A Lifestyle Change

I grew up knowing I wanted to be a teacher.  I have always loved being at school  -- save some high school years, but even then it was more that I wanted to "move on" and felt a little "stuck" -- and it wasn't the social life.  It was the learning.  The orderliness of a day.  The schedule, routine, and expectations.  The teacher who most influenced me?  Sister Mary Vernon in 2nd and 3rd grade at Lial School in Toledo, OH.  No school has *ever* compared to that wonderful little school in the woods.  My family moved half-way through my fourth grade year and we were all put back into public school, Chapelfield Elementary in Gahanna, OH.  Mrs. Raymond was my 4th grade teacher and Mr. Kindle my 5th grade teacher.  That year we had a student teacher, Miss Frisbee.  I wanted to be her.  She was really pretty.  And she was a teacher.  She was living my dream.  I can still remember details from that year so vividly. . .another move in 7th grade to Dayton, OH. . .playing varsity tennis in high school (which is the only thing that kept me there senior year, otherwise I would have graduated early). . .beginning college my senior year of high school (back when maybe 2-4 people in my 500-person class did it) because I had a goal and wanted to only move toward that.  When I graduated from high school, I already had my first semester of college completed and didn't even bother to transfer schools. . .I was there, in the "groove" and there was no reason to go away to college -- Tom and I were dating and he was still in high school, I had a job I loved that I had had since I was sixteen, and things were going well. . .I was on track to be a teacher!

I graduated in June of 1994 but didn't expect to get a job. . .the market had been and still was saturated with teachers.  I still had that same high school job (of course had moved through the ranks and was now a manager) and Tom had another year of school anyway.  Out of the blue, a school I had never heard of in the area called for an interview (they had gotten my resume from the university where it was on file).  A couple of weeks and three interviews later, I had a teaching job!!!  The memories of that first classroom, that first day. . .so vivid.  I had reached my dream!!!  I was a teacher (and engaged too so right on track with the other goal in life. . .to be a wife) and I was in awe and amazement that God had answered these prayers, allowed this dream of mine to become a reality.

I loved it.  Of course there were frustrating days, days I felt stagnant, etc.  BUT I was living the dream. . .teaching, married, a home owner. . .then my third dream became a reality in November 1998 -- I became a mother!!  And again in October two years later.  It was at that point, during my second pregnancy, that we decided I would stay home with our two children and my niece, who was due in January.  It was a tough, tough call for me.  I worked the day I was due with Marie.  I worked the day after my due date.  I made my principal crazy -- he was continually afraid I would have the baby at school (in his defense, I was huge)!  She was born the next day, at the hospital, as planned.  When I finally announced in January 2001 that I would not be coming back to school people were surprised.  Everyone knew how much I liked to teach.  How much I loved the classroom.  But I loved my family more.  It was a hard decision, but the right one, a choice many, many mothers don't have.  I really do count myself among the fortunate, the over-blessed.

Of course, along the way, children three and four happened (4 kids in 5 years -- when I decide to do something, I usually go as far as I can with it -- ha!) and a move three hundred miles away from family, two states south.  (Another side dream -- to live in a warmer climate.)  Frederick was two when we moved here.  I had a few more years at home with him (and Margaret) and no support network.  These really have been the *best* years for us as a family.  We have grown so close together.  Tom and I have to rely on one another and communicate more then when we were surrounded by family.  And every year since Frederick went to kindergarten the quandary is:  What will Jenni do?  Here's the thing:  Tom wants me to stay home.  Be a mom and a wife.  I am a lucky person that I have this luxury, to stay at home with the kids.  To have Tom's full-on support.  That Tom can make a house payment and buy food and gas (and some luxuries!) with his income.  But here's the other part of me:  I was born to teach.  I know it with every fiber of my being.  So I started substitute teaching, something I had never done before.  And all that did to me was make me long for my own classroom again.  Through a set of circumstances only God could orchestrate, I was able to go back to school to earn my Master's Degree.  I have been working on that graduate degree at a local university since September of last year.  I will graduate in May.  I was surprised at how much I liked being a student again!  And I continued to substitute teach.  I even had a couple interviews. . .one was for a long-term substitute position that I couldn't accept because our children don't live in the same county and schedules differ.  Then I interviewed for a "real" job doing what I always did (middle school math) but that didn't work out either.  Sigh.  So I continued to substitute teach.  (Here is a day that was significant this year.)  But really, I don't like it.  I don't like never knowing what I'm going to do the next day.  Where I'm going to be.  Not having a personal vestment in the students.  I have a few great teachers/teams I teach for but what makes them great is that they're dedicated to the classroom so they need very few days off -- ha!  But I don't want to enter another field of work, doing something else because face it, teaching is the best job in the world for a mom.  So. . .I continue to substitute teach.  Until now.

