Thursday, April 17, 2008

deep thoughts

So, I'm due to return to work on May 1. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that is two weeks from today. 14 days or around 330 hours.

Not like I'm counting or anything.

And .... well.

Well.

I have mixed emotions.

The thing is, my whole entire life I've wanted to be a mom. Even during the time that I knew I wanted to study geology and I moved cross-country to attend college and graduate school. Being a mom was something that was in my future. And during the time that I was working on my education and then, career, I never really thought about how I would balance motherhood and my place in the workforce.

Because, really, why worry about something that is in the future?

All I knew is that I wanted to be a young mom. I wanted to have children when I was in my mid-20's. But when that didn't work out according to plan, I threw myself in to my career and I made a good name for myself. I started out working as an environmental consultant for major oil companies - and soon - was working directly for one of the largest oil companies in the world, managing a portfolio that exceeded $12 million dollars a year. By the time I went on maternity leave with our triplets, I was pulling in a six-figure salary and the sky was the limit.

But I took a break. I took off a full year off to be home with our babies and when I returned to work, I only went back part-time. Through it all, my company has been extremely generous with me. They have allowed me to work from my house and set my own schedule. And when I found out I was expecting Henry, I was able to take off for almost another full year, and yet maintain all of my outstanding benefits.

There are the medical benefits that covered the entire cost of premature triplets who spent six weeks in the NICU. There are the dental benefits that allow us to see the dentist three times a year and have all of our amalgam mercury fillings replaced with porcelain with minimal cost to us. There is life insurance and 7% dollar for dollar matching 401K and a 10% discount on gasoline purchases made at service stations operated by my company.

And then there is the work - that is engaging.

And then there are the people - that are fun.

And then there is the fact that I have worked so hard to reach this level in my career.

And then, I take pause.

When I went back to work part-time when our triplets were a year old, my mind was almost always on my job. I had conference calls - and meetings to attend - some that might take me away for a full day, or week at a time. My thoughts were not purely on the children. They were diluted with things that I had to do, people to call, letters to write, reports to review. And now, I can see giving it all up. Turning over my keys, handing in my laptop and cell phone and saying "Thanks for the ride. But this is my stop."

But. Then.

There is Montessori school and although there are other preschool alternatives, I've looked at many of them and none of them call to me the way Montessori does. It has been decided that if we are going to send our children to school ... we want to send them to Montessori.

But. Then.

Montessori is five days a week. And even though it's *only* three hours a day, our children are only three-years-old and they take naps in the afternoon. Yes, so they'll be almost four when they start school and they might not be napping as consistently. But what about the fun things that I like to do with them during the morning? Trips to the zoo and museums? Triplet play dates? Scouting out vacant playgrounds? What about swimming lessons and gymnastics? I don't know if I'm ready to give up this special time with them, five days a week.

But. Then.

There is my career, which I really did love when I was working in it.

So, I've drawn up the pros and cons and I've crunched the numbers.

I can stay home while Charlie works full-time on his salary. Or, Charlie could stay home while I went back to work full-time on my salary. But to send our children to school that will cost $2,100.00/month, while also continuing to fund our retirement account, and savings account, and college fund, and pay for the general cost of living and take a vacation now and again ... one of us will need to work at least part-time. And because I don't want to bring in help, or put Henry in childcare, Charlie would reduce his work schedule to part-time also, so that the children are always with one of us.

Some might consider the sacrifices that we have made so that one of us is always with our children to be painful. But, I think it would be much more painful and an even greater sacrifice to miss out on this time in their lives because we were both working constantly.

Yet, I don't know if it is more important for our children to have the Montessori experience, or to be home with me. I've been looking at this from every possible angle and the way it stands, I am seriously considering homeschooling them. And if they go to Montessori now, and get the foundation for learning established, I believe that I will be better poised to teach them, as they grow older.

Even if I change my mind and send them all to school.


Now I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I am the most qualified to teach our children everything, but I do believe that I can educate them just as well - if not better - than any school, except Montessori, when they are very young.

