Letting Go: A Homeschool Story

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while. Not because I feel any shame or am questioning our decision to place our three oldest children in school this year – no, it’s just that for some reason, any time I write about  MY own decisions regarding how I raise my kids, what I feed them, how I educate them, how I choose to discipline and raise them or even how I choose to birth them, I offend people. Which is the furthest thing from what I am trying to accomplish. I know a lot of our family’s decisions are not main stream, which is actually one of the reasons I like to write about them. I know I’m grateful other moms who took a more unconventional route in their lives took the time to share their experiences.

If you do find yourself feeling defensive or offended as you read this, please remember, this is not an attack on your or your decisions. I am not pro-homeschooling or anti-public school, I just want everyone to know what their options are, take time to research and think and move in the direction God leads them.

Ok, let’s get to it – the elephant in the room: I, Vanessa Fernandez, a STRONG and passionate promoter of homeschooling, have decided to place my children into ….THE SYSTEM (aka a local charter school)…. DUN DUN DUUUNNNNNNNNN!

First of all, there was not ONE solitary reason why we chose to educate our children this way, it was a very hard decisions we made, based on SEVERAL factors and we are taking it one year at a time.

I guess I’ll begin with my son.

I have been very open and honest with my struggles to educate my oldest son. He is a brilliant, amazing, articulate, sweet and beautiful soul. However, once I began more formally instructing him, I was not prepared for the battle royal that I would face each and every day.

I wrote more specifically about this in an earlier blog post – you can read it here.

I went into homeschooling our first year just wanting to have fun and figure out my children’s learning style so I could adapt my approach to them (which is one of my favorite things about homeschooling) I didn’t know what I was doing, to be quite honest, but as a child who LOVED school and learning I was surprised when my son gave me such push back and seemed not to be able to focus or progress in reading and phonics specifically.

Year two I kept trying different things (all in all we went through six different reading/phonics curriculums) but I also had a clingy-needy baby and two other children to juggle and the battle to teach my son was exhausting me. I felt like 100% of our school time was spend calming tantrums and working through character issues. I was fine with this, because I believe that building character is a HUGE component of a well-rounded education. And if I’ve being honest, we did a ton of great stuff in year two! We upped our memory work, our bare bones curriculum was getting a boost from science, latin, doing a co-op that was heavily math/logic focused, our read-aloud time was amazing and we dove into some great classics.

Reading was our achilles heel. (I more recently found out he has an eye convergence and brain integration issue that we have been doing daily therapy to try and correct and that was probably a big issue as to why he was so resistant to reading)

What saddened me the most however, because I was fine with my son being 8 or 9 or even 10 until he learned to read, was my daughter. My sweet second born, the most gentle, beautiful, kind creature you ever met. She LOVED school. She was EAGER to learn. She was almost at my son’s same reading level – with practically zero instruction. And that is what broke my heart. I was not able to invest time with her, because my son was taking all my time, energy and focus.

So, all this is brewing…now enter factor #2: Beachbody

I am a Beachbody coach and I started about four and a half years ago – before we started homeschooling, before my fourth child was born (more on her later!) and over time it has grown tremendously! It is a large part of our family’s income, we rely on it to pay bills, get out of debt, etc. I LOVE it, and my team is growing and my clients are some of my favorite people.

As homeschooling, and raising four kids and my business were all GROWING UP together, they were ALL needing more and more of my time and focus.

I was actually 100% ok with quitting my job to focus on my children and their education. In order for that to be financially possible, we were going to have to move to a city with lower cost of living (we currently live in Miami, FL). So, my husband tried, for TWO YEARS, to find employment in another city. Countless interviews, flying all over the country, our hopes would get up and then, something wouldn’t be right and we’d be back to the drawing board.

As each month and each year would pass, we kept feeling like something had to give, it was an extremely difficult time. (there’s so much I could write….but this post is already long enough!)

