Back to School: Brick and Mortar Explanation

So I left y’all with a bit of a cliff hanger last week: Fulton and Teddy are going back to school! I thought I would write a post to explain the decision so it can jog my own memory down the road, and also to explain to those who remember the original enthusiasm with which I pulled Fulton out after the 2019-20 school year.

I’m going to try not too get to long-winded, but lets review the last few years of educational decisions.

  • 2017-18 – The boys start their first year in public school. Teddy’s at the local elementary while Fulton commutes more than an hour to a special school out of the district. He has nursing for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week (though we usually opted out of Sunday hours).
  • 2018-19 – Fulton switches to a new school and gets spinal fusion surgery in September. He gets homebound instruction for a bit. We move in January and Teddy switches to the new, local elementary and Fulton remains at the same school. Testing by our new local district at the of the year confirms our belief that the school is not a good fit for him. It was a rough homeschooling year too due to the surgery and moving.
  • 2019-20 – The local elementary is a great fit for Teddy. Fulton is now in a self-contained class at the local middle school. Both the boys’ teachers are great. Teddy’s aide is wonderful. Fulton and I are not a fan of his one-on-one aide, but he has a good team of nurses. COVID hits in March and both boys’ classes move online. I’m not thrilled with the work being offered to Fulton. I supplement with a reading program and at the end of the year, withdraw him from the district with the intent to homeschool. At this point, I was thinking I might just homeschool him from now on. My goal was initially to have Teddy return in the fall, but once I learned about the COVID precautions/ remote learning options, I decided for the boys health and safety to keep them both home.
  • 2020-21 – Everyone is home. I’m homeschooling the younger four, and Addie attends the local community college for her freshman year. It was by all accounts, a good year. As the year wrapped up, I committed to homeschooling Fulton, and I considered re-enrolling Teddy. However, once we realized he would need spinal fusion, I decided to continue homeschooling him as well. In order to be cleared by the surgeon to attend summer camp in 2022, Teddy would need to get surgery by the end of 2021. Knowing how the risk of picking up a cold (say nothing of a COVID exposure) could delay his surgery and jeopordize his chance to attend camp, I thought the safest bet was homeschooling and a lot of pre-op quarantining. It would also allow us to work his schoolwork around his recovery.
  • 2021-22 – I started this year already burnt out. The six week OSV Challenge business accelerator had completely sucked the life out of me. We started school a week later than planned because I simply wasn’t ready. I was also trying to work on promoting my book which was set to release in early October. We’d also started losing nurses, and the agency couldn’t fill Fulton’s open shifts so we were going weeks with only two or three days filled. If Fulton would’ve been in public school he would’ve missed half the year due to unfilled nursing shifts. In order to keep everyone healthy, we had to avoid a lot of indoor group gatherings. Fulton and Teddy hadn’t been involved in any social clubs or activities since their schools closed because most homeschool clubs or meet ups were held without precautions which was just too risky for our family. Then Teddy had surgery the week before Thanksgiving and his recovery ran into Christmas and before I knew it, it was the middle of January. We were just getting back in a groove when Teddy was hospitalized again with a stomach bug. I had a bad case of February burnout, but had to plod along because of all the unexpected missed days. And then in March we started fostering and things became extremely hard. May was two weeks of hospitalization for Fulton, and the start of a string of illnesses that hit everyone else. While we kept up with some subjects through June, it was one of the hardest years I’ve had since probably the year before I enrolled them in school for the first time. I knew very early in 2022 that I would be enrolling them both for the 2022-23 school year.
Outside our Florida AirB&B

I simply need a break. Homeschooling Fulton and Teddy is harder than homeschooling my other three children for a variety of reasons and frankly, because of that, I don’t enjoy homeschooling them nearly as much. There are things I do like doing with them, but I need a little more breathing room in my day to be able to appreciate doing those activities with them, rather than viewing them as one more item on an endless to-do list. By enrolling them both in school I can take back a large chunk of my day that for the last two and half years has been completely absorbed by their care.

Neither was happy when I told them, and it was hard for me to admit to them that homeschooling them is hard and I’m not enjoying homeschooling anymore. Both are hoping this is a one year reprieve for me. I honestly have no idea.

As I spent time last night taking last years school books into the basement to put them in our library, I looked at all the curriculum I’ve aquired through the years and it hit me, I don’t need most of it anymore. No one is in elementary school, and I had to admit to myself that even if we fostered and adopted a school age child, I don’t know if I’d want to homeschool them. This last year has left me feeling ready to be done, and I’ve never felt that way before. I have two more years with Edie, and that could be it, and in some ways, I think I would be fine with having only exclusively homeschooled three of my children and outsourcing Fulton and Teddy to the local public school.

