Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Back to School 2021

How have my babies gotten so big? How is it possible that I have 3 middle schoolers and no preschoolers??

In the 8 years that we've had school-aged kids, our family has done almost every version of school possible. 
Public school? Yep. 
Homeschool program that meets once a week? Done. 
Private Christian school? Check.
Traditional mom-taught homeschool? Yes.
Private International school? Also yes.

And what's working for us now is actually none of the above! When we first moved here, I homeschooled everyone. But that just wasn't going really well. I was stressed, exhausted, and worst of all, my relationships with my kids were tanking from the stress. So eventually we decided it was best to get a one-on-one tutor for Jude, me to only homeschool Haylee (she was the only one in secondary school), and to send the younger three to a local private international school. The school wasn't perfect, but the whole situation was so much better than me trying to teach everyone.

Then when Covid hit and their school went online, we decided really quickly that we'd rather just go back to traditional homeschooling than try to manage all of that mess (I know so many of you understand). So we went back to mom-taught homeschooling. And for more reasons than just Covid, we've stuck with it even once their school went back to in-person lessons. And while we feel certain that that is what is best for the kids at this point, we realized that it is still not at all what is best for this mama.

Guys, I don't know what it is. We homeschooled for several years in America and I never struggled like this. I think a lot of it is the added stresses of missionary life, and I think some of it may be spiritual warfare (we notice spiritual warfare often in our physical and mental health, or lack thereof). But the longer I homeschooled all of these little sweet potatoes, the worse my mental health became. 

That may make you uncomfortable, but I'm learning that we would all benefit from more open and honest conversations about mental health, especially among moms and/or missionaries. Life is hard! Caring for our mental and physical health (which are interrelated, as my favorite Legally Blonde quote makes clear: "Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don't kill their husbands... they just don't!")

So anyway, last year we found a middle-ground that is working for us for now- homeschooling with tutors. It has honestly been a lifesaver for all of us. 

Grace has been teaching Jude for over a year and a half now, and she has been an incredible blessing to all of us. He has come so far and learned so much with her gentle, loving care. He loves her so much, and is so eager to do school with her every day. Ok... most days. But seriously, they are great together.

Also for a while now, Abe has been going to Tamala's house during the day to learn Chichewa, and since he started Kindergarten last month, she does about an hour of school work here at home with him before they leave for her house. He has been so excited to start Kindergarten, and he enjoys doing his work in the mornings. He also loves going to Tamala's and getting to play with some neighbor kids his age. She says his Chichewa is coming along really well, even though he's shy and won't use it much around us.

Our newest addition is Michelle, who tutors Haylee, Taylah, and JJ in all of their subjects. She has been the perfect combination of firm and friendly, and the kids have quickly taken a liking to her. They work hard for her and her no-nonsense teaching style, and they have fun with her during the breaks as well.

And last but not at all least, we can't forget Janet, who is Josh's executive assistant and patiently teaches the rest of us Chichewa 3 times a week. We are slow learners, but she doesn't give up on us, and cheers for every little victory we have as we stumble through learning it and do our best to speak like toddlers.

I can share more later about our curriculum choices if you're interested, but for now I just want to say that we are so incredibly thankful for this wonderful team of women who keep us sane and well-educated. 

Because I'm not homeschooling the kids anymore, I've been freed up to do so many more things for our family, my mental health, and the mission. In a family of 7, the house is never clean and the laundry is never finished, but it's significantly less out of control now that I have more free time! I also have time to exercise and take better care of my own mental and physical health. And I now claim half of Josh's office up at the school as my own. There, I can work on many of the guest relations and social media projects that I enjoy, and take those things off of Josh's very, very full plate as the president of the mission. 

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