Very little has stayed the same in my life over the years. I have grown up, went to college, got married, had kids, got a divorce, met the love of my life, and got married again. The one stable friend in my life has been hot cocoa. Much like a warm cup of coffee (which I don’t like—sorry dear husband who tried to convince me when I met him to start drinking it) or tea (which I occasionally substitute) which warms your soul on a cold Wisconsin morning, I cradle my cup and look out into the big world. I think about choices, choices that every mother has to make. Do I work full-time and spend most of my income on a day care setting? Do I work part-time and see parts of my family at a time? Do I forego work for the greater good of the family?
When I was pregnant with my first child, my then husband and I toured the highly rated hospital day care where I worked. There were 3 or 4 babies in the room with 3 or 4 cribs lined against the wall. Both caregivers were attending to babies so that left 2 of them in the crib unattended for the moments they were busy with another child. I imagined what it would be like with quadruplets where you had to meet all of the babies’ needs at once and I quickly put that out of my mind. After calculating the finances, we quickly realized that we could provide our own child care and I could work part-time. So began the hot cocoa mornings….
15 years later, I sit at my kitchen table 6 or 7 living arrangements later and a wonderful new husband of 4 years, drinking hot cocoa writing this blog. I have seen other children run off to school in the bitterly cold mornings grateful that we chose to homeschool and let our kids be kids for just a few moments longer. While holding my hot cocoa and watching my children still in their pj’s happily playing, I would point out just how lucky they were to be able to stay warm and have more free time than the little grownups we turn our children into because we convince ourselves they need that in order to support our desire to work outside the home. I see the same kids in the afternoon. One little girl really stands out. She gets off the bus 3 blocks from my house and runs, every day, runs to her home. I haven’t figured out where she lives yet. I wish I could get to know her mother and let her know that her daughter runs home in fear of the unknown stranger lurking behind every corner. I would like to tell that mother that I am here if her little girl gets scared and she can come to my house where she can get a cup of hot cocoa and play with my children.
There are many homeschool myths. Not all homeschool families are the same—in fact I would imagine that all families have a different story to tell. I loved elementary school. In fact, I loved it so much; I would ask to stay after school. I would ask when I could help during the summer. My grandmother was a teacher in a different district so I would even ask to go to her class when I had the day off of school. I couldn’t get enough.
When my oldest son was 2 1/2, I was a case manager working with children with mental illness. I had to occasionally go to the schools. I saw a teacher roll her eyes and throw up their hands as a child who was not my client blatantly shows disrespect as if to say, “I cannot do anything about this”. Parents are often under the misperception that school will teach behavior as evidenced by a mom who walked into a toy store where we often frequented to play with trains and tell the owner, “I cannot wait for him to go to school so he can learn how to behave”. My decision was further enhanced by a sign posted on the elementary school where my son would have gone, “Carpool parents, please wait for your child outside”. The school staff explained that they could not always know who the custodial parent was nor did they want angry parents in the school. What? No school involvement? No volunteering? This was not for me. We toured a very nice private school but I now had my daughter—how could I meet her needs and afford the tuition? Homeschooling was the answer and as the years pass, I am very happy I made this decision. I want my children to love learning and I was able to give all 3 of them an individualized education. Am I going to homeschool for the rest of their education? I don’t make that promise to them or myself. We reflect on how the schooling is going from year to year and make changes if necessary.
Has it been easy? No. When I was a single parent after my divorce working full-time 2nd shift so that I could homeschool during the day, it was exhausting. Choices. They are what we make in this brief life. We hope we are making the right ones. Hot coca in the morning helps to make it seem like everything is alright.