Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hell Week Post #1: We Aren't Trying to Ruin Our Kids' Lives, I Swear

I am officially labeling this week as "Hell Week," and it's only Thursday. It's been so amazingly, sweet-ass awesome (can you sense my sarcasm?), that it's going to warrant 3 posts from me.
My mantra right now...

Yes, 3 posts. I can't cram all of this week into one post. It would look a lot like a busted can of biscuits if I tried, and I don't like to make my readers' heads explode.

I will, however, give y'all a teaser of what my week has entailed, and then we'll just jump right into the first part of my week.

This week, Hell Week, started off with Hubby and I making one of the largest decisions we could possibly make for our kids- The Girl is still barely speaking to us because of it. Mid-week, we crushed The Ginger's innocence forever, and just after that, I contracted what can only be a precursor to the Zombie Virus. That's my Hell Week thus far, and please knock on some wood for me that the remainder of the week does NOT warrant a fourth post in this series.

So now that you have an overview of this week for me, let's just head right into one of the biggest decisions I've ever made as a parent, shall we?

Monday morning, as the kids were getting ready for school, The Ginger opened up his homework folder (keep in mind that last week was Thanksgiving, so the kids have been out of school since the Wednesday before this), and threw his head back. Tears started filling his eyes.

The Ginger: Mom, can I PLEASE stay home from school today?
Me: Nope. But why do you ask?
The Ginger: Because my state report is due today and I forgot all about it. I didn't work on it at all this weekend.
Me: Nope, sorry. You didn't do your homework, so you need to fully understand the consequences to
your actions.
The Ginger: But...
Me: No buts. I asked you Wednesday when you got home if you had anything to do over the break and you just said read your book. 
The Ginger: I know, but...
Me. Nope. No buts. This is what happens, honey.

So, he hated me, stormed out the door and went to school.

The Girl was packing her bookbag, and this strange look came over her. She ran to the bathroom.

Sick, you ask? Nope, not in the outbreak-monkey-kids-passed-some-contagious-disease-onto-her type of way.

The Girl, at just 12 years old, slightly suffers from anxiety when it comes to going to school. I suffered from it when I was 18, which is why I medically withdrew from East Carolina University my freshman year; it's kind of hard to attend classes when you can't get out of the bathroom to go to class.

I was 18 and it sucked. My daughter is 12. 12 year olds should NOT suffer from anxiety to the point where she has to make a daily pitstop in the bathroom prior to going to school.

She exited the bathroom, and I told her it was time to head to school. She picked up her bookbag, and the look came over her face again. She dropped the bag and hauled ass back to the bathroom.

One trip in the morning is standard for her. Two trips- out of the ordinary. I could only assume it was because she had 4 days off from school instead of 2, so the anxiety was double for her- mathematically makes sense, right?

After a few minutes, we finally got on the road.

Me: Honey, are you okay? You ran to the bathroom twice this morning instead of just once.
The Girl: Yeah, I'm okay. It was bad this morning.
Me: You know it's anxiety, right?
The Girl: Yeah, I guess. I just don't like going to school. Once I get there, I'm okay, but getting there is the problem.
Me: I know, honey. I suffered through it for months in college until I couldn't take it anymore. I was mentally beat down by it, so I withdrew from that school and found a smaller one closer to home.
The Girl: Oh. I didn't know you were like this.
Me: I was... when I was 18. Not 12, sweetheart. Are you okay living your life like this?
The Girl: (thought for a moment) No, not really. 
Me: Well, we need to change something, then.

I dropped her off at school, and my brain was going 90 mph. Hubby and I had already been discussing homeschooling, but it was something we were leaning toward starting after this school year was done.

I came home, opened up the computer, and went to the websites of the two online schools we had narrowed it down to. I called both of them, talked for what seemed like forever, writing notes as I went, and when I got off the phone with the second school, I hauled ass upstairs and woke Hubby up.

Me: I changed my mind on the homeschooling thing.
Hubby: What? Why? I thought we were going to go with it.
Me: We are. Just not for next school year.
Hubby: When, then?
Me: January. They can start with the second semester. I mean, if you think it's a good idea, too, of course.
Hubby: Oh, cool. What made you come to this decision?

So, I told him everything. I told him about The Ginger's project and how horrible I felt that I didn't check behind him, even though he told me he didn't have work (Mom Guilt gets you everywhere). I told him about The Girl's growing anxiety and how I want so much better for my children.

He was sold.

I covered my notes from the conversations with both online schools, and we decided to go with K12 because we liked the fact that the kids would have a foreign language, music and art all in their school day- something the education system around here is seriously lacking.

