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The Day I Called the Public Elementary School – When Homeschooling is Hard

The Day I Called the Public Elementary School - When Homeschooling is Hard 2

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If you receive my newsletter, you already know that the past couple of weeks were tough. I mentioned in the last newsletter that I was calling the previous week my Homeschool Mom Professional Development Week to put a positive spin on it. (If you aren’t getting my weekly newsletter, you’re missing out! You can subscribe in the header or at the end of this post.)

Calling the Public School

Two weeks ago I called the public elementary school and left a message for the principal to determine whether or not it would be a good fit for Caroline.

I knew deep down inside even when I called that it would not be possible, but I had to make the call. I had to talk to someone, explain our situation with a differently-wired learner who is 2e (both gifted and has a learning challenge) and hear for myself that it would never work.

The principal was very kind. He was very supportive. He listened to me, asked intelligent questions, and made a few suggestions. He contacted the gifted and talented coordinators to see about having Caroline tested. They would not because she’s not enrolled. And, of course, we would never consider enrolling her without knowing she would receive the support she would need to thrive. He called me back after we both received the “no” answer email from the gifted and talented coordinator. He said he didn’t want that to be our last contact and that he didn’t necessarily agree with the procedures established in the district. Honestly, the principal could not have been any kinder or more helpful. (But that is what I would have expected from the school district we live in.)

The entire experience reinforced to me that there is no way a traditional classroom setting will work for us.

But I already knew that.

Facing the Facts – Again

I’m a certified, experienced teacher. I’ve been in the classroom and that was before things went totally nuts with excessive testing and grade expectations that are totally out of alignment with well-established facts about child development.

It was my own experience as a teacher that made it clear to me that a traditional classroom setting would not work for my child in kindergarten. Or first grade. Or second grade.

But I’ve wavered a bit in third grade because because I’m tired.

Homeschooling is hard for everyone, but it’s a double dose when you have a differently-wired child.

I’ve wavered because homeschooling a differently-wired child means constantly re-evaluating what you are doing.

Wondering if you are failing your child.

Feeling like you aren’t doing enough for your child.

Wondering how you are going to meet her needs for another nine years.

Going it alone because it all falls on you – testing, outside professional help such as an occupational therapist, etc.

Feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere as a family.

Making accommodations for your child and family that most people don’t understand the need for.

Wondering if I can really give her what she needs within the constraints I have to work with whether they are my own health, finances, etc.

Feeling Trapped

I shared in a private bloggers forum that I felt trapped. And I think that was the hardest part. I felt like I had no choices. It’s one thing to choose to homeschool because you feel it is the best option for your family and child, knowing you can make a change in the future if you need to do so. It’s another thing when you realize that it is the ONLY option for your child. That has become increasingly clear to me over the past year or two.

Thankfully some really great moms with children similar to Caroline responded with encouraging words, making it clear that we are all struggling with the same kinds of challenges. They shared their own relief with homeschooling because it was so much better for them and their child compared to when their child was in a traditional classroom. It was so much easier than trying to work within a system that is not designed for out-of-the-box children. We’ve always homeschooled so I’ve never experienced the “relief” of finding something better.

Finding Freedom

Something about making the call to the school and talking it out with other moms ended up freeing me. It reminded me again that God gave us this child. We prayed specifically for a little girl for nine years. And God gave her the parents she needed. She has a daddy who is fun and playful, something really important for an imaginative only child. He gave her a mother who is a relentless researcher who will find the answers for her child.

I shudder to think what her life would be like if she had parents who were unable or unwilling to invest the time in her that she needs.

Sharing the Struggles

Sometimes I really struggle with what to write here. It’s a challenge to know how much to say publicly about our homeschooling life. I asked Caroline the other day if I could write about her OT experience because I thought it would help other children and their parents. She said it was fine as long as she was able to read it first. Even at eight and a half she’s already aware of what goes on here and how it reflects on her. I’ve always protected her privacy online from the time she was born (probably to a fault). Continuing to do so makes it challenging to write authentically at times.

I also struggle with how honest to be because we make a lot of choices that I know some people will be quick to judge and condemn us for. Frankly, I’m not interested in opening myself and my family up to criticism from internet trolls and people who just generally enjoy dictating the correct way to do homeschooling (and life in general) to others. And yet I know how important it is to talk about these issues because we’re not the only ones dealing with them. Even though those of us with differently-wired children are a minority in the homeschooling world, the challenges we face are real. We need to support each other.

