A Homeschool Pause

Today I want to share something that is going to be incredibly life changing for me this coming year. As many of you know, I am currently homeschooling four of my five children – and now, after my sixth year of homeschooling, I am going to take year seven to pause and reflect.

Thats right! My five precious children will be strapping on their backpacks, and lining up like little ducklings to face “real school” 😜 this fall! (For those of you who don’t get my reference to “real school” I mean public school, although you fellow homeschoolers will know exactly what I’m mean!!) Watch out everyone…the Bergen’s are coming!!

I have known our plans for a couple months now but just recently have begun to share the news and I must say, it’s very interesting to see all the different reactions that have come from this decision…

I’ve had it all from, “Are you sure you want to send your kids to Public School?!?” (Spoken like I’m sending them away to some evil war camp) to “Wow! Good for you! Won’t that be nice to have an empty house and all that free time?” to “Oh finally you’ve come to your senses! Are you going to be normal get a real job now?”

Ok. I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. None of those things were actually said to me, but I’ve had many conversations that give me each of the vibes above and I’m quite sure that none of them are what I’m actually feeling.

So let me answer these questions for those of you who are too polite to ask them in the first place:

1) Yes, I am quite sure that for this year, our five children are going to attend school together. One of the reasons I am sure of this is that for the past few years I have felt very split up as a family, having one child in public school and the rest at home. I have comforted myself by the fact that we would be split up anyway if they were all in school (as in my youngest was still to young for kindergarten so he’d be at home with me.) This year is the first and only year that my children will ever be able to attend the same public school altogether. This brings me so much joy and excitement – the thought that my five kids can experience school life together; bus rides, assemblies, family days, etc. I also am confident that even though yes, there will be some negative influences in their lives, the school is a very good one with wonderful teachers. I also am prepared to clear our evening schedules as much as possible so that I have time to spend with our children each evening.

2) No I don’t expect a break. I don’t even expect an easier year. I don’t expect calm days of doing whatever I want. I just don’t! Helping five kids adjust to public school after homeschooling will take a lot of correspondence with the teachers, a lot of patient evenings helping with homework, a lot of volunteer hours so that my children can see that I still value their education and work environment, a lot of healthy lunch planning, ALOT of papers brought home (found in crumpled balls at the bottom of their school bags – along with…”Eewww!!! What’s that?!?”), and to top it off a lot of driving around and planning for the future!

3) And lastly, no, I’m not going to finally be normal. I will continue to be my weird self, no “real” job in my near future, AND my hopes are to continue homeschooling at least two of my boys the following fall.

So, you may be wondering…why the change? Will one year off be worth all the paperwork, adjustments, etc. of public school? Why not just keep the two boys at home and start a new normal?

To answer that I would refer back to the first answer I gave: But they’ll all be together!

And I also will add that these last couple years my homeschooling hasn’t been at its finest. I’ve still been committed to giving my kids an excellent education, but I’ve really resorted to doing the bare minimum and even that lacks creativity. Quite simply, I’ve lost my former spark and zeal for homeschooling.

So instead of viewing this year as a rest, I’m focusing on using my year “off” to reassess some of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. Creative teaching and planning takes time, lots of time and to continue for a couple more years I’m simply setting aside this year as a gage of where we are at. I’ll be answering a lot of questions. Is my heart still in it? Do the benefits of it outweigh the inconvenience? What is our long-term goal, and how is homeschooling accomplishing it? How has homeschooling been beneficial to my older kids? Have they been able to adjust to life among their peers? And so on. You get the picture.

So that’s my big news for today! How about you?

Do you homeschool? A former homeschooler? Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment? If so, how did it turn out for you?

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Public School Didn’t Prepare Me for Life… My Parents Did

“How in the world do you expect your children to function out in the world once they leave the bubble you’ve created for them?”

This is honestly a statement that was said to me a few years back.

And to be honest…it stung.

One of the most common questions I hear as a homeschooler is how am I preparing my children for the “real” world. From topics of socialization to missed opportunities, there are literally hundreds of different opinions on whether homeschooling has benefit, or if it actually hinders children from real life.

Let me tell you something that may shock you:  The public school system did not prepare me for real life.

Not for my real life.

There I said it….it is out. I can breathe.

This is not to say that the public school system didn’t help me out, or that homeschooling would’ve helped me more. I’m just simply stating that the things I learned in school didn’t prepare me for being a stay at home mom of five kids.  Being involved in extra curricular activities didn’t prep me for my day to day tasks either.

Yet, I see parents everywhere trying to rush from dance, to piano lessons, to the tutors house, to hockey practice, to swimming lessons, and to everything and anything else in between. To prepare their children for everything that they might ever want to be.

But there’s some things very few parents pay any attention to at all.

Character.

Work Ethic.

Responsiblity.

Commitment.

Compassion for the less fortunate.

Because while sports may keep you fit, and school may prepare you for your career, it doesn’t account for the most important values in life: God, family, and our responsibility to others.

There’s a push out there to drive children to dream big. From as young as three we ask them such huge, life driving questions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

As if they were capable of making that decision…still it’s cute to hear their answers!

