Okay, so you guys know, if you know ME or if you’ve read here much at all, that I am a “retired” homeschool mom of two twenty-something sons. Yeah, I’ve been “retired” for quite some time!
Homeschooling was the greatest, most best decision we ever made. Yes, even though I had plenty of days when I was quite certain it was the WORST decision we ever made. I think as a mom OR dad, wanting to do the very best for your children, we all have those doubts when trying to determine what’s best for our kids. Even though we were happy having the boys at home and I loved being a stay-at-home mom teaching my boys, there were still days that it seemed like a really baaaad choice! There are probably those moments in anything we pursue that is ultimately good.
I would never say I was a “great” homeschool mother. I wouldn’t even say I was “good” at it most days. But I tried my best to meet the needs of my children. I know families with 8+ children who have a whole posse of little virtuoso in a variety of areas. Music, mathematics, communication, entrepreneurship… you name it. Many of those kids are now doing extremely well in their adult lives. My boys are no exception to that. I feel like, at least for me, this is the litmus test as to whether homeschooling was a success.
While my youngest son chose not to finish high school, he is still doing well. He never attended any other type of school than at home. My boys have quite different personalities and while our eldest enjoyed learning at home, our youngest had a different bent. He wanted nothing to do with anything that came hard to him. If it wasn’t easy or something he was extremely interested in, he just didn’t want to do it at all. And he was several times more stubborn than his mother, so this made continuing his education at home very difficult.
I don’t want to rehash old problems or bring up too much from a really hard time in our family, but our baby became very rebellious, very hateful toward me specifically. I’m not sure if that was just because I was the “authority” figure for the large part of his life at that time (since I was also his ‘teacher’) or if it was more personally directed at me, but it was very obvious and it broke my heart.
By the time he was 14 or 15, he began to just refuse to do his lessons. He had a car by this time, one he had bought himself and was working on to have ready by the time he got his license, so of course, he spent a ton of time doing that. When he’d refuse to read anything else, no matter how hard I’d tried to find literature that would interest him, he would devour anything about his car without hesitation. And yes, I did try to allow as much as I could for the how-to car reading to count toward his school, but that wouldn’t fill all the requirements. But no matter what we threatened or how hard we explained why he needed to do the other work, he would just refuse. He wasn’t super-in-your-face with his refusal, but he’d sit for hours NOT doing the work you gave him.
Needless to say, I was frustrated beyond words and it became harder and harder to deal with. It didn’t make it any easier that the boys’ father wasn’t really a disciplinarian in that area. I’m trying NOT to sound disrespectful or like I am bashing Tommy, but he just wasn’t involved with schooling very much. He felt that was my job, my territory, and when I would come to him with concerns or problems, he just wasn’t very helpful in addressing them. I think he felt like he and Casey were more alike and Corey and I were alike so he usually seemed to “side” with Casey. I say “sided” because that’s how it felt. In hindsight, I think Tommy just didn’t know what to do, he wasn’t fully aware of how bad things had become and that’s what informed his actions. The way most things go in parenting, we always just do the best we know how at the time and I think that’s what happened here.
All these years later, we discovered that there were things happening in Casey’s life that we had absolutely no clue about. He shut himself off from us and seeing how he rebelled even more if we tried to approach him, we just gave him space. We had no clue he needed us to break through his walls, to be praying for him in specific ways, to help him navigate some horrible things. When I was made aware of this stuff, just a few years ago, it broke my heart all over again. What kind of mother am I to not know?? To not see how much my child needed his parents to intervene?? Even if he was pushing me away with all his might, how could I not know how much he was hurting? Those thoughts bring the tears, even now. Nothing is more heartbreaking as a mother than to realize you failed your child in such a huge way.
All of that to say, even with all this failure and heartbreak, I don’t regret homeschooling my boys. And to see them today, both successful in their jobs, both contributing, functional adults in spite of their “lack of socialization” (pshh!) is a balm to my mama-soul!
You may not know, but Corey, our eldest, recently moved with his wife to the Cincinnati area for a new job. The company found his profile on LinkedIn and sent a request for his application! Out of the blue. Realizing this, as a homeschool mom, was a real boost for me personally. I mean, after all the naysayers either aloud or privately saying my children would suffer from our choosing to teach them at home? I thank God for this affirmation that we did what we should have at the time.
Casey and Corey have always worked together in their grandpa’s business (my dad), which is a combination of various plumbing-related things. They’ve sort of grown up in the trade, working summers from the time they were barely teenagers to the year Corey put off his graduation in order to help my dad when his only other employee at the time (my father-in-law) had suffered a heart attack and dad sorely needed the help. Corey was not quite 17 when he made that decision and because we homeschooled, it was totally possible to do this.
When Corey left to take this job, it left Casey with a role he hadn’t ever filled before. And let me say, this was a job too good for Corey to pass. It was higher pay with commissions and bonuses, less stress of being responsible for both office work and keeping track of and working on jobs and less being resented because to others, it seemed Corey was doing less because of his time doing office work. There’s also benefits like retirement and 401k plans that aren’t available with my dad’s business and room to advance. There’s also a respect that Corey didn’t get here at home. No one who knows the situation could possibly fault him for taking the job. As much as it pained me to see him move, I can’t deny that in so many other areas, he’s a lot better off than he was here.
