Envy

 Last year my son was in 5th grade. It was a really rough year for him. His class had a lot of violence going on. Fights in the classroom. Fights in the lunchroom. Fights on the playground. I’ve had two other kids go through 5th grade at the same school and they did not have this problem. It seemed to be This Class and This School Year that was having a bad time. The only problem was, all these kids from 5th grade were going to go up to Middle School with my son the next school year and take their problems right along with them. My son was depressed and withdrawn the entire 5th grade school year and we did not see how Middle School was going to help things improve. 

So, here comes the new and improved government Child Tax Credit.  It’s unexpected money. We’ve been living without it, we can continue to live without it. We decided to use a bulk of this money to send our son to a small Christian Private School that is close to our neighborhood, but not IN the neighborhood. 

It has been a night and day difference for him. His academic standards have raised significantly and he is rising to the challenge. He is in a small classroom with kids who behave and are friendly and accept him with all his quirkiness. He has started doing sports and is well liked at the school and has become a happy kid. We are delighted that he is at this new school.

Having him at this new school has opened up a whole new can of worms though. School envy. Discontent. This longing to just pack up ALL my kids and send them to THIS school where they can be safe, happy, well-cared for and they can just thrive in a healthy environment. Apparently though, these kinds of learning environments are only for kids whose parents make a certain amount of money. You can see how it’s really easy to fall into a bad state of mind over this. 

Today I had to stop and take a moment to be thankful for our current income level. It is sufficient to clothe and feed us, give us a home to live in, cars to drive. We even squeeze in low-budget family vacations. If we made more money we probably wouldn’t live where we are. And our location has given us the opportunity to serve people around us in a meaningful way. I know that my kids have been a positive addition to the schools and classrooms that they are in. I know that not having excess money has made us a lot more ready and willing to help others who are living at even lower levels, because we understand where they are coming from. We’ve been there. 

As always, it comes back to faith. Do I have faith that God will provide what each of my children needs? This year he has provided a way for my 6th grader to be in an awesome environment where he is thriving. My 8th grader chose to homeschool and I have been very impressed at his level of self-discipline and scholarship. He’s also been given an opportunity to have an internship at our local Chilren’s Museum which is a perfect fit for his interests and abilities. Each one of my elementary kids have been put in a place where they are getting what they need and are happy. My highschoolers are thriving Despite all the challenges their school is facing. I can’t complain. 

Falling into envy is really easy when I’m not staying in the NOW. When I forget to take stock and be thankful for what I have today. When I get so focused on future worries that I forget that I have everything I need, today. When I spend my time looking at what other people have instead of realizing that, today, I have everything I need. So, here’s to casting off envy and walking forward in a spirit of thankfulness and faith. 

I am Not your Enemy

I had to take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment this morning. Last year she broke her arm and had a metal rod put in her bone. Now that the bone is healed, we have to have another surgery to remove the rod. She does not want to have another surgery. She did not want to miss some of school this morning as they were doing something fun in class. She was not happy. When we got to the waiting room, she chose a seat just far enough away from me to announce how unhappy she was with me. And I sat there watching her angry face and I thought, I am not your enemy! I am doing this for you! 

This week I had to take my six year old who is homeschooling this year, to the public school four different times so he could do some testing. We are trying to get a good evaluation so we can get him placed in the right class next school year. In order for them to get all their data, they needed him to do some writing samples. He hates writing. With a passion. He is capable of writing. He writes for me every day in school. And every day it’s a fight. So, when they asked him to write for the testing, he dug in his heels, mad at me, mad at the testing. I had to talk to him. Listen, this is in order to help you so you can be placed in the right class next year so you won’t be bored in school. I am not your enemy. I am trying to help you. 

I’ve had a couple other situations this week where I have come across as public enemy number one because I’m making the hard choices that aren’t popular, but are for the best. It’s not fun. I am a peacemaker, and a people pleaser. I just want everyone to like me and be happy. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 

I was grumbling about it to God this morning. Here I am, just trying to help people, and everyone is mad at me. I am not the enemy! 

