Friday, December 05, 2008

don't try this at home

So. Yesterday morning, Charlie called the school and told the Director that December would be our final month and as suspected, there were a lot of questions, talking and concern. And then moments after he hung up the phone, there was a lot of self-doubt because WHAT are we doing?!

We sat in on Elizabeth's class on Tuesday and she was doing great. The observation went very well and we were impressed with the overall performance of the teacher and the classroom environment.

Our children love the school.

They seem to be thriving.

And yet we pull them out less than 24 hours after our very first parent-teacher conference.

We must be crazy.

There are a few preschools near our house that I might look in to, but as of right now ... come January 1st, it will just be me, my four children, and a pink tower that I ordered off a Montessori supply store. I also plan to have them in swimming lessons, gymnastics and music classes.

Carolyn wants to play the violin.

William wants to play the drums.

Elizabeth wants to play the tuba.

My friend Michelle sent me an e-mail wherein she asked if I really thought I could handle being home with four children by myself? She suggested that if I thought I could handle this monumental task, that I needed to go back through my archives and look at some of my blog entries from this past summer.

Like the one where I had fantasies of abandoning the children in Mexico, perhaps. Now, add preschool music to that dynamic and I might be jumping off the closest bridge.

I know that I am swept up in the ideal of teaching our children at home. I love the idea of having complete freedom to do whatever we want each and every day. I love the idea of learning alongside them. I love the idea of watching them change and grow and experience the wonders of the world. I love the idea of not exposing them to the "socialization" that I hear people talk about being so important, but I think is totally over rated.

Just tonight, when I went out with my fellow triplet moms, I was talking with one of my friends who recently started her children in kindergarten. The first day of school, a boy told one of her daughters that she was the ugliest child in all of the school. And the next day, someone else told her that they hated her. Her little girl cried for two weeks straight.

I think back to one of the classroom birthday parties that our children had and when I was passing around a picture of Gracie as a baby, a boy in her class exclaimed "That's not a girl, that's a BOY!!" and while Gracie sat looking sad for a moment, William declared, "That is MY Gracie and she is a BEAUTIFUL princess!"

Which was a much better response than what I had in mind. Because surely my yelling, "HEY KID, I am going to put you DOWN like a bag of chips!!" would have raised a few eyebrows.

Yesterday, while I was swept up in the romance of teaching the children from home, my boss called to tell me that come May 1st, a mere five months from now, I am expected to return to work full-time. And just when I'm thinking that come May 1st I'll quit my job and stay home with our children ... they go and offer me a raise.

So, of course that makes the situation a lot more complicated because although it's "only" money, for me to leave my career seems like a terribly irresponsible decision for our family, from a financial perspective. Especially since my contribution to the family fund is greater than 50%.

I told Charlie that if I really wanted to continue working part-time, then my only hope is to go on another maternity leave. And that's when I realized that my life is way too full of drama and reading this blog is probably much like watching a train wreck in slow motion.


  1. Could it be possible to get an upper level motessori teaching student (takes years to become certified!) or even a final year early education student to come to your home a few times a week and run an activity or two? You'd be home and they'd be supervised; they might bring in new ideas or materials and it would give you a break and your kids the chance to learn off someone different as well. You could repeat this same idea with a fine arts student - art classes in your back yard!

    In two hours you could probably get the same amount of focused montessori teaching the kids get at daycare but you'd get it at home, and with all snacks provided by you, and in a class size of three!

  2. Jen I love reading your blog, not only do you inspire me to keep on exercising (which I slacked up on last week but yay me I did NOT overeat on Thanksgiving): but you keep me thankful that my life is so simple. My children are older, at least they are of the age to make their own decisions about school, classes, jobs etc. Thankfully they all respect us enough to ask our opinion, listen to it and then sometime even follow it;). I'm not saying you quit worrying about them because I don't think you ever do that, maybe you even worry more because you come to the realization that you don't have the control you had when they were younger.
    Good luck on schooling the children. The only advice I can give you is to have a routine, I think children function better emotionally when they know what to expect. I'm not saying that you can't throw something different in but for the most part have a general routine.

  3. You know this is my second year of homeschooling. The first was...well lets just say I wanted to quit by January 1st!.

    This year we have finally become accumalted to being home and around each other 24/7. I can say now that I am delighted that I have stuck it out. The amount of things that I alone have learned through this experience has been wonderful and the amount of things (field trips) that we have been able to do have been great.

    In fact yesterday we drove up to Asheville to visit the Grove Park Inn; a historical hotel built in 1900 and looked at all the wonderful Gingerbread Houses then the boys headed to a cooking class where they learned how to make one themselves. (Lots of math and lots of fun!)