Turning a Corner

So we’ve definitely turned a corner in our homeschooling. We re-adjusted our homeschooling (again!). David, Caroline and I have talked through some of the issues we’ve been facing and I think it has made a difference. Even though I still have no idea how we are going to get through the next nine years, I think I know how we are going to get through the next four months and that is good enough for now. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow and so I’ll choose to enjoy today and trust that tomorrow will work itself out. He’s brought us this far and He certainly won’t stop carrying us now.

The Day I Called the Public Elementary School - When Homeschooling is Hard


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  • My situation is different from yours, of course. I homeschool because I want to. I do, however, know I could NEVER put these girls in the school system. I’d have far more trouble than it could ever be worth. If you need to talk at any point, I’m here.

  • Hi Michelle,

    I do want to homeschool and have always wanted to homeschool. But I think the realization that there are no other truly viable options in any way, shape, or form just puts a different spin on it. And thank you for the offer to talk!

  • Sallie,
    I can always relate to your posts but I especially relate to this one. Homeschooling my son is the greatest challenge of my life. Actually, *parenting* him is the greatest challenge. I know this is the best place for him, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. I actually wrote a post “Today I Threatened to Send Him Back” and it was about a really crappy day. Sometimes, you need a break, a breather. I’m actually feeling really frustrated with this winter and homeschooling at the moment. I heard that it’s normal for this time of year and I’m hoping that after relaxing a bit, things will adjust and start to flow better. I hope the same for you! Thank you for your honesty here. Parents will relate to this.

  • Cait –

    I think we all threaten to send them back! LOL!

    Here’s another post I wrote about parenting and homescholing as an introvert. I don’t know if you are an introvert, but I am seriously off the charts on my need for time alone. This is THE hardest part of parenting for me. Trying to balance my need for time alone in order to be sane and healthy with my child’s needs…. Yowza…

  • Just came across your blog right now, linked to Coffee Tea Books and Me…I hope what I way will encourage you. I homeschooled our 3 children, though only the last one was from K-12. All have done very well in college, 2 older have master’s and youngest has an associate degree with many other credits and a special certificate for schooling for her job. I think only the oldest is glad I homeschooled him and gives me all kind of credit for so doing. The daughters neither one have done so. Is this a difference between daughters and sons? Or between the oldest and youngers? Or because of where we lived and the unique circumstances of our family? I have no idea…these many years later (last one finished up in 2002). But I felt GOD wanted me to homeschool and though a very imperfect human, I most definitely worked very hard and tried my best. It is all anyone can do. Sometimes in life we are not appreciated. I do think if your husband is 100% supportive, it will go better for you. I did not have as much support as I should have had and had no support from extended family, but they fortunately lived in another state so that was not too bad…but I do think our daughters were influenced by them to a degree. Our older daughter is now a mom and the youngest one not yet married even. I do think the one who is a mom has already learned how difficult it is to be a mom today. She shows some understanding now at least. Will they ever thank me? Who knows…but at least I can go to my grave one day knowing I did my best. It is all anyone can do. I hope, especially since you only have one child, that it will work out well for you in the end at least!!

  • Elizabeth,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment to encourage me and others who will read this! Thankfully I have a very supportive husband! I think that as your daughters become moms and realize how hard it is, they will look at your sacrifices and effort differently. At least I hope so. Being a mom is tough no matter how you do school. 🙂

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! As a former teacher and part-time education consultant It is difficult to feel so lost an ineffective with my own children at times. Most days are good but every now and then we hit that wall. I get this and needed to hear someone else say they are in the same position feeling that homeschooling is the only option. We are there with our oldest and homeschool our younger child, too. Fortunately, our local school district will let homeschoolers participate in the gifted program. They meet there once a week which is certainly not enough but has been a blessing.

  • Thank you for your honest post. We just had a meeting this week with the public school. Here in NH there is no funding for gifted education, so we wondered what the public school would do with our daughter. In the end it seems that homeschooling will continue to be the best option for our family too. Everyone was very kind and told us they would do their best to accommodate her if she was to enroll, but they would not be able to give her the same rich experiences she is getting at home. I did not expect the public school to validate our decision to homeschool, but it was so encouraging to have our hard work recognized by other educators. Good luck in your parenting adventure!

