A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.

8 thoughts on “A Foot in Two Worlds

  1. Victoria

    I have some of the same feelings around being a SAHM vs. being a working mom. I was at home full time or part time for almost seven years. I’ve been back to work full time for nearly a year and a half, and I know that won’t change, under any circumstances. I feel like I am straddling a line between my SAHM friends — with their volunteering and their days spent exploring with toddlers and preschoolers — and my working mom friends — especially those who returned to work, either by choice or by necessity, when their children were infants. Those working moms never had the luxury (or the desire) to be at home, so in a way they don’t know what they’re missing. To be clear, I don’t judge any moms for choosing to go back to work at any stage of her child’s life. I just feel that the moms who went back early didn’t have as abrupt a change in their lives as I did… having settled into a SAHM lifestyle only to have it jerked away before I was ready to give it up. Overall, I know that I am EXTREMELY LUCKY to have had the time home that I did have. I know that these are first world problems. But I sympathize with your position of being caught between two realities that are so very different from one another.

    1. amy Post author

      I can see that. Wondering, do you feel not quite a part of either group? It sounds like you relate to having your heart in one place but your reality in another.

      G continues to enjoy kindergarten. So there’s that.

  2. karen

    I hope you find some like minded friends or mothers to share your journey. I admire that you are opened to your child’s wishes. Both of mine when through public schools but I fleshed out what was lacking once they were home (and there was lacking!). You are on a journey and if you are happy with the decisions then all is right in your world. I am one of the few SAHM that is still staying at home….I’m a little lonely but I manage 🙂

    1. amy Post author

      I think I’m fortunate that I’ve met some like-minded people online. It’s definitely helpful that there are people who “get it,” even if they’re not sitting across the table drinking coffee with me, you know? 🙂

      Loneliness is a huge issue that doesn’t really get explored much… it can crop up at any life stage. I guess if I thought about it I’d figure that when my kids are more on their own, my social life might be expanding too, but I suppose if someone is still doing something different from everyone else, where do you meet up with like-minded people? Interesting to think about, thank you for sharing that.

  3. dawn

    i’m with you, amy. i am so glad to have diana back home for her learning and feeling tentatively confident with ander at school. today was only our first day. i’m sure we will feel more of an impact as time goes on.

    we do have to watch our language more around others. not completely in either camp of homeschool or public school, i find myself having to remove myself from conversations where one or the other is being bashed, which further isolates me. we strive to focus on how well each environment fits specific needs, and that positivity can be lacking in conversations i overhear. so i put on a brave smile and announce to the world that we are a hybrid homeschooling family. i hope to someday feel up to the challenge of homeschooling both children at the same time, but for now, i think we are making the best decision we can that addresses at least some of each person’s needs. it’s fluid – we concentrate more in one area or another as needs change.

    sometimes i explain it as enrolling in public school classes to enhance our homeschooling experience. that way, the impetus and responsibility for guiding our childrens’ education remains precisely where we value it – in our hands.

    and thus begins our conversation, dear amy. 🙂

    1. amy Post author

      Yes, I felt firmly that enrolling a child/children in school didn’t mean we were handing over responsibility for their education. That responsibility still lies with us–and our job is to empower the kids to take on that responsibility for themselves. And I’ll say I’ve found less judgment within the homeschooling community for also having a child/children in school than I’ve found among educational professionals for homeschooling. We were in a good co-op, and nobody there “bashed” school or questioned my parental fitness for sending a child there. Yet I’ve had school-associated people (and other parents) question my “qualifications” for homeschooling. Hmm.

  4. Esther

    This is me too! Two of mine are at school, and the eldest at home. I do find it a bit strange to be between two worlds, but I have (mostly) found people to be quite accepting of the way things are for us. Sometimes it feels as tho I have to have a lot of conversations about school/home education because of this as well. I suspect the parents at school who don’t agree with our choice to home educate just steer clear of the topic. Others react as though I am a saint, which is disconcerting. I’m anything but! Home ed parents ask if the other two want to come out of school yet, but my school-goers are genuinely happy to be there and like being with their friends. I feel they benefit hugely from both worlds as all the home ed stuff is around them each day and they soak up our conversations and work.

    The logistics are a pain and I’m trying to get round that by organising group activities myself, and luckily my eldest is also old enough to travel back with other home ed families when needs be.

    I think it’s actually pretty cool to be in both worlds: to be able to observe and have two different facets of education in our lives. Things would be easier if they were all in school/home but ‘easy’ is no good if we’re not happy.

    1. amy Post author

      Hi Esther, thanks so much for sharing your experiences! (I’ve been offline a bit focusing on other things so apologies for the delay in responding.) I think it’s great you find it easier than I to move between the two worlds. I’m hoping I get a bit more comfortable with it.

Comments are closed.