and ... (fill in the blank) at the same time as they're teaching.

Another thing that Jeff and I have come to realise over the past week or so is that, because I have been able to do what I wanted with the homeschooling, I haven't been trusting God enough with regards to the spiritual welfare of our children. I have begun to forget that He loves them much more than I do and that He will equip them for the good works He has planned in advance for them to do - regardless of just how much input I have to their schooling. So when we talked about sending them to school, we talked about the possible challenges to their fledgeling faith of sending them to the public primary down the road. We talked about the friendships we oversee them making, and those they seem to be making without any help from us. We talked about me being available to "hang around in the background" while they play with their friends. We talked about raising them to be confident in their faith, so they could fit in with a crowd when it suited them, but shine like lamps on the hill when they needed to. And, after I checked out a few Christian schools online, I thought and prayed a lot about being a good steward of the things God has provided for my use: my money, time, talents and the access He has provided to educational facilities that are not solely within our family and home. While the school we have now applied for a place in is not "at home" nor "classical", it is "Christian", and this last description is far more important to me in the scheme of things. I know I can trust God with the education of my children, as indeed with all things, but unfortunately homeschooling allows me to convince myself it is I who is in charge. And I'm not. It's such a pity I had to learn this the hard way!

It's strange - the only things I thought might be reasons to send our kids off to school were academic struggles or "the socialisation issue" and these haven't been a problem for us at all. Our kids are learning to read well, they can write neatly, they love listening to good books, they know what an "Ursus maritimus" is, they get on well with homeschooling and church friends as well as the kids in our street. But I haven't had time to sit down and play with my baby enough, Jeff is getting sick of having to cook dinner and I am forgetting to rely on my Lord and Saviour for all things.

So this decision is terribly sad for me. We've been planning to homeschool for at least half a dozen years, and I've been doing very well with it (at least from an academic perspective) so far. But, as with never being home-owners, it's not the end of the world.

I am very thankful that we can enrol our children in an away-school where the teachers are all committed Christians and their fellow students will all come from families with at least one committed Christian parent. I am very thankful that I don't have to put Anna into full-time away-school when she's not yet physically or emotionally ready. I am thankful that Joshua will be able to learn art from a teacher rather than a text, since I can see he enjoys artistic activities immensely and is actually quite good at drawing. I remember how relieved I felt at finding a place for Sam on Wednesdays in childcare, and I am very grateful to be able to look forward to a time when, with my children all being educated outside our home, I will be free to help my husband in ministering to our congregation. Perhaps I might lead a Bible study for ladies during the day, teach a Sunday school class, do some more talks for women's and mothers' groups or just sit and chat with the neighbour who's recently divorced and hurting. I might even be able to go to classes at Trinity and learn Biblical Greek from a lecturer rather than out of a book!

Looking on the bright side does help. But ultimately, Jeff has decided this needs to happen and I need to submit to his headship in this matter. So that's how it's going to be.


Mrs. Edwards said...

I think perhaps the greatest reason that we homeschool is to integrate our faith with learning. I am privileged to have experienced both Christian schooling and public schooling (and even one glorious high school semester of independent study) and have concluded that Truth impacts all areas of study, not just science and not just "religion." In the formative years we hope to integrate the Truth into all learning and give our kids the skills to begin doing this on their own as they interact with life as an adult. Being able to see things with the lens of Biblical truth is an acquired skill.

For our budget, homeschooling is the way to do this. My sister, however, has enrolled her kids in a Christian school and they are doing quite well. I'm glad that you were able to find one for Joshua.

It sounds like you have a good plan for providing each of your four the mothering that they need. God is so good and so faithful to provide for us!

One caveat though, which you've probably observed: Being a mom of kids in school can be surprisingly time-consuming! A friend of mine found after two years that their evenings were consumed with homework help, meetings, music lessons, and sports so that with all the kids in school it didn't seem like much of a pay-off in the evenings.

For my own situation, we are so blessed to have my parents living in our neighborhood. My mother helps me out with teaching the big kids literature and takes my youngest to her house for "preschool" in the mornings. I was reaching a breaking point because of the very thing you describe: I was unable to keep up with the needs of a two-year-old. It isn't possible to do everything!

Forgive the long comment! I hope you'll keep blogging!

Sharon said...

It's so funny that you mentioned "Truth" - the school we have chosen has the motto "God is Truth". I was quite relieved when I saw that on their crest!

I have been warned that schooling will take added time, and I've passed that warning on to Jeff. I guess at this stage we'll just have to wait and see. One thing I am concerned about is finding the time to pick Joshua up in the afternoons as this will quite possibly clash with the end of afternoon naps. We'll work everything out one bit at a time, I guess.

I will keep blogging. I might even have more time now (well, at some vague time in the future) to read and think and write about what I think. I am very thankful for the ability to blog. It helps me to be more deliberate in all my actions and thoughts as well.

And you're forgiven the long comment. After all, I leave long ones on your blog! Thanks for the encouragement.

~ Sharon

Ruth said...

Totally understand your (and Geoff's) decision in this matter. I would also love to be homeschooling, but it definitely takes its toll on the little ones and we have also realised that we may find it more suitable when all the kids are at schooling age.

Having homeschooled for a short time, and now having children in a Christian school (actually, they were even in the "God is Truth" school for a while until we moved), I know that there are heartbreaking difficulties with both homeschooling and traditional schooling.

With Ben and Charlotte currently in a Christian school, I love the time that I can now spend focusing on Jacob and Oliver... after all, Ben and Charlotte had my attention all day, every day when they were young, so I would love to be able to do the same for the little ones.

