Tipping Dominos

This is the extent of my homeschool mom career. Right here on these two slips of papers.
(Actually we started August 21, 2013 but I couldn’t find his his practice sheet)

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Five months.

Five long, hard, refining months.

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On February 3, 2014 I walked an excited and shy Bennett into his kindergarten class. I helped him hang up his coat, kissed him on the lips, went back to my car and burst into tears.

Only a very small handful of people even knew Bennett was starting “big school” for the rest of the year.

I know myself now. I needed to be sharply in tune with God’s voice over decisions this big and if I was polling every family member and friend on their opinion about my child then I would drown out the Lord’s voice. This was a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE decision for our family and only Ryan and myself were going to answer for it some day.

There were no Instagram or Facebook photos to commemorate the day. Ryan snapped one picture on his phone so we had one memory. It isn’t to say we didn’t make a big deal of it, we did. We all mustered up the joy and excitement that he deserved for this monumental occasion.

Now if you didn’t read my last post then you might not know where this story is coming from.

Picture a movie that starts out with a scene that is basically the punchline and you are scratching your head going what? who? why? when? Then the screen goes black and they flash a date or time on the screen. This is my black screen with white text. I just gave you the punchline now here is the back story.

AUGUST 2013

When we decided the first week of August to make the plunge in to homeschooling I felt like the 11th hour worker. As much as I have been around homeschool moms I knew NOTHING about curriculum or structuring my day or should there be no structure? Do I do classical eduction or create my own hybrid? Do I set up a classroom in part of the house or do it at the table? Should we do it all in one lump or break it up over the day? Do I wear sweat pants all day or just part of the day? That one I was clear on….ALL DAY BABY!!!!

So I nervously attended one curriculum book fair and felt dumb, overwhelmed, and ignorant of this whole world. I had three major pluses going in though. Bennett was a full grade ahead academically thanks to his STELLAR pre-K. He was reading and writing by the end of the 4’s class….BOOYAH (people still say that right? oh they don’t…my bad, my bad) So I decided to jump to 1st grade and that we would only do school 3-4 days a week so I had lots of time margin. My second plus was I had a friend who has the same age son and they attended the same pre-K so they were academically on the same level. Naturally, I did what any smart mom would do and shamelessly mooched her entire curriculum choices for the year. Oh you bought that? Yeah me too! Thanks Candace….I owe you big time for helping me unclench my butt cheeks after looking through curriculum catalogs! Last plus was Benentt’s age. In Virginia you don’t have to do the paperwork for the government declaring anything about your child until they are six. Avoided that whole deal. Whewwwww……

So there we were on that fateful Wednesday. We took pictures of the kids outside and Bennett wore a brave face. This was the first day of school in August for both kids.
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We dropped Chloe off at school. Bennett stood at her classroom doorway and cried. I could hardly make eye contact. I was so torn because my heart was breaking that she was going to FULL day, public school. Two firsts for her/us. So I was crying because I was sad to be apart from her. Then I had to look in the eyes of the kid that is broken hearted walking out of the school he wanted to go to and head home with me. I know homeschool is NOT a punishment but in Bennett’s mind it felt that way and to be honest…I felt that way too. We were both sentenced to one year mandatory home prison, I mean homeschool.

The first day I tried big time. I set up everything all cute for him, Name tag, juice and candy treat. I introduced myself as Mrs. Portnoy and welcomed him to my class. We said the pledge (I know…it’s not easy being this cool) and prayed. Deep breath. I actually had sweaty pits as if someone was watching and judging me. I can’t help my type A-ness. (sorry for the midget pictures, had to pull from my instagram feed)
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First day wasn’t too bad overall. A little resistance from him on writing but after about two hours we made it through all four subjects. We survived. Neither of us cried. The day was neutral.

Neutral.

That is the word I would use for all five months of homeschool. I felt neutral about it. There were days I didn’t mind it and days I HATED it but the majority just felt neutral. We tried different things. Doing everything in the morning, doing all of it in the afternoon, breaking up throughout the day. We did school at the table, outside and at this great vintage desk I scored.

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I would say at least once a day Bennett pushed back. Usually not too hard but some days we would have a 30 minute stand off. I made a pact to myself not to fight him so I would simply walk away and tell him “Let me know when you are ready”. We managed to get through it 3-4 days a week.

