It’s okay to quit.

Last year was a difficult school year. I hadn’t kept up with my three school-aged kids, and I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to get my act together to teach all four, with Deacon starting Kindergarten. I tapped out: I didn’t feel I was up to the task of homeschooling everyone.

So we enrolled Markus and Wyatt (grades 5 and 4) in an online school that would allow them some of the freedom and flexibility of home education, while taking the work of teaching off of me. It all sounded great, and I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders as I surveyed the year ahead. The school has a lot of positive reviews, and we thought it would be a good step in providing our kids with a bit more structure.

But it was honestly a terrible fit for our family.

There were too many limitations, too many activities to log hours for, the school software was painfully outdated, we encountered out of date curriculum, and I was spending so much time answering questions about assignments. They had teachers to ask, but it was easier to ask a parent who’s across the room than wait hours for a reply from a teacher.

I thought I could just grin and bear it. This was what I had signed up for, right? I should stick with it and see it through for the year. What kind of message would I be sending my kids if we quit so soon? But this wasn’t what I had signed up for. I had signed up for a progressive online school that would be flexible and interactive, teaching my kids at their own pace and engaging their strengths. One was doing okay, the other was wilting, and I was busy nailing down an education plan to submit to our homeschool liaison before the registration deadline so we could still get a little funding to help with books for the year.

I’m sure by the school’s standards we have given up prematurely, and that 2 weeks is not enough time to make a fair judgment about whether or not this is going to work. I know the system the school has created works for a lot of families, but our family is not one of them.

Four months ago I was weary and burdened by homeschooling. I felt inadequate, unequipped, unqualified, and over my head.  I was sure my kids needed something that I wasn’t able to give them, so I waved a white flag in surrender.

Today I feel more convinced than ever that the best education my kids can get is the one we give them at home. I can give my kids a rich learning environment, and and they can thrive here. What was a burden a few months ago is now a flight of freedom. I’ve been amazed already at what they are capable of when they’re given a little direction and a lot of room to discover. They’re excited about the upcoming school year, and I can’t wait to see all the good things in store.

What kind of message am I sending my kids by quitting? I hope they’re hearing loud and clear that if something isn’t working, you should find a solution that does.


3 Responses to “It’s okay to quit.”

  1. JM:

    There’s a phenomenon called the “sunk cost effect” where people who have invested a large amount of time, effort, money, or emotional energy in a particular project are unwilling to abandon it for that very reason. We compulsively invest in something (even if it’s now evidently foolish or ineffective) simply because we invested in it in the past. “I’ve spent so much time/money/etc on this, it would be such a waste to give up now.”

    This happens all the time — endless repairs on an old vehicle (“We’ve already spent so much money on the van, so we should make it last a bit longer”), slogging through a long book from which you get neither enjoyment nor useful information (“I’ve read 300 pages already; I can’t quit now!”), persisting in a career that you hate (“I spent 6 years training to do this job!”), etc.

    We don’t want to be perceived as fickle or wasteful. However, we can fail to recognize that by continuing to invest in this project, we are preventing ourselves from putting energy in more valuable projects. There’s only so much energy, time, and money to go around, and by spending it in on one option, we are effectively saying no to many other options.

    Now, there is definitely something to be said for grit and stick-with-it-ness, but some people err on the one side — a foolish fidelity to the past. And other people err on the other side — a flimsy, fickle, lazy lack of commitment to anything. It’s probably good to know which way you tend to drift, and actively resist it. Sometimes that means quitting!

  2. kim:

    James, you always give so much food for thought! Now you’ve got me wondering which way I do naturally tend to drift, and I think it depends on the situation. In some instances I am prone to quit prematurely, and in others I stick with it when I maybe shouldn’t. I definitely felt the “sunk cost effect” in this situation! I’m still very confident we made the right decision this time.

  3. Leah Tarasoff:

    Hey Kim! So agree with you in all your opinions of the “online” school. You must of talked to the same people at the homeschool show I did! When I went looking for reviews, the only ones I found were on the online school’s website (all positive of course). We started in Sept and thought ” well, October should get better, we just need to get used to it” but December is here and we aren’t used to it! Honestly, we hate it! My eldest is doing grade 10 for credit so if we quit she’d have start a month behind in a a public high school. My youngest decided to stick it out for the school year. What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger (said some famous person).

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