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Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Hello Friends.

I hope you all have enjoyed the last splashes of Summertime!! It's a busy time of year for many of you as you prepare your homes and hearts for the Fall Festivities of Life, (i.e. school)!! There's something comforting in hearing the drone of the school bus engine rev back to life. Something familiar about the dailiness of it. This year "school" has taken up a lot of my mind and heart time. I can't believe we're in "that" phase already....our boy is 5 and it's time for school.
As you can guess by the title of this post we've decided to homeschool Tyler for Kindergarten this year. Not an easy decision and one that I lost sleep over for sure. I didn't know I still cared so much about what people thought of us and our personal decisions, but apparently I do. A lot. It's bothered me immensely and actually kept me from sharing it with my you, my " blog friends". However many, (or few) of you there are.

Anyway, homeschooling. I don't know if I'm really into that label per se, but it's what I'm doing this year, the choice we've made for 2010-2011. I really don't know why I am filled with so much self doubt. This has always been something I've thought about, much the same way I've thought and felt about home birthing.....just a personal decision. A decision that is made on a child-by-child basis or in this case, a year to year basis. Yesterday was a rough day for me as our district started school, "real" school. I heard the fire crackers go off at 6:45am, (I'm sure it was the parents celebrating, not the kids)!! :) I watched the buses go by, saw the stream of "first day of school" pictures flood my facebook home page and thought about what Tyler's missing. WHAT HAVE I DONE? What if he's missing out on an amazing Kindergarten year, first time experiences, social interaction on a daily basis with kids his age, circle time? I had a rough day full of self doubt and anxiety. Thoughts of just taking him to the door and registering him on the spot, (I know they don't do that, but I still thought about it).

I cried to Jake and struggled within myself the Serious second thoughts. And then this morning came and we had our "first day of Kindergarten". What changed from when I crawled in bed last night to this morning I'm not sure, but I woke up ready to dive in....okay, ready to put my toe in is more like it. I was so scared. What the heck? All these emotions came flooding over me again. How can one nights sleep change things so much? These expectations are completely self imposed and yet I feel, in the back of my mind and heart that I have to prove myself to those around me. That's no way to live life and it certainly isn't the way to live a TRULY FREE life. Fear of man, no thank you. Expectations of man, I'll pass. We got dressed, the boys had some new shirts they were very proud of. We ate breakfast and they put their little backpacks on and we went onto the front porch. I'll be doing some preschool work with Luke as well. We took some pictures of our first day and they each released ONE balloon. A little tradition we're starting with the kids....each year they will add another balloon. Probably around 7th grade, (or before) they'll roll their eyes at me, but I'll make them do it anyway! :) Then we all walked back into the living room. I had to laugh. Who was I kidding? Was I playing pretend school with them? Would they take me seriously or just run to play trains and completely disregard what I say?

They sat down at our newly renovated "school room". And we cracked the books. Paisley was on my lap, Tyler to my left and Luke on my right and I felt totally overwhelmed. Since I haven't fully decided on a curriculum as of now we just simply started with the good ol' letter A. We did some worksheets and came up with funny stories with words that start with the letter A. Tyler practiced writing the letter A, "can you write an A here?" I asked. "Should I do lowercase or uppercase A Mom?" Well, okay then!! We had snack time together with their new containers/drink bottles I got them. Tyler has a "cars" set and Luke has a "toy story" set. We cut out a small, medium and large apple and taped it on the door, with worms coming out of them. We walked to the library and Tyler got his own library card, (so proud). He had to tell the Lady how to spell his name and his address, (with some help from Mom). Together we picked out 5 books that started with the letter A. We walked home, ate lunch and read some of the books. We played "brain quest" and Tyler loved it. We ate apple pie. He played on for a bit. And then we all took naps.

