I feel like I must preface this by saying that I love teaching. It is one of the noblest of professions, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for those that make the choice to get up every day and ultimately change young lives, especially those that have their own children.
I won’t beat around the bush here: on Friday I told my principals that I will be officially resigning at the end of this school year to homeschool my two boys (8 and 2) in the fall. However it may seem, this decision was not spontaneous; it has quietly been plaguing my mind for about two years now. The reasons for me making this decision have evolved over that period of time, and I feel as though I should try to provide an explanation.
In some respects, this has been a very difficult decision for me. I feel I am good at what I do; at this point in my career I have no reservations in making that statement. I know I am making a difference, and for the last ten years that fact has kept my feet moving forward. It’s one of the things in my life I have complete confidence in. I look at my students every day and see family. They are “my kids” and once Mrs. Eishen’s kid, always Mrs. Eishen’s kid. I’ve had prior students who are now grown message me about how they remember my belief in them. Some still have things I gave them 10 years ago. That is incredibly motivating and at the core of what teaching is all about for me. It’s going to be so difficult for me to walk away from that come June. I also adore the people I work with. I’ve never taught anywhere longer than four years because we move around so much, and it’s always seemed to take a good two years to really feel like part of the team. I am in that spot right now with my current school family, which makes it all the more difficult to say goodbye. I’ve made some lifelong friends through this profession. I don’t know if you know this, but teachers talk…a lot. We are one another’s support system. The ups, the downs, the extremes…we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of some amazing teams of people. People who, to this day, I have strong bonds with because of the things we experienced together.
But in many respects, this decision has been a no-brainer. It wasn’t until my second son was born that I got the itch to start staying home with my boys. I cried for a good couple of months after going back to work that fall wishing I could be home. I struggled, but I knew it wasn’t time. So I stayed the course and kept going. Psalm 37 has been heavy on my heart for a couple of years now:
“Take delight in the Lord,and he will give you the desires of your heart.Commit your way to the Lord;trust in him and he will do this:He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,your vindication like the noonday sun.”
I prayed about the desire that was forming in my heart to stay home with my boys, and he told me to be patient. I knew it would happen, but I just didn’t know when the right time would be. Now I do.
This year has opened my eyes to just how many different needs both of my boys have, but with me working full time, I just haven’t been able to give them as much of meas they need. My job extends beyond my working hours and requires much. The little people that look up at me with big eyes each day deserve my best, and I truly do strive to give them that. But my own kids have needs too. I got real with myself one day and stepped back to observe my life, and what I found (and already knew deep down) was that my boys were taking a backseat. I had to own that, and it kinda broke me.
Let me give you a little history.
We knew at a very young age that my firstborn learned things quicker than most. To summarize him in one story: once day when he was 3 he was sitting on the toilet and yelled my name. Thinking I was going to have to go wipe his rear (since that is what you do when your kid is 3) I came into the bathroom and instead of leaning over he asked, “Mommy, is my pee more dense or less dense than water?” Questions like that came up all the time. It was quite amusing to watch the gears turn in his head. We tried to take what he was interested in and run with it whenever possible. If he wanted to learn about the density of pee, then so be it. If he wanted to learn how square roots work, then we’d show him. But it really wasn’t until he entered elementary school that we truly realized what a challenge his formal education was going to be. After his initial kindergarten screening his teacher said to me, “Well, I guess he doesn’t need a kindergarten curriculum!” and from then on things have been a struggle.
To some that may be shocking. Obviously he should do well in school if he gets things that quickly, right? Sure, he “does well” in the sense that he gets everything right, but to quote Jan and Bob Davidson in Genius Denied, “Doing well does not mean doing one’s best.”Up until this year my son has coasted through school. Unfortunately, the primary effect of this is that he does not know how to embrace a challenge. He equates challenge with failure, and that is a very dangerous mindset for any child to have, let alone a high-achieving one. As further explained by the Davidsons,
“But when parents and teachers let children coast through school, they deny them one of life’s greatest joys: setting a difficult goal, throwing oneself into the pursuit, and finally achieving it. These children never gain the self-confidence that comes from taking risks and stretching themselves.”
This year, his second grade year, I decided to see if I could get him accelerated to third grade for just math (I knew skipping more than that would probably not be even considered). He was on a 5thgrade level in math and science and about 4th in all other areas, but he was not socially ready for skipping entire grade levels altogether. We held a special placement meeting well into the school year (October) and it was disheartening. I will not go into details, but it was at that moment I realized that this is going to be a continuous battle for the rest of my son’s education. Halfway into the school year we had another meeting and this time there was an actual solid plan in place which allowed him to do 3rd grade math material while still in his classroom, but it has been slow going. He is part of the gifted program, but that is solely enrichment-based and does not include acceleration, and they only meet once a week. His teacher and I work together quite a bit (we are two doors down from each other, which has helped a lot), but we both know what he truly will benefit from most: a tailored education.