And he kind of whispered back to me, I am not your enemy either. 

Ah. 

Yes. 

I’ve been kind of mad this week. Why haven’t you intervened in this situation God? Why haven’t you healed? Why haven’t you stepped in and shown up big? 

And I am reminded that the same trust and faith that I require of my children, is being required of me. My kids can’t see the big picture in the same way I, as an adult, can. And I can’t see the big picture in the same way God does. And so I have to just trust. And in the same way that I can point out to my kids all the ways that I love them, to reassure them that my actions are in their best interest, I can remind myself of all the ways God has shown his love to me, and be reassured myself. 

Not the enemy. 

I Don’t Have Any Answers

My mind has been reeling the past two days, watching the news, watching what everyone has to say about the news. And honestly, I don’t feel like talking about it. The press has covered it Ad Nauseum, almost everyone I know has voiced an opinion. (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing!) As I thought about writing my blog today, I thought, well, I should address what is happening in the country. Give my opinion. And I have finally realized that I really don’t want to do that. 

First, I feel like my opinion is half-baked at best. I am bewildered, torn, and kind of feel like I’m in the middle of a blizzard of information and ideas. I don’t know anything and I don’t have any good thoughts to share at the moment. 

Second, I really don’t feel like I have a finger on “What does the Bible say concerning these matters?” I am still searching and praying. I don’t know. 

So, let’s talk about how we’re doing with just life in general right now. 

Do you realize that we just finished a month and half of celebrating: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years? And did you know that it’s a common phenomenom that when you have an emotional high, it’s followed by an emotional low? I for one am sitting nice and firm in that low. My kids went back to school this week and I started homeschooling again. The kindergartner was not happy to start homeschooling again. It’s taken me to Thursday to get him through a normal school day in a normal amount of time. And then this afternoon I got the news that “due to the possibility of inclement weather” all the kids will be home for virtual school tomorrow. 

Wonderful.

Tomorrow I also have to take my 7th grader to get a covid test because he is having surgery on Monday morning. Something that just got scheduled this week. (I’ve never had this doctor’s office move so fast in getting a surgery lined up.) It’s an old complaint. Fluid in his ear causing hearing loss. He already had six sets of PE tubes when he was little. We’ve had a good long stretch of no problems, but now it seems it’s back. 

Our family has managed to stay healthy through all this Covid junk, but it’s concerning to me to hear, every day it seems, of more people I know who are sick with it. My daughter is going to bed right now and told me that she is cold, even though she is wearing really warm pajamas, socks, gloves, hat and is under a blanket. All I can think is that she’s getting the chills that come before a fever. And I just feel tense, wondering if the three days back at school was enough for her to pick up something that will now spread through the whole family. Who knows. We’ll see. And, as I think about it, if this daughter ends up getting sick, it will probably affect the other child’s surgery. Uggh. 

Emotionally I’ve been struggling with feeling like a failure. The old voices are speaking loudly in my head. 

So, here I am, just hanging on, and then the news explodes and everyone’s social media explodes and I get all caught up in it. And I realize. I can’t do this. I can’t let the drama of this dysfunctional country keep me yo-yo-ing up and down. I’m already having a hard time without focusing on what’s happening in Washington D.C. 

Someone suggested on their Facebook that now was a good time to get off the social media and focus on Jesus and His Kingdom. And I have to agree. I need wisdom, discernment, love, patience, power. I’m not going to get any of that by focusing on the world. I will get that by turning my focus back on God. Repeatedly. Over and Over again. Habitually. 

I’m not saying that I’m going to just ignore everything that is happening in the world. I live in the world, my personal life is affected by what is going on out there. But, if I take a look at how much time I am devoting to every activity in my day, social media and the news should not be taking up the majority of my time. (And I can hear my husband in the background saying, AMEN!) 

