The Decision to Homeschool

Okay, here’s the deal. I am 99% sure I am certifiably NUTS!

I chose to pull my 11-year old (5th grade) Bipolar son and my 10-year old (4th grade) Autistic son from their wonderful, amazing public elementary school and start homeschooling them MID-SEMESTER!

I mean no sane person would do that, right?

One child learns quickly, one learns slowly. One is very social, one is not. One is a visual and auditory learner, one is a verbal and kinesthetic learner. My kids could not possibly be more opposite! Oh, did I mention I am just ONE PERSON trying to teach both kiddos with polar opposite special needs?

What was I thinking? Most of the time I can’t remember why I walked into a room and I am now responsible for shaping my children’s intellect? You simply can’t be serious. I keep waiting for someone to jump out from behind the bushes and tell me I’ve been punked!

When they were still in public school, I had to text their daddy pictures of the math problems on their homework so he could help them. Anything beyond add, subtract, multiply, and divide and I. AM. OUT.

Quite frankly, I suck at Trivial Pursuit. Geography is my arch nemesis. I forget who did what in past wars mixed up. And, let’s face it, does anyone really care how many galaxies there are in the universe?

And yet, here I am faced with one of the biggest challenges of my life…homeschooling my amazing (already smarter than me) boys.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-homeschooling. Just like I am not anti-public school. I believe this is an extremely personal decision parents have a right, and a duty, to make for their children. It is a life-altering decision and should not be taken lightly.

The difference between most families making the decision, and my family making the decision, is my family has an extra voice in the discussion…the voice of our son’s Mental Health Disorders. A voice so loud and powerful it often overshadows the voice of reason. A voice that will not, and cannot, be ignored. It is always there, ever-present in every thought.

No matter how much support a public school can give (and, believe me, ours gave 110%), there are just some aspects of my son’s Autistic and Bipolar Disorders they cannot support.

For example, when Adam goes into a psychotic state and starts hallucinating, or his ears start ringing so loud he can’t hear the teacher, it is difficult to help him walk through his symptoms in a typical classroom environment. Alex’s paralyzing social anxieties cannot be accommodated in a room with 20+ other children.

No matter how much I wish things were different, they are not. This is our normal and we have to make decisions based on the reality of our normal.

Despite my fears about not being smart enough or good enough to teach my kids, I knew in my heart of hearts the time had come to make the change to homeschooling.

It was one of those defining moments as a parent where, no matter how difficult it is, you must make a tough decision based on what you kids NEED their normal to be, not what you WISH their normal to be.

Their Bipolar and Autistic voices were deafening and demanded to be heard.

Now just because you feel in your heart you made the right decision, it doesn’t automatically mean everything will go smoothly when you implement that decision. We are 45 days into our homeschooling experience and there have been, and continue to be, a few bumps in the road.

For starters, my older son Adam is furious at me. So F-U-R-I-O-U-S at me. Just me. Just me (not his dad) because I am the face of his homeschooling.

He is a social butterfly whose identity is wrapped up in being the class clown and constantly affirmed by his peers.

While I have convinced him he is not going to lose contact with his friends, he is upset he won’t see them all day every day. I’m sure any kid moving from a public school to a homeschool environment would have a difficult time adjusting, especially switching mid-year.

Naturally, we anticipated this would happen with Adam. But, it has been so much harder on me emotionally than I anticipated. His Biploar Disorder just adds fuel to the fire. Alot of fuel to the fire. A fire that is tearing up and burning my insides. I want my son to be happy. I never want to be the cause of his frustration or sadness.

The problem is the decision to homeschool was a gut-wrenching, grown-up decision we had to make that an 11-year simply can’t understand the complexities of…as a result, I must live with the guilt I feel every time he expresses his anger with me and power on. Easier said than done some days.

Some days I really hate Bipolar Disorder. I mean REALLY HATE it. The deep, dark kind of hate you don’t ever want to admit you feel. The paranoia aspects of Adam’s disorder has him convinced I purposely planned to let him start the school year, make a bunch of friends, and then ruthlessly rip the rug out from underneath him to start homeschooling.