I was dead tired. Seriously, I haven't been that tired in.a.very.long.time. I know that with any transition in life there are adjustments. I don't know what I'm doing, I'll be the first to say it, however I have a desire to learn, some excellent resources and a great group of Moms to balance this all this out with, (sounds a lot like when I was pregnant with my firstborn)! Starting next week we'll be together with a group of approx. 20 children, twice a week. I look forward to sharing with you our journey through our first, (and possibly last?) year of homeschooling. I hold this whole concept very lightly and have no expectations for our homeschooling future. My very loosely held goal and desire with Tyler is to begin to teach him how to read this year. I hesitate to even share that for fear of failure. But I'm going to anyway.....who am I trying to impress with this decision I've made? It's just something I wanted to try and how will I know if this is for us without trying? That question brings me back around to what I wrote about at the start of this post....what if I'm messing Tyler up? Keeping him back from great things? As someone once said, "We're not changing the world or anything here! Just give them some coloring books and flash cards and call it a day!!" I don't necessarily agree with that, (the last part), but the underlying tone was well received. Stop stressing about the decisions you've made and JUST DO THE BEST you can with where you're at. I'm going to embrace this decision and HAVE A BLAST TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY!!! I want the boys to remember this year as one of FUN, CREATIVITY, STRUCTURE AND EXPLORATION!!! One thing I am really looking forward to, (once we work out the new kinks of schedule/routine/nap times) is THE QUALITY TIME WITH TYLER that I will have. The day to day interaction and growth that I get to watch happen before my eyes. There are many, many things that will be required of me this year unlike other years. Time management, organization, following through, just to name a few. Those attributes aren't my strong suit that's for certain. I'm willing to be changed though, (I WANT to change those things about me). Homeschooling for 2010-2011 will FORCE this. And I'm okay with that, (check with me again in November, maybe again in February and then also in April on that last statement)!!!!!!! :)
LIFE IS A JOURNEY, NOT AN ASSEMBLY LINE. That's how I feel about parenting/schooling....we all do things differently, (FOR NO BETTER OR WORSE), just DIFFERENTLY. I hope you don't judge me the way I've judged other homeschool Moms in the past, but if you do I'll have to be okay with that.....somehow life has a way of shifting things you always *thought* toward others. I've had to really look inward and ask for forgiveness for my thoughts toward "them". I didn't understand so I judged.....safer that way.

*You think you're better then me because you homeschool.
*Your poor children are stuck at home because of you're decisions.
*Apparently you think it's more "godly" to keep your kids at home?
*Who do you think you are to do something that is MEANT for professionals?
*You have control issues.
*You must not truly trust God with your kids, otherwise you'd send them to school like normal people do.
*Superwoman? Please, stop trying to impress everyone.
*You just want to keep your children out of "the world."

Those are just a FEW of my inner thoughts I've had over the years about homeschooling in I'm there, right in it and it feels so different, so scary. I feel small, not "in charge" or "cool" or "super" by any means. Quite the opposite actually, I feel so inadequate. This process has awakened feelings in me that I didn't know were there or I thought have been "worked through"~~fear of what other people might think and say, expectations I have on myself that are unrealistic, (in other areas besides homeschooling), feelings of inadequacy, (who wants to do stuff they might not be good at? It's hard to try something new)!!, self-doubt, comparison, anxiety.
My God has a way of revealing the black places of my heart. Ultimately, it's HIS OPINION OF ME, OF OUR HOUSEHOLD THAT MATTERS MOST.
so if you're still reading, bless your heart and I pray this prayer over you wherever you are and whatever you're facing:

"God~help us to care more about what YOU think then what others SAY. Amen."

"For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." ~Zephaniah 3:17


Smokers in the Valley said...

Janelle, I wanted to "wish you luck" as you begin your schooling journey. There are pros and cons to both school school and home school and I think you will do a great job! I have felt and thought many of the same things you described over the last couple years of homeschooling. For our situation it has worked out great, though I deal with a lot of "issues" about it from my husband's family. But we evaluate it on a yearly basis too, always taking into consideration whether the kids have grown, learned, and ENJOYED learning. As long as they are involved in homeschooling groups they won't miss out on much socializing either!! And I wanted to say that I found Leapfrog DVD's to be highly effective in teaching the kids letter sounds, etc :) Anyway, sounds like you have a good thing going on...
Love, Aisha

AmyK said...

I'm thinking you'll do a great job! You are such a creative person - you'll use that throughout the year. And you'll figure out what works and what doesn't and forge your own way - just like with parenting!

I'm looking forward to reading your end-of-year homeschooling update! (and any that come in between)

Anonymous said...

