We started school here at Ashbaugh Academy over a week ago. My last year teaching, my remaining Senior’s last year “student-ing”. The first morning of classes was met with new excitement, accompanied by an over cast of relief. We have made it this far after almost 10 years of home schooling. There is a plan in place and a path to be taken.
After we had our boys, I never really thought too far ahead. I guess I was in survival mode just trying to make it day to day keeping the boys alive, everyone in clean underwear and the critters out of my house. I definitely didn’t think ahead to whether I would home school or not. When the time came, living out away from everyone we thought it would be best they go to school to see someone other than me and the occasional bear coming through the lawn.
As events unfolded, our boys’ careers in the public school were very short lived. We then tried private school. Both boys had struggles in different areas. Phrases like “fails to comprehend” and “he just won’t sit still” were big during parent teacher conference times. Eventually, the hours we spent in doing extra work and remedial classes outside of school began consuming our fun times. Our family times. And honestly, the constant phone calls and letters sent home about “Mr. Wiggle Pants” grew very tiring.
At the time, we had just moved to Maple Street, and I was subbing and volunteering in the school systems, mainly due to the fact I could easily get everyone out the door, help with neighborhood kids whose parents worked, work my day at school, and be there to get everyone home, fed a snack, and homework done. They all were safe until parents arrived home from work. It worked well for all of us. I loved having all the neighborhood kids here, and I didn’t mind the unknown schedule of a call-in sub, if I didn’t get a call, I could easily fill my day with other things.
Will had just started 4th Grade and Nate 2nd at ICS in Wellsville. The people there were great. I enjoyed helping in the cafeteria and the families were kind and supported one another. Something happened locally at the time, a change in the public schools. I don’t remember what it was. But this overwhelming flood of people pulling their kids from the public schools created an overflow into the private schools, filling classrooms to the brim! The “smaller class size” had been abolished, and the Ashbaugh family was back in the same boat.
After another year of watching my boys struggle, spending extra hours trying to help them catch up, and many sleepless nights, God laid it on my heart---“Shannon—you go out every day and “teach” other kids--you spend hours at your table helping with homework and projects—it’s time. This makes sense.”
Now I envisioned my home school days very similar to how I was teaching in the public school. My husband and I are early risers, up by 5 am. (Except Saturdays. He still works, but that is my one day. It is known by everyone in the neighborhood Shannon sleeps in and does not people before 8 on Saturdays. And coffee. Lots of coffee.) I was a stickler for a schedule and keeping to the routine. Get up, get a shower and breakfast, do your chores and don’t come to the school table in pajamas. We NEVER do school in our pjs. My reasoning may be due to a lesson I received from my high school business teacher, Mrs. Rigby. “Show up like you mean business! Dress for success. How you present yourself reflects your attitude about the task at hand.” Mrs. Rigby also taught typing, and once, on a field trip, she taught a small group of us how to play 5 Card Stud in the back of the school bus!
The guilt that hit me the first weeks of working at home with my boys was overwhelming. Even though I had spent hours with them doing extra work, I had not fully grasped how much they truly struggled. I’d like tell you our days were filled with learning and laughing, giggles and productivity. We have had that, much of that. But in all honesty, there also has been some yelling, and maybe even some door slamming. I know for a fact there have been cell phone calls full of tears to the “principal” who was trying to get in his work day in the gas field… I have come to believe one of the most difficult things to do in this world is home school your child. And, over the years, I have come to believe one of the most rewarding things a person can do in this world is home school their child.
I wasn’t prepared for the interruptions that come into a home school day. People at the door, appointments, life “stuff”. A barking dog had the ability to send Mr. Wiggle Pants into a whirlwind, lost for hours, and a squirrel running across the lawn always stole them away with bb guns in hand. There are always things demanding attention, along with the kid sitting at the table pulling his hair out over an algebra proof. Trying to find the balance has always been my struggle. There are periods where I think we did pretty well, and others where I know we failed. Yesterday, I failed.
While focusing on “meeting state requirements”, “doing all the school asks” and trying to keep up with life “stuff”, I overlooked an opportunity that comes with home schooling-- I missed what was going on with my kid. I didn’t pay attention to the wrestling match taking place in his head. The missed opportunity soon spun out of control into a full-blown tornado. This may have resulted in some yelling…on both of our parts (sorry Maple Street), and a couple tear-filled phone calls back and forth to the principal, who spends his days keeping natural gas flowing through Western Tioga County, and upholding Ashbaugh Academy’s Discipline Policy.
Through this tornado, God revealed some stuff going on in my heart. Heart surgery isn’t pleasant, by the way. From what I hear, it’s pretty uncomfortable. And honestly, I sat wiggling in my seat, trying to ignore the discomfort I’ve been feeling in my chest. I’ve always taken pride in the way God has shaped our boys into hard working, committed, young men. Despite the struggles they’ve faced, they have pressed on and overcome. They have tried to serve others well and love even when people aren’t so lovable. They rumble, they fight, they say things they shouldn’t, but they know how to forgive and move on. They haven’t done it perfectly, for sure, and we’ve had our share of rough patches, as all families do.
“Mr. Fails To Comprehend” is in his Senior year of the Electrical Construction Program at the local trade school and finished last semester on the Dean’s List. “Mr. Wiggle Pants” has signed early with the U.S. Marine Corps and ships out shortly after finishing his senior year...
I find it hard to believe outspoken, in-your-face me has started the practice of “shoving thoughts and feelings down deep and not dealing with them”. Just ask the principal—Normally, if I think it, it just comes out. And if I don’t say it, my face does. Through our tornado at the school table yesterday, God made it very clear how fast this season of my life is ending. I’ve worked myself out of this job, and for a moment—I panicked. I know I am excited and looking forward to the next season—the season of grown boys and all that comes with them stepping out on their own. I guess the part I am not dealing with is the changes over the next few months and how quickly they are happening. I know he is ready; this is where God has led him; this is what we’ve raised him for.
I asked my son for forgiveness, and for the opportunity to slow down and let me have this last little bit. We closed our books, called it a day, and headed to The Jet for a burger and some much-needed time together that didn’t involve math or grammar.
A dear friend whose son will soon be leaving for the Navy and I talk a lot about this season. It’s like we are in a fog, taking in every moment, enjoying it, yet busting into tears the next. This season of life with kids is filled with emotions of all degrees---great joy, subtle sadness, relief, pride. Sometimes they all hit at once.
I will always treasure the decision of home schooling; the gift of being the one to see the “lightbulb finally come on”, the “ah-ha moments” when a lesson finally “clicks”. Woodworking in Grandpa’s shop. Automotive lessons in the driveway. I will cherish the mornings of story writing together and afternoons of solar system building. The giggles. The experiments. The times of teaching life lessons, lessons one can’t find in a book…
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” Proverbs 4:13