Almost like a conspiracy theory about how badly I wanted to build his hopes up only to maliciously crush his feelings and shatter his dreams. If that doesn’t make you feel like mom of the year, I don’t know what does. But you see, it’s not really my son who believes this nonsense. It is that voice, the overpowering voice of Bipolar paranoia, calling the shots in this game.

I just want to say to him, ‘Are you serious son? I literally exist on this planet to try and make you happy, feel safe, and succeed in life!’ But, I can’t  because my son’s logical thoughts can’t be heard over the powerful voice controlling his mind.

My Autistic son Alex is the exact opposite of Adam. He is thrilled BEYOND MEASURE he no longer faces the social anxieties of a public school classroom. He is no longer constantly forced into social interactions he is not comfortable with. As a result, he has regressed (already) with his verbal skill abilities. To be honest, I am still in a state of shock-and-awe over how quickly his interpersonal communication skills have deteriorated in a matter of weeks.

I think to myself, this is my fault. All my fault. While he is thrilled to keep to himself more, I feel like I am letting him down. Not living up to what he deserves in a mom. I know this is the voice of the enemy but sometimes, when left alone with my thoughts, I begin to believe the enemy.

Of course we will enroll him in some social skills classes, and continue to encourage social interactions, but that really doesn’t alleviate the guilt I feel as a mom.

However, even though Adam and Alex (and Mommy too) are facing challenges they must overcome with homeschooling, let me just say the good has far outweighed the bad! Overall, Adam and Alex’s anxiety levels have significantly decreased. When I say significantly, I mean their stress levels have dropped an unbelievable amount in just 45 days. So many people have commented they notice a huge difference. This makes my heart smile and helps me fight the enemy in my darkest thoughts.

Also, it turns out you don’t have to be Einstein to teach your kids. Who knew? You just have to love them enough to give them what they need, their way, at their pace. Dare I say, I am actually having fun in my new gig! This whole journey has brought us closer together.

I still can’t figure out why they are attentive listeners, totally respectful, and shockingly kind towards each other while school is in session, and then act like wild maniacs when school is over, but I’ll take it!

And while I know it will takes months with his therapist before Adam sorts through the anger he feels towards me, and months for Alex to improve his communication skills,  I know it is going to work out. I own this decision and I know I made the right decision.

However, there is one more piece of this puzzle. Think of it as the one lost piece you can’t find to finish the puzzle and consider it complete. That piece is ME.

Yes, ME. Dawn the individual in this new homeschooling scenario. Oh my stars, the guilt I feel for having selfish thoughts. My kids always have, and always will, come first so I feel like I have no right to spend emotionally energy thinking about myself on this journey.

But, the reality is sometimes I really miss my old life. The life where my kids were in school all day and it was easy to keep up with running the house. The life where I could make every one of my doctor’s appointments without fail. The life where I could enjoy coffee in the morning, or lunch in the afternoon, with friends. The life where I had time alone with my thoughts.

My therapist says I need to allow myself some grace and recognize it is normal to mourn how my life used to be before I started homeschooling. Talk about a weird dynamic. One the on hand I am THRILLED to be homeschooling my angels…they are my whole heart! To see how quickly they have adjusted into a new routine, one with much less stress/anxiety, is a joy like no other!

But on the other hand, where is my sense of self in all this? And, how do I deal with the selfish feelings I have regarding the loss of my life as I used to know it. I’m still working on figuring this part out (stay tuned). God bless my poor therapist, LOL!

Here is what I do know for sure. For some, the decision to homeschool is an easy one. Many feel led to homeschool from the beginning. That is truly amazing and I admire these moms more than words can express.

For other moms like me, they are forced by unforeseen circumstances to begin homeschooling rather abruptly. It is a scary, tremendously difficult decision to make, and transition to implement, but it can be done! You just have to follow your mommy-gut and make the decision based on what your kids NEED their normal to be, not what you WISH their normal to be.

If I can do it, anyone can. If you are a mom facing this decision, hang tough and follow your momma bear instincts. You got this!

By the way, I still suck at Trivial Pursuit but I’m working on it…   🙂

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