Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Journey to Public Education Part One

This post has been a long time coming. I have so much to update you on that I'm afraid I'll have to break it up into a couple of posts. I've sat down to write this numerous times, but I just wanted to have a little more time under my belt to offer some perspective. Yes, you read the title right. And if you're thinking that you can't believe it since I've gone on and on about how much we love our University Model School then you are right again.

DISCLAIMER: Before I get into the details of why we made this change, this post is not a why you should or shouldn't educate your child in this way or that. It is a post, however, on why you should follow God on whatever method of education He calls your family to. Our family has now experienced three different education models and I believe that God led us to each one and each was a blessing to our family for the time we were meant to be there.

So, I'll start back in spring of 2015. As you may recall we built a house (ugh, I need to update you on that too...house post coming soon). At the end of our street sits an elementary school. As we found our future home location, I thought, "How wonderful it will be to have a playground and basketball court so close to our house!", never thinking in just a few short months our kids would be enrolled there.

Part of the reason that this post is hard for me to write is that I have to be upfront and tell you that I am part of the reason that the University Model was not working so well for our family. You may recall that I was working at the school last year, which means I was working three days a week and homeschooling the other two days. It's not a secret that I love keeping our home a haven and I struggled with not having a divided heart on home school days. I think having a new home to nest in made this even more of a challenge for me. So, what I mean by that is sitting down with my first grader while he did his school work was really not the first thing that I wanted to do. Of course, I always did and we always got the work done, but I know my attitude could have been better.

Harrison, who has always been an absolute delight, was beginning to really fight me on home school days. What took me quite some time to realize was that Harrison was fighting me for a good reason and it had nothing to do with discipline. He was flat out struggling to learn to read and, by the end of first grade, he was becoming aware of it, too. It broke my heart to hear him call himself terrible on more than one occasion. I was in-over-my-head and God was just beginning to open my eyes to it.

I do want to tell you that I firmly believe that I went wrong in this area. I should have been telling his teacher and the principal how we were struggling on home school days. I have no doubt they could have given me strategies to help. I do believe that it was my pride that kept me from coming forward sooner. So, that's my PSA to all the UMS parents reading this. You are in a partnership, please don't let pride get in the way when things aren't working.

I also became more aware that Harrison really seems to enjoy learning in the school setting much more than the home school setting. He was always happy at school and our relationship was suffering on home school days. One of the main reasons for our choosing of this UMS school was to spend more time with our children and sadly I was hardly spending any time leading Harrison to Jesus. I was mentally exhausted on those home school days.

At the same time, we began hearing absolutely wonderful things about the school down the street. In fact, I had never heard such marvelous things about any school. On home school days, I would see happy children walking home with their parents after school, after such rough days, this certainly got me thinking. However, we loved our school and for so many reasons. We had such wonderful friends and loved so many things about the school that if God was moving us to make this change it certainly wasn't going to be easy.

So, I got down to business with God. I prayed specifically about this situation for weeks and God began opening my eyes. I wrote down everything that God was revealing to me because I knew I was going to need to be reading it again and again as this was not going to be easy at all. You might not know why this would be such a hard decision, but we had previously had a tough season at a public school for one thing. Not to mention, I had put so much weight on being at a school with like-minded parents, students, and teachers that it was very hard for me to let that go. I do believe that God spoke directly to me and, as much as I would like to tell you what He said, I'm not going to. Mainly, because I believe that what He revealed to me was specifically for us and our situation. But, I can tell you that He gave me some great confirmations along the way as only God can do.

As it became more clear that putting Harrison into the elementary school down the street might be a good direction for him, we still had Haley to think about. You might notice that I hadn't mentioned her at all. Haley was thriving and doing amazingly well in fourth grade. Haley was growing and showing such maturity in completing her responsibilities on home school days. She had teachers that inspired her and loved her, not to mention darling friends. Things were going exceptionally well for her and one of her teachers would even be looping up with the class. But, as we began discussing and praying if Haley should go or stay, one thing crossed our minds, if she is going to make the change to public, fifth grade would be better than throwing her into middle school with basically no friends. So, it kind of seemed like we either needed to do it now or never in a sense.

We ultimately let Haley make this decision with our guidance. I think her first reaction was shock when we told her what we were thinking. After all, the end of her 2nd grade year in public was such a bad situation that we pulled her early and home schooled for the last two months of school. As only God can do, He led her and she quickly decided that she wanted to make the change, too. Her words exactly were "I want to be a light in that school". I was so proud of her, how could I say no even though I knew that this could mean that she would grow up faster. Of course, this meant leaving beloved teachers and friends which was still tough no matter what.

We called the new school in the spring and visited the school on a home school day. Of course, it seemed so big from where we were, but a sweet volunteer gave us a tour. Once again, we heard of how much her family loved the school and she happened to have a daughter who was in the same grade as Haley. After we finished the tour, I left my number at the desk to see if someone could call me and tell me a bit about their curriculum. I didn't say anything specific, but I though it might be nice if Haley needed to learn some math or something over the summer to be where the other students were starting the school year. I actually came home and cried after touring the school. I think that I was having to let go of the plans that I had made and embrace the plans that God had for me. His plans are always better as I will learn yet again.

We told our school shortly after of our plans to leave and go in a new direction. This meant that I would be staying home again as well. Overall, the whole school community was absolutely lovely to us as we told them, and I still consider many of the friends I met there to be my closest friends. One of my biggest prayers when we went to that school was for God to give us like-minded friends and He delivered.

Of course, it was still hard to leave and God was so kind to give me a confirmation that could only come from him. As I was sitting at my desk at work one day,  two staff members that I greatly respect and who have been in education for years were chatting with me about Harrison. I know their hearts were in the right place and they were only trying to provide me with wisdom, but basically one in particular told me that we were making a huge mistake. She felt that Harrison would lose a year and fall further behind. She suspected that we were dealing with dyslexia and that he needed to home school and get treated specifically for that for at least a year. I was in tears by the time this conversation ended. Remember how I left my number at the school? Well, that was a couple of weeks ago. Not a minute after they walked away from the desk, the sweetest lady from the new school called me who happened to be the instructional specialist who facilitates all of the testing and intervention for kids with learning issues. My conversation with her was such an amazing confirmation from God that we were on the right track.

So, that is how we came to the decision to enter public schooling this school year, but that is only the beginning of the story and I can't wait to tell you what all has happened! I will say that I have never had more peace taking my children to school the first day. 

You can read Part Two here.

Thanks for stopping by and sorry that I haven't updated you all in so long!


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