  • I can go one better – I homeschool my “extra-special” daughter because it was our last resort! I never felt “called” to do this and frankly, in some ways, I think my life would be in better balance (emphasis on MY LIFE) if she was still in a public school. However, with her variety of learning disabilities, and after exhausting every remotely plausible (and some that weren’t even remotely plausible) options in our public school district, I faced a simple choice – watch my daughter spiral further into a depression, filled with anxiety and falling further behind every day or protect her mental health and give her half a chance to reach her academic potential. I chose to save her mental health. It’s been the best choice for her, if not for me. This is our 3rd year homeschooling and frankly, I’m tired of not having many options to fill my cup when I need to. Still, I remind myself frequently of the 6, yes 6, IEP meetings we had during her last year in the public school. I remind myself that after one of those meetings, wherein the teacher did not have one single positive thing to say about her, I cried every single day for two weeks when I dropped her off, sending her to the lion’s den when the one person who spent the most time with her made it clear that my daughter didn’t belong in her classroom. Lately, I remind myself of these things multiple times a day, but most of the time, I only have to remember occasionally. My daughter is now happier, more confident, less stressed and making noticeable academic progress. Would it still be a last resort? Selfishly, yes, but ultimately, I know that it’s a short term sacrifice on my part for a long term reward on her part. And if nothing else, I am a mom who will do whatever it takes to make sure my kids have the opportunity to do their best. It’s up to them to do it, but I will do whatever I can to make the opportunity available. I have an older daughter who is thriving in our local public high school. I thank God every day for that, too.

  • I am in exactly the same boat. I called my husband walrus and said, “this may be the day I decide to stop homeschooling.” He knew it was a bluff, but he supported anyway (bless him). I needed to read this today 🙂

  • Just found your blog and signed up for emails. We have one son, age 12, who we have always homeschooled. At about age 10, we hit the skids in our schooling with attitude and not wanting to school. Yes, we talked about putting him in public school, But we truly believe God has called us to homeschool still, and I find it encouraging to hear from other homeschool moms who are willing to share their struggles and successes. My son has OCD and he does meet with a therapist, and at times we all meet, which has helped. We also started eating a “clean” diet, which in four weeks has made a big difference in calming down the attitude and anger, though not entirely. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  • Out of my six, I have two that are extremely challenging both to teach and to parent. One is an out of sync kid who is now 15 years old. I wasn’t quite sure I was going to survive her. The path has been long and twisty, but oh so worth it. It is such a joy to watch her growth and to see the amazing choices she is making now. But it’s not over. We still have years left. So we take it one day at a time. My second son is also a tremendous challenge. He is a great kid, very outgoing but struggles tremendously in school. Everything is so hard. His challenges are so different from his sisters and other siblings. I often wonder if I am the right person for this job. But I love him. So we strive forward. I still have hope to cling to so I cling mightily. It’s all worth it in the end. I know it will be.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this post! I relate to this so much! I am an introvert also and have a difficult time home schooling, parenting and getting my quiet time and balancing them all. Also, on the bad days I have threatened to send him to public school. Doesn’t solve any problems for us, because he has special needs with learning issues (an only child and a boy) which would really make them worse then they are….. Most subjects are hard for him especially writing composition and he doesn’t like to write out his math problems. We continue to move forward because it is still where God wants us. Great to know that we are not alone as moms in this journey and how we struggle in this area some days.

  • Oh man! I can totally relate to this post right now. I am walking the same road with my 8 1/2 year-old daughter. I am worn out. I think this year has been as hard as her first year of life when she screamed all the time and never slept. She has so many needs that all fall on me. I am ready to make a big change next year in our schooling, otherwise, I think I will lose my mind. I feel so inadequate, but I feel like homeschooling is the only viable choice for our daughter. So, I am trusting God to make a way…somehow…to help us finish this year and make changes in the fall. Anyway, it is a comfort to know I am not alone in this struggle, and I’m not crazy for staying on this path where God has us.

  • My child like this is now 19. So far, we have both survived. 🙂 She is doing well in college right now, but the factors you mention are still there. I am glad to see this series of articles. 🙂

    We called the public school once. My oldest (not 2e, but definitely gifted) was 6, I had a baby who had 8 ear infections in 5 months, and we were struggling. The principal was very nice. I asked him why, given the relatively high income demographics in our town, scores were so low. He assured me that they were tracking all their kids and knew exactly where they were, academically. Ok, and….??? Then he told me that when you have introverted kids, it’s good for them to be in school because they learn to stand up for themselves. I said, “thank you very much,” and hung up. I never felt any desire to call the public school again!

  • Oh my word, word! Yes all of this is too familiar. Our situation has recently become even more challenging. This past December and March we welcomed my adopted son’s (4 years old) half sisters into our family. They are 6 and 16 months old. We will be adopting them. Can you say disruptive, chaotic, and not very productive? That’s our homeschooling right now. My 14 year old daughter is starting her high school credits this summer and she’s still severely dyslexic. She is still somewhat resistant to strategies and doing any more work than absolutely necessary. On the end, I’m stuck because traditional school won’t work and we cannot afford tutors. I’m trying to find a mother’s helper for the school year, but so far no takers. What would you do?

  • I loved reading all the similar stories! It is such a blessing to have the internet and know we aren’t alone in our struggles! Thank you for sharing your stories with all of us!


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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