Hold back your stones, homeschooling advocates! Let’s be honest here: homeschooling can become too much for parents to handle in certain seasons of life. When that happens, it’s a door that may need to be shut, even if temporarily. So how do you know when it is time to shut the door?
This is my story
I have homeschooled my three children for the last seven years or so. It has been one of the best choices we have ever made— or should I say that “God has made”— for our family.
We first started our homeschool journey when our daughter was almost four. Then we continued in K-5 until first grade came along. We had another toddler two years younger at that time and a brand-new baby.
Postpartum depression hit me hard when we least expected it, about one year after having the baby, and it took a toll on me, assuredly affecting my husband also.
I could not sleep well. In the morning, I could not function mentally. It felt like I had lost my human abilities and had become a zombie. After many unsuccessful visits to doctors, I was finally diagnosed with chronic fatigue and depression. I had never truly believed in depression until then. How can one expect a mom of babies not to feel fatigued? After that horrible season, which lasted over a year, I became very sympathetic to people who are able to admit that they are struggling with depression. Depression is real and it is very ugly.
Homeschooling became a torture for me and for my daughter. What was once enjoyable had become a nightmare. Weeping, screams and frustration replaced joy, enthusiasm and certainty. Was homeschooling the right thing for us?
Frustration is a killer
One of the hardest things for me was the frustration in not doing what I had committed to do: spending quality time with my precious girl, who depended on me for her education, while helping her learn in an enjoyable way. I was tired all the time. I could not think of the next thing I needed to do. I just wanted to cry, and beyond doubt, the hope for a better day was like a ship going in the opposite direction.
Some of my friends talked about their homeschooling experiences as if they were visiting Disneyland. That was distressing to me. Some moms were homeschooling a big family of five or more, but I could not even homeschool one child. I had no patience, no excitement, no motivation, and two younger kids to care for. In my living room toys were alive and running to my floor to be picked up again and again. My baby demanded attention. My daughter needed her mother and a playmate. She needed to be taught, and I could not provide her with either one. My housework lacked diligence. I was trying to be everything everyone needed me to be, but at the same time I was an empty pot that needed to be filled again. Those were exhausting days!
Doctors’ visits and tests seemed to not be enough to clarify all the symptoms that kept coming along. Hours of prayer and discussion brought the only available solution for the moment: to look for a school. The feeling of betrayal, failure and other emotions I could not explain made me realize that I was not in control… ever.
For twelve or so years, I had taught other parents’ kids in Brazil, and now I could not teach my own daughter because I did not feel well. Was I dying? I wondered sometimes. Certainly something was dying inside of me. My husband thought my feelings for him were dying also. It was depression.
My heart broke when I brought my daughter to school for the first time. My heart broke when I dropped her off on the second day of school and beyond. The only comfort was to see her excited about joining her new friends and having fun. She had found a better place to be than around her grouchy momma.
There is always a way
As I was treated for my chronic fatigue and depression, I began to find myself again. It took a while but I was once more at peace with my life and the world. Depression had finally released me from its smothering grip. Homeschooling had become a thing of the past, and we were going to let it rest in peace.
When God speaks
My baby was about to turn five. I had already paid for the pre-registration in school for my three children, and soon the youngest would be joining his two older siblings. We were about to have one in K-5, one in third grade, and one in fifth grade; that would be the next season for our family.
But our plans are not always on the same page with God’s plans. I started to have second thoughts about sending them to school, and the idea of bringing them back home struck me like a tornado. I knew my husband would not be supportive because we blamed the homeschooling as the source of or as a big contributor to my depression.
I prayed, “Lord, I’m going to wait in prayer for two months before I share this with my husband, and if this idea is your plan for our family, please help my husband accept it and be supportive in every possible way.” The announcement day came. I broke the news to my husband and he asked, “Are you sure?” I knew God had heard my prayer when my husband then said, “That’s ok with me.”
Get rid of condemnation
We learn new life skills and how to push ourselves more intentionally when we homeschool, mainly on those dreadful days. The work has to get done; we have no other choice. We learn to appreciate life, good health, and people who contribute to our success. We especially see God bringing healing on those magical “I’m sorry” moments, and discover that we are able to be more organized and apply discipline and self-control to our own life.
As much as we hate to talk about life’s circumstances, other events may catch us by surprise and suddenly change the trajectory we had previously designed for our family. This is when sending our kids to school may be the right thing to do, at least for a season. This is when we trust God to direct our steps into such a hard decision. This is when we depend on God to give us peace to believe that our kids will be ok at school. There are many great schools out there. There are many great teachers and curriculums available to help our kids succeed.
If God is leading you to send your kids back to school, don’t let legalism condemn you. Whenever homeschooling becomes a shut door, an impossible task, and you wonder if sending your kids to school is the right thing to do, or on those days when you lack encouragement to keep going, may the peace of God, His direction in your heart and the wisdom found in the abundance of counsels be your guide.