Monday, September 5, 2016

From Homeschooling to Parochial School: The First Two Weeks

Can I tell you a secret? 

Okay I guess it won't really be a secret, at least not anymore, if I write it here.  But I've been thinking about this post as I've drifted off to sleep each night this week, barely able to keep my eyes open at 8:58pm.

The past two weeks were a little tough for me.  And not because school hasn't been great.  It has.  The kids love their new school.  Patch says "Mommy I missed you so much." and "I don't want to go yet." when I pick him up. 

Yesterday he said "Mommy!  Look at this!  In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!  Look! Teacher taught me!" while gleefully showing me the sign of the cross that he would previously mumble while barely moving his hand from side to side. 

Sadie came home giddy about Mother Teresa becoming Saint Teresa of Calcutta and could talk of nothing else on the car ride home on Friday, over the moon because one of the teachers had received a letter from her years ago, and they'd gotten to read it in class. 

If I'm entirely honest I have to admit that I've found myself washed back and forth between emotions of happiness and contentment, knowing that this is the best thing for our family and struggling to accept that the vision that I've always had in my head of how things would be, isn't how things turned out.  And sometimes that hurts. 

It hasn't helped that the start of schools is often the start for many homeschools and my newsfeed has been filled with photos of happy homeschoolers working around tables and going on field trips and enjoying empty playground. 

And if I'm honest, my heart aches like crazy, because that is what I wanted for our family more than I can even put into words.  Because I did love homeschooling.  I loved "doing school" around the dining room table and taking fieldtrips every week. 

So I've been scrolling quickly past pictures, nearly identical to the ones I've posted in past years, a lump in my throat. 

It's not like that all the time.  Like when I pick the kids up and they tell me about their day in a rush, and then tumble out of the car to run around together in the backyard, because they've missed each other and they all know that James has been desperate for them to get home, and so he's showered with attention as he runs back and forth across the lawn, the Chihuahua dancing around his feet like a tiny satellite. 

And most of the time it's been too busy to be sad about it for any length of time, it's just a feeling that comes and goes, as I remind myself that this is absolutely and undoubtedly what's best for our kids. 

The thing is that logically, I completely understand that it is what's best.  The last year with it's eight to ten doctor's appointments a month, alongside 50+ therapy sessions (also a month) has taught me that.  I could not to justice to their education while still getting everyone the care that they needed.  But still I find myself defensive when someone comments or messages and says "So, you're not homeschooling anymore?"

No. No we're not.

But then there are days like one this last week when a rather awful day gives me a little bit of grace and burns away that ache with a blinding sort of lightness. 

The day began to unfold the night before when I checked my planner and saw that I'd double booked a morning appointment.  Sadie and Patch would need to be at school at eight.  Maggie's drop off was at nine. 

But right there on my phone I saw that Tessie had her Well Baby Check at 9:30, while I was supposed to be here at home (30 miles away) at 9 am, while James met his new physical therapist for the first time (an appointment that was hard to get during this busy back to school time).  Then I needed to pickup Patch at 11 and Maggie at 12, before getting Maggie over to speech and OT at 2.  Paul would pick up Sadie at 3 and then I'd swing by and get her from his law office before taking everyone home. 

How had this happened?  I knew I'd triple checked my schedule when I made the appointment for PT.  But it had.  So I stayed home with James, while Paul took the kids to school, hauling everyone in and out of the car repeatedly, while I waited and waited for a knock at the door and fretted because I'd never been away from Tessie for this long before and would she even take the bottle of milk I'd managed to express and send with them (Paul had had to go to the store to pick up a bottle). 

Then I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize.  It was the receptionist at Maggie's therapy center.  Her therapy tech had strep throat and they didn't have a sub.  Frantically I called Paul and told him the news.  He'd just dropped off the older kids and he rushed the thirty miles home to drop Maggie off (juggling Maggie and Tessie at a doctor's appointment would be a disaster because Maggie freaks out in that doctor's office nine out of ten times), before taking Tessie back to town.

Maggie went into a full meltdown the likes of which I've seen only one other time.  She was inconsolable.  She loves therapy.  She tells her therapists she loves them.  And a change in schedule is pretty catastrophic to her day.  It took an hour to calm her down, which I finally did by getting her into a bubble bath.

By then the therapists were late.

Really late.  I began to worry.  I had to get Patch at 11.  I needed to leave by 10:15 to make sure we were there in time.  Finally I checked my phone and discovered that I'd put the time in wrong.  A text message from his early interventionist said that his appointment was at 12:30.  I could actually have been at Tessie's appointment and asked her doctor the questions I wanted to ask.

I jumped up from where I was sitting on the bathroom floor and told a now calm Maggie that we needed to go.  I got her dressed.  I rushed her and James to the car and loaded them in.  We drove into town and I found out that for the first time in the history of the world, our pediatrician's office was on time and Paul was already in the exam room.

