June 6, 2012

Homeschool Decisions: His Spirit Guides


A reader asked the following question:

How do you know when homeschooling is just not right for you?  Give up or Endure?
First of all, I’m sure many homeschoolers have asked this question at one point or another.  You are not alone!  I asked myself a similar question this past year and I wanted to share some of the things the Lord has taught me through our experiences.  It will be real and personal, but hopefully it will help someone.
To begin with: I am passionate about the fact that our children are God’s children first and as we seek Him, He will not leave us alone in our stewardship to raise them up to Him.  I LOVE what Sister Cheryl Esplin said this past General Conference,
“Our ‘children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). He knows and loves each one with perfect love (see Moroni 8:17). What a sacred responsibility Heavenly Father places upon us as parents to partner with Him in helping His choice spirits become what He knows they can become.
"This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost.” 
I know this to be true!  Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what our children need to fulfill their missions in life.  And He has “specific instruction and guidance,” ready and waiting, to help us teach them what they need to know, do, and be.  
That is powerful!  We are not alone!  
As we pray and listen to His Spirit, He will guide and inspire us.  The Lord says so many times in the scriptures, “Ask and ye shall receive.”  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” He will answer, and as we diligently act on the promptings we receive, blessings will come.  
The simple bottom line is: if we don’t know what to do regarding homeschool, pray and ask our Heavenly Father.  Stay close to the Spirit and then act on the answers that come.
Now.... I absolutely know all this to be true, but life happens and I momentarily forget.  There is often a gap between what I know and what I do.  Sometimes I feel like I turn everywhere but to the Lord for the answers to my questions. Sometimes I let myself get bogged down; fretting, worrying, feeling lost and overwhelmed with concerns.  (Why do I do this, when I know the peace and comfort that is available when I turn to the Lord?)
This was the case earlier this last school year.  I was pregnant with my sixth child, and this was the first time I had ever been pregnant or had a baby while homeschooling.  As much as I am so grateful for the gift of bearing children, my pregnancies are really hard.  It was obviously affecting our schooling.  We took a two month break during the worst of the morning sickness, then worked through the summer to make up for it. (I do love the flexibility of homeschooling!)  
Despite being in pain almost constantly and feeling dead tired by lunch time, I really tried to stay consistent with the basic subjects.  My kids were wonderful and really stepped up to help me with the house (having a 12 and 11 year old who can clean the house and fix simple dinners is such an amazing blessing, so different than the last time I was pregnant 5 years ago, but I digress).  My husband was wonderfully supportive and did everything he could to help me.  We also pared things down and said “no” to outside homeschooling commitments; no co-ops, enrichment programs, fieldtrips, etc.  Instead of using such an eclectic group of curriculum/resources, which required more planning time on my part, we mainly used an online curriculum (Time4Learning).  We were surviving, but it was hard for me, feeling like I wasn’t giving my children the homeschooling experience that I felt they deserved.
I probably would have been okay though, knowing that I was being hard on myself and didn’t need to demand perfection of myself.  President Uchtdorf said in General Conference awhile back, that it is okay to slow down in times of “turbulence” and concentrate solely on what matters most.  I get that.  I also know that times like pregnancy and having a newborn are precious experiences for a family and provide much to teach our children about real life skills and about our Heavenly Father’s plan.
The thing is, my oldest daughter has had learning challenges all her life starting with a severe speech delay when she was young.  She couldn’t say her own name until she was almost 4 years old, and we couldn’t carry on a simple conversation with her until she was 5 (which is another story in itself).  Through years of speech therapy, she is doing wonderfully in that regard.  However, the speech delay and resulting trouble with receptive and expressive language have also put her consistently over a year behind in all language arts areas.
This in itself also would have been okay, since I know that every child learns on their own time table and as long as we do our best and work hard it will all even out.  She has progressed by leaps and bounds through the years, and I only anticipate that she will continue to do so.  There are also many good resources for homeschooling children with learning challenges (which also could fill another post, but if you happen to want to share some of your favorites in the comments below I would love to read about them).
