Monday, June 13, 2011

my own words | Co-Parenting and Homeschooling – An Impossible Dream?

"my own words" is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion or understanding to unique issues. Remember, one "story" could change a life, and that could be your story.

To submit your own story, click here.

Today's {my own words} submission comes from Sarah L. from Instructions Optional.
Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your story with us!

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The day that I told my husband I no longer wanted to be married to him was one of the most difficult days of my life. After all, how does one go about telling the father of her children that she was no longer in love with him and thought it best that they went their separate ways? I wish I could quote the eloquent words that I said, but the fact is that I cried and stuttered my way through it, and pretty much botched it up. We agreed to separate and work through our problems if possible; two years later, we’re still legally married and working through our problems, but divorce is looming on the horizon.

While we were still married and living together, we made plans to homeschool our children, as our local public school system left much to be desired. When we separated, I feared that those plans would go to the wayside. We had previously decided that we would both participate in this process, as I was a full-time college student and full-time employee at the time and wouldn’t be able to be commit enough time to fulfill all of our son’s educational requirements. Unfortunately, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to follow through with those plans, as we couldn’t even be in the same room without bickering.

However, we were able to swallow our malice and pride and figure out a schedule that would work, whereby we would be able to follow through on our commitment to our children. I would teach language arts, social studies/history, and whatever creative endeavors our son wanted to learn; and my husband would teach math, science and health. Our son was only in Kindergarten, so our individual requirements were fairly easy. It’s true that some of my schooling had to happen in the evening, when my son and I were both tired and easily-distractible, but I came to look forward to snuggling with my son on the couch every evening as I taught him to read.

A more difficult task faced us when our son moved into the first grade. Whereas his Kindergarten classes were very easy to plan and teach, first grade involved much more. I went from teaching the basics to creating my own curriculum. My sister is a homeschooler, and she offered me a lot of advice, but it’s a great leap from listening to and accepting advice to actually creating a curriculum, particularly when you are doing it completely on your own while balancing a very demanding full-time job and a younger child. Somehow, I had become the parent who was responsible for this, and I took this very seriously. Several sleepless nights and many migraines later, I finally settled on which workbooks and textbooks we would use, and discussed with my husband what I felt his foci should be for the year. By this point, we had both come to respect one another’s teaching abilities, so this conversation was very hopeful.

First grade was every bit as difficult as I thought it would be. Halfway through the year, I lost my job, which had provided the framework around which I scheduled my homeschooling, and while the immediate result was that my son and I were able to focus a lot more time on his schooling, I gradually became depressed at not being able to find a job and overwhelmed with trying to juggle job hunting with homeschooling, raising my kids, doing housework, etc., and this stress started to affect the time that I was able to spend with my son. Additionally, our daughter was no longer a baby who took long afternoon naps (thus facilitating any homeschooling that could be done in the afternoon), and this turned our previous schedule on its head.

However, due to the respect that had developed between my husband and me, he was able to pick up some of the slack when I needed him to. Anytime I called him and asked for help, he did so without hesitation. The support and encouragement that he provided was exactly what I needed to make it through such a difficult time with my sanity and that of our kids intact. Eventually, I was able to find a good job and things settled back into a routine.

When I lost my job, I also lost my apartment and moved back to my hometown, which has an excellent school system. Our son has begged and pleaded to be able to attend public school next year, where his cousin also attends. Due to the school’s reputation and four-star rating, along with the fact that my family has attended the town’s schools for generations, we have relented and decided to allow him to give public school a try. However, we are determined to homeschool our daughter for the first two years (at least), in order to lay the same solid educational foundation that we laid for our son.

If you would have asked me two years ago, when I was facing single parenthood for the first time, whether we would be able to succeed in co-parenting and homeschooling from two homes, I would have sadly told you that it simply wasn’t possible…and I would have been wrong. The key to our success was our ability to put our hurt feelings and wounded pride aside and focus on what was far more important: our children and their happiness and wellbeing.

Even though it has been a difficult process, I think we would both agree that it has been worth every minute. Our children, who are happy and adjusting to life with two of everything, would agree too.

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