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Why I Jumped off the Corporate Ladder to Homeschool?

Najah Drakes autism career change corporate burnout homeschool special needs child special needs parent supermom work life balance

When I tell people I homeschool, I am usually greeted instantly by a twisted face of flashing confusion, disgust and “are you crazy?!”.  With each facial strain, I witness a series of questions begging to be asked, but often unuttered.  Every so often, I encounter a bold person who pushes past the discomfort to ask, but then stops short with a "I could never do that."  Those 5 words hold judgment so grand and deep (and to which they are probably oblivious), that prompts a smile as I walk away and silently wonder, did she actually mean, "could," never do that or "would " never do that.

You see, I really didn't choose homeschooling, it chose me.

Truth is, around the ripe old age of 35, I had a mid life crisis.  Yep, full-blown, "what am I doing with my life, this is not where I thought I'd be at 35, I can't do this anymore" meltdown.  I earned the complete "I'm 35 and I lost my mind with all the corresponding actions to show for it" t-shirt. 

I had attained the high powered corporate job with all the niceties required to more than keep up with the Jones's expectations, but couldn't escape the pit of emptiness that kept leading me back to the question, "Is there more?"  Yes, is there more to this grueling grind that had become my life.  Up at the crack a dawn, barreling the kids off to school, completely shut down all semblance of life as a wife and a mother to put on my work gameface. Thinking, “I've earned this position”, demonstrating that I already earned this position for 8 plus hour, to return to.... wifey/mommy mode, pick up the kids in the knick of time,  Mrs. Chef Boyardee with a Whole Foods spin, tutor who is responsible for turn down service 5 nights a week, exhausted beyond measure, just to do it all over again. This grueling routine had become old.  As my age began to show visible signs both physically and emotionally, I knew there had to be something more.  At least there better had been.

Something had to change.  But, I didn’t know it was about to be everything.I was weak, worn, tired and searching for what's next.

 

Meanwhile, my son on the autism spectrum was preparing to enter a milestone year and grade - 5th grade.  5th grade, where expectations are as amped up as the hormones are starting to be. Where do they tell you that in parenting class?  In any event, while we had invested in all types of in-class resources, it simply wasn't enough. His progress had stalled, and it became clear that his non-traditional needs could no longer be met by a traditional curriculum.

 

The timing couldn't have been worse.  The toll of corporate life had taken a toll on everything - my entire life.   My marriage was teetering, my kids were being served the leftovers of myself, and my emotional health was in a state of flux.

 

I prayed, and I prayed, and I pleaded, and I prayed, and I finally I got an answer.   I heard the voice of God as clearly as I'm writing this post.

 

"Get rid of everything."

 

Scary thing is I knew exactly what He meant.  You see in the process of accumulating professional accolades, I also accumulated a whole lot of stuff that made me as addicted to the 15th and the 30th as a drug dealer to his next hit.  I realized I was working for "stuff," and I was tired of it.   So in the midst of the housing meltdown, I shared with my husband that it was time to get rid of our dream home in Lithonia, sell my fresh-off-the-assembly-line princess of a car, and move...not up, but away.   With all eyes of a generation that had put so much hope in our "success," my husband and I had to publicly acknowledge that my corporate dreams had become a family nightmare.

So from an ad on Craigslist, our dream home we "bought" became somebody else's albatross to rent.  We instantly became landlords (whole 'nother blog for a totally different day), sold our 2-year-old car to Carmax in exchange for a Toyota Sequoia with almost 200,000 miles under her belt, and moved to our cute, more affordable, 1/3-the- previous-size home.

We now found ourselves in a position where I was instantly able to give myself a several thousand dollar a month raise.  With every bill I got rid of, my ability to make different kinds of decisions for my family strengthened. This pay raise, allowed me to re-negotiate a work arrangement that allows me to achieve the work-life I so desperately yearned for.

