Homeschool mom to working mom: try public school?

I thought I’d never try public school for my kids.

I had my list of reasons we homeschool. However, it didn’t account for me spending an entire summer burning the candle at both ends and up the middle trying to do the work of two overworked parents who are running a homestead while my husband was disabled by hip arthritis. It also didn’t consider having me work full time.

This is my personal experience trying public school.

I never thought I would try public school

Here’s the situation: I have seven kids, ages one to eight. Thus far we’ve been homeschooling them. Money is tight on only my husband’s income. I actually am highly trained as a scientist, so employment prospects for me are pretty good—just not where we live. I can only work remotely.

After applying for jobs for what seemed like forever, I received an offer for remote work in my professional field. (This never would have happened pre-2020, if you know what I mean.) In addition to farm chores, childcare, homeschooling, and housework, I’m adding eight hours of work, five days a week. I think I can make it work.

Am I nuts? No, but I do have a poor sense of scale.

The local public school is quite good, at least as far as mass schooling goes. This is not a criticism of the teachers or the admin, but of the requirements inherent in having classrooms of 20-ish kids. I figure I’ll try public school, at least for a bit, to give myself time to focus on starting my job. Sometimes one must compromise on the ideal situation to make it work for the family as a whole.

School runs 8am to 3:15pm. Add in the bus ride after school, about 45 minutes to an hour, and they’ll be occupied for a full eight hours. Great! That’s exactly how many hours I need to work. All I have to do is get them out the door in the morning and…

Reality hits

Oh dear. They need clothes to wear. Where are all the clean clothes, times seven? *Digging through baskets of unsorted laundry*

Whew! Everyone has clothes and some of them are even wearing them. Wait, what??? How did that take 25 minutes? And they still need to eat breakfast! What am I going to feed them?

Where are their shoes? Are they clean and dry? Are their backpacks packed? Did I check if they need anything signed? Ugh, they need two snacks and lunch for school, too! Don’t these kids ever stop eating???

Argh, we’re late! All of you, get your socks and shoes on! You can finish your bagel/muffin/cereal/whatever in the van. You’re eating pancakes? Well, shove as much in your cheeks as you can, just like a squirrel preparing for winter. WE. NEED. TO. GO!

(Can you see where this is heading?)

I rush the kids to school and park in visitor parking since we now need to check in at the office. Six kids pour out of our big white van as I retrieve the littlest from his seat. Once we reach the office, I smash six names onto one line for late check-in and admonish them to stay quiet in the hallways as I take them to their lockers. That’s another 10 minutes getting everyone settled.

Daycare drop off takes 25 minutes or so between the short drive and getting my littlest guy settled in. At this point, I’ve been working on getting the kids ready and where they need to go for about two hours. I, foolishly perhaps, budgeted an hour of my day to all of that. Remember, I have a poor sense of scale… and also some time blindness. They don’t help each other.

Quiet is good for a working mom, but…

Now I’m mentally tired from keeping track of seven kids and all of their various belongings and needs that I can’t focus on anything that requires thought. I need a brain break. Unfortunately, brain breaks are for kids. Employers don’t really do that, especially after taking off two hours in the middle of my morning work time to get the kids to school.

How am I ever going to do this once my job starts? If my job had started, I’d have to go straight to my desk and try to be sharp and engaged while my brain moves as fast as a sloth.

I take a breather because I still have the freedom to do so as I wait for government-related paperwork to allow me to start my job. (I’m sure you can imagine how quickly that is progressing.) It’s about 9am if I’m lucky. I have until 3:20pm when I have to pick up my littlest from daycare in order to ensure that I’m home when the bus arrives.

That is nothing like the eight hours of time I imagined when I decided to try public school—more like six and a half hours, assuming I don’t have to do anything else besides work. Perhaps most importantly, I have no time for the workouts I really need to hold my hyperflexible joints together.

Working mom to chaos manager

When the afternoon bus arrives, my six kids come running up the driveway and drop their stuff all over the first floor of our house. Some plop in the middle of the floor to finish their lunch leftovers since they didn’t have enough time to eat it at school (not that we have a dining table or anything). One drops his belongings piece by piece as he heads to the piano to decompress after a day of attentiveness and self-control overload. Yet others drop their things at the door so I have to tiptoe between backpacks, jackets, and shoes to get to the front door.