I believe that in homeschooling them, I will be able to expose them to more positive experiences than they would be exposed to, otherwise. And, I will be better poised to shield them from the negative experiences they would be exposed to, otherwise. Negative things like gangs, drugs and violence. And bullies. And cliques. And whoever tells me that that kind of stuff exists everywhere and kids need to learn to deal with it at some point, I say phooey! The last time that I had to deal with gangs, drugs, violence, bullies and cliques was when I was in school.

Bubble living isn't bad.

I would structure our days so that our children are not loaded with several hours of homework at night - like I see with so many kids, these days. They will have time for soccer and swimming and tennis and baseball - or any sport they want to play. And they'll have ample time for underwater basket weaving, or whatever it is that they want to do to express themselves artistically.

Maybe I'm tainted because of my own experiences in school. Moving from state to state and attending ten schools by the time I was in ninth grade didn't foster any positive feelings for the educational system. Instead, I was pulled out of classes and labeled as delayed. By the time I graduated from high school, I was a few years behind in math and science. It wasn't until I went to college and maintained a 4.0 for consecutive semesters and received a scholarship from the National Science Foundation that I realized maybe I wasn't as ignirint ignorant as I initially thought.

So, I'm due back to work in two weeks and our children have an interview with the Montessori school tomorrow. And although I feel a little queasy and am consumed with this at the moment, I'm holding hope that I'll soon see that everyone is thriving and this is the best arrangement for all.

Totally unrelated, here is Elizabeth after she fell in the lake on Sunday.

My mother called to ask if I caught a picture of her IN the lake and unfortunately, I had to put my camera down to grab her before she sank. Although, it did cross my mind to take a quick picture, I'm relieved to know that if the circumstances are dire, my mothering instinct trumps my blogging.

22 comments:

  1. So I know you're not looking for any assvice, but I'll just share that I too struggled with sending my almost four year old to a Montessori school. And at this one they went for SIX hours a day.

    I ended up letting her go, and she THRIVED. She's five and is reading at a second grade reading level, and loves to learn. I credit her ability to explore what things interested her at the Montessori school, as opposed to having to learn whatever the teacher thought she should.

    Doesn't stop me from still feeling guilt for letting her go for that long, though. I feel you.

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  2. Karen in Buffalo4/17/08, 6:53 PM

    Such an incredibly hard decision to make...I'll be making the same choices eventually and I get an upset stomach just thinking about it now. I once joked to my family about homeschooling, but as we get closer to placing our girls in the educational system, I'm getting serious about it.
    Wishing you the best in working through the options.

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  3. There are positive things, at least in our experience, about public school too. But you will make the right choice. It's obvious you are making your children the priority, so perhaps in this situation there is no "wrong" answer.

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  4. Funny picture of Elizabeth! I found that hat at REI yesterday, so I bought it for Shayna, as we're going on another camping trip this weekend... You can still always pull the kids out of school to take them somewhere. It's only money, right?

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  5. Selfishly I'll hate when you go back to work because I'll miss all your fantastic posts. The kids will do great in Montessori. I too looked at Montessori for a future preschool (my twins are a year younger than your trips) but it was out of our price range. Not that it could replace a preschool enviornment but I ended up buying a few great books with Montessori activities for preschool age children off of Amazon. The activities are super simple but the kids love them. Mainly I loved them because it taught me a little of the Montessori order of things.

    By the way, I've been reading your blog for months and as an impartial party I can truly say that you can do as good a job and better than any preschool teacher. I think it's hard to take a good look at yourself when you are in the midst of parenting, but you are an amazing mother. I've had so many doubts about myself when thinking about preschool (and sometimes homeschool but that is a HUGE doubt). I can tell just from reading your posts. I'm a stranger living across the country but I look at your blog for advice daily! Whatever you decide will work out, because you put in the effort and make it so.

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  6. I've just recently found your blog through a number of interesting links, and I must say, first and foremost, that I absolutely adore you! Thank you for all of your words of wisdom, humor, and for keeping things real.

    I was home schooled from second grade through high school. I will tell you now that I don't feel it has adversely effected me in the slightest. Well... I'm a little square, and I have little patience with the high school mentality that has crept into the attitudes of many of the young adults (I'm 23) my age. That's about the only negative thing.