Here was my prayer “Make me fall in love with it Jesus!” I desperately wanted some switch to flip in me that made me fall in love with homeschooling. I wanted to pull Chloe out and make this our new normal. I truly believe in it and love the freedom it affords.

It wasn’t for me. I only loved when it was over. I did not drink the Koolaid.

I was sad I didn’t even like it. I basically floated in this neutral place that was mostly void of feeling. I KNEW it was the right thing for Bennett. HE WAS NOT READY FOR SCHOOL. I do not believe my problem needs to be your problem and therefore I didn’t need to send him to school because “I couldn’t deal with him.” God gave me a brain and intuition and I knew we were setting him up to fail if we sent him away with the emotional maturity level he was at. I was a former teacher….I am sensitive that one kid can drain a whole classroom and I didn’t want that for Bennett’s sake or the teachers sake. I wanted to be the one shaping his heart and emotions. A teacher balancing 20 other eternal beings can’t work with him the way I can. I knew this was the greater lesson in him being home, not his academic success.

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I could tell about a month in that Bennett was starting to show some true signs of emotional self control. There was definitely progress being made, this was not for not. I too was having my own heart renovation of sorts. I was learning about obedience and submission. Not in a martyr way, more in surrendering what I thought this year was going to be for myself and allowed the Lord to renovate my expectations. This was a maturing process for me too. I may be 37 but there are days I was in my bedroom room pouting, crying or kicking a rock. Did I believe God is good and good would come from this? I did! That’s why I stuck with it. I saw both of us were learning really important lessons. I wanted what James 1 talks about…”Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I have no desire to stay the same Kelly I am today. Help me grow Jesus, help me grow.

The problem really came in a different form about November…..

Whose got two thumbs and could rival Bennett in emotional out burts?

This guy…
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Not one but both of my boys are emotional freak balls. It seems so ironic that my girl is so calm and level headed and my boys can’t keep it together if their life depended on it.

So having a 2.5 year old milling around while you homeschool is not easy. I seriously do not understand how parents with multiple kids (toddlers and babies) homeschool.

I sent him to “Leap Frog school” (video) for the first 30 mins a day, gave him busy bags, tried to distract him in another room but it was basically futile. If he came anywhere near the table while Bennett was schooling Bennett was completely derailed and a fight would break out. Not one but two tea kettles at full boil.

I am not a loud person, I don’t like attention, I don’t do well when there is chaos around me, I JUST WANT IT TO STOP!!! So I found out I have an alter ego and that she likes to yell to get control. Yes…lest you imagine me sitting in my room at night polishing a halo that image is smashed. I turned in to a full fledged screamer. (Hangs head in shame).

I remember when Chloe and Bennett were little they hit a rut where they couldn’t be in the same room together. It was a long year that broke my heart but they/we got through it. Those two are AWESOME together now. Hours and hours of play with nary a fight. I have the foresight to know that this “rough patch” the boys entered in November would not last forever but for now it was absolutely paralyzing in our home.

I would not be exaggerating to say that from sun up to sun down the boys fought. Rhett is VERY much like Bennett in his emotional craziness. The only difference is…he is two and he snaps out of it quickly. The two of them were a match and gasoline and I spent the majority of my day and energy breaking up fights, separating them on different floors, punishing, redirecting, etc… I was EXHAUSTED and beyond frustrated by 10:00am each day. I felt myself slipping away slowly and this uptight, short tempered, impatient, sad mom started to take over our home. Everybody was losing. I was crying all the time and felt overwhelmed by the boys. Again…homeschool wasn’t a big deal…it floated out there neutrally….it was the emotional temperature of our home that was taking the ship down.

There were a few observations Ryan and I started to make. We let Bennett start sports this year. We noticed when he was around boys his own age he stopped talking in his mousy voice and talked in his “big boy voice”. He took correction from the coaches very well overall without crying ( I mean he cried sometimes but not in a way he stood out). Basically, we were very impressed that he seemed “normal” on the teams. At church he always did great! No problems, no emotional spells, good listening and submitting to authority.

By Christmas time Ryan and I were in big discussions on what to do about the boys, homeschool, my emotional well being. It felt super lame to consider sending Bennett to school because I was having a hard time emotionally at home. But it isn’t lame. It was my heart and mind and all of us were suffering in different ways with the chaos the boys were causing. It’s hard when you are home 50+ hours a week taking care of your kids, making decisions on their behalf emotionally, spiritually, and behaviorally. Ryan is a SUPER dad but isn’t the primary care taker because of his job. I was feeling so pressured and overwhelmed on what was the “right” decision for all of us. I’m thankful he helped me pray through this decision and finally made the call for all of us.

