Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Is there school in our future?

I am seriously considering sending kids back to school. Maybe I will send all three, maybe I will send just the boys, or maybe I will send one of them out. The question is: which one? Which kid is the odd one out? Is it the one who drains all my energy with constant fits and meltdowns and behavioral issues? Is it going to be the one who should be doing more worthwhile things with his time rather than watch TV/ play Minecraft/obsess about Pokemon and generally disregard what I am saying? Is it going to be the one who makes "projects" all over the house and yells really loudly (I wonder whether she picked it up from me, or from her brother, because the words that come out of her mouth are her brother's: "I'm bad". "I can't do it". "Leave me alone!"). Or is it going to be my spirited troublemaker baby, who is in need of constant supervision and constant hugs and reassurance? I am kidding about the baby, but sometimes I do feel that if he were camped out, I could probably handle the other three.

I had an assistant for months, in hope of alleviating some of the stress and helping with the schoolwork. The only one who truly benefited was my daughter. The boys avoid having anything to do with the assistant, they always seek me out. 8 yo refuses to work with her, except for rare occasions. 10 yo has really been down to very bare-bones learning, and I do not have energy or desire to figure out what is the next big thing that I would like him to do. He has not been taking an initiative in his learning as I had hoped.

I am exhausted. I do not end up with time for myself, as inevitably something or other comes up. Moreover, my husband is not planning on assisting in teaching the kids anything on a consistent basis, and he is unable to provide relief at night, as he is always on call, something always comes up, and I am stuck with my dashed hopes of a "night off". Add to all of this the fact the that baby got into a habit of waking up at 5 am, and I am ready to pull my hair out.

A few months ago, I was struck how people glibly were encouraging others to homeschool. Single parent? You can do it! Working full-time? You can do it! Kids with special needs? You can do it! Can't stand spending time with your kids?..

Maybe there are circumstances when homeschooling is not the answer. Maybe, even if homeschooling is in the best interest of a child, it is not in the best interest of the family. I have shared some of my doubts with the others and one of the first questions was: how firmly am I committed to the ideals of homeschooling? Well, I am committed, and I do think that for each one of my children individually, it is the best thing. What I am having hard time with is, how to synthesize everyone's needs, and then not to overlook my needs completely. 

Case in point: taekwondo. It has been singularly the best activity for both boys. It teaches them commitment, discipline, self-control, physical mastery. It forces 8 yo to focus and to control himself. It is also horribly inconvenient for me. The boys are in different age groups now, so their classes meet from 4:45 till 5:30, and from 5:45 till 6:30. That means I am out of the house from 4 till 7. If I am lucky (and I have been very lucky lately), my MIL comes over and watches the two younger ones during this time. But coming home at 7 and only then serving dinner is very late, not to mention that is it hard to prepare dinner when I am not in the house. Last summer, when we tried combining taekwondo with camp, it was too much and the boys were too tired. I am sure that if I do send them to school, the attendance would have to decrease, if not cease altogether. Yet, who wins? And who loses? If we stop going, I gain the time back, but I also get extra-fidgety 8 yo. And if we continue going, I am running myself ragged.

10 yo is adamant that he does not want to go to school. He keeps telling me how he would do anything to stay at home. Conversely, 4 yo is excited at the prospect of school. 8 yo flatly told me that he thinks he would not like it (translation: I will not cooperate if I don't want to). I oscillate between making this one year of school for the kids so that I can get my bearings, the baby can grow up a bit and calm down (hopefully), and between sticking it out, getting more help (maybe an au pair) and generally cutting more corners. I need to arrive at the decision, and just stick with it, but in my current kotzer ruach (shortness of breath) state, I am not thinking clearly. I do not want to make an emotional decision based on one bad or one good moment, but the time to decide is now!

I know that many homeschoolers have similar dilemmas and also harbor secret fantasies of sending kids to school. My ideal would be to send them for a month, so that we all decide whether we like it. Unfortunately, school is a one-year-at-a-time proposition. So chime in, jeer at my weakness, add your helpful advice, and tell me what you would be doing if you were in my place.


  1. I do not pretend to understand anyone else's financial situation,
    or ability to "let go" and let other people drive your kids.
    One homeschooling friend of mine got herself a housekeeper AND
    someone she could really trust who plays games with kids when they are not doing school stuff (and siblings are), AND drives them to physical activities like
    Tae Kwon Do. (this could even give 8 y.o. an opportunity to play card games with an assistant and see that she is not so bad.
    (My friend also has a lot of schooly stuff (music lessons, special math , foreign language) tutored by people who come to her house; I know that could be too pricy for you, but in the interests of full disclosure , and in case you ever have too much money burning a hole in your pocket:)
    She does not even have such young kids; you would benefit even more from having someone you trust (and pay) do that driving so you can have
    youngers at home, quietly, maybe even napping (hah), making dinner, etc.
    the basic point she and I had to learn was we need to build lives that assume spouse is never home. if spouse is spending that much time on a good career that he is never home we need to accept that and move on from there. part of moving on for us was accepting that there is enough money there to hire replacements for tasks spouse would do in a lower stakes career. This is one way; I am not saying it could work for you financially,
    and I am certainly not saying it is easy to find such workers, or easy to "spend out" that way just for our own comfort!!
    Sometimes it will not be a "big bargain".
    But I CAN say that my frind used to be a big control freak, and no where near as happy as she is today. she actually works one day a week, which makes her gloriously happy. again, she has no littles, you do, baruch hashem! so more work may not be on your agenda yet, but these may be the baby steps on the road to having a little bit of life for yourself.
    kol tuv,
    lizabennett aht yahoo
    (who has a really hard time spending money)

