As parents, we all face a time (sometimes more than once) in our parenting years where we struggle with making the right schooling decision (whether kids attend a national school, international school, or home-school). I know I shed my share of tears over the issue of whether or not to pull one of my children out of school to return to home-school.
My biggest struggle was the misconception that traditional school was supposed to make my life “stress-free” so I could focus on other things. I found it very stressful, and our family went back and forth about what was best for our child in the long term. The desire of this mother’s heart was to bail her daughter out so that she didn’t think less of herself (like she was stupid in comparison to the other kids at the school) and also so that her GPA was not ruined for this ‘stress-free’ year of her life and ours.
We sought counsel from many. We made it a prayer point with coworkers, friends, and church family. We acted upon what we felt the Lord was saying to us, not only through our own prayers but from the wisdom and counsel of many. The counsel/wisdom and decision was this:
1. Don’t bail your child out mid-year. We knew that this first semester, perhaps even the first year, would be difficult because of learning to adjust to a school schedule, different teachers’ expectations, different authorities over her, etc.
2. It’s better to go through the struggle with them, alongside them, while you still have them at home; and for them to experience this difficulty while you are there to help them through it, supporting them, rather than for them to only be able to experience similar difficulties for their first time when they go off to college.
3. Children who miss school time for illness or travel can also be behind. Our daughter was playing ‘catch-up’ on subjects to which I had not done justice (especially creative writing). Plus, our daughter had grown accustomed to one teacher’s expectations (mine) and she found that different teachers expected different things of her than I did. This was often a struggle for her.
4. Let your child finish out the year. As much as I wanted to pull her out, we let her finish out her school year. Her grades greatly improved by year’s end. She still did horrible on some exams, which brought her final class grades down a bit, but in the end she grew tremendously, she learned heaps in areas I was not doing a good job, and she developed incredible study habits that she continues to use. Many educators agree that good study habits, not just having good grades, makes for a successful college student. Students who find high school easy often suffer their first year of college because they never developed good study habits.
All this to say: I agree with many educators who counsel against pulling students out of school mid-year. This first year at a new school, new teachers, new curriculum, new expectations, could probably only entail struggles. Now, does that mean you shouldn’t consider home schooling at all? Absolutely not!
Give it till the end of the year. If by year’s end, you feel that traditional school is not the right match for your child, then start afresh in the fall with home schooling. I am not trying to imply that grades aren’t always important, but grades aren’t everything.
I learned that the Lord is sovereign and all-knowing. When a child wants to attend university, there’s usually a way, regardless of whether they did poorly in high school or not. GPA is not our God. University is not our ultimate goal! Self-worth and self-value is not found in these things. . .it’s found in our Lord and in Him alone.
Encourage your kids not to look at this as failure but as a lesson learned. Help them figure out how to improve in areas they’re weak. I kept telling my daughter last year that these were all little lessons and that we could choose to be defeated by ’em or overcome ’em but not in our own strength but the Lord’s. We prayed a lot. . .a lot. . .for the school situation. Even till now, we pray with all the kids before they walk out the door every morning. We pray for every quiz or test. If we forget, they remind us at the door. They’re learning that they have to do their part. . .study. . .but to put their trust in their Father and not in their own wisdom. We still have our struggles but our daughter is doing so much better this year with hardly any stress. She’s learned the ropes, so to speak.
We put another daughter in the international school this year for 9th grade. She’s had similar struggles as her sister did last year but because we all know what to expect this go round, it has been a bit easier. Our second daughter is trying her hardest and sometimes still doesn’t make the mark, but her teachers have all said that she’s one of the hardest workers in class and that really counts for something. Pray hard with them. Let them know that this is as much a struggle for you as it is for them. They know you’re concerned. They know you care. They know you want what is best for them and desire for them what the Lord desires.
Character issues are something that will also need to be addressed, whether they attend an international school or home school. Moms lead busy lives balancing family, work, and ministry to neighbors. Each family needs to look at its schedule and establish a family standard, a rule even, about how often to have people in the home or how many evenings a week to be away from home. Business men and women, ministers, teachers, and doctors all face struggles with balancing work, family, relaxation, and reaching out to those in need. It’s a hard balance especially when something you are excited about or passionate about is occurring!
Everyone needs to learn balance, otherwise, marriages suffer, children suffer, and personal health suffers. And, when these things suffer, then we cease being able to do our jobs and help others. This struggle is not one that only moms face, either.
I’m often reminded of the tremendous ministry of Billy Sunday. I read his story. He was on fire for the Lord and led so many people to a saving knowledge of our Father. As I read his book, I was awe-inspired. Then, as I drew near to the end of this book, I read that his family turned against him, even somewhat despised him, for they were ignored in his ministry. He stayed gone from them. He didn’t spend time with them as he did with others. The saddest was that the majority of his family not only had no relationship with him but had no relationship with the Lord either.
Now, that’s a bit drastic and I’m not saying that is indicative of your family. We can all face schooling struggles whether our lives are busy or not. However, if your life does feel busy, then here is a tip: Sit down with your children and ask them how they think things are going at home and/or at school. Ask them how they’re feeling with the busy-ness of your lives. They can often times be your true gauge. Include them in your concerns and ask them their thoughts. This goes a long way in letting them know your concerns and makes them feel that they have a say somewhat in the overall decision-making of what to do to remedy the situation. Finally, remember to seek counsel from others, pray often for and with your children, and don’t give up!
Mid-Year School struggles (download here)