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On Baking, the Mess in my Kitchen (and Contemplating Changing the Course of my Children’s Lives Forever)

Let me just start by saying, I don’t even know where to begin.

In some ways, it’s as simple as this: a birthday cake.

It’s as simple as deciding between store bought and homemade. Both will get the job done, one is tried and true and the other is a mess and stress just waiting to explode all over my kitchen.

One is predictable. I know certain stores are better for their icing, some are better for their decorations. All will hold candles just fine and have a certain moist density that seems to defy drying out (the secret of which is certainly somewhere in the lengthy list of ingredients stuck on the side of the plastic lid.)

The second option, though in the end more expensive, both in time and money, is the route I typically go. I love about being a part of the process, right from scratch, from flipping through recipes for the perfect mocha butter cream to choosing the color schemes to roll into the fondant.


It takes longer, and may or may not taste better, but in the end, it is something that could not have come from any other kitchen. It is mine.

I’m the same way with my annual Christmas goodie box extravaganza. Sure, I may not be the best whipper-upper of sea salt sprinkled fudge or white chocolate dipped pretzels, but when I am carefully assembling the boxes of treats for family and friends, I feel, corny as it sounds, love.

Here, I am not just giving you a million calories wrapped neatly with a bow – I am giving you my time. I am giving you my creativity.

And in the process of either, the Christmas cookies or the birthday cake, I am left with a house that looks like it has been overrun by a gang of misfit Keebler elves who trashed the joint (not to mention my own children floating on sugar highs, their cheeks and fingers sticky from taste-testing.)

So, that is where my head and heart are at, put in the simplest way I have found  yet. However, rather than weighing the pros and cons of buying a Hannaford bakery creation or making my own, I am considering the pros and cons of homeschooling my (completely well adjusted, thriving in their current classrooms) children.


Maybe it’s because I am still, in some ways, the same girl who wrote papers about the counterculture movement in high school, the girl who loved the adventures of Kerouac and the spirit of the whole beat movement. Maybe it’s because I have never been one to like someone else telling me what to do (and running my family on the schedule of the public system, rather than what works naturally for us or having to call and leave a message on an automated system because my daughter has a fever and won’t be in class to do her “dramatic play” today, to me, falls under this category.)

Or maybe, it’s because I like my children. My children are a mess, but they are amazing.

After shuttling Alex and Lila to the bus this morning, I walked into the kitchen and found Asher, kicking his feet under the kitchen table, Special K sprinkled all around, a spoon in his fat little fist, smiling. I saw the mess, sure, but more importantly, I saw him.

When I send my children on the bus at eight in the morning and they don’t return to me until nearly four in the afternoon (and the rest of our day is spent on homework and bathing and preparing for the next day when they will be not with me) I don’t SEE them. Cramming in anything family-related at the end of their long day becomes exhausting and frustrating and I can’t help but feel that this is not how it is supposed to be.

We are a family first, we are humans learning to navigate the world together, first. Vinnie and I aren’t just breeders, we are our children’s guides, their protectors, and the ones who should be molding their hearts and minds. We didn’t just go to the store and buy prepackaged children, we created them, because we happen to think that our recipe is pretty good and that we could raise good people.

Faith, love, respect, honesty, hard work, life-long learning, can-do attitude, having a servant heart, these are all good things. In fact, these are all far more important things, to me, than the fact that Alex can memorize his way to near perfect state test scores or Lila getting to choose a new bouncy ball from the prize box for getting her clothespin to the top of the behavior chart (again.)
Of course, I can’t deny that I also see the benefits of public school. My husband and I are both products of public school, both hold degrees and turned out just fine. Most of the people I know, most of my close friends, same deal. We all turned out well enough to function, well enough even to stand apart from what one might consider the store-bought molding of a system designed with specific tracks before you’re even aware that you have been branded as “advanced, average or slow.”

So, I realize that traditional school works. Yet, this is where I am.

I think.

I am praying. Contemplating. Worrying about failing, if we do make such an attempt. Wondering if now is even the time, or if I should wait. Wondering if I could do it all, even if I was 100% sure that I wanted to.

And yet, every frantic morning that I (almost literally) toss my children out into the cold to stand in line with our neighbors, to ride on a bus that takes them from me for the bulk of the day, it seems less and less crazy. It seems more and more like this is just a natural progression of me, that counterculture-hearted teen, now a mom, who wants so much more than the comfortable, acceptable, cultural normal for her own children.

Because there is so much more out there for them, for us.

SONY DSCI just know it.

(Not that I’ve made my mind up yet. I promise.)


