I've got big news, which I'll come right out and say (if you haven't guessed it by the title of this post!) and then I'll take the time to explain in detail.
This year my children will be attending a classical school.
That's right. I will not be homeschooling this year. I never thought in a million years that I would be saying that, so let me explain how my family came to this decision.
I had always known that I wanted to homeschool my children. I love researching subjects and curriculum. I love putting together notebooking pages, tearing out Saxon math worksheets, and sharpening pencils. I even love writing out lesson plans. The idea of being the one to form my children's hearts and minds is something that I hold dear!
Struggling with Extreme Fatigue
The trouble came slowly over the past couple of years. Well, maybe it's just my willingness to accept the problem that came slowly. I found that I was exhausted almost all the time. I would wake up with a optimistic hope for the day, but then realize that I already felt like I needed a nap. I'd pull myself together enough to make breakfast and get our homeschool day going, but within about 2 hours not only was I still very tired, but I was just DONE. I needed to get lunch on the table and then basically hibernate for a couple of hours to muster up enough energy to do a little housework and get dinner ready for the evening.
If I made plans for the morning (co-op, a visit with friends, etc.), I would do ok during the time out, but when I got home I would crash. It would literally take me the rest of the day to recuperate. If I pushed myself to do more or didn't give myself the down time to recuperate, my immune system would tank and I would get sick. All of this didn't leave much time for school, taking care of the house, church activities, or anything else!
I'm not sharing all of this for your pity. Honestly I hate drawing attention to myself. But, this blog has always been about homeschooling, so I wanted to be upfront with you all.
I went to see a doctor about this 3 years ago and he diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue. He said that it should take 6 months to 2 years to get better. While I have definitely seen some improvements (which I am very thankful for), three years later I am still battling extreme exhaustion.
I'm the kind of person that likes to be patient and trust that things will get better with time. Adrenal fatigue is usually caused by too many stressors, and is fixed (in part) by eliminating as much stress as possible. I have realized that by continuing to homeschool, I am keeping myself from healing and in fact, making myself sick.
It is not that the teaching part of homeschooling is stressful in the normal sense of the word, it is just that homeschooling means that I am 'on' all the time. My body just hasn't had the chance to heal. I know that all you homeschool moms know what I mean, but for some reason it just causes my body to shut down.
If you would have asked me six months ago what my plans were for this year, I would have told you my dreams of expanding my Scholé Group to a 2 day a week model. I loved what we were doing and the ideology behind it. I had started a mom's group where we would meet once a month to watch a video of Dr, Perrin talking about classical education and then we would discuss it. We had a great group of ladies and had a wonderful time together at these meetings.
I wanted more! The only problem is that I realized that if I wanted more, I would have to be the one that would put it all together. So, instead of instead of being able to give myself more time to heal, I would be pushing myself more and being even busier. I knew I couldn't make it happen =(
Finding the Perfect School (For Us Right Now)
So, just for fun I thought I would look on the website of a local classical school. I have known about this school since before my kids were born, but I always knew I wanted to homeschool, so I hadn't given it a second glance. They happened to be having an open house in a few weeks, so I thought it would be fun to stop by. I honestly thought I would be disappointed with what I saw, but that was not the case.
I was so pleased with everything that I saw and heard that I decided to have a meeting with the headmaster to ask her more questions. I had an entire page of questions typed out, covering everything from philosophical to practical aspects of the school. I couldn't believe it, but I found myself nodding along with every answer that she gave. I realized that this school was everything I had been envisioning to make my Scholé Group into, and it was already in place just 15 minutes from my house! The only difference is that I ideally would love a 2 day a week school, or perhaps a half-day school, but that just isn't available to me right now.
Is a Classical School Right for My Children?
The next thing I had to figure out was whether or not this would be a good fit for my children. Obviously I would never send them into an environment that would be hostile or detrimental to them in any way. The first thing that I liked was that class sizes at this school are very small. My daughter's class had 5 children in it last year and my son's had 9. That is about as close to a homeschool environment as you can get in a classroom =)
So, we scheduled a time to have the kids sit in a class for a whole day. My son is typical 7 yr old boy who has a hard time sitting still and focusing. He also takes a while to adjust to new situations. Needless to say, I was nervous about how he would do visiting for an entire school day. My daughter loves people and trying new things, so I knew she would be fine. Unfortunately she was in Kindergarten last year so she could only stay a half day. When I picked her up at lunchtime I asked if I could check on my son. I peeked in the class and asked him if he wanted to stay or if he was ready to come home. He immediately said that he wanted to stay. Then when I picked him up at the end of the day he whispered in my ear, "Mom, that was COMPLETELY AWESOME!"
The next step was to have them evaluated to see if they were at about the right level for their grades. Having always homeschooled and not really ever thinking (or caring) about grade levels, I didn't know what to expect from this evaluation. I think my kids are pretty smart, but I also know that this school is pretty rigorous. Their testing went well, and it looks like they would fit right into their proper grades.
So, we just kept taking the next step in the process, talking to other families from the school, and praying about the decision, and everything kept falling in line and looking positive. It is very hard for me to give up homeschooling for this year, but I also know that it is the best decision for my family right now. It feels very weird to be preparing to send the kids to school, but I feel at peace about it and am actually excited to see what this year will bring.