My youngest, however, has very different needs. This time last year he was nonspeaking. On a formal communication screening he scored a percentile in the single digits, so we ruled out hearing problems and began speech therapy, which he has been in for almost a year. He has come so far, and I truly think the daycare environment he is currently in has helped break him out of his nonspeaking shell. But he still has a long way to go. Because of his communication issues, we’ve also battled with behavioral problems. My friends always joke with me about this ‘imaginary toddler’ I have because I never take him out anywhere! That’s because it normally ends with both of us in tears. Unfortunately, the lead teacher in his daycare room left in December. She loved him and worked with him quite a bit because she had a background in working with kids with communication problems. She knew how strong-willed he was and provided that assertive consistency he needed during the day. But the daycare teachers really do have their hands tied regarding how they handle discipline. When he is at home on a long weekend with us, I can see a difference in his behavior because we know what he needs and can provide that for him consistently. He needs boundaries and life skill lessons and routine and me.
You guys, I’m going to get real with you and say that ever since our family went from three to four I have remained in a constant state of disarray. I joke with my friends and family about some of our crazy experiences sometimes, but I truly feel frazzled. I am pulled in so many directions and just can’t seem to anchor myself down. At work there is a lot expected of me. I’m sure I’ve disappointed many because I’ve opted out of after school activities or extra duty positions. I differentiate as much as I possibly can for every single student in my classroom, and that takes a lot of time…a lot of time. I probably seem somewhat anti-social at work sometimes, but those that know me know that if they are going to come into my classroom during our planning period and talk to me, I’m usually working at the same time. I do everything in my power to get as much done as I can during my prep periods so I don’t have much to take home at the end of the day. I get to school 45 minutes early and leave 90 minutes late every day and am still working at home. In fact, this is the first year I have broken my personal rule of not coming up to work on weekends because I have to. I even took my child out of after school programs like karate and soccer because I just couldn’t handle it with the two boys and remain sane, especially when my husband is gone and works late. I signed up for a half marathon over winter break thinking I could handle another one during the school year, but I’ve had to back out because I just can’t get miles in during the week.
For reference, here’s a typical day in my house:
5:00 husband leaves for work and I get up, get dressed, make breakfast for the boys and myself, feed and take out the dog
5:30 wake up the boys and get the toddler dressed (which is usually a fight to the death, although we are working on this)
6:30 leave for work
7:00 drop off toddler at daycare
7:15 get to school
4:00/4:30 leave work and pick up both boys
5:00 get home, get dinner ready (This is why we meal prep, people!) fit in a bath or shower for the boys (I won’t lie…my kids do not wash themselves every day. No shame.)
6:00/6:30 toddler goes to bed
sometime in between here husband gets home
7:00 eight year old goes to bed to read for half an hour
7-9:00 my shower, hubs and I eat together (family dinners are non-existent at the moment because of my husband’s work schedule) and do whatever else we need to before the next day, which usually involves work and then a zombie-like state of mindless activity to wind down.
9:00 off to bed (10:00 if my husband is gone)
(This is much easier than when my toddler was an infant, mind you.)
There is a reason my husband and I hibernate on the weekends with our kids. We barely see them during the week (let alone each other), and being out and about darting here and there and everywhere does not make up for all of the time lost during the week.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to be there for each and every student, for my school, my children, my spouse and myself. But I am big enough to admit that I can’t handle it all. At the end of a work day I am tired and irritable because I have been on all day, acting in front of an audience that needs me to be enthusiastic about problem solving and helping verbs. The honest truth is that my kids ultimately get the leftovers of their mother. In the words of Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
I plan on doing just that.
So what now?
Since this has been heavy on my heart for the last year I have already been doing a lot praying, researching and brainstorming about what this new life is going to look like for our family. It’s a full shift in mindset, finances and perspective for us. We were not heavy spenders before, but we’ve been living as if on one income now since January to prepare for this. We are on a strict budget. We have two more years of living in Europe, so we still plan on taking advantage of that, just being a little smarter with it.
I have been looking into doing Montessori methods with my toddler. The philosophy makes so much sense to me, and the practical life skills are perfect for helping him develop confidence and discipline. I’ll write more about this once I actually begin using these methods next school year, but I think it will be amazing.
For my oldest, I will hand him the reins and go wherever he takes me. If he wants to learn about astronomy, we will learn the history of it, the science behind it, the scientists who made a difference in it, the math that weaves through it, and anything else we possibly can. I want to dive headfirst into the amazing world of literature with him and help him fall in love with words. I want the flexibility of being able take him to a museum or the library or anywhere else that is related to what we are learning. I want to fuel the insatiable love for learning he was born with.
This may sound ridiculous, but there is a period of mourning for me regarding the closing of this chapter of my life. I take solace in the fact that every day I am making a difference multiple lives. Every day I feel my life has purpose. And, most days, it is incredibly fun. When I think of what I could do if I were to remain in this profession, it hurts my heart a little bit. But not enough to stay.
So to my fellow teacher friends who will continue to wake up every day and give so much of themselves to their students, you will always get a standing ovation from me.
To my administrators, both past and present, thank you for taking a chance on me and believing in my capabilities. You’ve been incredible and have helped me strive to be my best self.
To my husband, family and friends, thank you for having my back through this entire decision making process. Your support has meant more than I can explain.
And to my two amazing boys, four more months and then mom’s all yours.