I have a secret and I have no idea why it’s a secret.
I am homeschooling Ella.
I started over a week ago, and I haven’t really told anyone outside of my circle (other than homeschool groups on Facebook, then breaking the news to my Instagram followers).
No real reason other than I don’t think I felt ready to be judged (I guess it’s a thing), not ready for all of the advice from homeschoolers I know of (I want that advice, but not in the first week because OVERWHELMED), and honestly, just not ready in general.
Let’s just say that homeschooling has been on the back burner since Ella was in kindergarten and had a tough transition.
Since I am pretty transparent on this blog, I felt I should tell you this is going on because I may want to write about it here and there, it may be shared in other parts of my life, and truthfully, I may need your support.
So here is the why portion because I have always been curious to know other families reasons for homeschooling and I am sure you want to know as well.
Ella, as you know, has ADHD and anxiety and honestly, the ADHD portion of her diagnosis has never been a problem in school. Oh sure, she has some learning issues, is behind on certain subjects, but for the most part (even on testing) she is at the same level and sometimes even above average when it comes to all of that.
As far as behavior, one of her teachers put it best: I’d never know Ella has ADHD if I didn’t see it on the paper in front of me. Of course she has hyperactive moments, has trouble sitting still at times and the like but Ella is a people pleaser (gee, wonder where she got that from) so at school, she works HARD to make sure she doesn’t look different from others. No wonder she came home every school day thoroughly exhausted.
It was the anxiety portion of her diagnosis that was the struggle.
She has always been able to manage it somewhat with medication and therapies (horseriding is one), but this year, with so much change swirling around her (sister moved away to college, daddy is gone 60 hours a week with a new job, puberty looming). it was too much for her to bear.
Ella is very closely tied to family and our close friends, more than maybe even they know. When her world is shaken up, it is too much for her, but you would never know it from the outside. Internally, it has been really difficult but like anything else, the cracks begin to show and that is where we are now.
Those cracks started to show themselves over the past six weeks. Sobbing on and off the day before her first day of fifth grade; wondering where we were when we were in the house at all times. Then during the first week of school, the nurse called saying Ella had a tummy ache. The following week, she couldn’t go in because she vomited before school but had no temperature, no other symptoms. Two weeks later, the nurse called again saying Ella was crying in her office. The following week, she sat with the assistant principal in her office unable to go to the classroom all day. It was after her not being able to get on the bus one morning and having a full blown panic attack that Mike and I looked at each other and said ENOUGH.
You know, we’re told to let kids struggle, that we didn’t have an out “back in our day”, a term I detest by the way. But why do children need to struggle? To make them stronger? Better human beings?
In the email to the assistant principal who has been one of Ella’s “angels” at her school, I said (among many other things) that:
I don’t think I am shielding her from problems but rather giving another solution to a situation that is pretty intense. I know throughout her life she is going to have to deal with difficult situations and personalities but right now, she just isn’t up to that task and is missing out on important lessons that I could be providing for her at home.
I must say that her school has been AMAZING with us as far as support. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the support from everyone from the principal, assistant principal, school psychologist, and social worker.
They truly want Ella to succeed and for us to succeed as parents and are still there for us as we navigate this new-to-us journey.
Ella has managed to get through each school year since 2013 (I’d say since 2012 but private preschool was a much different experience), but we never felt like school was where she blossomed. It was outside of school where Ella’s personality blossomed, her skills, talents, her zest for life, everything.
I remember thinking to myself that Anna never struggled with school in the way that Ella did. I realize all children are different but I kept on recalling that Anna seamlessly floated through elementary school whereas Ella struggled mercilessly through.
I was very active in both of my girls’ school experiences, especially at the elementary level. Copying for the teachers, working at parties in the classroom, volunteering for field trips. I say this only to note that it was during these volunteer activities that I was able to actually see with my own eyes how my kids were adapting, adjusting, and getting along.
It was during these encounters that I would notice something heartbreaking: Ella wasn’t really fitting in, especially the older she became. Not at all being put down or bullied, just being on the outside looking in, if that makes sense. I should say that she has friends and the friends she has are wonderful but when she was within larger groups, she could never find her groove. It was heartbreaking to witness because Ella is this vibrant, polite, loving, person. Why couldn’t her peers see what we saw at home?
Outside of school, Ella has lots of friends in every avenue. At horseriding, she has friends whom she laughs with, goofs off, and has inside jokes; at church, she has a group of friends who are fiercely protective of her, even running to hug her when she gets to the church each Sunday; in the neighborhood, she has lots of different friends from different backgrounds and ages who adore her as much as we do. She recently got invited to an all boys party for her friend who turned 10 and played football, basketball, soccer, and the like for six hours with them and they all decided that she was “so cool” for doing everything they were doing. And she has a best friend who “gets” her and lifts her up and vice versa.
But at school, it was a totally different story for some reason.
It was at an open house in school last spring when I saw not one child come up and talk to mine that I decided I was going to homeschool her. I didn’t know when but I knew it was inevitable. I didn’t want my happy child to become unhappy and it was coming because if you are invisible to others long enough, you eventually become invisible to yourself.
One week ago, I withdrew Ella from public school, officially registered her through the state, created a homeschool name (John Hughes Primary School, no I’m not lying), and immediately got down to work trying to navigate this new-to-me territory somewhat alone-ish.
But do you want to know something? For the first time in many years, I could breathe.
And most importantly, Ella could breathe.
On day one, she was upstairs in her room singing.
Oh my Lord, you have no idea how good that made me feel.
Hearing her relief.
It was glorious.
It also feels good to know deep in your soul that you made the right decision.
Since homeschooling her, Ella doesn’t have chapped lips (licking her lips compulsively is a way her anxiety comes “out”), she hasn’t cried spontaneously in over a week and a half; she doesn’t have a tummy ache every night or a headache every day.
I noticed this because, in our linen closet the other day, there were plenty of washcloths. When she was in school, I would have to do laundry on washcloths more than I would like to admit, as she was using them as a compress on her head.
All of these things together made me stop in my tracks.
It was finally well with her (and our) soul.
Before I had kids, I never thought once to myself that I would like to teach them inside of my home.
It was an evolution that happened because of things that have happened in my kids’ lives.
One of Anna’s friends asked me last week if I was qualified to homeschool, which kind of took me back a little but also made me happy.
The future IS bright, let me tell you.
I have a background in education, but am I really qualified?
I need breaks. What on EARTH am I gonna do when my husband is gone all the frick frack time? I have yet to find another blogging homeschooling mom who has mentioned just once how they deal with the kids getting on their nerves because they are ALWAYS FREAKING HOME.
I am terrible at Math. I hate it. Fractions? Blergh. Decimals and place value? ICK.
I also swear. A lot. Not in front of Ella. Okay sometimes in front of Ella. So if I swear a lot, can I still be a homeschool mom?
Is it wrong to want to get a sitter once per week to do things like meet friends for lunch, or therapy as part of self-care; I also plan to keep writing because now more than ever, I need that form of therapy as well. WHY AM I SO SELFISH?? I am sure Michelle Duggar never had this conundrum.
I need to find my tribe of homeschoolers who swear, like to drink wine when the kids are in bed, go to church but don’t have the word BIBLE or LORD or GLORY in the title of their curriculum, and can use your and you’re in the correct way.
That’s like finding a unicorn with a $500 dollar bill collar, isn’t it?
So this is where I’m at.
I know I will be judged, I already am, I am sure of it.
But this is what’s right for Ella at this point in her life and maybe, just maybe, it’s also what’s right for me at this point as well.
Do you homeschool? I would love some advice right about now. And wine. Lots and lots of wine.