When you decide to put your children in school after 20+ years of homeschooling, there are some things you should expect. Some things you need to know, in no uncertain terms.
1. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY
No, really, it is. IT IS. Not perfect, not painless, not trouble-free, but okay. Better, even. Better, because the things that have been killing you–KILLING YOU–will not be killing you anymore. And not being killed is a definite improvement over being killed. I think most of our spouses and loved ones would agree with that assessment. If they wouldn’t, find new loved ones.
2. IT’S NOT GOING TO BE PERFECT
As previously mentioned, it’s going to be hard. A different kind of hard from homeschooling, but still hard. With different challenges. Instead of screaming at children to listen to you as you try to teach them fractions over the pandemonium of a toddler chasing a dog through your legs, you will be screaming at children to listen to you as you try to help them with their homework about fractions over the pandemonium of a toddler chasing a dog through your legs. So yeah, sort of the same. But also sort of different. In some very important ways.
3. PEOPLE WILL JUDGE YOU
Yes. People will. People will judge you. Yes, they will. If anyone tells you they won’t, they are lying. They are lying liars and they should REPENT. Because everyone judges everyone no matter what they do, and parents are especially bad at judging, and homeschoolers are the worst of all. I know this because I was one. Some happy homeschoolers will judge you, HARD. Like, their thoughts will be so loud you will be able to hear them, and you aren’t even telepathic. WOW, SHE GAVE UP. They will think, loudly, over the gritted teeth and the smile that says ‘hey, that’s just fine!’
SHE GAVE UP. SHE’S A QUITTER. They will think. You will be able to hear these words because they will be shooting out of their eyeballs.
As much as your little heart shrinks and shrivels under the heat of their disapproval, try to remain calm. And simply get away from them as fast as you can. They can go back to their high, high towers and sit on their high, high horses all the livelong day because we are going to go home to enjoy some quiet because our children are in school now and not shrieking 24/7 into our ear canals.
4. YOU WILL JUDGE YOU
Yes. You will feel terrible. You will feel like the biggest failure since Bunker Hill. But you know what? You tried. You gave it your best. You waited until you saw the whites of their eyes, you did. You threw everything at them. At the end, you were loading your pistol with pennies and buttons because that’s all you had left. You tried. But you lost. It’s okay. Surrender can be a beautiful thing. The enemy was really not who you thought it was. You thought it was the world, but really you were fighting yourself the whole time. Let go. Release the grip on your own throat and you’ll discover that you can breathe again.
5. YOUR CHILDREN WILL HATE YOU
for a little while. A very little while. Maybe a little longer little while, but still. My point is that it will be temporary. They will not hate you forever. The early mornings, the dragging them out of bed, the epithets they snarl, the stuffing them into clothing while it is still dark, the shoveling of food into their mouths while they are still half-asleep, the tears–silent and otherwise–as they stumble out of the car or off to the school bus…these will all pass. THEY WILL PASS. I promise. And when they do, oh the angels, they will sing, and they will skip to school with merry hearts and you will go back to bed and take a three year nap.
6. TEACHERS ARE REALLY, REALLY HELPFUL
You know how sometimes, as a homeschooler, you think “gee, maybe it would be better to put them in school, where it’s not ALL UPON MY SHOULDERS ALONE to cram all this information into their brains, where there are professional teachers who know exactly how to teach why 3/2 equals 1 and 1/2 without a subsequent blood pressure reading of 236/168! Maybe it really would be better to have a separate art teacher and music teacher and P.E. teacher and English teacher and Spanish teacher and keyboarding teacher and pre-algebra teacher and social studies/geography teacher and science teacher! Maybe having all those teachers to come alongside and help me raise these small people into productive members of society so that I can be simply a mother who puts wholesome lunches together wouldn’t be such a bad idea!”
You know how sometimes you, the homeschooling mother, think that very thing sometimes, but then you think “NAH. THEN I’D BE DOING JUST AS MUCH WORK IN HOMEWORK EACH NIGHT ANYWAY. MIGHT AS WELL KEEP SLAMMING MY HEAD INTO THIS IRON SPIKE REPEATEDLY ANYWAY. TEACHERS AREN’T REALLY THERE TO DO ALL THE TEACHING ANYWAY.”
See, this is erroneous. It’s also just plain wrong. Turns out, teachers really are there to teach your children. And they do! They teach! They do all that work you were trying to do, and they do it every day and your children come home with paper after paper showing that they learned where Afghanistan is and how much 14/3 is and who said “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes, boys!” and all manner of things you never thought of because you were too busy trying to extract your toddler’s teeth from the dog’s ear! And it’s like a miracle, like a beautiful, beautiful miracle, because suddenly you can just be mom again, and can say “oh man, that teacher of yours is really harsh, come here and let me give you a hug” and OH MY GOD, YOU ARE NOT THE MOM AND THE TEACHER ANYMORE AND IT’S GLORIOUS.
7. TEACHERS ARE REALLY, REALLY HELPFUL
I know, I already said this. I’m just so giddy with delight that I had to say it again. See, if your kid is struggling with times tables (and don’t you even tell me that your kid never struggled with times tables or I swear upon my precious grey hairs I will find you and force-feed you flash cards), then you will get a note that says “little Johnny is struggling with times tables” and then you will have a mild panic attack and find a million apps for your phone and dig out all the multiplication facts that you still have laying around because you forgot to burn them in your curriculum bonfire a few weeks previous, and then before you can even have them all assembled and ready to go you will get another note explaining that little Johnny’s math teacher pulled him aside during Friday spare time and drilled him on times tables and now he knows them very well. And you will put your head in your hands and weep for joy. Because TEACHERS ARE THERE TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN. THEY EXPECT TO HAVE TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN. THEY, LIKE, THINK IT’S THEIR JOB OR SOMETHING.
9. YOU WILL BE SAD.
See #4, You will wonder why you could not “succeed” where so many other people do. You will wonder what is wrong with you that you couldn’t keep it up, couldn’t handle the pressure, couldn’t cut the proverbial mustard. But you know what? It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to wonder all those things, because really, why does mustard need to be cut at all? Don’t you really just spread it? And can’t you just use a spoon if all the knives are dirty? My point is that there are many ways to educate your children, and everyone is different. Sometimes homeschooling doesn’t work. Sometimes Mom is plum tuckered out. Sometimes Mom is a psycho. And sometimes things just fall apart. When they do, forget about cutting the damn mustard. Get out the Nutella and eat it with a spoon. Nutella is better than mustard anyway. And no, that’s not a metaphor for anything, that’s just how I feel.