commitment, decisions, education, Homeschooling, learning

Commitment

I had reached a point where I was questioning if homeschooling was the right choice for Lilly. We were both stressed, bickering and struggling, and just not enjoying what we were doing. My fourth child was 3 months old and I was depleted from newborn care. The days, weeks, and then months were unfolding in a way that wasn’t what I envisioned for our homeschool life. We were both tired and struggling. It was the end of the winter (the winters are long in central NH) and I was eager to find a solution. I started thinking about sending her to school. Maybe just for the spring and she could finish out the school year at school and that would reset everything, then we could try again in the fall. I started thinking of the pros to this plan. I would get a much-needed break, focus on my other children, she could fill up on “socializing” and learn what it’s like to attend school. Then she would see that what we do at home is so much better and be happy to not return back to school in the fall. My husband and I discussed it for a few weeks and I talked with Lilly about it and she was willing to try it. Even though I had a plan and a list of all the positive attributes of this plan, I still had that awful feeling in my gut. That intuition thing that tells you something isn’t right. That heavy feeling in the center of your torso that makes you feel kind of sick, that feeling wouldn’t go away. Then I started remembering all the reasons why we choose not to use the local public school, and that feeling got worse. I couldn’t send her there. But I still didn’t see a way out of our struggle.
So I called a private school located the next town over and they invited Lilly to come spend the day and see if she liked it, while I could get a tour and ask questions. I started to feel a little better that maybe this would work. So we scheduled our visit and tour. The school was nice, it had small class sizes, lots of parent involvement, carefully selected curriculum, individualized instruction, P.E. twice a week, a large art room. I began to feel excited that maybe this would be a good fit. As were walking down the hallway of the school, a realization hit me. It was a moment of enlightenment. This school was just more of the same. It was still an institution. It was still just a building where children spend 6-7 hours a day. They still only focused on a preset curriculum. They sat in desks and received instruction and then were tested on what they remembered. There was very little free time, if any. No choices. No opportunities to connect with the community they were a part of. No exploring unknown places or ideas. Most of their time was spent with the same group of children of the same age. The common practices did not support or encourage curiosity, creativity, risk taking, or mindfulness. Waiting to be told what to do next was the norm, rather than self directed learning. The day to day experiences in the classroom did not have depth or relevance. The purposes for learning were to perform well and then move on to the next predetermined item on the checklist. So even though it was a different choice, (possibly considered a better choice by some), but ultimately it was just more of the same. And it did not align with our philosophies or vision in raising and educating our children. So now what? We were back to not knowing what to do.  
A path less traveled.
We were attending a weekly co-op (that I started with a group of friends) and we were chatting outside while the kids played. One of the moms asked how Lilly’s visit to the school was. Previously I had opened up to them about not being happy and not knowing how to move forward. I explained what we were going through, my feelings, and Lilly’s feelings. So I shared our experiences during the tour and how Lilly enjoyed her day at school. “So what are you going to do?” they asked. I didn’t have an answer. Now, this is an amazing group of women, so we openly discussed ways for my daughter and me to get our needs meet. Then I started to hear things like: “Sometimes going to school is the best option.” “Some children thrive at school.” “Everyone is different, sometimes you just have to let them go.” I began to question myself, yet again, that maybe I am holding my daughter back because of my own fears. As I got quiet and drifted into my headspace, everyone else started talking about what they would do if their children wanted or had to go school. They shared stories about children who ended up at school and were doing well. I know they were trying to be supportive. Then one of my friends Samantha, who had been quietly listening said, “I really don’t know what we would do if our kids wanted to go to school. We are committed to educating and raising our children in this way, so we would try everything else to meet their needs rather than sending them to school.” I knew what she said was significant, but I was still wrapped up in my own fears and emotions that her words didn’t click for me. Not yet anyways.
We got through our struggles without using school. Much of our troubles were arising because I needed more time to myself and other outlets to fill my cup. I needed more sleep and more time to adjust to being a mother of four. Lilly needed more independence and free social time with her friends.  It wasn’t until a year later that Samantha’s words came back to me and turned on a light bulb. I had let our commitment go. I realized that I was under the assumption, and therefore belief, that if something in our homeschool wasn’t working then the only solution was to send the children to school. I was willing to forget about everything we had pondered and carefully considered; to forget about why we did not want to choose the traditional path; to forget about the child as an individual with needs, strengths, and passions; To forget about our passions, goals, and values. How silly and closed minded of me. I almost threw away something amazing and beautiful because of a limiting belief that if something isn’t momentarily working, we should forget it and just do what everyone else is doing. All we needed was a break, and I needed to take better care of myself. I was pouring from an empty cup and not able to see clearly. My perceptions were blocking me from seeing the big picture. So the key word from my friend’s enlightening statement is “commitment.” I forgot about staying committed to our choice, and you can’t be successful without commitment. I didn’t make this choice because it was the easy thing to do, I made it because it was the best thing to do.
Part of commitment is making a pledge or promise. Commitment is an obligation. Commitment should be honored. No one says “let’s just homeschool.” Choosing this alternative path was not a decision that was made lightly or without careful consideration. I needed to honor myself, my child, and my decision by nurturing and holding true to my commitment. 
Learning in progress.
My lesson was: Don’t lose sight of your long- term goals because of a short-term setback. Homeschooling allows you the freedom to make changes. That is one of the great characteristics about this alternative path, the ability to make changes to support your children and family for an individualized education. A child is struggling with something, you give extra support or take a break, whatever is needed. The family needs more quality time together, make a change in the schedule to allow it. You need a break, so you plan your time accordingly to fit in your needs too. Because when you are committed you find a way, without commitment you’ll find excuses.
Think about any other commitments you have made: a professional goal, a relationship, a project, or a lifestyle change.  These commitments don’t lead to success if you give up too easily or if you don’t make them a priority.

Commitment isn’t always convenient. Again, you’re not doing this because of its convenience, but because of the end results. So what does it mean to be committed to your decision to homeschool?
  • You have a clear vision and goals for yourself, your children, and your family.
  • You have a mission statement and educational philosophy.
  • You understand how your goals are supported by your philosophy and mission.
  • You have the ability to see and admit when something isn’t working. You possess a willingness to actively seek out solutions and make changes.
  • You say no to anything that interferes with your vision and goals. That includes people, places, activities, and other obligations.
  • You say yes to what you know is right.
  • You understand that all children are unique and come with their own set of strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
  • You understand that education is not a “one size fits all” system,
  • You realize that there are many ways, methods, curriculums, styles to educate.
  • You remember that you are a voice and advocate for your child(ren), if you do not find the answers or support you are looking for, you keep looking.
  • You take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup!
  • You make the necessary choices and changes so that whatever path you choose contains love, passion, some challenge, curiosity, wonder, and fulfillment.
  • Uncertainty is not something to be feared. We can willingly accept uncertainty from a place of understanding and use it for its creative potential. That in itself is a learning experience being modeled first hand for your children.

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