But…can I just say that it’s a shame that we focus so much on career when a far more important question would be to ask, “what kind of person would you like to be?” And if they want to get married, “what kind of person do they want to spend their entire life with?”

Happiness doesn’t come from money or careers, we all know this, yet we raise our children to believe that those are the most important life goals. My question is why?

Why do we do this?

You know what brings misery? Marrying a miserable person. Going through life without a thought for anyone else. Riches without friends to share them with. Working endless hours just to watch the numbers in your bank account go up.

And yet we push and push our children to a single goal: Dream big and follow your dreams!

But…what if they’re like me?

What if they are like the millions of women around the world like me? What if they just want to stay home and raise a family?

What good does all of your rushing around do then?

And maybe it comes down to an even bigger question: What if they are content with raising a family, being a stay at home parent? Will they have let you down?

It’s not a waste, dear friends, to just raise a family. It’s a gift. A tremendous gift to the world; to raise up people who know they are loved.

There’s SO more to being a parent than just driving from place to place, and putting food on the table.

Now, do I have to homeschool to raise my kids well?

Of course not!

But it sure allows me more time to do so!

Let me ask you, if your children are at school eight hours a day, then at extra curricular activities for 2-3 more hours each evening…When do you have the time to teach them how to work? When do they do chores?

When do they learn about the importance of volunteering, or how to care for the less fortunate, or think about the needs of others?

When do you have the time to do devotions with them, memorize scripture with them, pray with them?

When do they have time to ask you questions about life, about morals, about sex?

When do they have time to just “be still”?

Are we so afraid of silence? Are we that afraid of stopping our lives and just letting kids play creative, made-up games?

Parenting well takes time…lots of it!

So going back to the first question that was asked: “How will my children function in the world?”

I except that they will be godly, hardworking, respectful, responsible and unselfish individuals, which quite notably, is rare in the world today.

But will they “fit in” with the rest of the world? Looking at millennials today… Nah, that’s not too high on my priority list.

 

A Dream and a Blog

For years I’ve loved writing. Writing to me is a way that we take the experiences of the day, the emotions in our hearts, the thoughts in our minds and put them together into words, so that other people may get a picture of the world through our eyes.

When I was eight, it was short stories of unwanted children, which expressed a deep sadness and never ending feeling of unwantedness that I held in my heart. In my teens it was poems, which I wrote for my assignments, but they all held those deep, deep emotions and thoughts that we would never dare share with another. I shared my depression, suicidal thoughts and heartbreak, hidden behind the lives of fictional characters or flowery  words. In this, I discovered how writing helped me understand myself and that it actually helped me cope with my situations and feelings.

I had never thought of writing as a career choice, I was far more interested in the “lucrative careers” that the school system seemed to put on a pedestal. I always thought though, that someday, I would publish some of my poems or write a novel.

At the beginning of grade 12, when most of those grand decisions for our futures are made, I discovered I was pregnant. At the time, it didn’t feel like a crisis. As an easy-going seventeen year old, I just shrugged and thought, “Well I guess I know what my future holds, I’m going to be a mother!” And from that point on, I made all my decisions around this one question: What will be best for me and my child? I wanted to graduate, but it was no longer important to me. I didn’t see how it would be any use in my future, which was now motherhood. I decided to finish all my courses the first semester in school and to then work full time at my job so that I could recieve maternity leave and stay at home with my child for the first year of motherhood. After the first semester, I only needed one more credit to graduate, but I put my diploma out of my mind. I really had so many other things to focus on at that time.

As I wrestled through the next season of life, writing took a different role in my life… journaling. Occasionally I was asked to speak at an event about my teen pregnancy and then I would get to share my story, which was about the only place I shared my written work with others.

About three years later, I was pregnant with my third child and I had a dream. Now I’m not the kind of person to think that every dream means something or that I need to do what my dreams tell me to. If I did that I would most likely wake up and rob a bank, and then spend the following days running from cops, who would suddenly turn into the most terrifying bear you’ve ever seen in your life. Really. Most dreams make absolutely no sense. But I had a dream where I received my high school diploma. I woke up and wept. It seemed like a piece of my life that had been long forgotten, yet here, in the dark of the night I was crying about something I didn’t even know I had really cared about. And sitting alone in the dark, I decided right then and there that I was going to graduate before my next baby was born. The very next day I made the arrangements to earn my final credit. A few weeks before my third child made his arrival, I went to my old high school and my principal handed me my diploma.

For the next seven years I continued to  journal. And then, a few nights ago I had another dream. It held the same sense of loss that seemed to awaken a longing within me that I never knew I had. In my dream, I was going to college and majoring in journalism. When I woke up, I was reminded so clearly of the first time this had happened to me and how joyful I had been to receive my diploma. The ache I had felt before returned, so I immediately (in the middle of the night), got up and started looking into colleges nearby and what they had to offer. When it became clear to me that it would still be three years or so before I would be able to go back to school, I decided that I needed to sharpen up my writing skills while I waited. Thus, I decided to start this blog, even though I’ve never considered doing anything like this before. And I think the hardest part of starting a blog for me has been this introduction, since I much prefer to just write those things on my heart that seem to flow. But there’s my story on how this blog came to be. I hope you enjoy it.