  2. okay,
    1. i did not realize how long that comment above was going to be! sorry!
    2. 8 y.o. would be playing/talking to assistant during 10 y.o.'s tae kwon do lesson, in case that was not clear.
    3 a/the hard thing is spending relatively a lot per hour on someone who is seemingly doing "easy" tasks you "should" be able to do yourself.
    hiring a grad student to do "menial" stuff feels expensive.
    you have to pretend you believe you are worth it, until one day you realize you are a better mother because of this, and then at least you know your children's happiness is enhanced by this "spending out" :)))
    lizabennett aht yahoo

    1. Thank you for your detailed reply, and for the clarifications.
      I actually leave the boys waiting around for each other's taekwondo lesson, and they can do whatever in the lounge: read, watch TV, watch other kids on iPads, etc.
      My assistant is leaving, so the thought of replacing her is daunting, even if she wasn't all that I wanted her to be.
      I am definitely going to look into more intensive help.
      Thanks again!

  3. I think that the 4 yo going to school would not be a bad thing, since she is eager and at that age school is usually mostly fun stuff. I would be hesitant to send kids to school who really did not want to go. Maybe you can have the assistant take the baby out to the park or other places, even on errands for you like grocery shopping, so that he is truly being watched by someone else and not asking for you the whole time. Perhaps after going out with the assistant many times he will start to be more comfortable with her. I am not an unschooler for a few reasons, one being I have little kids with another on the way BH, and cannot be driving my kids to all kinds of cool places or hiring tutors/teachers for things they are interested in. Recently my son has been complaining about doing all work, and I told him if he cannot do his work in a calmer manner, he will go to school (and this is not an empty threat). I cannot deal with the constant fights, and I need him to be accomplishing things other than winning computer games and listening to books on mp3 (his technologies of choice). He is adamant that he does not want to go to school. I bought him a great curriculum that has lots of hands on stuff (Timberdoodle, which is pricey but way cheaper than school :) ). It comes with a parent schedule of how much per day/week of each thing they need to accomplish in order to finish in a normal school year, so it requires little planning on my part. For Judaics we are doing Chumash, Parsha, and other random things as the mood strikes. Perhaps an exciting curriculum will motivate your 10 yo? I have also taken away all forms of electronics except on Sundays, and surprisingly he got used to that pretty quickly. I hope things get easier for you soon!

  4. what would I do in your place?
    I totally identified with what you are saying about how each child individually can be managed, but put them all together and it is too overwhelming and it doesn't feel like homeschooling is the best for the family. Especially when mommy isn't getting enough sleep and there is just too much mess and too much to do. Sometimes I think I spend the majority of my time caretaking and feeding and housekeeping, and then who has time for education?
    School is always an option. I would tend to think that 10yo will not necessarily be doing more worthwhile things in school. He will certainly have less free time, because he will be in school for many hours and he will have homework and studying. Whether that is actually a better use of his time, maybe it is and maybe it isn't. It will depend on his teachers and his classes.
    For 8yo, it could get him to sit and work and help his skills and his focus. It could equally possibly be disastrous and stressful for him.
    For 4yo, it might be great. She might enjoy it. Would the hours she is out of the house be helpful to you, or will you find yourself sandwiched in to that schedule?

    I agree that hiring someone to drive them to and from taekwondo would be something i would look into. I would also hire more cleaning help. I don't know how regimented you are with meals, but I've found making a menu of what I'm cooking for the week and planning what time of day I'm doing it (and giving myself 3x as long as it actually takes so I could nurse when that was relevant or deal with interruptions), especially for days like taekwondo, to be very helpful in managing things (like crock pot meals for those days, or stuff made in advance to heat up).
    I would hire a babysitter once every couple of weeks so I could go sit in a coffee shop and drink a cup of coffee and read a book. Or get together with a friend. I would have a backup babysitter so that when I make plans and my husband is not available, I can still do those plans. Like you said, an au pair who can supervise baby and play with 4yo and clean up and maybe help out with meal prep could be a huge help.

    I guess what I would do tends to be to stick with homeschool and try to figure out how to make things easier for myself. How to have a schedule and a situation where I can breathe, where I don't feel stressed, where I don't dread my days and where I'm not overwhelmed. I might decide to cut taekwondo to one kid per semester and switch them off. I might decide to cut it out altogether for a semester and only do it in spring, when bedtimes tend to be later. I might look for a more middle of the day physical activity.
    But if you think that sending some or all of them to school will help with that, then try it and see. One of the best parts about homeschool is that you really do have tremendous flexibility. If you want to send them to school, you can. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, you can bring some or all of them back home. You aren't stuck in the system with no options. There are many options.
    Also, I would see if the schools would allow you to pay on a month by month basis to try it out.

  5. Maybe take a break in terms of just end school for a month for everyone to get their bearings. I haven't started homeschooling but I can say it took me 9 months after my last baby was born to really start feeling like I had my life together again. It's taken many nights of him sleeping through the night and many peaceful days to really feel like, wow I feel normal again. BTW when the baby was born everyone asked me if I would send the big one then 2.5years to school. I appalled everyone by saying it would be more helpful to send his brother, how was 2 weeks old to camp instead.