So, that’s where I’m at. Post-holiday blues, regular stresses of taking care of lots of kids, trying to resolve to spend less time on the internet, more time in real life, more focus on the Real King. 

I’ll talk to you all later. 

Life Feels Fragile

This afternoon I was at the park with the kids. A beautiful winter afternoon, blue skies. Warm enough that the kids could run around, cold enough that I was still wrapped up in a jacket. My phone started ringing. I looked down and the caller ID said it was one of the kid’s schools. My heart rate immediately went up. Are they calling to say, don’t come to school tomorrow, we’re doing virtual instead? 

Fortunately, it was just routine announcements, except sports are now only allowed to have immediate family members in attendance. 

I have been getting the same elevated heart rate every time I see an email from our Superintendant, or any school official ID pops up on my phone. 

It’s not a fun way to live. 

Our schools seem determined to stay open, for which I am thankful, but it is a shaky, fragile thing. We’ll stay open, as long as we have teachers, staff, enough students, we don’t hear otherwise from local or state officials…

We did one week of virtual school before school let out for Christmas break. My two kids, whom I have been homeschooling, got a significantly less amount of school done that week. My high schoolers were fine. My 5th and 4th graders were fine. The second grader was often baffled by technology and time schedules. She took it personally when she wasn’t able to get into a planned meeting. “They won’t let me in!! Nobody likes me! They don’t want me in the class!” 

I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to give the second grader the amount of help she needed because I was busy dragging the first grader out from under tables, or chasing her down, or trying to get hold of her teacher because she had purposefully hit the Send button on unfinished assignments because she simply didn’t want to do them. 

We are diligently working with all the professionals necessary to see if this particular child has some learning differences that make school more difficult for her. But whether these exist or not, I do know, without a doubt, that virtual school is not the right answer for her education. If, for some reason, our schools needed to switch to virtual, I have a feeling that we would all be better off if I simply enrolled her in straight-up homeschooling. And so I feel this sense of limbo, what is this year going to look like? 

I’m feeling that way about a lot of things. Our government has some important stuff happening tomorrow, and right now, I don’t think anyone knows how it’s all going to turn out. 

The spread of the virus is constantly in the news. I have now had several people I know personally affected. A vaccine is being touted as the cure to end the pandemic, but I am not convinced. On many counts. 

We are all so happy to be out of 2020, but nobody knows how this new year is going to turn out either. Life feels fragile. 

And so, I put one foot in front of the other. I do what I know to do. Take care of my family. Take care of our home. Try to keep my focus on God and his power and wisdom, instead of the chaos that surrounds us. Take deep breaths. Let them out slowly. Read my Bible. Turn on the worship music. Try to be kind. Gentle. Keeping in mind that everyone else is operating in this same fragility. 

My Day so far…

5 am My day started when the three year old climbed into my bed. I heard him come in the room and sat up, Watch out for your sister! He was about to come to my side of the bed to climb in, but another child had come in the night and settled with a blanket on the floor by my bed. There was also a child asleep in my armchair. Good grief. The three year old climbed over the sleeping child and cuddled up with me. I dozed a bit, but at the back of my mind was the knowledge that my alarm would be going off soon and I would have to jump out of bed and across the room to turn it off as fast as possible so it didn’t wake up the three sleeping kids. 

7:45am. All the kids (minus two teenagers) are up, have eaten some breakfast and are logging on to their computers for their morning meetings. I sit by the six year old to help her stay focused. The homeschooling 7th grader is doing his own thing and the six year old homeschooler is playing till I have time for him. 

8:30am I leave kids doing school or taking a break, load the cat into a cat carrier and drive her one block to the vet where she will be getting fixed today. I’m supposed to sit in the parking lot and call the phone number of the vet, then they will come out to me when they are ready. Their phone line is busy. It takes me 40 minutes to get hold of the vet. They come get the cat, I have to pick her up this afternoon. 