It really took him leaving for my dad and Casey to realize how much Corey was actually doing. So as far as the resentment shown when Corey informed them he was leaving, there’s now a respect that had never been shown before. It always hurt me so much to know that the boys, both of them, were dealing with so much stress and tension from my dad, who seemed to not understand or be willing to admit that doing things the same old way weren’t working. Any new idea the boys came up with was met with scorn and most times, ridicule so they had to continue doing things a more difficult way while bearing the weight of their grandfather’s disapproval.
I love my dad, don’t get me wrong. But he can be impossibly bullheaded sometimes. Like most of us, I guess, only… well, more so! I think now that these changes have been made, he’s beginning to see that there need to be new ways of doing things than he’s done all his adult life with his various businesses. I just hope Casey can continue to urge him to make the changes. Casey is much better at communicating or at least confronting my dad than Corey was. Casey will get in his face and tell him when he’s being irrational or stubborn where Corey would just bite his tongue and let Pap carry on his own path. Overall, I think Corey’s leaving has been a positive thing all around. I had been very worried that it would be only negative here at home, with the business. but it seems to have ushered in some new realizations so I’m hopeful things will be better here as well.
Casey is now having to step us as more of the salesman for the company, the “people-person”, which had been Corey’s role most of the time. And granted, I think both the boys would agree that Corey has an easier time with that than Casey most of the time. Although Casey is learning and he does very well most of the time anyway, it doesn’t come as naturally to him as it does Corey. It’s been good to see Casey maturing in the way he sees the business now that he doesn’t have his brother to leave all that to. Maybe I’m a little biased since I am the eldest in my family, but I think it’s just easy for the younger to leave things up to the elder. It’s like a natural role so when there’s never an opportunity for the younger to take the lead, they will continue to let the older sibling tend to those things. It’s not that Casey is unable, it’s just that he’d never really had to before, so in all, it’s a good thing, I believe.
In case you’re wondering about that title, it was intended to refer to how things just fell into place with Corey moving and getting this job. He has all this time he never had before and he’s figuring out what to do with himself. That’s a good problem to have. Granted, some of that no-time-for-himself thing was because he was also serving as youth pastor at his church here. Not only was he dealing with all the stuff from the business, he had kids calling on him at all hours with various issues plus all the activities that were most of the time scheduled by someone else without consulting Corey first. It was just a lot on his plate.
But the whole thing with this new job just sort of happened all at once. They contacted him, he sent a resume, then went up for an interview, the next week he went for another interview and then the offer letter came. All that happened in less than a month beginning around the first week of November and then they wanted him to start in January! They had to settle their house, pack it up and get rid of what they weren’t keeping, deal with settling Corey’s part of the business, find an apartment and figure out how to get moved up there all at once! It was crazy times, let me tell ya!
And this poor mom had like ZERO time to adjust to all this. I mean, like I’ve said, I never dreamed either of my boys would move out of town, let alone out of state! And even if I thought one of them might move, I always figured that would be Casey, not Corey. It was like total shock!
Thankfully, I got to spend time with them after Tommy and I helped the kids find an apartment, so we had first-hand knowledge of where they were and what kind of place they had, what type of area they lived in and all that. I think they really appreciated our help. It all went so smoothly, with only 4 of them (Melissa’s uncle and cousin came to help) unloading the UHaul and getting done right ahead of the snowy rain? That was just God, y’all. He was just working through the entire thing.
They went from a 1400 square foot home with a full finished basement to a 1000 square foot apartment with a small storage room about the size of a closet! Needless to say, they got rid of a ton of stuff. Their apartment is nice, cozy but roomy enough for them. It’s also roomy enough to house a few guests for a few days (or a week.. I stayed with them almost a week at the end of January). Ha. Their dog, Timber the Australian Shepherd, has adjusted extremely well. Even with the company changing start dates on Corey and having him start a couple days before he even had his work van organized, he’s done really well and has been noticed by the management and owners.
Casey seems to have adjusted to the new role he has and although he’s working a lot, he’s doing well, too. I would honestly be tickled if he would move up there and take a job with this company too. They recruited Corey because of his experience in plumbing and the fact that he has his Master Plumber license and they have just started expanding their business into plumbing and need licensed plumbers! But Casey doesn’t seem interested and that may have more to do with his wife, I don’t know. Shoot, if Tommy wasn’t less than five years from retirement, I would be pushing him to move up there and apply with this company. It’s been voted one of the top businesses in Cincinnati several years in a row and anyone who knows about it says it is an awesome company. They really have a stellar reputation and they do business in such a no-nonsense way that seeks to accommodate customers while also taking great care of their employees. They have an open-door policy among management, which in this company means there are NO doors in their offices! How cool is that? You won’t find many companies that think this way!
