There is a comment I hear every so often, but others hear it a lot. I think I must give off some sort of scary vibe, because rarely do I get the level of comments others get. Anyway, this particular comment is, 'You should put your child(ren) in school. It would be so much easier for you." This is usually said to a frazzled mom with either many children or special needs children or both. I know the person making the comment thinks they mean well; that they are concerned for the mother's health, but this is certainly not how it comes across.

So let's take a moment and look at what that "easier" might look like.

Mornings. Well, my experience is that schools expect parents to get their children to school on time. One of the cardinal sins of school is tardiness. Also in my experience, large families with children who have different needs are not going to be prize winners in punctuality. So, every single day, the mother must wage war on tardiness. The means making sure everyone is out of bed and functioning in time to leave for school. This means also taking into account children who do not rush well, who shut down with stress, who may be in their prime sleep years and are not fully conscious until noon. The well-organized mother will be sure everyone has their clothes picked out ahead of time, and will go to bed praying fervently every single night that the child who picked them happily will wear those same clothes happily the next morning. Assuming everyone got dressed and ate (no small feat, there), there is also the question of lunches. Who likes what? Who will eat what? Should the mother make the lunches and forgo the excitement of teaching life skills, such as making lunches? Is there even enough food in the house that can be packed to eat later? Oh, and then there are the papers. Papers that need to be signed and returned. Papers that give important information. Information that might require the parent to dig up last minute items that need to be sent to school. Then there is the driving or walking with or pushing out the door at the appropriate time. (Are you tired yet? I am.)

Midday. Ahhh... the children are all off at school. Now the mother can relax. Right. That's assuming all the children are at school and there aren't some little people at home. Oh, and that's also assuming that there isn't anything else school-related the mother has to deal with. Since we're assuming special needs children in our little scenario, we have to assume IEP's. This could be multiple IEP's. And IEP meetings. And questions about what to do when the child comes home and tells about their school day and it happens to be in direct violation of the IEP. Oh, and let's add in a child from trauma. If this is the case, you can pretty much be assured there will be frequent calls home because of some indiscretion or issue caused by this child. More meetings. Then, not all doctor's appointments can be taken care of outside of school hours. Not only do you have to drive the child to the appointment, but now you have to add picking-up an dropping off the child from school and managing their excused absences. Let's not forget any room mother duties, PTA activities, and other school-related volunteer work that happens during the day.

Afternoon. Pick-up from school, or wait for child to come home. Then begins the afternoon's fun. Even if you limit your child's activities outside of school, there is usually at least one or two things that need to be driven to. In the rotten after-school traffic with hungry children if you forgot to bring the snack. There's probably at least one doctor's or therapist's appointment thrown in there as well. Let's also add in at least one melt-down from the stress of holding everything in at school. Assuming there is time before it is time for dinner, it is probably a good idea to get started on the....

Homework. Homework times however many children are in school. I've never really had to deal with homework, but from the myriad of complaints I've heard about it over the years, it's not really a good thing. And certainly not good for parent-child relationships.

Bedtime. In order to get everyone up and out the door the next morning, it is vital to get everyone in bed at an appropriate time the night before. Clothes negotiated, lunches planned, papers found, etc. to cut-down on the chaos that not doing these things can cause the next morning.

Now, I know this is a worst-case scenario. Actually, maybe it's a middle-of-the-road scenario. I haven't even touched on things such as bullying, school-refusal, inappropriate assignments, etc. I also know that many families find that public school works well for them. This is just one of a infinite number of scenarios, knowingly painted with a bias.

Here's my point. sending a child to school is not necessarily easier on the parent than homeschooling. Both have their difficulties, both have their pluses. What works well for one family, may be a train wreck for another. It is the assumption that school will solve a parent's problems that I find tedious, because it is so often not the case. When a struggling parent hears someone say, "Why don't you just sent them to school? It would be so much easier for you." The struggling parent hears, "I am worried that you are a hot mess and wrecking your children. You better let someone else take over." It's not terribly helpful. Often what is at the root of the stress is something not really school-related.... a child with past-trauma or other health issues, either mental or physical; worries about money or relationships; feelings of inadequacy in life in general. Instead, ask this parent what would help? A night out? A chance to share their problems in a non-judgmental atmosphere? Someone to come over a do a load of laundry? Or just feeling as though they had a friend who understood them?

Why can't we all just learn that raising children isn't easy. It is joyful and hard and hilarious and frustrating and wonderful and scary, but it's not easy. No matter where they go to school.


c smith said…
We have been a homeschooling family for 15 years but we had children in public school for 6 years before that, and for us homeschooling is definitely the easier choice. I can't imagine how parents with lots of kids get them up, dressed, fed, and ready to leave before 7 am. It sounds like a nightmare. And, we used to spend more time on homework than we spend on schoolwork now.
Carla said…
Your last paragraph is the best. I think I need to post that somewhere in my house - maybe my bathroom mirror.

Side question: IEPs? I'm not familiar with the acronym.
thecurryseven said…
Carla, IEP stands for 'Individualized Education Program'. It is the document created by the school committee with the parent's input as to what accommodations a child requiring special education is to have. The meetings are notoriously horrendous for everyone.

For the last 10 years, we've had some kids in private school AND we've been homeschooling others. For a few of those crazy years, we've even had other kids in public schools. One particularly insane year, I had 2 in private high school, 2 homeschooling, one at the local public school, and one bused to the special needs public school, and a preschooler. In hindsight, it's no wonder I was a walking disaster those days.

I tease that I have "the worst of both worlds" with homeschooling and having kids in school. We're up and out the door at 7:30 every morning, and I still have the work of teaching when I get home. But overall, it has worked well for us.

Popular posts from this blog

A little more about large families

A post with an unpopular view