Deciding to Homeschool (the struggle is real)

One of the things that nobody tells you when you welcome your first baby, is that soon you will be sending him off to Kindergarten. It happens fast.

I remember bringing our first son, Micah, home from the hospital like it was yesterday. I remember lying in bed that night, amazed at the incredible miracle that just happened to us - we became parents! There was no looking back now. We were in this for life. For better or worse. Whatever came our way, we had someone else to think about and care for.  

The overwhelming responsibility that comes along with parenting hits every one a little differently, I'm sure. Depending on whether having a child was in the "plans" for you at the time. I can tell you just from my personal experience that, planned or not, children carry with them more weight than the seven or eight pounds they are born with. 

This weight was felt almost immediately for us. We were told only days after Micah's birth that he may need open heart surgery by the age of 6-8 weeks old. A decision that seemed completely out of our hands, still required us to do what we only knew best to do - pray. And by God's grace, that surgery wasn't needed. 

Our responsibility as parents doubled quickly, when we had our second baby only a year and a half later. Our daughter, Hannah, was born at sunrise, and with her came a whole new set of parenting skills required. It was like we knew nothing - even though we had already done this once and not too long ago. But the truth is, every child really is different. And as parents, we have the unique privilege of knowing those differences and teaching, correcting and nurturing our children in a way that will be best for them. 

Part of my goal in parenting over the last five years, has been learning about and getting to know my children. They are developing and changing everyday. Some days, I think I almost have them figured out and then other days, I'm sure I don't. 

This second-guessing has carried over into pretty much every important parenting decision I have to make. And most recently, the decisions I have to begin making about their education. Some days, when I'm feeling particularly creative and intentional, I'm certain that I will homeschool them. And other days, I wrestle with myself about this for hours on end, driving me to the point of complete exhaustion. And then, when I've finally collapsed into a puddle of worthlessness on the floor, I'm certain that they never need to stay home full-time with a lunatic like me.

Unless of course, homeschooling is exactly what they need. And then I will pour myself into making every ounce of their education my duty and goal. I will rise above the problems and challenges, because that's what God created me to do when He made me their mom. If the decision could just be made for me, I think to myself, then I would do it.

And in a way, when we moved to Jacksonville, it kinda was.

Josh and I both grew up with different educational backgrounds - he was homeschooled all the way through high school and I was a poster-child for public school and even had the safety patrol badge and "Top D.A.R.E. Student" T-shirt to prove it. Of course, the conversations on what we would do with our children's education was brought up long before we even had children of our own. He shared the benefits and challenges of homeschooling from his perspective, and I shared the benefits and challenges of public school from mine.

After so many conversations, still neither of us could conclude, for certain, which option would be best for our family. We did settle on the fact that we would prefer private school over public school. But we knew, ultimately, it was our job as parents to teach them the truth about God's Word and not the school.

So when we moved to Jacksonville, I began looking into schools in the area and researching options for us if we were to go the private school route. It blew my mind. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting because, truthfully, I don't have much experience with how much education costs. But I never imagined that the cost of schooling elementary students would rival that of college universities! I know, there is never a price tag you can put on your child's education, but STILL, $10,000 a year for schooling is just a little above our budget (and by a little, I mean A LOT).

So just like that, private school became out of the question for us. Unless, I got a full-time job. And while I do have a Bachelor's degree, my skill set and experience are mostly freelance and creative. The one "grown up" job I had right after I graduated college? Music and Art Teacher

And then, it clicked. 

Perhaps, God was preparing me for this the day I accepted that teaching job. Maybe there was a reason I came home from school every day as a child and taught my little sister everything I was learning. God had placed in me a desire to teach. But it was my own insecurities of failing, of being mocked, of choosing to school my children in a way that looked different than the majority of the world, that kept me doubting.

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I still remember the day I called Josh and told him I was ready to accept the calling to homeschool. I had prayed about it, and felt a peace that this was the best decision for our family, I told him. 

Are you... sure? I heard him say over the phone. He must be remembering all those days I ended up as a puddle on the floor... and would call him, sobbing. 
"Of course, I'm sure." I told him confidently. " I truly feel called to do this." 

And that was how our decision to homeschool was made. Not flippant. Not without tears. Not with a disdain for any other method of schooling. Or disrespect for any parent that chooses to follow a different calling on their life. 

I can guarantee you that every parent I have talked to, no matter what decision they ultimately choose, has struggled through it. Because we do what we have to do for our children.

And for this season, this is what we feel we need to do for the benefit of our family. The beauty of this decision, is that it could look differently in another season! There are endless possibilities to what the future may hold, and I can never say for certain what tomorrow will bring (James 4:13). 

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But I will say, there are definitely benefits of homeschooling that I am truly excited about! No strict schedules (although, I do plan to have some structure), Fridays can remain family days, we can travel any time of the year, I have the freedom to incorporate as much music and art as I like, shorter "class" time and more play time, NO HOMEWORK, and maybe the best benefit for my little mama heart right now... I don't have to send my baby off to Kindergarten. 

