Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to public school they go

It's time to let you all know some of the issues that Keith and I have been struggling with in the last few months.

We've been especially struggling with finances in the last year. Things are just more expensive here in Georgia than we had anticipated. It sounds funny to say, but it's true. We pay four times as much for car insurance. We are no longer protected by Proposition 13 for our property taxes. Utilities are insane. Produce is more expensive. And, of course, there's the sky-rocketing cost of gas. Marry all of that with the cost of a move across the country and 19% pay cut with Delta's struggles, and we've got a big financial challenge.

Still, God is so faithful. We are so thankful for His provision. Keith has recently received his first pay raise in many years -- and he's been able to work as much overtime as he wants. We have our beautiful house that meets our needs so perfectly. The kids are building friendships, growing in their faith, becoming involved in the church. We're all healthy.

Now we're trying to figure out how to make the money that goes out be a little less than the money that comes in! This has always been an intense struggle for us, particularly because 1) I like to spend it while we've got it and 2) Keith likes to buy it if it's on sale. These habits are not the best habits to have when a family has one income, seven kids and increased expenses!

So we started talking about me getting a part-time job. I thought to myself, "Well, sure, I could do that. I've got time during the day and in the evenings after the kids go to bed. I'm smart. I have SKILLS!"

Um, then, I actually started looking . . . putting my name out . . . applying to a few temp agencies. So far . . . a big ZIP! However, I must say, it's a little easier looking for a job as a more mature 41-year-old than it was fresh out of college. I feel more relaxed and I know more about my strengths and weaknesses.

As I looked through countless employment ads and began schmoozing with friends and neighbors, I came to the stark realization that it would be very difficult to find something that fits the family's needs -- essentially work that I can bring home and do during odd hours during the day and in the evenings when kids were asleep, but not too long, because I needed to get sleep, too.

That's when I started seriously evaluating where the kids were in their schooling. Two school years ago, the fall of 2005, when we moved to Newnan, we began using A Beka DVDs. The kids each had their own set of class lessons on their own TVs. I no longer had to organize the lessons, but I was Chief Tester, Grader and Drill Sergeant. It was all working out pretty well, I thought, and the kids were catching up after a rather shaky 2004 school year.

That's when our financial strains started affecting school. We could no longer afford the DVDs for the new school year or really much of anything else for that matter. Keri Lynn, who now had more stringent academic work, was having trouble keeping up and I was having trouble maintaining the discipline that we both needed. For the first time in the whole of our homeschooling years, I started thinking about the possibility of sending the kids to school. Keith and I began "conferencing" -- he did not want to send the kids to school but recognized the issues before us.

Last week, we made our decision. Keri Lynn and Kristofer will be going to Newnan High School and Kathleen to Madras Middle School. Keva will continue going to Evans Middle School -- even though Madras is her "home" school -- because it has the best special education facilities and staff. Kylie, Kade and Konner will continue homeschooling with me. I won't need to purchase much of anything to continue with their work, and Keith decided quite simply that they're just too young to be thrown into the wilds of public school!

The only thing still kind of up in the air is what kind of job I can get to help with our family finances, because now with the three youngest still at home, I obviously need to be at home, too. You would not believe how many work-at-home schemes there are out there. I will need to find something for myself with a local company or office.

This whole process has been overwhelming at times, so much so that I've felt frozen in place, not knowing what to do, so not doing anything at all. To say that I've been feeling stressed is an understatement. Many times, I've tried to shoulder all of the responsibility and decisions onto myself, and then, just because I'm too tired, I've given it back to God where it's always belonged -- not to mention allowing Keith to take responsibility as head of household. So please pray for us especially during this time.

The reactions of the kids when we told them was so interesting.

I think perhaps Keri Lynn felt that we stripped away a big part of her identity as a homeschooled kid. The plan had always been to homeschool all the way through high school. When I told her, she cried and then proceeded to ask 200 questions or so, then began planning to buy school supplies.

Kristofer is excited but scared. He's thrilled that he'll be going to school with friends from church and the neighborhood. What I worry most about him is wondering if he'll be able to sit through the classes without being able to put teachers on "pause."

I knew Kathleen would be excited, and she is. She's the one that's wanted to go to school. Whether or not it will meet her expectations remains to be seen. She told me just this morning that she wishes I'd told her about going to school two weeks before school started rather than a month before school started because she can't stand the anticipation! The Drama Queen forever!

I'm in the process of getting the beginning of the paperwork started. Good grief, it's a lot to do. I'm hoping we've given ourselves enough time to get it all done. School starts August 6 this year. We're already more than halfway through summer. Can you believe it?

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