Why I'm Not Homeschooling My Preschooler

“Bye Mommy! See you later!” And he turned toward the playdough and started smooshing. I smiled at him and smiled at his teacher and walked out the door. A few tears gathered in my eyes as I walked to the car.

Note the uncombed hair. Yeah, I'm rockin' it as a preschool Mom :)

Note the uncombed hair. Yeah, I'm rockin' it as a preschool Mom :)

About noon that same day I walked into my son’s preschool classroom to pick him up from his first day. His teacher dismissed him and he ran into my arms, screaming Mummy! I knelt  down and hugged him and he said the most beautiful words - “I had so much fun!!” As I squeezed his little body, tears threatened to spill over onto my cheeks. Joy and relief flooded my body.

This morning, when we first walked into his classroom, one of his teachers greeted him and said “Timothy, I’m so happy to see you! I’ve been praying for you this morning!” This is the first child that we’ve sent to preschool since we started homeschooling 7 years ago. Making the decision to send him to preschool was not taken lightly. Leaving my son in the care of another person that I know is praying for him is a balm to my tattered mommy heart.

Why would a homeschool blogger send one of her kids to preschool? Not only am I a homeschool blogger, but our blog is called Preschoolers And Peace, with a tagline that says “Homeschooling with littles under foot? YOU CAN DO THIS.” No, the irony is not lost on me.

This is another of those times that I will bare a little bit more of my soul to you, our readers, because I want to be sure that everyone knows what is deep on my heart – God’s plan for my family might look different than His plan for your family. Please be gracious as you read and be quick to listen and slow to speak.

Our son, Timothy, as you might remember, was born prematurely at 25 weeks gestation. He had a long journey in the NICU. He is almost four years old now and has overcome so many challenges. We are so incredibly thankful for the progress that he’s made, overcoming so many developmental delays. But I’m not going to sugar coat things either. He’s a lot of work. His behavioral issues are starting to take more and more of my time and they seem to be getting worse. I was feeling so defeated because none of my usual tricks were working and my school age children were getting the raw end of the deal.

A few weeks ago, after I was crying in my husband's arms on the side of the freeway, I was talking to my husband and said that something needed to change. I didn’t believe that putting our school age kids into a public or charter school was the answer. I brought up the idea of preschool and neither of us were opposed to the idea.

 A few days later, Timothy spent several hours with another family so that I could kinda relax. That was very revealing to me because, after I dropped him off, the van was peaceful. And it was peaceful all day, despite having the van break down in another city and dealing with that on my own with three of the other kids! The minute we picked him up later that afternoon, the chaos returned.

It was at that moment that I realized it was Timothy bringing the chaos. I am in no way saying it’s his fault.  I don't believe that he is intentionally wreaking havoc on our family. I believe that there is something happening neurologically in his little brain and we are seeking help to figure out what that is. But I knew that for my own mental well-being we needed to explore options for Timothy.

Through a number of God-ordained serendipitous moments we decided to enroll him a local, Christian preschool where he attends three mornings a week. His teachers love Jesus and they are teaching the children to love Jesus, too. During those three hours each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that he is in preschool I am able to focus more on my school-age children and also on my little 2 year old, who has become my shadow. I no longer feel like I am fighting fires all the live long day. I don't feel like I'm walking on eggshells all day long, wondering when Timothy is going to explode again. Those nine hours a week have given my brain space to rest. And it makes me a better parent.

So, that's why I'm not homeschooling my preschooler. Did I feel guilt when I first enrolled him? Yes. I should be able to do it all, right? Uh, yeah, no.  It took me being very honest with myself and my husband about the fragile state of me so that we could make the best decision for our family. I had to remind myself that homeschooling does not save our children and that there is no magic formula.

Our God is so big. He is bigger than homeschooling and bigger than public school and bigger than all educational options. Pray. Seek God's plan for your family. And give yourself grace if the plan ends up changing. We are not defined by our educational choices. Amen and amen.



Helping Our Kids Learn The Value Of Our Time and Money

I was having a conversation by text this afternoon with another homeschooling mom of several kids and we were both talking about how we felt our children didn't really, truly understand that our time is valuable and our money is hard-earned. No, we don't earn money for being their mother and teacher, but our time still has value and their daddies aren't just working for fun!

It's easy to feel taken for granted when a child wants you to take them all over creation or to be involved in an activity that will require multiple hours per week of driving time, without any consideration of the impact on me as their primary caregiver or on the family budget when a tank of gas in a 12 passenger van is more than even Ben Franklin can cover.

In an effort to combat a sense of entitlement that very quickly can overtake us, my husband and I have started explaining to the older kids a little bit more about our reasoning behind decisions that we make. Not because we want the children to feel guilty at all, but because we want them to understand that we're not just making decisions willy-nilly.

  • You want the family to get frozen yogurt tonight? That means we can't go out to eat with our friends after church next week. Make a choice.

  • You want me to drive you to your friend's house across town, which costs $15 in gas and two hours of my time? How can you help me get my work done so that I have the time available to do that.

  • You lost your math/piano/science book? That's the equivalent of the cost of a family meal at home. Better break out the piggy bank.

  • You want to take a family trip to Disneyland? That is outside our normal family budget. Are you prepared to drop all extracurricular activities for a year to help pay for it?

Obviously we don't let our kids make all the decisions, but we want them to be aware that everything has a cost - either the cost of time, money, or other resources. When we say yes to one thing (like getting frozen yogurt as a treat) we are saying no to something else. There are times, like with the request for Disneyland, when the child will quickly say no, it's not worth that sacrifice. But there are other times, like when wanting to see a friend across town, that they will work hard to help me so that I have free time available to help them.