Anyway, I guess all this is just to give God ALL the credit for working things out so well. For helping me deal with my anxiety over the sudden move, for making things smooth out here at home as well as for Corey in his new home and job. Now, if the boys would just allow God to move and work in repairing their relationship, I’d be super-thrilled! Over the last few years, the boys have seemed to get this growing tension in their relationship. I think it’s been partially due to dealing with dad and the stress of working with him and each other and the changes that came with their marriages and adding new family members. Casey and Mel were almost like brother and sister when Corey first got married. It was good to see him be so at ease with her and watch them have fun being around each other.
I think after Casey moved into the basement of my parents’ old house (where Corey and Mel lived–the three of them bought the house together for some reason I’ll never understand–my dad arranged the whole thing) things seemed to change and I don’t know why. Maybe it was the dynamics or maybe the proximity? I just don’t know.
Things just change over time, and I know that. I just never dreamed they would drift so far apart or that one would push the other away. Growing up, they were each other’s best friend. As they began to get a little older, into double digits I guess, they spent more time with other people, had the chance to make other friends. Corey, like I said, is just generally more outgoing and quick to extend himself to make a friend. Not that he tried to leave Casey behind. It wasn’t like that at all. Most of the time, Casey was included in whatever Corey did, whoever Corey hung out with. I guess maybe as time went on, Casey began to feel like he was in Corey’s shadow? I don’t know why. At least, I never saw Corey treat Casey with anything other than patience. Maybe I didn’t see everything. I don’t know.
I mean, obviously with the things that Casey got into when he hit the teens without me even having a clue, how would I know what was really happening? Did I miss things between them, right under my nose too? I tried so hard to do everything I could to help them learn and have fun and do the things they wanted. How did I mess it up so bad?
How could I fail so bad? So big? Our one son barely acknowledges us most of the time and has many times brought his brother to tears the way he’s shut him out, shoved him away in the past 3-4 years. Why did I not know he was struggling with something dark and evil? He was a teenager. He was surly and aloof. We thought he needed his space. We gave him his space and apparently the space for this evil to get an even tighter grip. He grew more and more hateful toward me. He seemed to just despise me and I didn’t know why. I thought it had to do with school, but apparently the evil had given him more fuel to just add to his resentment toward me. I have been so hurt, so heartbroken over the way he’s treated me.
My response to hurt, after it goes on for awhile, is to just shut down. To just shut myself off from the hurt by avoiding it, the person causing it, to steel myself to it. So I just tried to keep from losing it. After trying to reach out to him, trying to show him how much I cared and having him push me away, I just quit trying. I avoided him or shut my emotions off when it came to talking to him. Maybe he saw that as proof that whatever horrible thing he thought of me was true? I don’t know. It was just the only way I knew to deal with it. So yeah, I guess I just allowed my heart to harden, to turn to stone a little bit.
If you read about The Dark Secret, the really depressing, maddening thing that was going on in our marriage for almost 20 years at the time all this was happening, you might realize, I was hardly hanging on to reality sometimes. It was all I could do to keep from losing it most days. Add to that the awful state our finance tend to stay in.. more so now than when the kids were at home. I guess it’s because the both of us have so many stupid medical bills, take so much medicine now, but for some reason, we seem to never have enough money. We really don’t splurge on anything, but still we always have to juggle the bills trying to keep from going under.
All of that is a lot for my brain. I have a really hard time not being dismally depressed. I have to constantly tell myself I am blessed. I have a lot to be thankful for. Then I get a notice that the bank balance is dismal, or a reminder that my youngest son doesn’t like me or a bad blood sugar or I run out of a medicine knowing I have to wait for the next paycheck to get my refill… that’s all it takes for me to just slide down into the pit a little further.
Soooo…after explaining my title and now sorta obliterating it with my random bout of ‘the dumps’, let me say that I still cling to the fact that God loves me. He has my best interests at heart in everything He leads me to and leads me through. I don’t know why I tend so heavily toward depression. I don’t know why my relationship with my youngest son is such a mess or why we didn’t know he needed us to rescue him from himself when he was a kid. I don’t know why we have to constantly struggle to make ends meet. Why we can’t ever rest because we can’t seem to keep our bills paid. I don’t know why we had to endure all those years, those decades with our marriage in shambles. I don’t know why He kept us together through all that other than to receive the healing we did. To show us that it’s never too late.
So as I sit here, in tears, hurting and wishing I understood, wishing things weren’t the way they are but having no clue how to change it. Worrying how we’ll pay for things, if I’ll ever not hurt when I’m with my baby son, if I’ll ever be able to have all my kids together, daughters-in-law included, and not have to worry that they’re trading barbs or if what they’re saying carries a double meaning, worrying that we will have spent our entire marriage scrapping, struggling to have enough money to pay bills and buy medicine. Feeling SO tired of worrying. So guilty that I worry when I am supposed to trust God. Feeling like such a failure in so many, many ways…. just know that later, maybe not tomorrow, but later, soon… I will be better. I’ll realize things aren’t as dismal as they seem, that God’s still got me.
God always has me. This I know. <3