Monday, October 10, 2011

You gotta know when to fold 'em

I told a lie the other day.

I was talking to a casual friend I hadn't seen in a few years and, somehow, I mentioned that I homeschool now. I hadn't planned on telling her and talking about it caught me off-guard so I brushed off its importance with a few casual comments about how easy it is. And we moved on.

Big. Fat. Lie.

Homeschooling is far from easy. I don't know what made me say such a thing. It is, perhaps, the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. I never, ever, ever in a million years ever thought I would ever do it. Ever. I always said my kids would turn out to be cretins if I ever made the mistake of homeschooling them.

But here we are, in our second year. And I am starting to feel like my child is indeed going to become a cretin if I continue to homeschool him. It's just not going well at all. I am feeling more like a failure than ever before (and that's saying something) and I just don't know what to do.

We made the decision to homeschool because we had major problems with our school's administration. We were very unhappy with the way they was handling things and felt that Man-Cub was no longer safe in that school. We considered moving to another school district and then private school and when neither option turned out to be viable, we turned to homeschooling as a last resort. After the decision was made, we learned that a new administration had been installed in the school but we couldn't be sure that the problem was solved so we decided to continue homeschooling anyway. And pretty soon, we were impressed with the freedom and efficiency that homeschooling affords so we didn't care what the administration did.

We suffered through the first semester with many tears and much bewilderment. I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into and was convinced I was ruining my son. Second semester, we found a co-op and joined it and that made all the difference. Man-Cub loved it! He made friends, he studied Medieval History, he got a break from me, it was great. And our school year was capped by Man-Cub taking the IOWA exam and getting wonderful results on it! We were ready to rest for the summer and meet the next year with guns blazing.

Over the summer, I discovered Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online. I did research, made book lists, checked books out of the library and was actually excited about the approaching year! I also met another homeschooling mom who actually lives near me and was looking forward to the possibility of networking with her and her children.

Then we got the course list for our co-op. There were no classes that Man-Cub wanted to take. In fact, most of the courses seemed aimed more at girls than boys. The co-op is rather far away and we just couldn't justify paying the dues and putting out the gas money for an American Girls' history class. So, sadly, co-op, the only one we'd been able to find, fell by the wayside.

Shortly after we realized we would not be able to do our co-op, Redheaded Snippet began what turned out to be the most grueling pre-season of her life. She was diagnosed with shin splints and the ensuing drama swirling around her, her orthopedist and her coach was almost too much to bear. And then it was September 1st of her junior year and colleges began writing and everything flipped into high gear. And our family's stress level went through the roof.

Now, here we are in October and I am exhausted. And feeling more like a failure than perhaps I've ever felt before. Because we are no longer in the co-op and know no one else nearby who homeschools (my hopes for networking with the one other local family fell through), Man-Cub and I spend all day every day together. Redheaded Snippet is busier than ever because of field hockey, a heavy course load and college stuff. The Viking is busier than ever because the Music Director at church has left to take another job and he (The Viking) has been filling in until a new Director is found. Weekends have become just an opportunity to cram even more things in that can't be done during school or work. I dread them.

I am seeing Man-Cub becoming more and more reclusive. He's lonely and bored and misses doing things with kids his age. He feels like every moment of his day is controlled for him and like he never gets to see his dad. That is an exaggeration, but it is true that he's been seeing less of him since he's been filling in more at church. He's become more anxious and less cooperative and he and I are just sick of each other!

I am feeling completely incompetent and overwhelmed. I am always tired and just cannot keep up with the housekeeping, cooking, homeschooling, errands and field hockey. And now Sundays are messed up because when The Viking fills in, he leaves for church at 6:30 and the kids and I don't leave until 9:15. Which means he has to be in bed even earlier on Saturday nights and we're taking two cars to church and not even driving there and back together. And we're cranky the rest of the day and get no Sabbath.

It's just starting to seem to me that homeschooling is doing more harm than good at this point. I don't like the changes I've been seeing in me and in Man-Cub. I do not want to send him back to school but I don't know what else to do. He told me the other night that he would prefer to be homeschooled if he could just spend time with other kids. But it seems the only way to do that is to sign him up for a bunch of things we can't afford and, honestly, I can't imagine how I'd have the time to run him to all of them while trying to manage Redheaded Snippet's practices and games, not to mention the other errands I don't have time for like getting new glasses or getting myself to the endocrinologist!

It may be time for The Great Homeschooling Experiment to come to a close. I feel like a failure the way I'm doing it now and I will feel like a failure if I quit so it comes down to doing what's best for Man-Cub. I just wish I knew what that was. I've had the lyrics to Kenny Rogers' The Gambler in my head for weeks now:

"You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."

I feel like this is a huge gamble and I've never been much of a gambler. Do I hold or fold? Do I walk away? Run? Will I have anything left to count when the dealin's done?

Ok, enough Kenny Rogers, I've got some more prayin' to do...

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