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The Big Lie

By Martha R.

We had it all: fancy house, cars, grown-up toys, great careers. We were totally snowed by what my husband calls "the big lie." It had been fed to us all through my growing up years in public school, reinforced later in college, and in every magazine and book that I saw. "Moms can have it all -- perfect children, successful careers, loving marriages, fabulous trips, and tons of extra money to buy every toy on the planet -- and as long as you have 'quality time' with your child and a 'quality' daycare situation, everything will be perfect. As a woman, you NEED that fulfillment and self actualization of a career."

We had our first child after we had been married for 8 years and had another child two years later. We wanted the best childcare possible so we had a babysitter come to our home and later we had au pairs on a live-in basis. As soon as the children were two, they needed some "socialization" so we put them in part time preschool. Then at 3, they went to three day per week Christian pre-school. Then at 4, our oldest went to five day a week Christian pre-school.

When our son was getting near to the end of K4, he still didn't know his letters. His birthday was only 10 days before the cutoff so we agonized over whether to "hold him back" or to send him on to Kindergarten. Once again we listened to those around us and drew from our experience. "The public schools are fine as long as you get a good teacher and school and you stay involved as a parent." Ultimately, we found a public Montessori school where the ages are mixed so his immaturity and age wouldn't matter. We loved the Montessori concept and thought that would be GREAT for him. It was too! He had a good K and 2 teacher, but the 1st grade teacher caused a total waste of a year. The teacher he had for second grade was in the top 1% of teachers -- the warm yet firm, loving and very motivating type. This school was a "magnet" program, meaning that it was in a very poor neighborhood where the county was trying to change the racial/financial mix of the students. He brought home some stories about other children's fathers who drank themselves to death, smoked, etc., and this definitely gave us the willies, but we were sure he was doing well there.

Meanwhile, after the birth of our third child, we had begun questioning the "big lie." Wasn't it right that a mother should be able to raise her own children? Why couldn't there be satisfaction in the joys and drudgery of everyday home life? I was genuinely enjoying caring for children and I missed them while they were at school. My "friends" at work urged me to return, but I stayed out a full 10 months on maternity leave and only went back when the financial realities of our lifestyle struck. My husband and I resolved to change everything so that I could stay home and to have one more child whom I would get to raise from start to finish.

I returned to work and had to change jobs immediately as a new manager had come in while I was on leave and he felt it was quite disloyal of me to stay out the extra time. The new position was truly God's final message to me about which way to go. While it looked like a nice move at the time, I soon found out that it was a position which offered no opportunity for success, but rather was a quagmire of corporate politics. Now pregnant with our fourth child, I continued working as my husband sold his businesses. After our daughter was born, we waited almost a year to sell our beautiful custom home and rid ourselves of the expenses that went along with the dual income lifestyle.

We moved to a smaller city, selecting our neighborhood because of the public school district, and our two oldest landed in a regular school. Our son, by this time in 3rd grade, was doing OK, other than being bored stiff and getting picked on by a kid in his class. During a conference, his teacher told me that this poor child who was kicking my son in line practically grew up on the streets so we had to try to understand him. I am afraid I was unsympathetic to his problems when it came to him abusing our son. Our older daughter, who was in Kindergarten, came home crying daily. After two conferences with the teacher, one with the principal, and one with the principal and teacher, the teacher decided rather than to follow the principal's instructions that she would take out her anger on our daughter. We pulled her the next day and put her in Christian Kindergarten. I started to relive the negative feelings I had about being oppressed during my years in school.

At this point, my husband and I started investigating options. My husband, for whatever reason, has always been opposed to private school, and without me working, it was going to be unaffordable anyway. The only person we had EVER heard of homeschooling was one of our old babysitters who was a Jehovah's Witness, so we figured it was just for folks who claimed a religious exemption. I decided to try to supplement our son's education after school with some foreign language study and happened upon the site where I soon realized that homeschooling was something open to everyone. After more research, my husband and I thought this was the next logical step in our growth in wisdom and love of family so we pulled our son out of public school about a month after our daughter. In the interest of continuity, we left our daughter in the Christian Kindergarten for the remaining five months of the school year. Our younger son was also in Christian pre-school.

Our adventures were just beginning when we brought the children home. I soon found out that our son, who had always gotten A's in school, did not have a grasp of basic math concepts. When challenged with something difficult, he fell to pieces. Several months were needed to calm him down and get him to leave behind the ideas of how school should be done. During this time, I bought and sold an astounding amount of curricula. I was trying hard to find something that worked and I began with what I knew -- textbooks.

More than two years have passed since these momentous steps and we look back now and wonder how we could have ever done it another way. Our oldest son now loves math and looks forward to working on different subjects every day. He reads voraciously and is pursuing an interest in airplanes and rockets through books and hands-on experiments that he has discovered. Our daughter still talks about how awful public school was. She too reads way above her "grade level" and is two years ahead in math. Their manners and consideration toward others have dramatically improved though we continue to work on character issues daily. Our two younger children are at home too. Our younger son shows all the signs of being a late bloomer, but we do not feel any pressure to push him since we know he will read and write when he is ready. Our littlest one, now three, is likely to be reading before her next birthday. We do not have to worry about her being too far ahead of her class because at home, she is measured only against her potential.

Discarding the "big lie" put us back on the path to what is truly important in life -- our family. We always had that feeling, but somewhere along the way, we were seduced by peer pressure. Now, we are closer than ever. Our children are getting what each individual needs in terms of education and we do not have to worry about questionable content. It was much less challenging, both financially and mentally, to go to work every day and leave our children to others, but we are reminded of Robert Frost's words, "I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference." We did more than reclaim our children. We reclaimed ourselves.

About the author: Martha R. and her husband, Alan, have four children. After spending 14 years working in the computer and telecommunications industry, Martha is happy to be working at things that are truly important: raising her children and growing in wisdom and love. Martha enjoyed working with Mary Leggewie since she started, working as the primary reviewer for our Review Section and board hostess. Her husband passed away in 2003, and she has been homeschooling solo since then. Martha has taken a leadership role with since Mary Leggewie passing in 2007.

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