9:10am I was planning on going home, but now it’s time to swing by the elementary school and pick up free school lunches. I call home and let the now-awake teenagers know what’s going on. 

9:30am Back home. I unload the lunches and then try to help the two six year olds do their school while I am also trying to put the cold food from the lunches into the fridge. I go back and forth. Help one child finish an assignment, send them on a five minute break, turn and help the other child with an assignment, and back and forth we go. Yelling at the three year old every once in a while to go play upstairs where he won’t be bothering people. 

11am, most of the kids are done with their morning assignments. I call the high school to figure out how to get the paperwork we need for my daughters to go take their written driving tests on Friday. The secretary says we need to come in and fill out paperwork. I yell at the teens to go and get in the car so we can get this done. 

11:15 am. I’m sitting in the car waiting for my teenagers inside the highschool. I open up an email from last week where my oldest daughter sent me a form that needed to be filled out for her FAFSA for college. I had forgotten to look at it last week. I find the email, download the link. Take pictures of the form, crop and edit the pictures. Open my adobe app, convert the pictures into pdf and get ready to start filling them out. I read all the questions carefully. Hmmm. I am not needed to fill this out. It doesn’t require my signature. I can just tell my daughter the answers over the phone. Check this off my list. 

11:30 Home again. Everyone is eating lunch. I get a text message. Don’t forget 6 yr old has a meeting at 1:15! Ok. Same child still has 2 assignments to finish, has to do a Spanish class at 12:30 and attend a meeting at 2:15. Got it. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me of all these things. The kids who are finished with their assignments are asking for their 20 minutes reward-computer-time. I set another timer to keep track of their computer play time. 

I still need to fold a week’s worth of laundry, get kids to do their chores, and figure out what I’m making for supper. And pick up the cat. And take kids to youth group tonight. And do advent. And read a book to the poor ignored 3 yr old. And keep the fire going in the fireplace. And let the dogs in and out of the house multiple times. And make sure all the kids actually DID finish all their school work. 

And instead of doing all that, I am decompressing by writing about my day. 

I think my brain is going to explode.

Two more days till Christmas break.

I Am Rich

I love the sounds of my house. A couple minutes ago I was sitting at the piano, trying to sight-read through a fairly simple Chopin piece I had never seen or heard before. It was slow going. Adagio. I wasn’t really focusing on what I was doing. Honestly, I was just killing time, waiting for my kindergartner to finish his workbook. Right now all the kids are waiting for him to finish his workbook. I told him that when he had finished his school work (workbook and read aloud a story) then I would go down to the store and buy our traditional bags of Candy Corn (and for all you haters out there, we happen to think candy corn is awesome!!). Every October I put out some ceramic pumpkins on my mantle, fill them with candy corn and the kids get to grab some after school is done, or chores, or whatever hard task is in front of them. 

Anyway, I was playing the piano, waiting for David to finish his workbook, and I started just listening to all the sounds of our house. 

We started a fire in the wood-burning stove this morning. The stove has a little fan that blows warm air into the room. It is a soothing white noise. We also have a large fish tank in the living room whose water filter sounds like a little waterfall. We need these soothing sounds. They counterbalance the sound of teenagers hurling themselves down our wooden staircase as loud as they can. And the sound of the three year old talking to himself as he plays his little imaginary games. I have one teenager home this week because her school is shut down for Covid. She loves music and carries her phone everywhere with her, sharing her very eclectic music choices with the whole family. 

You can hear our dog barking outside, faithfully protecting us from any random person walking down the sidewalk. The occasional car drives by on the street in front of our house. You can occasionally hear a siren rushing past on the main road which is only a block away from us. 

The kindergartner has a chronic whistling habit and the eleven year old is constantly humming. And Chopin continues to plunk along in the background. 

There is so much life tucked into the walls of this home. 