    When I was thinking about homeschooling after Alexander's kindergarten year from @#$%. I was so scared. Afraid that I would scar the boys for life, then I was told by someone give yourself a year. It's been a great experience for me! Even though there are days that I think ... "I can't do this anymore". Then the days pass and I am so glad I did!

    I hope you will find the same joy. Love, Marg.

  4. Okay I'm back again....but I have a question..... Is that sweet William???? climbing a wall??? In your house??

    (hmmm...on second thought.....)

    PS I have a few books that I can pass down to you as well for 1st/2nd graders from a program called Sonlight if you plan to go the homeschool route.

    Love, Marg

  5. Susan in Missouri12/5/08, 8:12 AM

    This is my "wednesday" comment...yes, I know it is Friday. But, there is no Wednesday post this week. Sounds like you have alot on your mind, and I think we all can sympathize! :) I think you teaching the children at home is a wonderful thing! My brother's wife kept all four of their kids home until just this year when they put them in private school. They are all different ages mind you, but the idea here is that if SHE can do it (she is extremely impatient), ANYONE can do it. Her oldest is now 14 and they youngest is 8. They are very good kids and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with wanting to keep your children home to teach them! I do not know you or Charlie personally, but I do know from reading your blog for more than 2 years are a very loving parent as is Charlie! THAT my dear, makes all the difference in the world. Kids can be challenging...that's their job! They are wired for it. Trust me...I have a 6 year old daughter in the 1st grade who gets tallies (bad marks?) DAILY at school...I'm not talking about 1 or 2...we are talking 6-7 A DAY! For either talking, messing around, getting out of her seat...etc. I would love nothing more then to string her up by her toenails sometimes...instead, I hug her and tell her how much I love her and that tomorrow is a new day and she'd better start sitting still and paying attention or mommy is going to be sitting in class next to her with my houserobe and rollers in my hair to embarrass her until she starts doing what she knows she is supposed to be doing!!!! Anyway, my goal is still 20 lbs by far, I have lost 13! Feeling great and working out at home. Drinking TONS of water and NO SWEETS! Not even a 5 calorie stick of gum anymore! Even my teeth are thanking me! lol! Have a great weekend...and don't be so hard on yourself! You're great parents and they are beautiful kids. :)

  6. Ah, yes. But people always do stop and watch a trainwreck, don't they?

    LOL. ;-)

    I think you're making the right decision for your family right now, and that's what's important. It sounds like this school was really not working for you guys the way it should have been. You'll figure it out. :-)

    A much more nearby preschool plus time at home with Momma would work fantastically, if you should need to have them cared for outside the home.

    Also, although I agree that there are some definite negative effects to outside socialization, I can't help but think that children do need some exposure to this even though it's not that nice all the time. They need to develop thicker skins, because as they go through the harsh teen years, they need some internal coping strategies to get through it. And they need to learn these skills as adults too, because as we know, life isn't always a bowl of cherries.

    But I DO agree that it seems harsh sometimes, and that other kids can be cruel. So I see your point for sure.

  7. william is such a sweet little boy. you're so lucky to have him. he's such a blessing. and so are your other three. :)

  8. "socialization"........I think is totally over rated.
    Ditto! Ditto! Ditto!
    My ex and I used to talk about all those people who you wouldn't dare hang out with have children your kid have to go to school with. Little mini me all over the place!
    Maybe you should start with the music version of the WII for music lessons:) Just a thought!
    When you miss school...go for that drive? LOL

  9. "The first day of school, a boy told one of her daughters that she was the ugliest child in all of the school. And the next day, someone else told her that they hated her. Her little girl cried for two weeks straight."

    To be honest, this little girl learned how to handle this kind of social situation, albeit, it took her 2 weeks, but she got through it. Don't overrate socializing. It is just as important as academics, because if you don't know how to handle yourself in certain situations, no one will take you seriously. But... (there's always a but...) at this young age, I think it's OK to keep the kiddos out of school because it sounds like they were doing just fine in a school setting, so if you chose to send them to school, they know what to expect.

  10. You are brave. Oh so brave. I am still wondering how William is hanging from the wall like that. I'm also cracking up that Elizabeth wants to play the tuba. Your kids have lots of personality!

  11. I love your train wreck. If not for your train wreck, some days I'd have nothing to talk about. :)

    Okay, so you are freaking me out today.

    And I TOTALLY disagree with you on the socialization aspect. If I had been at that triplet mom dinner (I was at my own last night!), here's the story I would have told.

    I didn't go to preschool. The first time I was ever around other kids was kindergarten. There was a group of really mean girls and they were really mean to me. Do you know what my grandmother did? She marched me right down to school and she told me to look those girls in the face and say, "Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!"