The third factor, and this is going to sound SO WRONG, but it’s just the truth, our fourth child. She is magic. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you see how much I am obsessed with her. I will shamelessly tell anyone that she is the CUTEST child ever created, and yet….how do I put this nicely….she is FIRE.

From the day I found I was unexpectedly pregnant, to the pregnancy-long, debilitating “morning sickness” (that I got mostly at night), to her newborn stage where she practically LIVED in her Solly Wrap, to her ability to get into and create chaos in ways her three older siblings never even considered.

I thought adding one more would be no big deal, I felt like a pretty seasoned, bad-ass, mom of three – boy, was I wrong. The tantrums, the spirit, the sass – is like no other. I truly feel that THIS factor, beyond all the others, has been the biggest determinant for our decision. This sweet baby has broken me down and made it virtually impossible for me to fulfill all of the things that were asked of me as a homeschooling mom, Beachbody coach, wife, friend, keeper of the home, and all the rest.

I know that God brought her into our family for MANY reasons (she is pure SUNSHINE you guys, If you are around her, you feel it – her smile is brilliant, and her energy is pure gold) but I believe one of them was truly to humble me.

Now that you have a lay of the land, the issues with educating my son, the eagerness of my second oldest daughter to learn, the increasing demands of my wonderful coaching business, the handful of my fourth child and the inability to leave our high cost city in south florida, here’s what happened next:

The ONLY school that we would ever consider sending our children to in Miami was a small charter classical school in South Miami (about an hour drive from where we lived), but the wait list to get in was enormous and we had tried once a few years ago, but weren’t selected.

After having applied to SO MANY different jobs all around the country, my husband noticed this school had a job opening for a History teacher. “Should I apply for it?” He asked me.

“Sure, why not?! Nothing else has worked out, I doubt it will, but go for it.” (so much faith I had!)

It was amazing how quickly the interview was set up, the job offer came within two weeks, it was a raise from his previous position and the kids would be allowed to attend. Not only that, moving closer to the school would allow us to rent out the home we owned and increase our monthly income.

All of the puzzle pieces that weren’t fitting, seemed to find resolution in THIS opportunity.

My son would get a little distance from me (all of these learning battles had been good and not so good for our relationship) and some dedicated tutoring in reading (one that wouldn’t be interrupted by little miss sunshine every fourth word).

My daughter would get to learn to her little heart’s content.

I would have a few kid-free hours each day to dedicate to my growing business.

My husband would be teaching in a school where he aligned with the teaching philosophy and methodology (His work situation previous to this was abysmal, but that’s a WHOLE other story)

So, we prayed about it and felt like this was where God was leading us and our family.

Have there been growing pains? Yes.

Do I miss homeschooling? Absolutely, cried my eyes out for a whole day last week.

Is this an answer to prayer and a great solution for us during this year? Absolutely.

Will I return to homeschooling one day? I wouldn’t be surprised at all!

I am actually working on a guide that will help families who appreciate and desire some of the perks of homeschooling but aren’t able to traditionally homeschool. I’ve actually been able to implement a lot of the rhythms, read-alouds, narration, nature walks and socratic conversations into our day and still feel like that heart of a homeschooler can be expressed whether you homeschool exclusively or do a hybrid or have them full time in school. It’s been fun to explore and I can’t wait to share more.

I hope this post is helpful, not just to satisfy any curiosity you may have had about our situation, but also to encourage you that there can be beauty in submitting to God’s will – even if it’s not what you always envisioned it would be.

I know a HUGE lesson for me through this time has been surrender. I did NOT want to have to give up homeschooling. I thought I could just muscle through – I could do it all, I just needed better systems, curriculum, etc. When in the end, God pushed me to my limit, encouraged me to let go, and has been walking with me through each step.

Letting go some of my control over my kids, over our finances, over my schedule and day is not my favorite lesson, but I guess it’s not just the kids who are learning new things this year.

 

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