Today marks one week that Seth, my 7-year-old big kid, has been in public school. Deciding to move him to public school after the beginning of a new academic year was not easy! The initial decision came lightning quick, which was a surprise because I’ve been resistant to the idea of him going to public school for, like, ever. But the deliberation that took place over the dinner table that evening and the ensuing week before his first day were really hard.
It’s almost impossible not to wonder, Are we giving up too soon? Is this the right thing? Am I going to ruin his life by doing this to him? And so on. That last one is pretty melodramatic, but I promise you the thought actually crossed my mind!
I don’t know yet if we will put both our kids in public school permanently or if we will bring Seth home again next year. I partly enjoy the freedom for myself but I also miss Seth during the day- and of course I want what’s best for him. I said I’d never want to deal with PTA or carlines, book fairs and homework, fundraisers and permission slips. But here we are, and I know for right now we’ve done the best hard thing! Here’s a little bit of the backstory that might help explain why we made such a drastic decision.
Seth started school when he was 4, when we enrolled him in a private preschool. At the time, it was a relief to give his earliest education to someone else, because little brother Hawk was still a baby and I was just in survival mode. By the time his first year was over, though, the homeschool bug bit me hard and I was excited to launch into his kindergarten year at home! I wish I could say homeschooling him was always idyllic, but the reality felt very chaotic. In retrospect, I wish that I’d adopted a more “unschooled” philosophy early on for these first years but I didn’t. Eventually, he began to resist his lessons.
I solicited advice from several camps, and many people suggested that I just back off on teaching lessons altogether and enjoy his childhood with him. My instincts gave me pause, though, as I pondered this concept. My heart felt like YES! Of course- I should just set him free! But my head stood back watching his attitude and knew that his heart would always be hardened to any sort of instruction if I didn’t do something drastic. I hope both my children will one day learn how to be obedient to the Lord, and that begins with obedience to their parents. I love the idea of allowing my children to run wild and free! I want them to revere nature and enjoy all that is lovely in the world and explore their passions. I hope they grow up to be boys of courage and vision. But I knew deep down in this situation that we were dealing with a character issue that would persist if I didn’t draw a line in the sand!
Here’s the thing. We all have things that we want to do, and things that we don’t want to do. Every day, I face things that I don’t want to do head on, with as much enthusiasm as I can muster! I try to be a person of discipline and integrity, and I expect my kids to do the same. I finally concluded that if the issue is that my son is resistant every time I ask him to face the things he is responsible for (i.e., his education) and I allow him to believe that the answer to this resistance is to put off responsibility until he is “ready for it”, he will never be ready. Instead, he will learn that shirking responsibility and seeking pleasure is encouraged and acceptable! Scripture tells us that discipline and learning go hand-in-hand:
If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
how shortsighted to refuse correction! (Proverbs 12:1 MSG)
At first, Seth was upset when I said that we’d send him to public school. I made the first phone call to the school office, and we both cried. By day’s end, though, he had warmed to the idea with excitement! We spent the rest of the week shopping for school clothes and supplies and finding necessary documents and filling out registration papers. He was thrilled when his first day of school finally rolled around.
The first few days were rocky, as he adjusted to homework and the idea of being tested on his performance. His teacher communicated to us that he gets visibly upset in class when he thinks he may not do an assignment perfectly, and she promised that she’d offer him rewards for getting through the day without tears. As Ms. Fisher described her methods to us, Eric warmed to her quickly. He even said later, “I like her very much and I think she’ll do a good job teaching Seth. She reminds me of you!” And it’s true. Her ideas about teaching are very similar to mine. She even said (and I quote), “There’s always a great book you can read to the kids to help them learn anything, even math.” I promise you, I think those exact words have come from my own mouth!
The dust hasn’t settled just yet. Sunday evening, Seth began to cry because he was anxious about going back to school, and again Monday morning, and both morning and evening yesterday. But still, we have seen an improvement in his personal discipline already! He accepts the responsibility for finishing his homework before playing in the afternoon. At bedtime, he practices reading to me for fifteen minutes before I read his bedtime story to him (this would never have happened three weeks ago, and reading was actually the point that instigated the final battle that led to this decision in the first place!) because he knows that Ms. Fisher may ask him to tell her what he’s read in the morning.
All parents, whether homeschool parents or not, will have lessons to teach their kids. Our family is getting a dose of perspective right now that will help form the years to come. I partly hope that this year Seth will learn to take his education seriously so that I can bring him home next year and truly set him free in a way I never could before! On the other hand, perhaps God intends me to use this time to dive deeper into women’s ministry and focus on writing and connecting. I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m hopeful for the best!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)