I became excited, he was excited; we couldn't wait to tell the kids that they just had 3 more weeks of conventional school left, and then we'd be making the transition to homeschooling- less stress, more learning fun things, and they could do everything in their pjs if they wanted.

The Ginger was fine with it.

The Girl still has her moments where she bursts into tears and refuses to talk to us, and we gave her the news 3 days ago.

She and I had a long talk last night about why we were homeschooling, and the benefits down the road. Her hangups, of course, were her friends at school. She was fine with the new curriculum, and the idea of homeschooling, but she drama-queened the hell out of how she'd never see her friends ever again, for the rest of her life.

So, we made a deal. If she could put aside her over-dramatization, and give homeschooling an honest-to-goodness try, we'd re-evaluate at the end of the school year to see if we were going to continue homeschooling next year, or re-enroll her back into her program at school. But, she had to give it a real try, not a half-assed one.

She agreed.

I knew this would be the hardest on her, because of her age. Middle school is a very emotional time for kids, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world. And while I see the strife it is causing my daughter, so much to the point that it manifests physically in her, that's not something that matters to her. I was quite shocked when we had this conversation:

Me: Honey, don't you want the anxiety to go away? Don't you want to look forward to school, to learning, and not have to run to the bathroom when you think about going to school?
The Girl: Yeah, but I'm fine, Mom. I can suffer through it in the mornings to be able to see my friends and go to school. I do it every morning and I can keep doing it.

My heart broke when she said that to me. It just reaffirmed that, as her parents, Hubby and I needed to make this decision for her, for what's best for her. And right now, homeschooling is what's best for both my kids.

The Girl asked me, in one of her moments of speaking to us this week, why we were ruining her life. Why were we planning on taking them out in the middle of the school year, instead of letting them just start next year, if at all?

First off, we aren't trying to ruin our kids' lives, I swear. We feel our family needs a huge change, a change for the better, and there's no time like the present to initiate change, especially when motivation is high and spirits are good (well, Hubby's and my spirits, at least).

Am I scared? Oh bloody hell, of course I am. I'm terrified that I'm making the biggest mistake in my kids' lives ever. I'm terrified that pulling them out of conventional schools will stop the socialization aspect of their youth completely. I'm terrified that my kids will be branded "those weird homeschooled kids" and never make friends again. I'm terrified that I won't have the patience to homeschool. I'm terrified that I'm traumatizing them forever, and they'll be telling their therapists in 20 years how their mom ripped them away from their lives, mid-school year, and made them be homeschooled.

But on the flip side, I'm terrified of what's in store for my daughter down the road, if she's suffering from anxiety at the age of 12. I'm terrified of my kids never living up to their potentials because they were stuck in one of the worst school systems in the United States, which has a flawed education system as it is (Arizona is ranked 46th in the country right now). I'm terrified of what is exposed to my children in public schools, as far as sex, drugs, etc. I'm terrified of some random kid, unhappy with their life, walking into a public school with a gun and an attitude. I'm terrified of my kids living their life unhappy.

Those scenarios scare me much more than the ones above them. That's how Hubby and I made the decision to homeschool.
I'm not quite there yet...

Parenting is a very scary adventure; one with huge pitfalls and even greater rewards. You just have to make decisions based on which path terrifies you in a way that you are comfortable with.

For our family, we are comfortable with the unknowns of homeschooling. We understand there will be ups and downs, curve balls thrown, and it will be a struggle at first. But, we feel these all outweigh keeping the kids where they are, living the lives they currently lead, heading down paths of lost potential and anxiety. I want so much more for my kids than that.

All of this, on a Monday, the Monday of my Hell Week. Stay tuned for Hell Week Post #2, which will arrive in the next few days, and chronicle how we crushed The Ginger's innocence forever.

Good grief, this week needs to end...

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  1. Aw honey... Those kinds of weeks SUCK. *solidarity hug*

    Homeschooling IS hard. And scary as hell. But. Your daughter will find she actually has MORE time for socializing. Her schedule will be more flexible. She'll probably make new friends within the homeschooling community, especially if you get involved in local groups. The trade offs are SO worth it.

    About the anxiety... And I'm treading very lightly here, because I used to be That Mom. The one who vowed her kids would never become statistics, those kids who are medicated just so they can function. I was diagnosed with PTSD back in 1989, when it was still a relatively new and misunderstood term, and I've managed the accompanying anxiety and depression for 20+ years without medication. I was lucky enough to learn solid coping skills early on.