    I would highly recommend "The Well-trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" by Susan Wise Bauer. The schooling methods she suggests actually follow a lot of what you already do for your kids.

    Good luck! I know you'll make the right decision.

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  7. I have homeschooled my two boys for 10 years, for many of the reasons you are considering it, and it has been a great experience. When they were in elementary school, we had a great time going on field trips, to parks, etc. I was pretty structured, but we still found time to see our friends often and do some fun things/exploring that they would not have been able to do if they had been in a regular school. Now that they are teenagers, I appreciate that they have been somewhat shielded from drugs, etc. in our culture, although they have known about all that since they were very young. They are not naive! I have heard people say that kids need to be in school with other kids to learn to deal with life. I totally disagree! My boys have lots of friends (many who are not homeschooled), and they deal with them just fine.

    I did send them to preschool, but from Kindergarten until the present, we have homeschooled (have taken enrichment classes some years). We had them tested last year (the Stanford), and at the end of 8th grade my oldest scored "post high school" in all subjects but one (& he scored at a 10th grade level in that one). The younger one did well, too.

    Just wanted to offer some encouragement for your desire to homeschool! Even though some days are challenging, it is very rewarding!

    Pam

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  8. I'm not a mother, but my gut instinct /assvice is that you work for a great company and it's too good of a situation to let it go. Working part time sounds like a perfect solution, so that you spend time with the kids and still keep/grow in the career you have invested so much in.

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  9. You know Jen, nothing is set in stone. If you send them to school and it doesn't work out, you can pull them out. I know you don't want to flake out on your company, but as you've pointed out many a time, your kids are most important.

    My DH and I are also raising the kids with no outside help - although they go to public school because 1/2 hour of homework puts me over the edge, let alone a whole day of teaching. And it's hard. But I don't think you will look back at the last few years and ever regret it.

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  10. I am a big supporter of education and of going to school. This is not to say that I am anti-home schooling (because I am not) but I do think that there are important things to be learned being in a classroom environment.

    In the end, your decision will work itself out - and the best of luck with it, because I know it isn't easy!

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  11. Jen - have you ever thought about writing a book? I think you have a large following and a wonderful POV. Maybe you would earn enough for preschool or even to leave corporate America (I know my husband and I are always scanning the horizon)

    You could do something like "Waiting for Daisy" or a how to raise 3 kids while keeping your sanity...

    As for going back to work, its hard. I went on a low dose of antidepressant, which helped me focus.

    good luck with with your decision and nothing is set in stone.

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  12. Is the regular public school system so bad in your area? I don't know the education situation in the U.S.A, so I am not being an ass, I'm really curious. LOL. I am a bit surprised to be reading so many comments of parents who homeschool. Interesting. Around here it seems we mostly just go to your average, neighbourhood public school when we hit kindergarten age.

    I'm not personally a fan of homeschooling... but that might be because I'm a future educator, so I need some insurance that some kids will come to my classroom. LOL.

    Do you mean homeschooling or Montessori all the way through their academic years or are you just talking about preschool age in these posts? (Not that you can look into the future and see what choice you'll make later, but I'm just trying to better understand what you're thinking of right now). :-)

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  13. Insurance that kids will come to my future classroom? I do believe I should have said "assurance".

    Wow. What a way to prove my qualifications as a so-called future educator. LOL. ;-)

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  14. Question re homeschooling: Whatever happened with that CA supreme court ruling a few months back that cited a law saying home schooling parents must have some kind of teaching degree? I don't remember the details, but I do remember the shock Californians had that this old forgotten law was on the books. Am I misremembering? Definitely something to look into.

    My deep thought #1: If you decided to home school, you'd be an excellent teacher. Not ignirant in the slightest.

    My deep thought #2: Regardless of what you choose to do with about Montessori vs staying at home, your kids will thrive. They are sweet, brilliant things.

