What is this you ask? A supply list for the school down the street that Anni and Evy will attend this year.. They will attend our neighborhood public school and it has already proven to be a journey that requires patience. Long story
short shorter: the school across the street from our house in Chicago was closed by the board of education as were many schools earlier this year. This left Annikah in a black hole since all the kids that attended that school last year received forwarding schools but since Anni was homeschooled she did not have a school to attend and every call to the board and visit to local schools left us with no answers. We applied for preschool for Evy through the new preschool procedures and she was admitted to a school near us but for Annikah we were still at a dead end. Seriously calling the board of Ed was an exercise in wanting to poke my eyes out with a dull pencil…..conversations went something like this: me: “I am calling to find out what school is my daughter’s neighborhood public school so I can register her.” Random person at the board: “We are not sure yet.” or “the computer is not updated since the school closing so all I can tell you is Trumbull (the school that is locked and closed and empty)” or “We do not have that information yet and don’t know when we will” or my favorite which finally made steam come out of my ears and I made a call to our Alderman “We might not know for sure until AFTER the first week of school”
WHA? seriously, every kid has a right to go to school right? Well, after hours on the phone, numerous visits, prayer (and aforementioned steam emitting from my ears), and not accepting these answers Anni AND Evy will attend the same neighborhood school. I am so grateful since we really prayed they could go to the same school (it is very common for siblings in Chicago to attend different schools) because we really want to invest and be involved with the school community and I knew with new baby chaos I could not be involved with 2 schools. So we begin public school in the city in just over 3 weeks. Many have asked about this decision and I thought I would share this new phase for our family.
I want to be clear that this is the path we feel God is asking us to walk right now and we know His voice can only be heard for each of us by discerning for ourselves. Comparing to each other rather than looking to God only confuses and offers frustration instead of allowing us to live boldly and humbly in whatever He asks of us. Plus when we just do what someone else thinks is right we bypass the seeking and searching that each one of us need with God. I know some families that feel called to a certain kind of schooling for life and they are amazing and do a way better job then I ever will. Their conviction and passion for homeschooling or public school or private school blesses their kids, family, and others. I just sense that for us we are called to be more nomadic. To respond to the needs of our family at the time since let’s face it we have already proven to not be the most rooted folks in the world. We sense that each child will be different and may have different educational needs in different seasons and we are praying for the wisdom to respond to those needs throughout their time in our home. And this is a new season for us.
We sent Annikah to a local private school in Africa which was a challenging experience but one that proved to be such a blessing for her and us. We home-schooled last year because we were in a vulnerable place as a family and it became clear He was asking us to gather together and heal. Each one of these decisions cam with choices and trade offs. And now our girls will attend our local Chicago Public school. All of these decision were made through much wrestling with God and if I am honest lots of doubts in our capability as parents to judge the needs of our family. But God has met us in each decision and shown that they were timely and in each we had much to learn.
This last year has been one that taught me a lot. I never wanted to be “a home-school family” but that is where we found ourselves and it was exactly what we needed. After moving and so many adjustments we felt like we were living somewhere outside reality with frayed emotions and we needed time as a family to re-cop. My stereotypes about home-school families were challenged as I met and taught with amazing families and mamas who fiercely love their kids and the world. Beware of telling God “I will never….” because it might be exactly what He calls you to for a season. I will miss a lot about home-school. I will miss the lazy mornings with no rush, the rich opportunities to shape and and help Annikah discern the world as she reads ad learns about it, choosing to pursue something because it is clearly more important than what we had planned that day, seeing her discover new things, being so proud when she gets something that has been challenging, hearing Evy answer the question I ask Annikah because she is a part of every learning experience, the options we had like reading about a place and then driving to a part of the city and meeting folks from that place. I will even miss dropping everything because we are all on melt-down and heading to the park for a much needed re-start. But I must admit there were days of exhaustion when I called Jason and announced that I might have to hide in the bathroom all day if Anni whined one more time about doing her work. It was hard y’all. God bless those Mamas that teach all 5 of their kids at home everyday. Seriously, I am not fit to stack your reading logs. Give me a room full of hormonal, snotty eighth graders over my two whiny girls any day. Teaching your own children is really tough and like parenting with grace requires surrender every day. But overall we loved school at home this year. And I am open to this option of schooling again in the future if it is right for our family. It is scary to give up so much precious time with my kids but I also don’t believe because I am no longer going to be involved in every moment of their education our influence as their first and most important teachers diminish. There will be less time but we are our kid’s teachers and we embrace that role.
So off to school they go. I still believe in the experiment that is public education not because it works well always (or at all sometimes) but because it affords opportunity for growth. I was a public educator in a “failing school” for 5 years and it was hard. But I also firmly believe that parents and the community can support and encourage students, teachers, and staff and partner to educate our kids. Yes, the system is broken and many have warned us about the pitfalls. But I also know that trying to hold tight and protect my kids from everything will only have an adverse effect on them. If we fear the world so much we also forget to love it. How can my kids believe and know that God’s promises are true unless they engage in hard things? I also see those broken areas opportunity to engage, support, love, and get involved. We cannot change everything but one committed family can change something. When I taught I saw that parental involvement and community support is key for allowing the teachers and kids to thrive even in a system set up for anything but. Too many people complain about the school options but are afraid to get their hands dirty and volunteer, show up, make a difference. May our family, with God’s help, be a blessing to this school and community.
I also must say I really believe we have education as an idol in America and we misplace our trust in our kids having the best possible education. I know it is important and can open vast opportunities to kids but I do not believe it is the most important thing in life. Gulp. OK, you can hate me and start the comments but seriously Jason and I would rather our kids have a love for people world wide, a humble spirit, fail and grow, and learn to live and love with people who are different than themselves than get into Harvard. Maybe that makes me a bad parent but maybe it is because I have seen joyful successful people that live life with passion and I don’t see a direct correlation with them getting into the best preschool around. Most learning happens outside the classroom. We want to let our kids make mistakes, learn, and grow while supporting them and encouraging and helping to root them in God’s truth and this can happen in many educational options..
But I am very aware it is easier to say all these things then to live them. And I totally admit to knowing 1% of 1% of nothing and know that at any time we may feel our family has different needs and we reserve the right to be wrong (something I have become quite comfortable with since becoming a mama). I also know that there is always a constant danger. The constant whisper that safer and comfortable is always better but whatever is what God is asking of us is what is best for us even if it seems crazy to others. We just need the courage to embrace it. This new journey will not require more faith, just a different kind of faith. Faith that if God is calling our family to invest in the world we live in right now then He is calling our kids too. After all how can they learn without walking in it with us? We want our children to thrive, to learn and grow, and have an amazing education. But through all that I want my kids to know Jesus goes with them everywhere and He is present everywhere all the time. There is no place too scary for Him. There is no where His presence cannot reach despite all appearances. That was true when we moved across the world, when we decided to keep them at home to learn last year, and it is true as my girls walk in the doors of the public school just down the street in just a few weeks. They are excited to pick out shiny new school supplies, make new friends, and with their brother only a couple months away from making his appearance this mama knows I need this season as well.
Going Public & praying,