You really see the little ones come along in leaps and bounds when you can spend more focused time with them each day. I was amazed at how quickly Oliver's speaking came along as soon as I was able to spend a lot more one-on-one time with him.

At the same time, I am saddened by some of the things that my children come home with, having learnt it "in the playground" :-( I do often struggle with the feeling that they are too young and not grounded enough to be learning some of the things they hear from other kids.

I do need to be more at peace with the knowledge that God is in control and he is taking care of our children every minute of the day. I need to spend more time each day praying for each child individually and then just trust God.

I also need to remember that although Ben and Charlotte could definitely be getting a "better" education at home, that God uses anyone and everyone who is willing to be used by him, regardless of their background or education level.

I have been reading a few books lately where God has used people from very poor, uneducated backgrounds to do mighty work for Him. I think we as a society (myself definitely included) often value education too highly and I need to constantly tell myself not to be stressed out that my kids are not learning at the speed I know they are capable of, and not necessarily learning all the things I would like them to learn.

There is still all the before and after school and all weekend to do a lot of character training, and to equip our children for a lifetime of compassion and service. Family devotions around the table at night are a great opportunity to do some daily "schooling" with all your children at once.

It is also lovely that school holidays are quite frequent and substantial, and there is definitely a lot you can teach them in that time... heh heh. My kids beg me to do "T____ School" in the holidays because they love it so much.

Anyway, I should go, as I need to go to bed to pray and shouldn't be spending all this time on here!

Come visit us again when you are down next, and we can talk some more.

Ruth xx

Ruth said...

Oops! Now I'm sorry for the long post!

Ruth said...

Actually, I might even go do a post on this myself... thanks for the insiration. Did you find that you were a lot more clearheaded about it all after you had blogged about it?

Ruth xx

Sharon said...

Hi Ruth,

I didn't realise you had sent your kids there before moving. Now I know three families who have had or do have kids there, and all people I trust the judgement of! I laughed when I saw you call your holiday school the same as R's homeschool, sharing last names and all.

It wasn't so much blogging about it that helped me think things through, it was the hours of argument (er, heated conversation) with Jeff and the two really huge emails I wrote to my mum & dad over the last few weeks. But writing it all out here was certainly very cathartic. Having written it down, it's not all rumbling around in my head and heart any more and I am feeling a lot more restful and peaceful about the whole decision. It's great to see someone else has hopes of having another go at homeschooling when they're all "school age" as well.

~ Sharon

argsmommy said...

Hmm...I just submitted a comment and it didn't show up, so I'm going to try to remember what I said the first time (sorry if it ends up appearing twice). : )

As Christians one of the greatest comforts we have is knowing that God's plans are greater than our own. Even five years ago I could never have imagined that I would be homeschooling and enjoying it. Homeschooling was certainly never in our plan for raising our children. So it is very possible that this is just a break from homeschooling for you. But even if it is not, you have built a wonderful foundation for your children, and have set a great example for them in how to honor your husband and seek God's will.

I do not remember how you said the Australian school calendar works. Does this mean he will be starting at the Christian school at the begining of 2009 or later in the year?


Sharon said...

You're exactly right Kellie. God is sovereign and His will is for the good of all whom He calls - I just pray that I might remember that at all times! I do need to act on the presumpton that homeschooling isn't in our future though, because otherwise I would always be second-guessing away-schooling, trying to rack up a list of enough baddie points to convince my husband to let me homeschool again. And that's not exactly what is meant by respectful submission to one's husband!

Here in Australia our school year starts at the end of January. So Joshua will begin Year 1 shortly before his sixth birthday next year. Here in Western Australia the law states that children must be educated from the beginning of the year they turn six-and-a-half.

We've still go a term left of his "Pre-Primary" (K5) year. There are lots of things I want to do in the next three months, ideas to set in place, priorities to plan and carry out and a new schedule to refine. We need to work out what things we did because they were homeschooling, and which things we'll do just because we're a family.

~ Sharon

mom24 said...

Whoa - not the post I was expecting to read after my recess from the bloggy world!
However, I am so glad that you have decided to be so transparent on your decision making process and your thoughts in this matter. I know that I will help others in similar situations. One of the things that I've learned about planning our kids' education is that we are always to go to God first and to stay flexible. He does not have the same path laid out for every family or for every child! Therefore, if you are obeying God's leading in your choice, then you anf Jeff are doing the right thing.

I understand that it is a hard choice though. I can feel your emotion come across in your words. Especially as believers that children are a heritage from the Lord, we want to be the best stewards of them that we can. And I want to encourage you that I'm sure that this is just what you and Jeff are doing!

I'll be reading to see how things go as you prepare him for away-school. I'm sure that he'll be excited and you will all adjust well. Pray without ceasing and be thankful that God is in control! :-D

Blessings upon blessings,

Ruth said...

Hi Sharon

Totally happy for you to link to my post... thanks!

My two eldest boys are currently in their room making dinosaurs out of lego after seeing Joshua's model on your blog!

Ruth xx

Nicole said...

Hi Sharon,

I really appreciated your honesty in this post, and I'm really encouraged by your example in how you are submitting to your husband in this decision. It sounds like it has been a hard one!

This year, with sending Jacob off to school, I've realised that I hadn't been trusting God enough with the lives of my kids. It's been a painful lesson, but one I'm grateful for! It's encouraging to hear I'm not the only one who might struggle with this issue : )