Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
You know what I'm seeing everywhere these days? Parents who've home schooled their kids for several years, and then suddenly, for no good reason, up and send their kids off to a regular classroom school. They do this without giving it much thought, because they either (a) are lazy and don't love their children, or (b) are disastrously naive about what the modern world is like, and assume that their kids will be taught Dick and Jane and how to open doors for their elders.
Or, wait. I'm seeing that nowhere. Nowhere at all.
What I am seeing is people who, for one reason or another, realized that homeschooling is no longer the best choice for their particular family. It is generally a gut-wrenching decision, made only after lots of prayer and fretting, research and weighing of options. It is often attended by a heavy sense of failure (because one of the ways people excel at homeschooling is to make it their identities -- so if you're no longer a homeschooler, then who are you?) and panic (because one of the ways people survive homeschooling is to constantly remind themselves how horrible, horrible, horrible the alternative is).
You know that lady who sees pregnant woman and launches into a long narrative about her cousin Angie who had back labor for twenty-three days and then gave birth to an inside-out octopus? Well, she's the same lady who, upon hearing that someone is considering public school, promptly starts sharing news stories about school shootings, syphilis epidemics, and high school seniors who think Snooki is Secretary of State.
Don't be that lady.
The former homeschooling mom already knows about this stuff. She's already been up at three a.m., sweating it out with the Lord. She's already looked into the actual school in her actual district, probably met with the teachers, looked over the curriculum, and decided that her decision makes sense -- and feels just horrible about it.
If you've made this decision yourself, do you feel horrible? And if so, are you acting horrible? Here's a little quiz to help you discern how well you're adapting to the new normal:
1. As your child leaves your car in the morning, you
(a) emit a bloodcurdling shriek and fall down as if dead in front of the usurping fiend they actually expect you to call "teacher," even though you're the teacher, you're the real teacher.
(b) give the kid a squeeze and a confident smile, drive around the corner, and spend the rest of the day stroking your Cuisenaire rods and sobbing.
(c) say a prayer, heave a sigh, drive away, and remember that you can always change your mind if it really doesn't work out.
When you ask your child, "So, what did you do today?"
(a) do you spray him with holy water before he can answer, lest he contaminate the pre-school kids still safe at home?
(b) do you cringe, as you wait for the answer, like someone expecting to be slapped?
(c) and the answer sounds kinda lame, do you reserve judgement. Even if you did ten times more on your first day when you were the teacher, remember that you're hearing your kid's version of events. Your kid. Yeah. Cut that teacher some slack, just like you hope the teacher cuts you some slack when your kid shares his version of what goes on at home.
When you say the word "school"
(a) are the sarcastic quotation marks almost tangible?
(b) is it very rare, because you aren't quite reconciled with the idea that the place that your child is going to every day is actually school?
(c) do you just say it, because that's what it is -- and do you remember that you're still perfectly free to teach the kiddos whatever you want to at home?
When you pack your child's lunch, do you include
(a) code food? (If the kid has been paying any attention at all, he'll realize that he's not getting Mustard, Olive, Raisin, Applesauce, and Lettuce Sandwich; he's getting a reminder to remember his M.O.R.A.L.S. Also an emergency flare, in case he needs to signal for rescue.)
(b) his favorite meal that no one but mom can make, because it will remind him of --*sob*-- home.
(c) lunch food. If he's hungry when he gets home, he can eat more.
If one of your kids has a tough day, it must be because
(a) the teacher has secretly arranged for two drug dealers, eleven porn stars, and PZ Myers to come in and make your child write "I no longer respect my parents" five hundred times on the godless communist white board which, as part of their secular humanist blurring of the line between good and evil, they use instead of a black board.
(b) this is how it's going to be, because you've mishandled his education so badly. Congratulations: you now have a permanently sad kid.
(c) maybe there's something wrong and maybe there's not. Maybe he's just tired; maybe he just needs more time to adjust. Maybe he needs a snack. Keep a close eye, and wait and see.
If you answered mostly (a), you need an intervention, by which I mean heavy pharmaceuticals.
If you answered mostly (b), then you need to get ahold of yourself. Your kid is stronger than you think. Don't signal to him that you expect him to be miserable!
If you answered mostly (c), then you are going to be okay. Just try to wean yourself off the Valium before graduation.
For some more useful ideas about how to make the transition, see my article, written as we made the transition ourselves. Yes, of course there were some drawbacks -- just like there were in home school.
Remember, homeschooling is a great thing, but it's not the only great thing in the world.