(Time lapse)

So, I just got back from the store, candy corn has been bought, pumpkin candy dishes are now full. 

When I pulled up to the Family Dollar, I saw two apparently homeless people, a man and a woman, in the alley behind the store. By the time that I left the store and was heading back to my car, they had settled themselves on the back steps of the store’s delivery entrance. They had bags of belongings and some fountain soda cups from a nearby gas station. They looked dirty and the woman looked like she was crying. But they weren’t trying to make eye contact with me, and I had nothing to offer them. No groceries in my bag, just candy corn. No cash in my wallet, just a bankcard. No words to share, my innate shyness balking at starting a conversation. I remembered that I had supported one of our homeless shelters this past weekend by shopping at their thrift store (thank you Ma’am, your purchase has just helped us feed ten people!), and I just hope that this couple will make their way to the shelter by evening and take advantage of this ministry in our city.

I climbed back into my car and drove back home. And once again, I felt like the blinders had been ripped off my eyes. A glimpse at my true reality. My home, a beautiful mansion. My children, costly jewels, unmeasurable treasures. My life, a dream come true.

And the noises in my house sound like a beautiful symphony. The chaos is simply an outpouring of joy. I feel like the richest woman on the planet as I survey this ramshackle house of mine. 

And my prayer becomes, make me a blessing.

God, you have blessed me, show me how to bless others. 

You Have Not Yet Resisted

This week and last, I have been reading a chapter a day in Hebrews. It has been more of an academic/discipline type of reading than reading to gain deep insights. I have been trying to be faithful to read every day, and think about what I have read, but it has been more a gathering of interesting information than anything spiritual. Until… Yesterday morning. I have been struggling with a feeling of unease and lack of peace for a couple weeks now and I have been skirting around the reason why. Not wanting to face it head on. But knowing that I needed to. And then I opened the Bible yesterday morning and I felt like I had opened a room and unexpectedly found Jesus sitting in a chair, waiting for me, and his face was a bit stern and he said, We need to talk. 

And this is what he said:

Hebrews 12: 4-11

12  4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

    nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I have been struggling for a long time with my health. My body simply can’t handle sugar and lots of carbs. I am prediabetic. And whenever I hit periods of stress, I throw health out the window: 

I don’t care if this is bad for me. It’s going to help me unwind. It’s going to make me feel happy for a minute. Fighting my cravings is too much to handle right now. I deserve a treat. 

And this past week I have not been feeling well. My bad habits are quickly catching up with me. And I have been whining about it. It’s not fair. I can’t do everything. How am I supposed to homeschool and also go on a diet? It’s a psychological thing, I’ve got to figure out how to deal with that part first before I try to abstain. Etc etc. Lots of excuses. 

The verse that struck me the hardest from Hebrews 12 was verse four,  “ In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

For the record, I do not think that being overweight or having diabetes or any other sickness is a sin. But for myself, I know that refusing to take care of the body that God gave me is a sin. When I know the right thing to do and refuse to do it, that’s sin. And all of my excuses looked pretty pathetic when I read verse four. I have not tried to resist to the point of shedding blood. I have actually offered up very little resistance when it comes to temptation and my eating habits. 

After my morning devotions, I went and found a black sharpie pen. I wrote on my wrist, “You have not yet resisted” so that every time I went to reach for the cookie or popsicle or whatever temptation was waiting for me I would see it on my wrist. It’s been a good reminder. 

All that to say, reading a chapter of the Bible every day is always a good idea. My kids ask me often, How do you know what God wants you to do? How do you hear Jesus speaking to you? And I always tell them, the best way to hear God’s voice is to read his word. The Holy Spirit will lead you to the right places, he’ll open your eyes to see what you need to see and understand what you need to understand. 

And I’m thankful that he did that for me this week.

It’s OK to be Sad

Do any of you struggle with feeling Big Feelings? I always feel like I need to apologize for being depressed or angry or sad. Like, these emotions are on the bad list and I need to switch over to Happy and Content and Peaceful as soon as possible. 