    Fast forward to Babygirl's later years of elementary and the Hell years of middle school. To anxiety and depression. To the year that she missed over 20 days in the first 3 months of school because everything was just too much and her stomach/headaches became debilitating.

    All I'll say is... Having been where you are in the journey, with pre-teens dealing with serious anxiety, and in our case, depression issues, I have learned that the mild medication prescribed by our very competent counselor has been a lifesaver.

    I expressed my concerns to the counselor, about my kids being "dependent" on meds, and her response was golden. She told me, yes, you can deal with your issues without meds. You're also an adult who has had years to learn those coping skills and build yourself a strong network for support. Your kids are still in the early stages of life. Their friendships are relatively transient, and life is changing at a much faster pace, and they have a lot less control. So, the meds are a temporary support, to take them through this stage, while they build the muscles to deal with what is likely going to be a life-long issue. As they get older, more mature, and more self-assured, we can begin to wean them off, until they're able to cope without the extra help.

    So, I would respectfully recommend that you consider talking to her doc, and possibly a counselor (but with a caveat- sometimes it takes a couple tries to find a good fit- and that relationship is SO important to this process!), about whether learned coping skills, or medication, or both, could be helpful to your daughter.

    Good luck, Mama. For what it's worth coming from a stranger, I think you're doing an awesome job. (hugs)

    1. Thanks for your comment, and for your advice. We are going to see if the homeschooling "fixes" the anxiety, and if it does, awesomesauce. If not, I will definitely be looking into other means, especially if it gets worse. I tend to be a natural remedy type of person, with herbs and yoga, correct diet and meditation, but I know that doesn't work for everyone, especially not a hormonal pre-teen, lol.

      Thank you for your kind words and support, too. ;)

  2. It's never easy to make a tough decision for your kids. I wish I could homeschool my oldest - he's struggled SO MUCH since first grade...he's completely capable of doing A work, but consistently brings home D/F work because he's so distracted by everything, and anxious about not knowing how to do things and just plain not asking for help. I can sit down with him at home, just sitting there, and he's a boss at long division. At school? He cannot finish a test to save his life. Same deal with just about every subject. My middle? He coasts. Does a weeks worth of homework on Monday, brings home B's and A's without any effort, and would rather draw his way through school than do math facts. #3 is the wild card. He's in transitional kindy (basically, his birthday is 13 days after the cutoff for regular kindy), but stubborn as hell. He knows all of the material at home, but refuses to participate in class. He loves station work, but hates group time.
    My kids are all 3 THOSE kids. The ones who stick out at plays and programs because they aren't doing ANYTHING. The ones who get the "if little Johnny only applied himself..." notes on their report cards. It sucks sideways, because I'm the breadwinner of the family, and there's nothing I'd like more (even though I'd probably throttle them) than to stay home and teach my kids what I feel it's important for them to learn, in the way best suited to them.

    I'm in awe of you right now. Do let us know how things progress for you!

    1. Aww, thank you. You just made me seriously smile. ;)
      The Ginger is one of THOSE kids, too, lol. His teacher told me she expects him to get 100s on all of his papers, because the potential is there, but he brings home just passing grades because he doesn't apply himself. And, apparently my kid is the class clown. That's always a *fun* thing to deal with, lol.
      Thanks for your comment! I will definitely be posting when the homeschooling starts... even if I'm posting from the back of my closet with a bottle of moscato, lol.

  3. I just want to lend you a bit of support during this transitional time. When my daughter was in 1st grade we had a series of situations where homeschooling became necessary. By Thanksgiving we had made the decision to try homeschooling but left her in school for December so she could experience the Christmas activities at school. I never wanted to homeschool, I'm what my homeschool curriculum ( calls an accidental homeschooler, and I was terrified...I'm getting to the support and reassurance :) Eight years later we are still homeschooling. My daughter is in 9th grade homeschool this year. She is less anxious, is off of her ADHD meds, and finds school really easy. I can't imagine any other way of educating my daughter now. You will love watching them learn, they will like the flexibility. You can do it, it is an incredible journey. And here is a part of that flexibility...if you decide that the curriculum you chose doesn't work, try something else. If you decide that homeschooling doesn't work, go back to school. You are not contracting to homeschool forever, just one semester, then another, and another. Give yourself and your kids a little bit of time to decompress and to learn a new way of learning. Find a local homeschool support group and join. Remember that there are a lot of us homeschoolers out there and you might have to look around to find a group that will work in with the way your life works. Best of luck, and welcome to the wonderful journey of homeschooling!

    1. Thanks!! I'm glad it worked for your family; I think we are going to do well with it- all of us, including me. Your advice is awesome, so thank you for that! ;)