However, though generally a quiet, sweet and obedient girl, this daughter and I had been developing some “friction” between us in her schooling.  I noticed it most while trying to teach her writing.  She would take offense at any editing suggestion, no matter how sweetly I phrased it, even when I concentrated on the good things before offering suggestions. (She didn’t have this issue with her dad, he could simply say “This sentence doesn’t work well,” and she would happily go off and change it.)  She seemed to resent the assignments I was giving her and most often do the bare minimum instead of what I knew she was capable of.  Sometimes she would tell me she did the assignment and I would find out later that she hadn’t told me the truth.  All this was very troubling to me.
Combining the pregnancy, learning challenges, and friction with my daughter, I was seriously worried, overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do.  I looked at changing curriculums again, knowing that my daughter is a visual/spatial learner, thinking that maybe there was a better way to teach her writing.  I tried backing off on what I was asking my daughter to do, giving her more say in her assignments.  I read more about learning challenges, discipline and relationships with children.  Nothing seemed to work or feel right; I fretted and stewed about it and I felt lost.
One day as I was pouring my heart out to my husband, he asked, “Have you prayed about it?”  To which I sheepishly answered, “Uhmm......... not specifically.”  What was I thinking???  No wonder I was feeling so lost!  I know my children are God’s children first.  When I don’t know what to do He should be the first one I turn to with my specific question!  (Maybe I could blame pregnancy brain for my momentary lapse?)
So I made it a matter of serious prayer, and my husband joined me.  Soon after, as promised, the Lord told me what my daughter needed.  The inspiration came: I felt that she needed outside motivation and accountability, someone besides me to report to.  I was so very grateful for the feeling of peace and clarity that God gave me.  I am continually awed by the power of the Holy Ghost!  Now I had direction and could move forward.
But how to make that happen?  We went back to the drawing board, looking at every option.  My first thought was an online charter school, which I had previously not considered.  As a much simpler option, we thought about having this daughter report to her dad everyday, instead of me.  Finally we wondered if we needed to put her back into school at a local charter school.  As we continued to pray about this, we felt more and more comfortable with the local charter school option.  This was extremely surprising to me, and hard emotionally, because I do love homeschooling.
Then the baby was born and we got caught up in the wonder and blessing of a new life.  What a miracle babies are!!!  And what beautiful lessons of love and sacrifice are learned in bringing them into the world and caring for their every need!
We took school off for the month and then it was Christmas.  After much prayer, we decided on the local charter school for the coming semester.  And not just for our oldest daughter, but for all four school-age kids.  This was a hard decision to come to in one way, but easy in another.  I truly love teaching my children at home, but it did feel right to send them to the local charter school for now, and after all our prayers I felt peace.  As much as I love homeschooling, I trusted the Lord that this was what was right for our family, for my children, at this particular time.
After the decision was made and confirmed, we sat the kids down and explained things to them, how we had been praying about what would be best for our family, and testified that we knew this was God’s will for us at this time.  (However, we didn’t share the specific concerns and resulting inspiration regarding our oldest daughter.)  To their credit, though some were apprehensive, they were supportive of the decision and agreed to give their best.  We were able to get them into the charter school without needing any of the children to be on a wait list (wow), we bought uniforms and school supplies, and they started school at the semester break in January.  
And right away I could see blessings from obeying the prompting regarding my oldest daughter.  She really stepped up and became SO responsible with her school work.  I was in awe of her dedication and desire to do her best!  Her whole attitude and demeanor changed for the better.  And things weren’t easy for her.  She was “behind” the other kids her age (which I knew was going to happen) so homework that should have taken 30 minutes was taking her 2 hrs.  We helped where we could, got her special education help, and she persevered; gaining a testimony of the fact that we can do hard things with the Lord’s help. We were extremely proud of her!  The best part was that she could see the change in herself, she knew how good it felt to do her best, to be responsible, to step up and work hard.  Blessings definitely come when we follow the Spirit's promptings!
On the other hand, after about a month of school, sending my children away everyday was HARD for me!  I knew it was the right thing for the time being, and I was seeing the blessings in my oldest daughter, but it really ripped my heart out to send them out the door every morning!  The change in our family time (from hours a day to practically nothing) sent us all into withdrawal.  We were all in tears about it at one time or another (including my husband) during that second month of school.  Our scripture study together suffered immensely.  Instead of at least an hour of study daily, we were lucky to squeeze in 15 minutes; with getting kids to school on time in the morning, to homework, chores, dinner and church activities crammed into the few hours between school and bedtime.  (I honestly do not know how people do this long term.)  

