(tl;dr version at the bottom) It was such an incredibly difficult decision for both me and my husband. We have so many strong convictions about homeschooling, it felt like we’d failed when we couldn’t figure out how to make it work this year. Especially since a huge part of the reason I walked away from one job opportunity into this one was so that I could continue working from home and thereby continue putting my kids first and homeschooling.
The original work plan
But life has a way of kicking you in the shorts. That is, it likes to take your best laid plans and poop all over them. The plan when I took this position with Sun Tail Mermaid was this: I’d help design a new line of mermaid tails, and I’d design and invent a new monofin swim flipper. We’d develop and launch these products and then my role with the company would move to a much more removed, super part time position, eventually backing out of the picture 100%.
SIDEBAR: There’s this misconception out there, even among family members, that I OWN Sun Tails. I don’t! I own a share of the company — that was just part of the hiring deal — but I’m not the head honcho. I do retain the rights to my monofin design and could even sell or license the rights if the right opportunity came along, but within the company, I am just a designer (graphic design and product design), and thank goodness. I have enough stress as it is without the entire success of the business resting on my shoulders.
Anyway, that timeline has NOT gone according to plan. It has taken ten times the amount of time we thought it would to test and perfect the products, and we’ve had all kinds of manufacturing hiccups and bumps along the way. I held out hope until just a few weeks before school was going to be starting that I’d be able to get everything done to that point where I could back out of the picture and return to homeschooling, but it just didn’t work out.
I cried a lot.
We found a charter school where all the kids could go to the same building. It’s smaller, and we hoped that would make for less culture shock. I had all kinds of worries — though I had tried very hard to make sure my kids were operating at and above grade levels, I’d have these nightmares where they’d go to school and get yelled at for being dumb homeschoolers who didn’t know how to raise their hands or ask before going to the bathroom.
My bad dreams were a waste, because they’re doing great. They love it, actually. All of them. It hurts my feelings a little bit :) But mostly I’m really thankful, because it’s just what we have to do this year (and maybe next?); I’m very glad they aren’t miserable.
The Myth of Free Time
A weird thing I keep hearing is, “Oooh, isn’t it nice to have all that free time?” And I’m like, “Huh? Where is this free time? Did I not fill out the right form? Did it get waylaid en route to my door?” Putting the kids in school didn’t help my schedule at all, in fact it made it a lot more difficult. I knew they’d be miserable (as they were last year) with me cramming in homeschooling around my demanding work schedule, so putting them in school was 110% for them. In no way has it resulted in some magical 8 hour workday I’d have if I worked in an office and they were in an after school care program or something (their school does not have one). They’re happy, but all the things I feared about a public school lifestyle are true.
For YEARS people have said, “Oh you’re so brave/awesome/patient for being a homeschooling mom! I could never! I don’t know how you do it!” And I’d roll my eyes so hard they’d stick to the back of my head. Because give me a break. Homeschooling is easy compared to this! Lazy! Relaxed! We wake up when we want to. We eat breakfast at a leisurely, non-frantic pace. There is no morning shouting over backpacks or misplaced lunch bags. There are no early morning freak outs about the level of the gas tank in the car or the fact that we ran out of bread or peanut butter and no one noticed the day before when I could have gone to the store without making everyone late.
During the years when I did not *have* to work, the actual homeschooling (school type work stuff, grammar, math, etc.) of four kids took up only a few hours of our day. We had the rest of the day to explore nature, hike, go to museums, watch movies that corresponded with our studies, read piles of wonderful books, spend time at the library, enroll in co-op classes, and do science projects. Oh the free time I had then! I had time for small side businesses and projects, time to read and relax on my own while kids played! I’d stretch out on a blanket at the park, or we’d enjoy the lake shore or swimming pools while everyone else was in school. Sigh. I miss those days. I miss that life.
I am in the car for an hour every day thanks to J being in early morning seminary this year and the distance from our house to seminary and their school. We’re in the car longer if we are waiting at the school for someone to get done with band or orchestra (not worth it to go home and come back). I realize that’s not true for everyone. If they were attending the public schools in our neighborhood things would be simpler. But again, their school felt like the best choice for them, and they agreed. We toured many and this one won hands down.
THE HOMEWORK. I can’t even. We have like, five minutes together (this is what it feels like) to eat and relax, spend time together… but it’s eaten up, stolen, by homework. Homework is the devil. I hate it so much. It is so difficult to keep every kid’s class requirements straight, and papers get lost from their lockers to home. I didn’t have this much homework as a kid. I get that teachers think it reinforces concepts, I get that they don’t have enough time to devote to everything in class even though they have my kid for the bulk of each day. I get that national standards force teachers to ‘teach for the test’ and are under a lot of pressure and some of that spills over into homework. I get it. I just hate it, that’s all. I’m allowed to hate it. Me hating it shouldn’t make any teachers out there feel attacked, they do their best, I know (and I love my kids’ teachers, they are super). It just is what it is: life sucking, time robbing, evening ruining, satanic devil homework from hell. #iampronetohyperbole
We are not even going to discuss the volunteer time at the school that is required and asked of me. I have no idea how I am supposed to fit this into my life. How do parents who work at offices fit this in? Do they take vacation time? A sick day? I don’t get it. I know why the school wants it, B loves it when he has reading buddies come to his class (upper classmen or volunteer parents) and I wish I could be there, but I just can’t. Plus there are fundraisers and parent meetings and Managebac training… it just feels like this whole LIFE. And while you might be all, “Holy cow, homeschooling moms are super amazing / intimidating / crazy / masochists.” I’m all, “You’re all insane, you have no idea. Homeschooling is CALM. This is full of crazy. I am dying. Send life preserver. Drowning. Halp.”
Disclaimer: I fully admit to being a whiny pants baby who hates certain types of change (namely the type that requires stuff from me). For many, public school is just a have-to, ain’t no way around it kind of decision. Because work. Because single parent. Because life. Because socioeconomic status. Because homeschooling is weird and out there and unknown and therefore scary; or impossible or eschewed because of any number of other valid reasons.
tl;dr: The back and forth and the homework really cuts into my work time, but this was a solution for the kids, not me. I just have to deal. I have to work with what I have, work more effectively and productively. It’s hard. I don’t have time for a lot of the things I’d like to do (like do more stuff with this house at a quicker pace, for example). But I am happy the kids are happy. And that’s no small thing.