Out the door to dance class

On Tuesday night, my oldest and youngest twins have dance class. I rush the kids out the door (either a subset or all of them, depending on my husband’s availability) a few minutes too late to make it to dance class on time. They might not quite be wearing the white t-shirt and black shorts specified in the dress code, but at least they’re wearing shorts and t-shirts and don’t stink.

At dance class they wiggle and poke at each other. Even my well-behaved teacher pleaser gets into a tiff with her brother. Neither of them earns their star for good behavior that class. The youngest twins roll around on the floor whenever they’re not actively engaged in dancing. They probably still earn a star if the teacher can call them back to attention since the teacher expects more inattentive, impulsive behavior from four year olds than eight year olds.

And back home again for dinner

Dinner after dance class is wild. Kids are all over the place, talking loudly, laughing, arguing, pantomiming, and occasionally taking a bite. I have no idea how to feed myself, so I assemble a random assortment of leftovers or rely on my husband to invent our dinner. My food starts out hot and is cold by the time I’m finishing my meal because I keep getting up to refill bowls or corral kids. I must say “sit in your chair” and “keep your everything to yourself” a couple dozen times every meal.

Just get through bedtime, I tell myself. Then I’ll get a break.

Bedtime: how to turn an hour into forever

By the end of dinner, the clock says 8:00—bedtime. That is, it’s bedtime after they take their dishes out, wash their hands, brush their teeth, and change into jammies. Actual bedtime moves to 8:30 or 9:00.

When we bought our house, I thought the loop around the first floor would be nice for the kids to make laps with their little ride-on cars. At the time, we had four toddlers and their little train was adorable. Now I’ve got six kids in various states of (un)dress running circles and screaming that their sibling spit on them while brushing teeth or that they can’t find jammies or “I don’t like brushing my teeth!” Dinner clean up will wait until after they’re in bed. Right now I still need to play chaos manager.

Okay, after they’re in bed and dinner is cleaned up, I can rest.

Nope, that’s not likely either. One kid can’t sleep. Then their roommate has to come downstairs to tell me that the first kid is keeping them awake. Yes, if you don’t stop moving, you probably won’t fall asleep. Go to bed and stop moving for a bit. Close your eyes and pretend you’re asleep.

Some night we have several rounds of this. I resort to a very low dose of melatonin to get one child back on a reasonable sleep schedule. He’s going to sleep well after 11pm when I have to get him up again around 6:30 to try to catch the bus (iffy, at best). The rest of the kids fall asleep around 9:30 or 10pm usually. No one is getting enough sleep.

The day barely ends before the next one begins

Beefy, our bull calf, sometimes got his second bottle at night. I didn't have time to feed him twice during daylight after getting the kids to public school and getting through the evening and bedtime.
Beefy sometimes got his second bottle after nightfall. I couldn’t feed him early enough before kids got up (and still have light) when they went to school. Then the kids got home too early (and kept me busy) for me to feed him his second bottle before they went to bed and it got dark.

Holy cow, am I tired! I still have to take care of livestock, pets, and basic house chores. (Remember, Jeff was in Europe at this point, so all of the work was on me. I ignored the non-essential he usually did.) Where are the kids’ backpacks and lunchboxes? I need to empty and wash all of the lunchboxes so I can fill them again in the morning. Paying $90 each week for school lunches is untenable, especially since I still have to pack two snacks for each of them and they won’t eat some of the food the school serves.

I can’t do this.

Once my job starts, I will not be functional enough or have enough time to keep up with the requirements five different teachers or childminders give me. I can’t work on their schedule or using their requirements.

When we homeschooled, I set the requirements and everyone had the same basic routine. All I had to do was check off the same tasks with each child: chores, handwriting, math, music, reading, grammar/writing, and the extra subject for the day (art, history, science, etc.).

I feel like if I continue with the kids in public school, or any mass schooling, everything will collapse around me. Maybe not right away, but within a few weeks or months something major with give way. Will it be my health? My job? Something important for the kids’ school or the kids themselves?

I can’t do this.

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  1. Pingback: 10 reasons to use public school (for a working mom) - Bustling Home

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