I waited outside with Maggie and James and when Paul came out, triumphant, having survived an appointment with Tessie without me, I learned Tessie had happily drunk 4 ounces of milk and was doing quite well. 

We dropped Paul's car off at his office, rushed over to pick up Patch and then went to get pizza and had a pizza picnic in the park, before Paul went to his office and I took the three kids back to our house, where Maggie was again devastated that she was going home and not to therapy, and was sobbing when the two therapists arrived.

She did manage to request another bubble bath as I explained the scheduling drama of her morning that had resulted in the meltdown (thankfully they totally understood), and I ran back and forth between the assessment and explaining James' delays, and making sure she didn't flood the bathroom. 

As soon as the assessment was over, and the once weekly therapy sessions, alternating between speech and PT were scheduled, I loaded the car up again and we raced back to town, making it ten minutes late for Maggie's sessions. 

I unloaded the kids from the car and asked if there was a room I could hang out in with the other kids, since it was so humid outside, and I was about to drop from exhaustion.  Maggie's speech therapist led us into a room we could use, and brought in an enormous basket of toys, and I laid on the floor with Tessie while the boys played cars. 

Those fifty minutes flew by and we were on our way to pick up Sadie from Paul's office, where she'd just arrived. 

As we headed home she told me about her day.  And I couldn't help but think of what her day would have been like if she'd been home with me.  She would have been shuffled from appointment to appointment and now, at the end of the day, utterly exhausted, I would try to come up with something for school.  And this day, with it's seemingly endless rounds of appointments, it isn't all that unusual for us.

As we got on the freeway, headed home, I asked Sadie if she'd made any new friends (a favorite topic for my super-ultra-extrovert) and she talked about some of the girls in her class and then said "Oh and I made friends with a first grade boy.  I played with him at recess.  I could tell that he was really lonely. So I decided to be his friend." 

The next day she explained that she'd gotten him playing Pokémon with the other first grade boys, and that her Pokémon is Pachirisu and that they'd ran around "in the forest" (some trees that are along the edge of the fenced in playground) and were part of a secret club.  "My friends from class," she explained, "like to spend recess on the monkey bars.  And I am not a fan of monkey bars." 

Before that moment, when she said she'd made friends with a little boy because she could tell that he was lonely, I knew, logically that we'd made the right choice.  When she said those words I felt it in my bones.  And heart. 

This transition has been positive in so many ways.  Taking Maggie to the park in between drop offs in the morning and playing with her one on one.  Having one on one time with James while Tessie naps the morning away when Paul takes the kids to school.  Having time to actually clean during the day when I have energy instead of at night when I'm exhausted. 

But knowing something in my head and convincing my heart to give up the dream I had of what life would look like aren't quite the same thing.

Still, I think I've found that learning to let go of my plans, to make way for the plans that are the best for our family, is a growing process that I absolutely have needed to go through.  Letting go of what I thought would be the perfect fit to make way for the plans God has for us, isn't always easy for a person who thrives on making lists of plans and lists of lists of plans, but when the push is so undeniable and the results so filled with a sort of calming hope that can only be grace, I know that we've made the best decision for our family. 

Even when at times I feel that dull ache at giving up my best laid plans, for plans that don't look anything like what I'd imagined, but that are undeniably exactly what we needed all along. 


  1. We have made the shift to a Parochial school as well. My heart aches for homeschooling too. While our lives are not as jam packed with appointments and kiddos as yours I just want you to know I understand. This was a hard decision and well, best for our family. Blessings.

  2. As my mother used to say "Man proposes and God disposes."

    Your reason for desiring to home school grew out of a wish to do what was best for your family. Clearly, you are doing that now, and the children are thriving. Circumstances change, and you were open to realizing that your vision of the perfect school situation simply didn't address your family's needs at this time. It sounds as if your parochial school is a gem.

    Our younger daughter (MK) has found herself in a similar situation. She is the primary breadwinner, as her husband is finishing a second degree, in nursing. Her older son is profoundly hearing impaired, though doing well with his first implant and a hearing aid, and he is in a wonderful preschool that addresses his specific needs. The 2 year old is also in a preschool program; the thought of a two-year old away from home has always been pretty much anathema to our family (our girls didn't start school until kindergarten) but it is clear that his bright little mind needed constant challenging and the results have been incredible. While MK is a doting, loving mother and excellent first teacher, there is no question that, at least for now, the boys are right where they need to be. She, too, yearns to homeschool in the future, have the freedom to do field trips and travel with them, but that bridge will be crossed if and when the opportunity arises.

    To be honest, just reading your description of the day's appointments and activities made my head spin! I don't know how you do it, but you do, and do it very well.

    God bless!


  3. Cammie, I think I'm the opposite. I would love to put Susi in school, but with moving next month, and private school out of the question for our budget it's just the best choice for us right now where we're at. With running a business from home it would be such a help to have Susi in school. And Sadie at some point may decide for herself that homeschooling is what she wants to do and she will be independent enough to school herself. Hugs!