Snow days make me crazy.  We had 10-12 (unheard of!) the semester I student taught in 1994 and it was then that I started hating them.  They mess with the schedule.  The students get off-track.  Routine is lost.  In defense of snow days, I love the few that Ohio gives us each year -- I don't like snow, but an unexpected day off here-and-there is nice :)  BUT, it is essential, in "my world" to jump back in, get back into routine as soon as possible.  Or move somewhere where there isn't snow :)  The thirteen days our county gives us is obnoxious. I understand why. . .there are mountain roads around here that are impassable.  Ice will linger through a 40-50 degree day.  I get it.  But it doesn't play well in my family.  This year the snow days started in early December.    And they haven't stopped.  Granted, we have a lot of snow for our area right now.  There is no way to clear the roads and get to school.  I "get" it.  But it's not good for our family.  For our children.  For my sanity we need routine.  And education is important to us and with the hit-and-miss school days of December-January-February we (Tom & I) get frustrated every year.  So. . .with much prayer and contemplation, we decided to enroll our children in a school satellite program for the rest of this school year.  I never, in a hundred-million years, would have dreamed that I would take my children out of school.  Don't get me wrong -- I think homeschooling is an awesome privilege in America -- just not for us.  I am a public-school advocate.  Although I attended a private school for 2 1/2 years growing up (and it was the best experience) I love teaching in public schools.  I believe in the system, even though it is as screwed up as any other government agency.  But in the public school system I see hope, I see opportunity, and I see it as my mission field.  Not everything works and/or turns out the way we "hope".  And this is one of those times.  So. . .we have made the life-altering decision to bring our children home for the next five months. 

I am scared.  This is going to be hard.  Yesterday we had the kids tested and enrolled.  This is not traditional homeschooling (I still don't think I could do it -- ha!). . .the school we have enrolled in provides the curriculum and tests the kids.  I just make sure they get all their work done.  It's more like a correspondence program.  The material is, for the most part, harder than what they have been doing in their school and will be challenging for them.  And me.  The pace is faster then we're used to.  We are giving up a lot to do this. . .it's expensive and I won't have a chance to return to the classroom this year.  Thomas will stay in his public school through the end of next week, to complete his basketball season.  We won't withdraw any of them until they go back for one last day, to say good-bye and have some closure to this year.  They like their school.  We like their teachers.  But we have the house on the market.  We'd like to move. . .we need them to be "ready" for whatever school system we wind up in next year.  And if the Lord keeps us right here, we'll happily send them back to this school.  It's familiar to them.  They have friends there.  But again, their education is suffering (in our opinion) and our duty, as parents, I feel, is to do everything we can to give them every advantage.  Thomas only has six years of school left.  Frederick a decade.  When I think about that I'm amazed at how quickly time passes.  And our responsibilities as parents to grow, mold, and influence our children, these precious gifts on loan from God.  And I am even more overwhelmed.  So. . .right or wrong, good or bad. . .we'll see.  It will be another adventure! 

And I guess I have a full-time teaching job until the end of this year :)


  1. Great post Jenni. It is neat to me to see how different methods of schooling work for different families. I too have had a passion for teaching, and am going to homeschool my children, but I also see the value of public education. It is neat that you will experience both!

  2. Trying to get caught up on you...and, hey, you may find out this home schooling thing isn't so bad. Really, I will add you to my prayer list. I know this will be, at times, challenging but you will never regret it...even if it is just 5 months. The other day, I was sitting with my kids at the lunch table. It had been a BAD day as far as school was concerned but as we sat and talked and laughed...I realized how blessed I am to have the luxury of being with my kids all the time. I know what they are eating who they are talking to and the character issues that we need to work on...and we still like each other most of the time! Good luck as you start on your next adventure!


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