Oh I just want to give you a big hug and cry with you ( as i am now as I right this) THis week has been hard for me as I say goodbye to Nolan every afternoon as he heads to kindergarden, all by himself. So many doudts go thru my mind, did i do enough? spend enough time with him? will he make friends? will kids be nice to him?
blah, blah oh my list of worries could go on..... praying for you as you adjust to this new schedule and just so you know I think homeshcooling moms are pretty cool!!! Shauna Miller

Michelle said...

Three words: I. Love. You.

And, when you come to the letter C{harlie}, D{og}, or P{uppy}, take a little field trip down the street. :) You have SO many opportunities here at your fingertips and I am so excited for you!

Melissa said...

I'm feeling you girl! I dealt with similar emotions this week. God, what have I done? "He giveth more grace . . ."
Can't wait for our groupie events!

Esther@fleurcottage said...

God speed & hugs!! :)

Dora Messner said...

Janelle, I am so proud of you; you are right on track! It is with a measure of sadness and pride (in a good way) that I can tell you we are in our 12th and final year of homeschool. What a gift those years were to all of us! Only time shows the benefits! The one thing that I'll share with you that I wish I had done differently is: from the beginning I wish I had resorted more to my husband for guidance. Even though school has never been his "thing," he has so much wisdom to impart! In later years when I explained my dilemma's to him in a way he could understand, he gave such wonderful and well-rounded insight. Why did I wait so long to trust him with school issues with my children???? They are his children, too! I way underestimated his abilities! What was I thinking? Homeschooling is just an extension of parenting- and we don't parent alone; we parent TOGETHER. May other moms learn from my mistakes! I will be thinking of yall this year. So proud of you!!

Dora Messner

Lindsay said...

i wish you were my teacher for kindergarten.

Kara Stoltzfus said...

blessings to you in this new season of life!
i am anxious to hear how it goes for you & the kids.

i know homeschooling isn't for my kids (at least not madelyn) and not necessarily for me either, but I am inspired by the blessing it can be to many families. i will pray for peace, strength, organization, patience, wisdom and much more.

love you.

Kristina said...

Thanks for writing so candidly, Janelle. I am dealing with those same feelings and my oldest is only 2 years old! May our great God bless you with an abundance of patience, creativity and joy as you teach your children! Love- Krit

Annette Garber said...

Oh, Janelle, thank you for being so humble and transparent through your blog. You are learning a lesson that is so hard to learn... not worrying about how others may judge you. I hate that lesson! ;-) Anyway... just wanted to say that I am a living testimony that educational "experiments" (that's too harsh of a word, I know) don't ruin children, as most are very adaptable to their changing situations. My parents wrestled on a yearly basis how best to educate us children, and we experienced quite a myriad of school situations, from home school to small private school to public school to large private school. I look back with fond memories on each of these experiences and see them all as worthwhile! It sounds like kindergarten in the Stoltzfus home is going to be a blast, but don't beat yourself up when you have humdrum days, as reality will most likely call for from time to time. Blessings, friend!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Janelle, am so excited for your little boys, having the amazing privilege of having mom to be their personal guide throughout this exciting year of kindergarten and preschool. They will cherish these moments with you for years to come. My prayer for you is that the Lord would bless you and your family over and above with much joy, wisdom, strength, creativity and practical strategy as you work out what the Lord has put so dearly on your heart;-) I know He is smiling from above, as a proud Father, well able to equip you with all the things you need on this precious journey. Please keep us updated, loved reading about the first day;-)
Much love from our family to yours

clarita said...

Janelle, your honesty and beautiful heart is so melting! I can relate to a lot of what you are saying, and my oldest is only 3! Ben and I have talked very briefly about the schooling question with our children, and have not reached any decisions. I think for us it will most likely be a year-to-year decision as well. And I so agree with your sentence about each family being tailor-made, not being assembly lines. Each family is different, and then each child within that family is unique. Learning styles and so much more some into play within each child. So I applaud you for your bravery in facing your fears in this - no matter if this is the first of many years, or the first and last. You will not be a failure either way! And I'm pretty sure you will be the coolest homeschool mom ever. :) Wishing you much peace, much happiness, much rest in your soul as you live before God right now, right here in this particular day and year. Many many blessings, beautiful friend!

consume me... said...