I remembered our counselor once saying something so simple it was profound “If what you are doing isn’t working then tip a domino in another direction and try something different.” So we talked about it, prayed about it, gave it a few more weeks of reflection, spoke to a few people about this decision and waited for the Lord to speak.

In February it marked nine months since Bennett was in a classroom setting. Perhaps, just perhaps based on what we observed in sports and church that when Bennett is around kids his age he is now RISING to the emotional maturity level instead of being glaringly behind. Perhaps, just perhaps being around an emotional toddler all day was actually bringing him down. Maybe it was time to tip a domino in a different direction and see.

We were blessed to get a teacher that not only has 20 + years experience teaching kindergartners but she was also a believer at public school. When I met with her the week before we sent Bennett I was able to share openly about our decision to homeschool Bennett and our prayer and deep conviction to shape Bennett’s emotional and spiritual well being. She was so sensitive and caring I felt like we were passing a torch to someone who saw Bennett not just as another student but a little eternal being in her class.

Now eight weeks later we have seen Bennett THRIVING at school. He is so happy, we are seeing INCREDIBLE changes around our home with his emotional maturity, we could not be more peaceful about this decision as difficult as it was. It was the right time for him and it was the right time for me to have margin and time one on one with Rhett. When I get a note home from Bennett’s teacher saying “I love having Bennett in my class” my heart swells to the point of bursting.

The boys are still in a terrible funk but Bennett is handling it much better and I am not drained of all will to live by 10:00am so I am able to handle the fights and screaming with maturity and patience. Our home is peaceful again and I am getting some structure in my weeks that I have needed. I mean I launched this website the week after we sent Bennett to school so I have had my outlet back that I have missed so much albeit very sporadic when I write.

The God’s honest truth is I cried heaving cries when I packed up all the homeschool materials. I don’t even truly know why. I was sad it was over. Not because I wanted to keep doing it but because I liked having Bennett home with me. I grieved that I didn’t love it and I grieved that this year was so personally stretching. The rest of my tears I still don’t understand and maybe I never will. I am still open to homeschool in the future. I’ve learned to never say never to Jesus. So who knows….this summer a major life change is going to be happening which I will share in the near future. I have no idea of the next chapter God is writing for our family but I am excited to read it!

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7 Comments on Tipping Dominos

  1. Aimee
    April 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm (4 years ago)

    I love reading your heart friend! I especially loved that his new teacher sees him as an eternal being in her classroom….absolutely priceless! It is so comforting to see how God walked your family though this season and affirming/encouraging as we trust Him in our own seasons and wait for His path to unfold. Love you girl! Thanks for sharing so openly.

    Reply
  2. Julie
    April 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm (4 years ago)

    I love that you share your heart, Kelly. It’s ok not to love homeschooling. I too don’t think I have a heart for homeschooling either, but I’m going to give preschool a shot. I also wonder how moms do it with little ones at home!!!

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to homeschool Sage for just preschool next year. I love having her home with Wells & she loves when I teach her. We are going into open minded so we’ll see.

    Glad Bennett is doing so well!

    Reply
  3. Colleen
    April 8, 2014 at 5:59 am (4 years ago)

    heart….pure heart

    Reply
  4. Kristy
    April 8, 2014 at 10:45 am (4 years ago)

    Kelly, I used to read your blog a long time ago when Chloe was just a chubby new baby. I admired your photography business from afar. I followed you on instagram and was so excited to see you writing again! Thank you for sharing so honestly and openly about schooling and your sweet Bennet. You have made me think about our own schooling choices and how they are affecting me and more importantly if I am being a martyr to our choices. I’ll be chewing on this. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Kristy

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm (4 years ago)

      Kristy, I’m so sorry I forgot to reply to your precious comment. Thank you for your faithfulness in following our family through photography and now the blog. Wow! Please weigh out this entry with your own scenario before the Lord. It’s good to be open each year and with each kid and be willing to try different things…tip a domino if what you are doing is just not bearing fruit in your child, your home or your marriage. May God lavish you with grace as you make decisions. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Reply
  5. Kelly
    April 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm (4 years ago)

    You go girl. We all co-labor together in the kingdom and He is continuing to make you more like Him. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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