 

This week has been a bit rough for our family. My kids have been dragging around and have been downright depressed. Do you want to go to the creek to play? No. Do you want to go to the one open playground that I know about? No. Do you want to go bike riding? No. And then they ask, when is school starting? When can we see our friends again?

 

We have talked about school, how it’s going to look different for the kids who are going to the actual school building. Social distancing! Masks! Don’t share things! The little kids who I’m keeping home to homeschool, want to know, again, why they can’t go to the building? And I’m tempted to just go and enroll them and hope for the best. Except that all the reasons I have for homeschooling still exist. I’m sorry sweetie. If school has to shut down for sickness, I don’t want you having to do computer school when you’re only in 2nd grade. But, if everything goes smoothly this semester, I’ll put you in school in January. We just have to wait and see.  

 

And I realize, my kids are mourning. They are mourning their lives being turned upside down. School being different. “I hate the coronavirus!” has become a common refrain. A couple of my kids seem to have just closed in on themselves. Kids who always needed a bit of a push to engage, and now I have nowhere to push them. 

 

And I’m wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to help them, and realizing I’m in the same boat. I’m feeling isolated and scared to make any plans because things might change at any moment. I will have three kids in the school building which means, there is the possibility, every single day, that I will get a phone call saying that one of my kids has been exposed to a positive case of Covid-19 and now we all have to quarantine. Not fun.

 

I think about needing community, and things to look forward to. I contemplate planning musical evenings, and poetry nights, and having people over. And I really want to, but I’m fighting the unease. What if I have a bunch of people over, and then a day later, I find out that one of my kids has been exposed and we have to quarantine, and now I have to call a bunch of people and tell them, hey, you might have been exposed. While I am not overly concerned about getting sick (as my husband says, it’s a virus, you can’t stop a virus, we are all going to get it eventually) I still feel bad about causing alarm to anyone else. And so, I drag my feet about planning gatherings. 

 

And I realize that I am also mourning. I am mourning that I can’t send my kindergartner to school. He’s been looking forward to it for a long time. I have too. Yeah, he’ll do fine homeschooling, but I wanted him to have all those Firsts. First day of school. First time meeting your teacher and class. First time getting to go school with the big kids. I am mourning the fact that everything is uncertain. Yes, we will establish this schedule, but everything might change. You never know. I am mourning the fact that inviting people to my home now feels risky. Yes, we’ll have a cookout this weekend, Lord willing, and we don’t have to quarantine! I am mourning the fact that my daughter won’t be doing ROTC this year. My quirky son won’t be able to try out for the school play. My other son won’t be doing soccer club in the after school program. My second grader won’t get to see if her best friend is in her class again this year. 

 

We are all mourning. And I keep feeling like I need to apologize for not feeling perky and happy. 

 

So, No Apologies! This year has been hard! It’s ok to not have it all together. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to mourn. 

 

My mourning is not hopeless. My trust is in the Lord. I know that he will bring good things out of the bad and he will carry us through this time. But, in the meantime, it’s ok to be sad. 

This is What We are Going to Do

Well, our school district rolled out their plan yesterday for how we are going to proceed in the Fall. I will try to simplify it here.

If you aren’t comfortable sending your kids to school you have one week to sign up for online school. They will expect you to commit to that choice for an entire semester. The other option is to send your child to school (starting one week later than normal). Everyone will have daily temperature checks before entering the building and face masks will be required for staff and students. Lots of cleaning will occur. It sounds like each school is going to make their own call on how they do eating and group classes. There is no set in stone plan for dealing with a positive case of Covid 19 in the building. They will take each case as it comes and decide what is appropriate. It does say that a teacher who is required to quarantine will have to take that time from their own personal emergency sick days,  and if they run out of those they will have to take unpaid time off. Doesn’t sound very fair. Also, every student is going to get a computer (and there are instructions on how to get wi-fi if you don’t have it) so that, if students get sent home for quarantining or any other reason, they will be able to continue doing school online. 