I'll try not to write a book in response to this post...but it brought back so many memories for me! First of made your decision wisely- through much prayer and contemplation. Trust your decision and stick with it...the doubt isn't coming from the Lord, you already settled the issue w/Him. Find a scripture to hold to..then read it everytime you doubt your decision. Secondly, embrace these moments...don't be too hard on yourself and ENJOY every single day-even the ones in the middle of February that you think will never end. When something doesn't seem to be working- change it up and try something else. Lastly...take lots of field trips- because you can. I know without a doubt you will look back at the end of the year without regrets. You have not taken great memories and experiences away from Tyler- you've created them. I look back on the years I homeschooled with so much joy-they were just the best...until it was no longer right for us- and now they are just really awesome memories. Embrace where you are today...pour your heart into each new day with your the joy of learning alongside them and teach them to love Jesus along the way. You'll look back with no regret...I promise!

Anonymous said...

I just read your post about homeschooling and i didn't think there was another person out there that felt the same way I do! You spoke the words right out of my heart! amazing!

this year my little Judah is starting kindergarten as well! when we were in lancaster we lived in the city so when anyone would ask, i would always use the city schools as my "crutch". then the Lord revealed to me that i was using that as a crutch, b/c i began asking "if we didn't live in the city WOULD i still homeschool??? and i really struggled with the same things you felt little Tyler was gonna miss out on. and what about recess and deciding to pack or buy lunch :) !!
with all that said, HOORAY for you and trusting God and doing what is best for YOUR family :)

we have moved and i too have decided to continue with my "gut" feelings in that this is what is best for US at this time. and i am nervous and scared.

it's so great to read what's on your heart ♥
with love and admiration ♥
Megan Ross

The lady of the house... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The lady of the house... said...


thank you from the top of my heart.

Fan said...

Oh Janelle, I'm so proud of you for doing this! Tyler especially is like a sponge: and you have the awesome opportunity of determining exactly what it is that he "absorbs" this school year. What better gift can you give your 5-year-old than this? You know him better and love him more than the best teacher in the country. And he will learn so quickly, in a few weeks you'll be saying, "It's like he's teaching himself!" He just needs basic direction and his bright little brain will take off full-speed. Just wait and see.

You will do fine. Don't forget to ENJOY.

Sarah Gingrich said...

AGH! I'm with you....only my dilemma takes the form of "Am I robbing my children of forming an excellent base in Spanish?" I start Sophia on 1st grade and Edison on kindergarten on Monday, both of which are large curriculums, and I'm a bit freaking out. ; )

It's hard to believe that this is my third year homeschooling...I still feel like a newbie.

Two bits of advice:

Get a's mentally exhausting to come up with things to do EACH DAY; plus it gives you a definable goal each day

Cook ahead of time....when you make say, spaghetti sauce, make a triple batch and freeze it so that on school days that Paisley is needy or a friend needs you to drop by (etc etc) there will be one less thing to stress you. In other words...have emergency food; I can't tell you how important that is for us.

Blessings and...
you can do this.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog by accident..reading my daughter's blog and she recommended a friend of her's blog and you had posted a link to your blog from her blog (whew). I am probably old enough to be your mother but I wanted you to know that I began the homeschool journey many years ago with the same doubts and fears and feelings that you wrote about in this blog. My husband and I came to the conclusion that the only One we had to please was God. We were responsible only to Him for our family. With that in mind we homeschooled all four of our children. I had many days filled with doubts, frustrations, and "what ifs" and wondering if my children would turn out educated and socialized and would love God through it all. I am happy to let you know that all four of my children are educated in areas that they all enjoy and are quite well rounded and have zero socialization issues and are all strong Christians. One daughter is 30 and has her masters in nursing. Another daughter is 28 and has her bachelors in graphic design and owns her own graphic design company. One son, who is 22, is working on his masters in history with the goal of teaching history in some capacity. Our other son, who is 21, whom we adopted from an orphanage, works in geriatric unit at a hospital. God was and is faithful and if He leads you to do something, He will be there for you. We homeschooled at a time when there were few others homeschooling so we heard all kinds of objections, which can be a bit unnerving at times. You will wonder whether you are able to educate them successfully. My college degree was in a medical profession and not teaching and I am not the most patient mother around but they were educated and graduated from college with honors (two of them were summa cum laude). All four of them can play the piano and either the fiddle or guitar. I say all of this to encourage can do it! Any mother can do it! We know and love our children more than any one else. God bless.