We are embarking on a new chapter in homeschooling. We left our wonderful co-op after having it be a major part of our lives for the last four years. This decision was a strange occurrence, for I did not plan it nor see it coming. It was sudden and abrupt, and now we will march through uncharted territory, having faith that God will bless us in His way. Something for the co-op changed and I was impressed by the Holy Spirit that I could not go along with this change. It was a complete shock to me that I received this prompting. The idea that I would have to leave an entire community I had worked for and loved deeply over this one thing was a slight smack in the face, a kick in the gut. But I understood what it meant, and it was this: God was telling me to leave, and ah, man. I was going to have to obey. Even so, at first I tucked this information safely in the back of mind since the change still needed to be voted on, and I had hope that the change would be blocked. When the overwhelming majority voted for it, I was devastated, but I tucked the impression I had received further inside my head thinking perhaps I could take certain precautions to make the change palatable; however, I could not. It was still there, this personal warning that my family could not move forward with this change, and I would be an utter fool to ignore it.
When I realized we would have to leave it forced me to reflect and weigh the pros and cons of it all. Regardless of The Impending Change of Doom, how had the co-op enriched our lives, and how had it not? I remembered what I had hoped it would do for my kids when I originally joined. And then, what did I have to gain for leaving this sort of second family we had been a part of? God closes a door, then opens another, right? I had to consider the blessings of this decision, for surely I could find some. I noticed things I had either been ignoring or had forgotten or didn’t want to see. Different pieces merged together creating a clearer picture, obvious and lucid, and there it was: a rich tableau, a map detailing what we should be doing and where we should go. Fear blinds us, but faith sharpens our resolve and fine-tunes our focus. It was time to stop listening to my fears, and trust the Lord.
Cindy Rollins said the reason she didn’t involve her nine children in a co-op is because she believed a co-op generally only benefited one or two members of a family. My kids had fun most days at co-op; they had some opportunity to play with other kids, and my oldest had a wonderful experience playing Christopher Robin in a darling, little Winnie-the-Pooh play. They tried new things and enjoyed themselves most of the time, yet now I see clearly the person who had benefited most was me.
I wanted to not feel like the lone, weirdo homeschooler. I wanted friends. I wanted to feel like I was socializing my children, so no one could possibly accuse me of not doing so. I wanted community and connection, and I wanted to feel like an important member of said community. It had been for me.
Being a part of a co-op those first scary years of homeschooling was most likely the right thing, just what I needed to boost my confidence, and it provided a security net. Yes, it quelled my fears, but in return it made me dependent and a mother of discontent. I became mired in selfishness and greed for here was a group that could be molded and formed to create a perfect village for my children to grow up in, a pretty utopia worth bragging about as a way to quiet the commonplace and uninformed naysayers. But like any utopic illusion it was full of faults and disappointments, flaws and politics, alongside all its joys and fun parties. It was full of human beings, which means no utopia it could ever be.
This sounds harsh and critical, though I do not mean it as a critique of the co-op itself, rather I am criticizing how I had personally viewed the co-op, and whether or not the purpose it served was a worthy one. Most of my friends in the co-op have other needs, desires, and visions for what the co-op means and does for their family. Eventually I understood my reasons for wanting to stay were the ones I stated above. Co-op was a way to soothe my vanity and my pride; it made me look good. This is not the best of motives, and certainly not the best use of our time as homeschoolers. Our best use of our time was learning in the home. So I thought, do I dare to stand alone instead? Am I brave enough to forge on without the crutch of a co-op, to stand taller on my own feet and educate my children without distractions, without being over-scheduled, and without the constant anxiety of missing out if we didn’t do all the things? What if I stop using my most precious resources—my time and my energy—to teach other people’s children and instead pour them into teaching my own? What if I unclutter our time? What if I prioritize and protect our time at home, and only seek outside opportunities when necessary and convenient?
A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of. It is a life in which the things you have surrounded yourself with, and allow to use up your time, are controlling you and negatively influencing your happiness and eternal progress.*
In my analysis of how the co-op had served our family, I was unable to distinguish anything that made it worth ignoring a spiritual prompting over. Truly nothing trumps a prompting. Besides, I had wanted my children to make good, close friends, but that didn’t really happen, at least not in the way I was expecting. Part of that had to do with age, for they are still very young, and another part had to do with personality. I was putting forth many hours mentally, physically, and emotionally towards a social construct that was not providing what I wanted most out of it. I felt obligated to the community, and yet was ignoring the true needs of my family. It was cluttering our lives, and as much as I have been disappointed in The Big Change of Impending Doom, I now have a great feeling of gratitude for it; it made me reevaluate and recenter where our focus should be. This sudden understanding that we would have to be ‘without’ something I had seen as being so important to us, and realizing that God was trusting me to go on and move forward without it, gave me courage and lifted my spirits. My crutch now appeared unnecessary and crippling even, and I didn’t need it anymore nor did I want it. It was very freeing; I felt inspired and light. And best of all, we will have a five day school week—more time! More time! Isn’t it what every parent wants, more time? More time to do the things at home that are of highest priority, like restful learning and habit-training, and giving the children time to think. There will be more notebooking, more Nature Study, real handicrafts, more drawing, more cleaning, more physical decluttering and purging of too much stuff. Not to mention more time for things like teaching children how to read and such.
Nothing suits the devil better than to become a silent partner with us. He knows that we have agency and are at liberty to make choices for ourselves. He also knows that while in mortality we are subject to time. If by his subtle means he can become our silent partner, he can then influence us to make wrong choices that use up our time unwisely and prevent us from doing that which we should.
We give our lives to that which we give our time. As I have said, while here in mortality we are subject to time. We also have agency and may do what we will with our time. Let me repeat: We give our lives to that which we give our time.*
We have plenty of outside classes that the boys can utilize, like swimming and other sports. We will have to work harder to strengthen friendships in playtime with smaller groups and individuals, and not a structured community day. (My boys are more likely to make solid friendships this way, and myself, too.) The idea of being friends with a group as a whole bred a social slothfulness in me, and instead of focusing on individual women and how I should improve my friendships with them, I was more concerned with my own place within the group. I needed to be a better friend, and model it for my children. Now I feel open to making new friends outside of co-op, and outside of homeschooling. I had been so socially tapped out that those weren’t even on my list of priorities.
This season of motherhood is fleeting, I must take the greatest of care in budgeting our time. I have been called to teach my own children, not shuffle them off to extracurricular classes while I teach other people’s children, even for one day a week. I am ready to advance my vocation so to speak, in the home.
When the boys are older, we may rethink a co-op. But for now, we will be doing what is best: staying home. It’s where the real magic happens.
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.
Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.
“The Builders,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
*Quotes are from Elder William R. Bradford’s, “Unclutter Your Life.”