Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where My Single-Parent Homeschooling Adventure Began

Journey into the Unknown, Part 1

Before my life fell apart, I thought my college sweetheart and I were enjoying a happy marriage. I was the foster mother of a bubbly 18-month-old tot and the adoptive mother of two precious children; they had been our first two foster care placements. We received them as infants and adopted them by the time each reached the age of 2-½. (That is another story in itself!) In the beginning I was working fulltime (though my heart was at home), and my husband was home being Mr. Mom to the babies and also working on his home-based business. Eventually the day came when he said I could quit my job, and I joyfully handed in my notice! I was so happy to be home with my family! I even found time to do a little writing. I found a weekly newspaper that welcomed my human interest articles. They paid in copies, and I could write when the mood struck. However, I never gave homeschooling a thought. I hadn’t even heard of such a thing.

The children were highly active (ADHD, I later learned) and needed constant supervision. When my son was eligible for the neighborhood school’s K4 program, I enrolled him, eagerly anticipating a few hours of peace each day. Instead of peace, each day brought more stress. My sociable, active child was constantly in trouble: he ran in the hall, he didn’t follow directions, he talked rather than listened, he threw toys, he spit, he got out of his seat without permission, he hit a friend, and so on. He was having the time of his life, but I felt branded as the world’s worst mother. I hated to pick him up from school each day. I kept thinking about how easy K4 was supposed to be, and how teachers' expectations would be higher for the students each consecutive year! I knew better than to expect my boisterous son to morph into a quiet, worksheet-loving boy who stayed at his desk, smiling shyly at his grateful teacher. It wasn’t going to happen.

In order to write a freelance article on the hot topic of socialization and homeschooling, I had dinner with a group of homeschoolers whom I had discovered at my church. What an eye-opener! Homeschooling couldn’t possibly be as stressful as traditional school. My imagination exploded with the possibilities! With my husband’s consent, I began teaching a K5 program to both of my children that fall. (According to the state of South Carolina, my daughter had been born nine days too late to be in the same grade as her brother, but I saw no reason to leave her out of the educational process, knowing that she could repeat kindergarten if need be.)

We had just wrapped up with first grade in the spring of 1999 and celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary when my husband, whom I had earlier that year discovered to be involved in things that were not right (though he justified them), announced that the kids and I needed to get a new life, and that he was leaving. In shock, I kept going for those first two weeks alone by thinking he’d be back, asking me to forgive him and let him come home. After all, he had promised to love me forever! Before we got married he had told me that divorce was not an option, that his future children would never experience what his parents had put him through; he had seemed so sincere. We had recited nearly the entire 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians in our wedding vows—and our vows had been written in calligraphy and framed for the living room wall!

When he didn’t come crawling home, I was distraught. Then he gave me some money and promised to voluntarily pay child support. I opened my own bank account. My mother and an uncle gave me money to deposit to bolster the account and reduce my stress. I poured myself into nurturing my two children and the foster baby who had been a member of our family for a year already.

Meanwhile, I also fasted and prayed for my marriage while wondering what to do next. Should I get a job and put the kids in school? Both children were diagnosed with ADHD, and my daughter also had some developmental delays; I couldn’t imagine either child thriving in a traditional classroom setting. Should I stay home and wait for my husband to come to his senses? Take a step of faith?  I told my husband that I was thinking of applying for welfare, not knowing if I even qualified, and he said he didn’t want me to do that. I assumed that meant he would continue to support us. However, things aren’t always what they seem.

I did take a step of faith. I became the newsletter editor for a local homeschooling support group. Then I began writing for The Christian Online Magazine, an e-zine. I still expected my husband to return home. I heard that certain relationships had been broken, and I was encouraged.

Meanwhile, an old college roommate of my husband’s, shocked upon hearing of our separation, came to my assistance with a job. The company he worked for designed restaurant menus. They needed a typesetter with a background in Spanish and a working knowledge of a certain desktop publishing program. I was qualified on both accounts! I’d minored in Spanish in college, and my last office job had included using that particular program. After a brief interview with the owner, I was given a job that I could do on my computer at home! I was amazed at how God dropped that opportunity in my lap without any effort on my part. I began to realize then just how powerful and gracious God could be. Think about it; God began preparing me years in advance for this season of my life; minoring in Spanish had been a whim on my part, yet God had known that I would need that education in order to support my family.

Financially, things were going well. I had a flexible, part-time job, the board payment for my foster son, a monthly adoption subsidy for my son, monthly SSI payments for my special needs daughter, and weekly voluntary child support from my prodigal husband.

Though he had fallen behind on the mortgage payments, he promised to catch up and keep it current. My bank balance grew every month, and I reveled in God’s love and mercy. He had known what was going to happen to my family, and He had prepared in advance to meet our financial needs during this otherwise trying time.

I thought my prodigal husband would be back in two months. Then by Christmas. Maybe Valentine’s Day. Then we lost our beloved foster son in April 2000. My husband came to the house to say goodbye to him before a social worker took him away to a new life with the troubled birth family he barely knew. We took pictures and burst into tears as the woman carried him out the door and out of our lives. My husband wrapped his arms around me and cried on my shoulder. It was the first time I’d known him to cry in a long time.

That was not the turning point I thought it might be. Soon I had finished homeschooling second grade as a single parent, then our 15th wedding anniversary passed, followed by the one year anniversary of our separation. I began to receive notices that our mortgage payments were behind. I wanted to believe that it was a temporary problem. I had spent all the extra money in my account bringing it current six months earlier when my prodigal had claimed money was tight, and now I was without the foster care board payment. My bank balance was shrinking. I couldn't save my house without my husband; an attorney had explained that to me.

I didn’t want to take another foster child; I wanted to keep our home open for my sweet baby, in case he came back into foster care. My son and daughter prayed for him every day; we all missed him terribly. For about six months I waited for God to give him back to me. It never happened, and I realized that I had lost forever the little boy who had been my son for two years. Without that board payment, and with the uncertainty of the house payments due to my husband's broken promises, I began to be anxious and fearful. I cried out to God to help me, to tell me whether I should take a fulltime job or continue what I was doing. The stress was killing me. Miraculously, God sent His answer the very next day!

Wonder what happened next? Part 2 will be coming soon ...

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