Whole Parenting Family

The Big Schooling Decision: how I flunked homeschool


Well, maybe flunked is a harsh term, but I am definitely a drop-out homeschooling mama! When we decided to enroll our oldest in first grade at our local Catholic school a year before he actually went, I was flooded || plagued || haunted by feelings of guilt. Even as the two oldest still get to romp//play//fight out at the Lodge on weekends.

Maybe you’ve struggled with this decision, too. Hopefully you’ve had the space and time to evaluate and figure out what’s best for your family without feeling judged by yourself or others.

Guilt that being an educated at home mom meant I shouldn’t need to rely on other educators.

Guilt that tuition is, well, it’s not free, and I’m not working (see point one).

Guilt that I don’t have ample energy to provide my eager little learners with enriching educational experiences on a regular basis.

Guilt that I was eeking out of some etherial duty that Catholic moms have of home-educating their children.

I also went from being a virulent I can totally homeschool let’s do this forever! when I had a three year old and a one year old to okay! more workbooks and audio stories on your own while I take care of the baby with three kids in four years and then this past year I can’t leave the house much because I’m throwing up and you want to do another science experiment thank GOD you’re going to school in the fall.

The kicker for us was that pregnancy is so debilitating with hyeremesis and multiple IVs for fluid loss. We knew we hoped for another baby. But we also knew realistically what pregnancy would look like.

I argued with myself at first when we decided to homeschool kinder & then send him for first grade.

I didn’t want to admit that being with me all day long wasn’t what was best for him–my bright inquisitive curious oldest born who wanted so much to experience knowledge more viscerally than even the best Jim Weiss cds could offer. And we’ve listened to almost all of them. Story of the World four times through.

Eventually I saw how he longed for much more than I could give. Swallowing pride, I’ve embraced being a school mom.

School has been wonderful for him. He is delighted and thrilled. He says he had a great day every day. He loves his teachers and little friends. He loves the variety of activities they do. He loves that religion class is three times a week, and one of those times they go to Adoration. He loves that everyday they pray a decade of the Rosary in their classroom during quiet time. He loves his little desk.

I’m finding in my transition to a school mom that the most challenging parts physically (getting up & at ’em, making his lunch, doing homework and packing his bag) have been eclipsed by the myriad of opportunities to talk about how we should act and howe we should treat others. I would pay money again and again for this opportunity for him to navigate relating to the world in a safe & loving environment.

We talk about how to treat other’s bodies with respect, including language used for your bottom (booty isn’t going to cut it, buddy). We talk about including the kid that annoys you. We brainstorm how to handle when you feel rushed during an assignment or, conversely, bored during instructions. We talk about what it means to have a feeling and honor it without unloading it onto other people.

These gems! These little nuggets of conversation where I get to see how he sees the world and he’s still little enough to listen to my view on things! They’re more precious to me than anything. I couldn’t manufacture these as a homeschooling mom under my circumstances. Character formation above all else has been the most enriching part of his school experience.

The confusing part for many Catholic or Christian moms might be what I struggled with: is there a moral obligation to homeschool your children? Akin to the discussion of whether or not being a working mom is a moral question (I’ve written about this: it’s not, in my mind), it’s a genuine struggle for many moms. Can we afford private school? What are our public school options? Can our family handle homeschool? Can me, moi, I as the primary caretaker both caretake and homeschool? How are my other children doing? How is my marriage doing? I contend there is no moral obligation to homeschool your kiddo, and that, instead, the obligation sits in prayerfully and carefully discerning what’s best for each kid and what’s best for your family.

If you love homeschool, or even like it, and it works for you, that is so awesome and I totally respect you!

If you love public school or private school, Catholic school or non-religious school, and it’s working for you, I totally respect you!

There are many ways to educate a child and I don’t even know that we will go this route for all our kids! But it’s working beautifully for now and for that I am so, so grateful.

And this is what we do when he’s away . . .



And visit him at school when he has a presentation to give!



  1. Kirby on November 18, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I find it funny we wrote really similar articles today just about different topics! I wrote basically this but about breastfeeding. I think both can suffer from a lot of social pressure and emotional investment that make it so hard to accept what we know to be the right decisions for ourselves and our families.
    So happy y’all made a decision that is working so well!

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Yes! Amen, sister. Amen!