Baby Three

Two days before Easter, we found out we would be expecting our third child! To be honest, it was in the wake of an extremely stressful time. Our little Hannah had fallen a couple days prior at Target and had to get four stitches in her forehead. I was already feeling overwhelmed and incapable of taking care of two very active little ones - that my immediate thought when I found out I was pregnant again was, How am I going to do this?!

But then I remembered my sweet boy, Micah, coming into the kitchen earlier that month, looking at me inquisitively and asking, "Mommy, how do we get another baby in your tummy?" I smiled at the thought of him wanting another little sibling, without knowing that his daddy and I had been "working" on it for a few months already. But so far, there were only negative tests. And I wasn't sure how much hope I should hold out for considering my history with endometriosis. So I kneeled down next to him and quietly said, "Well, you could pray and ask God to give us a baby." With a defeated voice he said plainly, "But I don't think God will hear me." I lifted his chin and stared straight into his eyes, determined to defeat both his fears and mine. "That's not true, I prayed to God to give me a baby and He gave me you and your sister. God will definitely hear your prayer." Then the sweetest thing I've ever seen happened - he folded his little knuckles, bowed his head right there in the kitchen and began praying, "God would You please give mommy a baby in her tummy? Amen."

Approximately 3 weeks later, that prayer was answered. 

It was this sweet reminder that put a smile across my face and lifted the weight of the insecurities and doubts that I would be able to take care of another child. Sure, I'm weak. And weary. And often feel like I can't handle it all on my own. But the Lord, gave us this child. He has always renewed my strength, in one way or another, and by His grace we continue to survive.

I have felt His strength while taking care of two preschoolers and simultaneously battling nausea and digestion issues. I felt His peace when I had to make a scary trip to the ER last week to be catheterized. This hasn't been the easiest pregnancy so far. But again and again, I'm amazed at the miracle taking place inside me and I know the Lord has His hand on it all.

One exciting perk to this pregnancy - I get to share the experience! My little sister is expecting her first child, a baby girl, in October! I am so excited for her and looking forward to having close cousins as playmates! It's been fun sharing this little secret with my sister for the last few months. And, though I'm not quite sure how she did it, she was able to keep her pregnancy under wraps for 20 weeks and just had a big gender reveal party last week to surprise her friends! I'm not sure whether they were more excited about the gender or the pregnancy, but I'm glad the secret is finally out! I was having a harder time keeping her pregnancy a secret than my own, ha!

Not that I would have ever been able to hide this bump for long. Third babies don't like to hide.

Josh and I had a fun getaway last week for our anniversary in the mountains. It was my first time being away from the kids since they were born, and as nervous as I was anticipating it to be - it was definitely a much needed and relaxing time! We may look all serene and serious in these photos, but it was quite the comedy trying to capture them! We set up the self-timer on my camera - and I was hopping over rocks and hills (in heels!) to try and make it back next to him in 10 seconds. It was worth it though. These views were breathtaking and priceless. I am so glad we were able to spend this time together... just the three of us. And I guess I still technically can't say I've spent a night away from my babies, seeing as how I'm currently carrying another one. :)  

THIRTY

Today, I turn 30. 

I have been torn for months between treating this birthday like just another day and making a bucket list of crazy and adventurous things to do before I roll over to another decade. I have to be honest, I have felt a bit more nostalgic than ever about turning thirty. I'm usually one who is SO focused on the future and looks ahead with anticipation for every new stage of life! But, right now? I just want to freeze time.

I LOVED my 20s. I married my dream guy, graduated from college (twice!), went on my first overseas mission trip, bought our first and second homes, made lifelong friends, recorded albums and started a family. How could it get any better than that?!?

I am praying for vision for my 30s. That God would guide me in how to live intentionally with the time he has so graciously given me on this earth. I definitely believe that begins by praying for faithfulness in the every day mundane. While my 20s were filled to the brim - and I was able to experience and accomplish many life goals and dreams - I want my 30s to be even more productive for the things that will matter long after I'm gone. 

I nixed the bucket list, "30 things to do before I turn 30" idea, because my twenties truly were an adventure of their own. But I had to do something to honor this last decade of my life. So I put together a momento of photos from every birthday in my twenties and under each photo you will read a short description of that day. I'll let you be the judge if I've aged any (the answer is absolutely NOT, right?!) 

Tonight, Josh has planned to invite a few friends over to our new home to celebrate! I was challenged recently to have a new outlook on aging - instead of looking at how old I'm getting, I'm choosing to look at how long God has allowed me to continue living on Earth with people I love. If there's anything I've learned from looking back on my twenties it's that, God is my constant.  While people and places have come and gone over the years, He has remained. And when I am restless, I find my rest in Him.

Twenties, you were good.
But it's time to move on. 
Let's do this, thirty

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