There are still occasionally tears when someone doesn't follow through on their end of the deal and I have to say no, I'm sorry we can't do xyz. It's tough being the mom, but someone has to do it.

Creating a Circle Time That Works for You

Let's talk Circle Time! First of all, if you're wondering what exactly "Circle Time" is. start here:

If you've been around Preschoolers and Peace for awhile, you know that one of the best things we ever chose to do in our homeschool over the past 17 years was to create a group teaching time. Way back when our oldest was probably 6 or 7, we named it Circle Time, as in preschool gathering times, and the name stuck. As I tell folks in my workshops and here on the blog all the time, you can name it anything you want.

The first rule to creating a Circle Time that works for you is this: ignore what everyone else is doing. I mean it. I'll list below past Circle Time plans we've had in our home to give you ideas, but our home is not your home! Glean ideas but dump the rest.

Think through the unique circumstances of your home:

1. How many school-aged kids you have
2. How many preschoolers/toddlers/babies you have
3. Who amongst the above groups can sit and concentrate on you for more than 5 minutes
4. What your daily schedule/routine looks like
5. What you want to accomplish during Circle Time right now

Considering those 5 factors could mean the difference between a successful Circle Time and one that makes you want to stick a knitting needle in your eye.

If you have a lot of little people that need managing, consider a Circle Time that happens during breakfast, while you have a captive audience. Baby is strapped into a high chair, carseat, or content on a blanket or in your lap. Preschoolers are munching on breakfast. Grab a short devotional that is written for a younger audience. Find some of our favorites on the Circle Time Resources page.

If the devotional and a short prayer is all you can accomplish without chaos breaking out, then congratulations! You've just had a Circle Time. Remind yourself that when you read about the Circle Time plans we've had over the years, they were built upon those early years when I was trying to be heard above the Rice Krispies. You're building, too!

What else can you add if your kids really love that time together and are cooperating? I'd suggest something that takes them from sitting and listening to participating. Here are a few ideas (some affiliate links):

Sky's the limit! Older kids still like to do something creative or challenging together. Mix it up, and add some things that might appeal to the pre-teens:

Still needing ideas? Check out the Circle Time Resources page with dozens of ideas to get you started. And the promised posts from the past:

I Just Can't Check Any More Boxes

What follows is raw honesty. I share because I know I'm not the only one. If you're looking for perfect bloggers, you've come to the wrong blog! ;)

The last few weeks have been very...emotional for me.

We are in the throes of adoption, waiting for a match.

My husband has been traveling more than usual, which leaves me as a solo parent for days at a time.

We have begun our homeschool year in earnest, with children that aren't always super happy to be following the normal school routine after a summer of fun! fun! fun!

And somehow in there a darkness has started to pervade my heart and mind. Not the cartoon kind of darkness, like when Charlie Brown walks around with a rain cloud over his head. A darkness that affects my mood and my thought processes.

I've noticed that as my patience level has decreased, the volume of my voice has increased. I have found myself having some ridiculous arguments with my husband that I can't even remember what they were about by the time we finished arguing. I've been unkind to my children and, probably even worse, unkind to myself.

I have been overwhelmed with listening to lies that I know are from Satan himself because my God doesn't say things like that. And the more I listened, the darker my world became.

This morning it came to a head and I picked a nasty fight with my husband. Just a few minutes before we needed to leave for church. Where he was scheduled to preach. Oh yeah, winning combination.

During the course of our argument some very real truths came out and we resolved the argument with me pretty exhausted from all the sobbing and screaming and crying. We got the kids into the car and he asked if I would drive because he needed to finish up his Power Point.

We were about ten minutes down the freeway when I became overwhelmed again by thoughts so negative that I was starting to cry while driving. Not recommended at 70mph. Jeremy looked over at me and asked "Want me to drive?" I blubbered out Yes! and took the next exit. I pulled over at a safe place on the off ramp and we switched sides. As we passed each other in front of the van, he pulled me into his arms and held me tight. And I cried some more. Overwhelmed by everything in my head, but also completely covered by the grace he was offering me.

The rest of the day was filled with calm discussions about the things that were brought up that morning and we talked through a lot of issues. I took a nap. We had our small group fellowship at our house tonight, which was restorative for my soul.

I am far from 'back to normal', but honestly, I don't think I want to be back to the old normal. It's time for me to let God restore me and transform me.

What's all this have to do with homeschooling?

My friend Kim Kautzer of WriteShop told me once that if they can just do reading and math every day, the rest is just gravy. She understands what it's like to homeschool through difficult times.

So, I'm going to give myself some space. I have told myself that it's okay if we don't check all the boxes. It's okay if we're not keeping up with the schedule. This week we're going to focus on reading and math. And that's it.

 Oh, and I'm going to do lots of loving on my kids and my husband, too. I can't let my crazy expectations get in the way of my relationship with my family.

If you need to hear TRUTH because your head is full of lies, go to the Bible, which is always true. My friend Candace from His Mercies Are New has a wonderful, free gift to her email subscribers which I have been reading through called Praying Through The Psalms. It is like a drink of cool water to my very thirsty soul. God's Word is living and active.

Edited to add: I wrote this post originally on Sunday night, but I'm posting it early Tuesday morning. I spent Monday with very low expectations of what we would achieve. And you know what? It was a much more peaceful home today. I spent a lot less time with that look on my face that normally indicates I'm annoyed about something. I spent a lot more time on the floor, coloring with my 4 year old and spent time snuggling with my 2 year old. I even spent time talking with my big girls in their room before bedtime instead of rushing around trying to get a few last minute things done. I feel like our relationships are stronger. And if having low expectations leads to stronger relationships, then bring on lower expectations!