So, how does this all relate to homeschooling.   Everything.   Homeschooling is a decision.   Those financial decisions put me in a position to move from saying,  "I could never homeschool, " to "I could. ..IF I wanted to."  Trust me, the "IF I wanted to," was yet to be determined. 

Yet, the decisions regarding our educational plans didn't get the memo that we were trying to get settled in our new home.  With the school year quickly approaching, we had to make decisions.

The obvious answer was to find another school.   We did.  In fact, we found the perfect school.  It offered small classroom sizes, a specialized curriculum, two teachers in every classroom, a gym, a garden, clubs, technology, resources, everything, including a massive price tag.   We couldn't say no.  We paid the deposit.   Submitted to standardized testing.   And signed him up. 

It was perfect.   God had answered our prayers.

The problem was I couldn't get the emptiness filled with doubt to leave the pit of my stomach.   It just wouldn't go.  The doubts about the decision kept piling on until I finally gave voice to my concerns with my husband.   "Papa," I uttered.  "Yes?" "I'm having doubts about this school we picked."  As I sat in the uncomfortable silence that made me wish I could slurp back every single word, his warmth silenced my fears.  "I was thinking the same thing.  What do you think about homeschooling?"   Somehow, that warm fuzzy feeling of relief I felt from his understanding was instantly replaced with an overwhelming numbness as the tears rolled down my face.  Homeschool?  The fears of inadequacy and the unknown bubbled to edge of each tear.  "I could never homeschool."  Those same words that others now judge me by are the words that I had judged myself by.

All I could think was I was not equipped, and while I loved my kids beyond words, I wasn't sure I liked them enough to stay this course. 

But, I did.

And now I know they were right "I 'could' never homeschool”...alone that is.  Everyday, I "have" to lean on my faith, my village and the confidence that I was divinely led to this decision.   I am now surrounded by a sea of corporate women I never knew existed who all made the same decision to homeschool all for likely very different reasons.

And now, here I sit three years plus later knowing that I made not one, but a series of right decisions for the benefit of my entire family.  It is truly a testament of how my decision to homeschool for the benefit of one child turned into a decision that benefited not just all of my children, but all of us. I have learned that each one of my children has special needs.  Every. Single. One.   Some need affirmation while learning.  Some need to compose songs in between assignments.  Some need manipulative-based learning.  While all of them need a snuggle, kiss on the forehead, and tender smile to extract the absolute very best.

Yes, every day is still nuts, but in a different way.  Instead of mulling over what the kids will wear each day, I mull over curricula, completed assignments, completion schedules, and educational YouTube videos.  My days are still filled with laughter and tears, but that nagging question of “is there more” is gone.   I daily see the impact of the deposits of time I get to spend with my kids.  Despite my fears, most days I really like my kids.  I know them in a way I only longed to know them in the past.  The good and the bad that I now secretly know about them, I can pray, plan and pursue a way to address.  Yes, it's overwhelming and contrary to popular belief, expensive, but it is do-able.  

I now know each one of us homeschool in a way that works best for our families.   We opted to pay for a homeschool hybrid where our kids attend one day a week classes in a sundry of subjects.   It helps me stay on task and relieves some of the pressure while allowing opportunities that may be challenging for me to offer from home.   Others, hard core homeschool with little or no outside interference.   While yet others may “unschool” where their children's natural born interests direct their studies.  Like the breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding debate, we all homeschool in a way that's best for our families, and everybody still gets fed.

I know homeschooling's not for everyone, but three years later, while I never really chose to homeschool, I'm so thankful homeschooling chose me.

The unlikeliest of homeschooling mamas,

Najah



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  • Dawn on

    I can relate to so much of what you shared. As I enter into year 10 of ‘formal homeschooling’ you post still was a source of inspiration and encouragement. Thank you!

  • Kimberly on

    Thank you for this article Naj! Most excellent summary of the uncertainties, and the lows and highs of homeschooling.

  • Susan on

    YES! This article spoke to me from beginning to end. Our homeschooling journey matches yours almost exactly. I’m so blessed that homeschooling chose me!


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