  4. I know this feeling so much! It is hard. I loved home school with my older kids, and hated when I had to send them to school after 6 wonderful years at home, and now, I have such plans for home school and my younger kids, but it may become financially essential for me to return to working, and that means either hubby will be doing home school, or, more likely, I will have to adjust to sending my children to school. I do not look forward to it.

  5. I can somewhat empathize. While we had no intention of homeschooling, I thought going to a parochial school would be in there. But realizing that both of my sons needs are better fulfilled in a public school setting, that's where they both go. I can't afford the costs of co-pay fees for multiple therapies for two children. And parochial schools simply lack resources to be able to the most accommodating (not to mention that they can be as you've experienced hostile to students with disabilities). So I suck up my disappointment and am thankful that they are getting services through the public school and religious education through the parish and myself. Maybe when they are older they will be in a better position, health-wise, to go to a parochial school. And who knows the parochial school may have been more detrimental to their religious education than being in a semi-neutral public school. God has his reasons.

  6. "Man proposes, God disposes." I'm so glad one of your readers mentioned that here. Because it's the mantra of every God centered life!

    Look at our dear newest saint, St. Mother Teresa. You know her story: she was teaching as a Sister of Loreto, a job she loved, when God called her to a new mission, one in service to the poor. She said God asked her, "to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets." You can just imagine the change that meant for her. Not that she wasn't willing, but like the rest of us, I'm sure she had an idea of how her life would go and went through a time of wistfulness; loving what she had been doing, wanting to continue, but knowing God's future for her was something else.

    It's easy for all of us to look at Mother Teresa's life and seeing how right she was to leave the Sisters of Loreto, knowing the outcome of answering that call with all her heart. How blessed we have been to be a living witnesses of what she did, and her example.

    God's call. We see it all the time all over Scripture, how God leads people to His will if they want to follow, but we often don't consider how that actually plays out in their head and lives - things they have to give up, dreams they have to let go of, possible futures that no longer will ever be.

    It takes courage to trust God and His plan, especially since we never really know the outcome. Mother Teresa once said, "God does not require us to be successful, only that we be faithful." That we must give up our own very good vision for our lives and change it when God's indicates IS the challenge of our Faith.

    Homeschooling your kids is fabulous, and important. I love that people do this. My niece homeschools her two boys, giving up a career in marketing for it, and she gets lots of disapproval from even family members for it. But she soldiers on. I am sure that is God's plan for her. But if God's plan for you and your family includes your kids in a school, then that is what is best for this next little time. Who knows if that too will change over time? It might.

    Sometimes things we love end through no fault of our own. When it happens we have to grieve a little, but then realize this is the next stage of God's plan for me, and embrace it and see the beauty of it.

    Only in hindsight did the greatness of St. Mother Teresa's answer to that "call within a call" show itself. When her mission came to fruition, and she came to world fame, the world found her humble, working at her mission, ignoring all the world's glory and adulation, she wanting the glory only to be God's. That's what we too should be. Whatever He wants us to do - no worries - and the glory be to for Him.

    There's a prayer I've recently come across, that I love. It's the "novena" of Submission to God's Will. The crux of it is, "Jesus, I surrender myself to You, you take care of everything." You can find the whole thing here. It helps us to surrender every little (and big) thing to God. I've found it very helpful in my prayer life.

    This is a prayer for the very busy, and those called to a heavy cross. I highly recommend it.

    God bless you. ~ Bonnie

  7. May God bless your family! What a wonderful blessing, amid the heartache, to know that our Faith is being taught and shared with your children OUTSIDE THE HOME! It is wonderful that your children are experiencing the joys of learning AND having their faith re-affirmed outside your home. That's one thing that I really appreciate about our Trail Life troup and other social activities we enjoy that are parish-based: my kids experience the fact that our faith isn't just something particular to our family -they have friends who share the same worldview and can help build them up in virtue as they interact and learn together. ...just some reflections on the positives that I see here. :-) TB

  8. "Man proposes, God disposes." Yep.... While it would takes paragraphs to even summarize our lives these past few years, I was looking forward to a calm of year my daughter finishing 12th grade through an online school after a nightmare past year of feeding issues/tube feedings/hospital stays. Instead, this week I am taking her to a residential facility for teens/young women with eating disorders. She will be there a long time ..... 3-4 months isn't at all unreasonable. Talk about tearing my heart apart, but we aren't able to help her at home, no matter how many therapists, etc. we take her to for counseling. So, it will be better for her in the long run, but right now... ouch.

  9. @Angela: I'll pray for your daughter and your family. I know your heart as her mother must be torn to shreds over this. I will pray to St. John Newmann (the first male saint of the United States; Redemptorist priest who was the former bishop of Philadelphia), for her healing. St. John Newmann seems to have a particular sympathy for children. I will pray that whatever the source of this eating disorder, it be dispelled, and that she will never be troubled by it again.

    God bless you.
    ~ Bonnie


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