As I reflected back, I remembered how hard homeschooling was some years. And I don’t think I could’ve done anything different; I honestly think I did the best I could- I just had five little kids for a long time and that’s just hard whether you homeschool or not! (Not to mention the whole physical disability thing.) We had so many wonderful moments, and there’s so much I would never change, but I’ve dedicated 16 years of my life to homeschooling. It’s been a large part of who I am, and I think I’m just ready to move onto something else.

I don’t worry about the negative influence of the public school on Fulton and Teddy. Honestly, it’s been a long and isolated two years. I hope the boys can find clubs they enjoy and friends to invite to our home. I want as much peer interaction as they can get! I truly believe that our strong Catholic family culture can counteract whatever peer pressure or anti-Christian bias they will encounter.

I’ve expressed my concerns to the high school and middle school about what wasn’t working previously when the boys were enrolled and I like that, in Fulton’s case, we’re going to reevaluate in 30 days and make changes as necessary. I know I will face frustrations and things won’t make me 100 percent happy, but I’m willing to tackle public school challenges this year vs homeschool ones.

So, for 2022-23, I’m happy with the decision to enroll the boys in school. But like I always say, one year at a time. No matter how much relief I feel right now, I can’t say for certain what we’ll decide for future school years.

And let this be a reminder, you don’t need to keep homeschooling if it’s not working. If its extremely hard, it might be a sign its time to try something else for a bit. That something else may be a brick and mortar school (though it could also be a co-op, a break, a change in curriculum- I’m not saying enrolling your kids in school is the logical next step for everyone!) I think some parents are so scared of the influence of public school (or poor Catholic schools) on their children that they stick with homeschooling long after its killed the love of learning in their homes. Some parents can homeschool all 28 of their kids, but some cannot and that’s okay! When I started homeschooling, I thought it was something, once you committed to it, that was what you did-period. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve seen how many families, especially large families, eventually transition to online schools, private schools, or public schools. While I do know moms who manage everything from high school classes down to Pre-K on their own, it is definitely a smaller number that all those who started with me years ago. I don’t share this to discourage anyone, but to let you know that if you chose to take a break from homeschooling, you’re not the only one, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Don’t compare your homeschool to some influencer online or underestimate how your loving, and positive influence, can carry your children (and their souls) safely through a public or private school education.

St. Bruno the Great, patron of our homeschool, pray for us!

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7 Comments

  1. What a great post. I love the way you recap each year. I appreciate your honesty. I have found that schooling decisions become part of our identity in a way and that makes it hard to make changes. For me, it was important to give myself permission to change my mind. I hope your boys have a great year.

  2. I, for one, greatly appreciate seeing one family’s big picture analysis and decisions about homeschooling. It is one year at a time!

  3. Kelly, THANK YOU!!!! This is a piece straight from the heart and it has so so much wisdom. I will be coming back to it this year.

  4. Amen, Kelly!
    As our 3 oldest are all out of the house, our youngest opted to go to high school this year. It makes sense for her and us. When we started homeschooling 17 years ago, I didn’t have any understanding for how the nature of our homeschool would change as kids graduated out. Our homeschool was not the same full, fun house with only 2 students in it.
    Good job listening to what all of you need, and being flexible. May you find rest and time for the next big thing God plants in your days!

  5. Thank you so much for this! Year by year, kid by kid. And “I don’t know” is an ok place to be. It helps so much to read someone else who has the courage to share the struggles in making decisions. Best of luck to all of you as you start the school year.

  6. Kelly,
    You’re so right about homeschooling not always working for everyone. It’s flexible, including tailoring it or nixing it. If you’re burned out, you won’t be able to do everything you want, which leads to more burn out and guilt, etc. Everyone has to decide for their own family what is best, and it can change from year to year. Covid certainly turned everyone’s world upside down!
    May God keep blessing you and your family!

  7. Kelly, I love when you said,
    “I truly believe that our strong Catholic family culture can counteract whatever peer pressure or anti-Christian bias they will encounter.” For our family and situation, our three children went to public school. One is still in high school and the other two are in college. All three are practicing Catholics and involved in youth group and college Newmann centers. I say this because I think what is more important than anything is that their faith started at home and we tried very hard to keep this central at all times (although not perfect by any means!). Because of this, I think it’s what carried them through any issues in public school and now they’re continuing to choose their Catholic faith as young people. In some ways, when they did come across issues that challenged their faith at school, we were able to talk about it and find ways for them to turn around and be a witness for Christ to their public school peers. Love this topic and love that we can all respect and support whatever choice each family makes for their children’s education!

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