    And I did. And I learned to stick up for myself. And they stopped picking me on me. So that socialization is a valuable part of growing up.

    If a kid called one of my kids the ugliest child, I'd march my child right back to school and I'd tell her to look him straight in the face and scream, "You're the MEANEST child I'VE ever seen and someday NOBODY is going to like you!"

    People are assholes in life. Our kids have to learn to deal with them. That's part of growing up. If you take that aspect out of their growing up, you might save them from some hurt feelings, but what are you ultimately preparing them for?

    And sometimes YOUR kids will be the assholes. Do you know what happened to the little girl Amanda called a streetwalker because she wouldn't share her dog? Her parents took her out of the class. So what did they teach her? They taught her if she doesn't get her way or if someone is mean to her to run. Run away from it. How's that going to help her in the big picture? (I'm thinking my kids might bring down the whole teacher/student ratio! HA!) Amanda learned a lot from that too, because I made sure she did.

    Look for a part-time preschool, Jen. I'm so happy with the way we've done it. The kids get socialization and I've gotten the pleasure and rewards of also homeschooling them. I feel like we've gotten the best of both worlds.

    Now, let's see if you run this baby off the tracks. Where's Sir Toppin' Hats to help you put the brakes on!

  12. In cases like these you really have to follow your heart. There are a lot of outside things that can make you feel like you can't stay home full-time with them, but you need to evaluate it as a family and trust your instincts.

    As for "socialization" it isn't like you keep them locked in the basement all the time. They interact together and out and about at classes and activities which is more than enough for this age.

    Good luck!

  13. Jen,

    If you haven't already read the book, "A Nation of Wimps", I highly suggest you do.

  14. You are still second guessing yourself. Do a SWOT analysis (see comments from last post) - you need to make this decision and KNOW that you have taken all of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of this decision into account. Not because you have busy body blog commenters, but because you are living with the decision.

    Question - how can you work part time when you don't have a part time job (May 1st?).

    I'm in the mining industry (I think you can tell I am an Engineer, I'd say you have worked with enough to know the symptoms), I know that part time jobs in the mining/oil industry are as rare as jewels. Maternity leave is the only way to be on that sweet deal (and I did it 3 times, and every time I progressed a little more ( part time work for a few months). The mining/oil industry is a tough industry. It is male dominated. That doesn't mean you should stay and dominate it, but you have some tough decisions to make and there may be issues when it comes to regaining work in this industry (everyone knows everyone - if you walk away, what happens in 10 years when you want to walk back in).

    Please, please, please, do a SWOT on it - don't keep throwing ideas around over and over and over. Put them down on paper in a constructive way so you can make a decision and be happy about it.

    Your decision with the school is not final (you are paid up to June from my understanding). Do your analysis NOW. Then, if you need to change your mind...change it....there is no shame in that. If the decision you have made is the one you stick with (and you need to take account of the issue on May 1st) - then great - you can stop the train wreck....

    PS. You need to get over how much private school costs - it costs a lot. It gets more expensive every year (we are up to US$58K now and our youngest is only 5). Eventually you just come to terms with the chunk of income it takes - but you are investing in your childrens future - that is not a bad investment.

  15. I was home schooled, and I am so grateful to my mom for putting up with me and my two younger sisters and helping me to the best education I could have ever gotten. I was allowed to learn at my own pace, I wasn't held back by the slowest in the class, and we were able to go on trips to Europe and the UK to SEE the things we were studying. And now I'm a semester away from getting my BA, and applying for the graduate program at my school. There can be success, and I am sure you're children will thrive in an environment where they are loved (even if you want to leave them in Mexico sometimes, I have the same thoughts every once and a while and I only have one kid!).

    I love your blog! You give me the motivation to keep going! I'm working out regularly because of you, and I haven't done that in four years. Thanks!

  16. What about your kids? Do they enjoy going to school? Enjoy having friends they see every day?

    I can't relate to your full time every day school, mine are only in twice a week, a couple hours each, but I just couldn't take that experience away from my kids. They love school.

  17. Are you considering making a move still? If so, it sounds like things are getting all cleared up for it. You have the chance to get out of your job if you need to. You have the chance to get out of the preschool. Either for a move, or something else, doors are opening up for you to make a big change.

    I wish I knew how to help you stop second guessing everything. I really can sense your stress when I read your entries, and wish you didn't have to go through that.

  18. One of the scariest things that I have ever done was pulling my children out of school. I have NEVER regretted it. You are right about the much of it is negative. So many children are stripped of their self esteem so early on. Yes, there are good moments too, but the playground can be a brutal place for sure!!! My children get plenty of socialization through their activities, homeschool group, church, and family.
    I am SO proud of you and will be here to support you!!!