And then one morning my second grade daughter drew this and my heart broke:

Yes, that's a little curly-haired girl, crying, while sitting at a school desk and looking at her home through the window.  OUCH!  I immediately started bawling when I saw this and all the emotion from the last month or so came flooding out.

Again I felt lost in not knowing what to do.  I knew we had felt good about the charter school.  But had the necessary lessons been learned, the purposes fulfilled in having my children go to the charter school?  Was it time to bring them back to homeschool?  Maybe the younger two could come home and the older two could stay at the charter school?  I just wanted to do what was right and I was having a hard time thinking clearly without my strong emotions getting in the way.  This time I wasn’t slow to go to the Lord for comfort and answers.  I asked for a blessing and my husband and I started praying specifically to know what to do.  And I knew, from recent experience, that an answer would come.
To be continued...

Part 2 can be found here.

Marcina and her husband, Aaron, have recently welcomed their sixth child into their family! Children are truly one of God’s greatest gifts. This is her third year of homeschooling and she is grateful for the opportunity to teach her children at home. It continues to be both a challenge and a delight! In her spare moments she enjoys family history, gardening, reading, singing, listening to beautiful music, and learning new things.

8 comments - Add a comment below -:

Mama Rachel said...

Your daughter's picture is so heartbreaking! Just WOW. How is it that kids understand so much?

I can't wait to read part 2! :-)


Tristan said...

Do we have to wait a whole month for part 2? Agh! I really enjoyed your post because over and over and over the last few weeks God has been teaching me lessons about personal revelation and the companionship of the Holy Ghost as a daily, hourly help in my life.

Dana ♥ said...

What a cliff hanger! Thanks for sharing this experience, I await your conclusion. =)

Donna said...

Thank you for sharing that. I too had to make the same decision this year and had to send my girls 'to school'. My heart has never ached so much but God opened doors and opportunities for my girls and us as a family that have amazed me. I am getting sicker and we aren't sure what my future will hold and its not looking very good but i know that my girls will be ok and the school has taken my girls under their wing and the kids have embraced my girls because everyone knew that 3 girls were coming that had never been to school before. It was big news. I too hope we don't have to wait a whole month for part 2. God bless you and your family.

Marcina said...

Donna: How wonderful that the school was so welcoming to your daughters! I hope that you continue to find comfort and peace in your trial. May the Lord bless you!

Anonymous said...

I'm anxious for your next installment as well! :)

Sorry that you've been struggling with this. I think that all HS families wonder about life "on the other side".

You showed incredible faith and courage to listen to the answer of a charter school. Keep it up.

Caroline said...

I had to come back to this post and tell you how much it meant to me. I knew years ago that home schooling was going to be the thing for our family, but after life got hectic this year, and I sat down to organize my son's first year of school, nothing felt right. I was confused because I knew that schooling at home was what the Lord wanted us to do! Why was it hard to figure out how to get all of my ducks in a row? Then I read this blog and realized I hadn't prayed about THIS year. So I did, and I had to accept the humbling answer that, while home schooling may be what we are supposed to do, this is not the year to start. Apparently my son needs something else, and school outside of my home is the answer. I NEVER would have realized that without this thought provoking post. So thank you! And I'm still eagerly waiting for part 2. :)

Deanna said...

Did you already post the 2nd installment? I'm anxious to read it and can't find it if you already have.