 

I’m now going to tell you what we are doing and why. 

 

My two high-schoolers are going to school as normal. They’re old enough to be able to handle wearing masks and if school ends up getting shut down for sickness, and they have to switch to online learning, I still want them to be doing that through their high school, not through me. 

 

My seventh grader has asked to stay home and be homeschooled. He does not want to wear a mask all day, and he doesn’t want to be sitting in front of a computer all day. I said yes, we can homeschool because, first, he’s a laid back kid, easy to teach, and second, he’s a very good student and I am confident that I can keep him on track easily. I plan to teach him the same science subjects and history subjects that they are doing at public school so that he can easily return to public school either in January or for the next school year. 

 

I did not give my 5th grader the option to homeschool. We have already established that we don’t work well together. He also said that he’s not interested in sitting in front of a computer all day and would prefer to be in a classroom. And he has no problem wearing a mask all day. Also, he is a very healthy, active child. 

 

My fourth grader has also asked to go to school. Same reasons. She doesn’t mind the mask and she wants to be in a classroom. She is also a very healthy, active girl. 

 

I did not give my 2nd grader a choice. She is going to stay home and homeschool. She has asthma, her immune system is a lot weaker than my other kids, and she goes into a complete panic any time she has to wear a mask. While online school would be an option, I feel like a 2nd grader should be doing hands-on work, not staring at a screen all day. She is also a good student that works well with me, so I’m not worried about homeschooling her. 

 

I also did not give the kindergartner a choice, he is staying home and being homeschooled. While he could probably handle wearing a mask all day, I worry about the times that he will get sent home and have to do his work on a computer. I do not feel like computer school is appropriate for kindergarten. Again, I want him working with manipulatives, and working on his handwriting and coloring pictures and running around a lot. There is also the fact that I was already a little concerned about how he was going to do in kindergarten. He’s a dreamy kid who gets lost in his own thoughts often, not an ideal characteristic in a classroom. He’s also a smart little kid. We have already done a kindergarten curriculum at home this year because he whizzed through all my preschool stuff. He’s ready to start 1st grade level curriculum and I was afraid that he might get bored in Kindergarten. So, I’m keeping him home. Let me add that he is also a laid back kid who is easy to school. 

 

I’m giving you all this information because I worry about moms feeling pressured both ways. Pressured to homeschool when they don’t want to. Pressured to send kids to school when they don’t want to. Pressured to make a blanket decision for the whole family, when actually, each child needs something different. Be encouraged. This year, there is no right answer for how to school your kids. 

 

I would also encourage you to pray about it. Last night, my brain was whirling and I didn’t think I was going to get any sleep. I finally prayed, God, you love these kids, you know what’s best for them, you also want me to make the right choices for these kids. So I’m going to trust that you will give me a plan. 

 

I woke up this morning and this was the plan that was in my head, to make an individual decision for each child depending on that child’s needs. So, happy decision making to all of you! And let’s have lots of grace for each other, as each person decides what is best for their family!

 

Thoughts on the Upcoming School Year

Let’s talk about this upcoming school year. Our county’s school board is planning on giving us their Plan this coming Wednesday, July 15th. They have already said that their goal is to have students in the building on August 10th. I have quizzed my public school teacher friends, and they are all as equally in the dark as I am as to how this next year will proceed. Which seems pretty crazy to me. You would think that if teachers were about to be asked to teach a completely different way than normal, they would be given lots of time to prepare. Apparently not. 

 

We HAVE been notified that all of the children in Knox County will be given a computer. Which is great except, I don’t particularly want my kindergarten and second grader to be handed a computer. Sure, I would like them to start learning the basics of computer use, but I don’t want them to be doing their school work on a computer on a regular basis. I want them using manipulatives, and hands-on items, and writing with big thick pencils and crayons and turning pages on books. Not clicking and typing. 