  2. Sarah on November 18, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I love this! As someone who was homeschooled, I will absolutely never homeschool my kids unless we are in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I know some kids love it and thrive, but it also comes with a whole plethora of downsides that few people are willing to recognize (as, to be fair, all schooling choices do.) I just think the main one is that it’s hard on your kids to have a mom and a teacher who is the same person. I also wish I had learned on a daily basis how to interact more confidently with others since I tend to be a fairly shy person. All that is to say I don’t think you should feel bad! You obviously care so much for your kids and as their mom, that’s the most important thing.

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Don’t our own backgrounds influence us so much in this department? I switched schools 5 times from kinder to high school (6 if you count a half year of homeschooling–not my mom’s forte ;). You’re totally right that every school choice has downsides and we have to be honest with ourselves about what we think they are, and then actually face them when they come ’round to smack us in the face!

  3. Jenny ryan on November 18, 2016 at 10:48 am

    This has been my experience exactly. It’s been a difficult transition to be sure. And I wouldn’t say sending the kids is easier than homeschooling …but so worth it. I love the conversations we get to have with our kids Beecher of school. I love the fun activities they get to do. It can be difficult at times sending them to school. But I am so glad they are there.

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      I spend so much time in the car now. I spend so much time making him erase and re-do his handwriting/spelling homework. I spend time making his lunch (so different than the years I’ve been making my husband’s lunch! Ability to microwave & refrigerate and eat things he doesn’t really love haha). Lots of inconveniences and extra work for me, but yes, for us and it sounds like for you, worth it.

  4. Kristen on November 18, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Yes! We have been on the fence with what to do for M for Kinder next year but every day I become more and more at peace about sending her to our parish school, as long as she gets a spot (I’m praying all the novenas that she will!). Anyways, your words really resonated with me and I hope to meet you one day. Thanks for sharing friend!

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 18, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Praying for you guys, too!! Can’t wait to meet someday 🙂

  5. Sarah on November 18, 2016 at 11:53 am

    We sent our oldest to Catholic kindergarten this year and it has been wonderful for our whole family. Much like your experience, it seems: your post resonated with me. I love so much of the ideal of homeschooling: the literature, the peaceful time and space, the family unit. But, we’re still doing that! At school he is happy and growing his wings in all the appropriate ways, with me happily watching and tutoring behind him. A fellow hyperemsis sufferer here, I am well educated enough to teach him: but I choose not to for his academics primarily- and I now am confident enough to say not that we forsook homeschooling, but chose positively another great education for him. Feels good to say that now we’re in it. The idea was harder than the reality.

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 18, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Amen. The idea much harder than the reality. I kept worrying he would be stuck in a desk in a windowless room all day long with none of the widely acclaimed unstructured free play experts say kids need. And who was going to be reading Tennyson aloud?! Turns out he’s moving and grooving all day long and not only has poetry read aloud but gets to engage with it. And when I was reading it to him at home, he was complaining he wanted to go outside and play baseball 😉 Sounds like we’re twinning here, sister!

  6. Melissa on February 27, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Okay….this is what I have been searching for. We just enrolled my oldest in Kinder for next year at our parish school and it has been such a nerve wracking decision for me. I love the idea of homeschooling and so many of its facets but we really think this is what’s going to help him and our whole family thrive and HR WANTS so badly to go. I have been searching for support on this because as a stay at home mom I feel like my support system is a bunch of mom blogs, and most of them homeschool! And even the articles I’ve found saying “hey, it’s okay not to homeschool!” End up making caveats like “well if you have special circumstances yada yada USDA, of course it’s okay to send them to school!” Well…
    That doesn’t make me feel better. No special circumstances or needs here, we are just making one of a couple good, legitimate choices. Is my insecurity showing? Haha thanks for writing this it’s just what I needed

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 2, 2017 at 11:09 am

      So so glad!!!

  7. Elizabeth on May 7, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    This post and all the comments are resonating so much with me! I’m already struggling with this, and the first time I’ll have to really make the decision is still 2+ years away. I have a feeling we’ll end up where you are. My husband isn’t super excited about the idea of homeschooling, and I currently work part time outside the home and will probably continue to do so. The public schools around us are quite good, but I really I hope it works out for the kids to attend our local Catholic school. I so want them to have the faith infused into their days that way. (I love that your son’s class goes to adoration! ) And they’re so tender and impressionable in these early years. …. also I’m going to be TERRIBLE at getting them up and al of us out the door on time.

  8. […] In 2016, when I confessed that we’re homeschool drop outs! […]