    -Debbie

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  15. Mom of three singletons4/18/08, 12:39 AM

    I just wanted to share as a mother of three kids; wanting your children to live in a "bubble" is perfectly fine. I grew up with gangs, drugs, etc and my children have never been exposed to it.
    As for the sacrifice of both of you working possibly part-time go for it. My husband works from home and I work PT and the difference between are two smallest children and our oldest who had daycare in the beginning years. Well lets just say nothing compares to the opportunity to raise your children from home.
    The last thing I will say is about homeschooling for the first few years; go for it! I did it for my oldest with no regrets, he learned so much and I am starting now with our three year old and she loves it. Just keep up the extra activities you do. There is lots of great resources for homeschooling.

    Good Luck in anything you choose!!

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  16. Jen- I am so torn over what you do that I can barely type. DENTAL INSURANCE. HEALTH INSURANCE. Those are pretty HUGE, Jen. Trust me on this, the unemployed. Without good insurance, you could wipe out everything for your family if just one small thing goes wrong. Can you imagine if we hadn't had good insurance when Austin's brain tumor was diagnosed?

    Then there's the school issue. I think they need to go to school for a few years. But $2100 is just crazy expensive. That makes my heart almost stop working. And five days a week is really tying you down. I'm not sending Austin next year. I'm just putting him in one day a week on the same day the other kids are in class. I'm keeping it down to 3 days total, because I want to do all the fun things too. This is our last year!!!! It pains me to know I'll be tied down to 5 days a week. It's too much!

    Okay, I have no idea what I just typed. But I have no idea how you are going to figure all this out. Do you have a lot of wine?

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  17. Okay, just came back to add that my niece has been in and out of public schools in California and is currently being homeschooled. So as someone else said, it's not set in stone. This is my plan too. I'm sending them to kindergarten and then it's all up in the air!

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  18. I am homeschooling my 2 youngest. One of the best decision I have ever made.

    Right now, they are making "presents" to give to their dad when he comes home for lunch. Way, way too cute.

    I am an RN. I tried to go back to work full time in spring of 2006 and it was a disaster of gigantic proportions. It was so hard with 4kids. So I quite and never looked back.

    Homeschooling has been good, not only for my kids, but for me as well. We are loosely structured, and using Sonlight at the recommendation of a friend. Awesome, awesome program. We do about 2 hours of work, 4 days a week. Quinn is 7 and Mia just turned 4 and I am using the same Core for them both (Core 1+2). Mia listens along, but has her own age appropriate workbooks.

    Mostly we spend alot of time exploring our environment....going to the beach, the museum, aquariums, library etc etc.

    Anyhow, good luck with your decision!! Only you and your hubby know what is best for your family.

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  19. My oldest two went to a Montessori school for a little while. It was not a good fit for my son but my daughter thrived. The twins are in a special needs preschool getting speech therapy but will be transitioned to "regular" Kindergarten program next year.
    As much as I love the Montessori method, I had to admit that it would only work well for one of my children (the girl, hmm).
    Anyway, I remember buying Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years, a few years ago. It might be helpful to you.

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  20. This reminds me of one of my favorite comic strips. In the scene, the mother is trying to decide the pros and cons of becoming a SAHM. Under the "pros" column, she has written "being with the baby 24 hours a day." Under the "cons" column, she has written "being with the baby 24 hours a day." Then she turns to her husband says, "The more I try to figure this out, the more complicated it becomes." As a working mother of 4, I find that to be so true. There are no easy decisions, and no easy answers. I wish you luck in feeling comfortable with whatever decisions you make.

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  21. It's "not a parent" chiming in here.

    Insurance Jen, I'm sorry but you really, really need to think about that. And dental insurance as fantastic as you have is SO, SO rare as a benefit.

    I'll go back to my corner now. lol

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  22. I agree about the importance of insurance, and I also have to say that I'm not sure spending THAT much money on Montessori is really worthwhile. My question is, if you go back to work, and send them to Montessori, how does that financially compare to not going back to work, and having to deal with insurance costs (or lack thereof)? It would be interesting to see if they are even close in number.

    I think you'd be an excellent home schooler. I think your kids would do well in preschool. I just think that you may be spending a fortune on something that (as a teacher I can say this) research shows isn't necessarily "all that" compared to other teaching methods.

    Just my two cents! You'll make it work wonderfully, no matter what you choose.

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