 

I have had more than one teacher tell me that I should probably homeschool. If not all the kids, at least the youngest. That is also alarming. I have NEVER had a public school teacher advise me to homeschool. Things are definitely upside down. 

 

While I don’t want to homeschool, it is a viable option for me. I homeschooled for twelve years. I kept most of my curriculum. If I suddenly chose to homeschool all my children right now, I would have to buy very few books to do it. Even for high school, which I’ve never taught at home, I have talked to friends, and they have curriculum ready to lend me if I need it. I also have a home school umbrella school handily at my church and the lady who runs it is a friend of mine. I’ve already consulted her on how easy it would be to switch mid-year to homeschooling, if public school is a flop, and she has assured me that it’s very doable. In other words, I can very easily homeschool if I have to. Let’s also throw in the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom and my only plans for this next year was to take care of my three year old at home and help my children get to and from school and take care of them after school. There will be very little hardship on our family if I have to homeschool.

 

This is NOT true for a large percentage of people I know. Single parents. Dual income families. Parents whose children have special needs. Parents whose kids need extra remedial help. Low income families who can’t afford the extra cost of purchasing homeschooling material or the fees for signing up under an umbrella school. Homeschooling is not a viable option for these people. 

 

Why do I need to homeschool? School is going to be open after all, whether it’s in-building, hybrid, or completely online. Well, here is my big question. What is going to happen when (not if) a child or a teacher in a classroom tests positive for Covid-19? Will the entire class be sent home for two weeks of quarantine? And if one child is sent home to quarantine for two weeks, what about the rest of my family? Will we all have to quarantine? What about my husband? Will he need to stop working for two weeks as well? If that is the case, I can foresee our family, which will have seven school age children this year, spread through three different school buildings, spending most of the year in quarantine. 

 

Ok, so doing school completely online is also going to be an option in our county. That might work for my older children. But, a teacher just explained to me yesterday that teachers are trained for classroom teaching. Not at-home school. For younger children, especially, trying to do regular classroom work on a computer is not going to be an effective way of learning. 

 

What I see happening this coming year is the gap between the Haves and the Have-nots becoming significantly wider. In the end, families who have resources will make the sacrifices necessary to make sure that their children get an education, no matter how creative or ingenious they have to get. And families who don’t have resources will just have to take whatever public school can offer. And right now public school has so many hurdles to jump over, (through no fault of their own) that they are simply not going to be able to offer the quality of education that we used to getting from them. 

 

My heart goes out to public school teachers right now. They are in an impossible situation. Please remember this in the coming weeks as your public schools roll out their plans for the coming year. Turning our anger and frustration on the teachers is just ridiculous. And really, I don’t know who it’s appropriate to turn our anger on. Does turning our anger on faceless School Boards and Governors and Secretaries and Presidents help us? 

 

If we turn that anger towards seeking change, all of these people were elected after all, we can certainly elect new people, then the anger is doing something good. But if we turn that anger simply into moaning and complaining and slandering, we have accomplished nothing. 

 

This is also the time for all the HAVES to step up and see what they can do for the HAVE NOTS.  Get creative. If you don’t personally know any HAVE NOTS then contact your school, ask if there is anything tangible you can do to help families in need concerning the upcoming school year. 

 

What comes to my mind is that I have three neighbors whose children play with mine. If we end up having to school at home, I could easily walk over to their houses and offer to babysit their kids during the school day if they need to work. Or at least be an adult directly on call, if they choose to leave their children home alone. That is just what comes to mind in the first five minutes of thinking about it. I’m pretty sure we could each find at least one thing we could do to help ease someone else’s load. 

 

And if we can turn this chaos of trying to do school during a pandemic, into a time of reaching out to help others, then in the end we are succeeding, no matter what happens.