  1. We are probably one of the families who didn’t choose to homeschool because our kids were doing poorly or because they needed to be homeschooled, we knew we wanted to homeschool before they were born. Our reasons were basically what your’s are… we love our kids. I couldn’t see letting someone else enjoy them all day long, when I could be enjoying them! I wanted to be the one who picked their field trips and helped them discover who they wanted to be. I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible.
    Definitely pray about your decision, but if you went through high school (and even have a degree), trust me you can do this.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, I appreciate knowing that I’m not alone in my reasoning. And thank you for the encouragement, as my biggest concern would be failing my children, especially when to homeschool would mean taking them from a place where they are thriving (academically and socially), because I’m simply not sure it’s the best fit for our family.

      • Bringing them home won’t prevent them from thriving, it will perhaps help them thrive more. It is a tough decision, for those who have already been in school. We’ll most assuredly keep this in prayer for you.
        How do they feel about coming home?

      • Thank you for your prayers. We haven’t yet discussed it with our two that are in school, but I’m thinking that I’m at a point where I would like to have us all on the same page. I wouldn’t want to pull them out without their having a part of the discussion, I just haven’t wanted to mention it to them until we had done more prayer and thought on the matter as parents..

  2. juliedonahue

    I understand your dilemma all to well. It’s so hard to know what’s right for your family. My son goes to a Montessori preschool which I LOVE but I worry about how he would transition to the “strict” Christian school that my daughter attends. Joe and I both believe that the HOME should be the center of learning despite where the kids go to school but I’m sure that this gets more difficult as kids get older and when ALL the kids become school aged. Regardless, we refuse to let school be a negative experience for any of our kids so if we feel like our kids would flourish better through homeschooling then that’s the choice we’d make. Good luck in your decision!

    • Thank you, Julie! I’m glad to know I’m not alone. Keeping our family at the center becomes so hard, when they are in school all week and Vinnie and I work on weekends (seems most people get married and/or want a photographer on Saturdays -imagine that…)

  3. Why not just give it a try? It wouldn’t be a failure at all if you decided to go back to traditional schooling…just another adventure to add to your memories. Go for it. Together. And just see what happens.

    • So true. It’s really not a do or die decision. It’s definitely something we could do on a trial basis and evaluate as we go along. 🙂

  4. I loved being homeschooled so much that I want my kids to have the same opportunity! Plus, like you mentioned, I like my kids! I don’t want to someone else to get to be with them more than me!
    I will say though, now that I’m approaching the teaching side of homeschooling it’s a bit scarier than I thought it would be! I figure I will just have to do the best I can for my kids and surely that would be enough (probably even more) than anyone else would do?
    Good luck on the journey should you decide to take it!

  5. heidi inlow

    Wow! Awesome! My son will be starting school next year and I definetly get sad thinking about it. I know that I would not be good at homeschooling, but the thought of him being away for the majority of our waking day seems so unnatural, yet it is the way our society works. It makes me sad.

    • Oh, Heidi, I don’t know that I would be all that great as a home-teacher either. But, the more I think and pray on it, the more I’m wondering if I ought to trust myself (and my husband and children) and give it a go.

  6. I went through the same debate over the summer. I have a 3 and 5 year old and I was contemplating sending them both to a local Christan preschool when one of the moms from my church mentioned homeschooling. I was worried about them missing out on the social interaction but it really hasn’t been an issue. In terms of socialization, they get to interact with other kids on a regular basis at church, the library, the gym, etc. Our homemade curriculum combines the things they need to know with the things they’re actually interested in, along with regular Bible study. They are picking up on so much and it’s great to be able to see their progress on a daily basis. If they get sick, I don’t have to worry about them missing out on something because we can just postpone the lesson until they feel better. Homeschooling for us has been a really fun experience for the most part, although there are some days when a meltdown means we cut class short. In the end, I’m glad we decided to do it because we are all learning so much about the world and each other.

  7. While I didn’t 100% enjoy my time as a homeschooled kid in the boonies of Maine (my 6th and 7th grade years), I KNOW without a doubt that I want to homeschool my kids… It took me a long time to get there, but as my boyfriend and I look more to the future of who we are, who we are called to be as men and women, who we will be called to be as husband and wife and who we will be called to be as father and mother, it all comes back to the truth that *we* are responsible to train up our children in the way that they should go… and as I watch the public school system remove more and more of the freedom of belief in their environments I become more and more sure that this is where God is leading me and my future family. I absolutely have those moments where I am afraid to fail them, but I also know that if God has set forth this standard that I should raise them up in the way that they should go that HE will help me to know how to do that. He will never give us more than we can handle and He longs to give us immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. : )

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