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Raising independent kids by sending them to school

I feel strongly about raising my children to be independent thinkers. I also believe that sending them off to school is the best way (for us) to do that. I don’t need to get into a big public school/home school debate, but I’ll admit–homeschooling is very tempting. I LOVE having my kids around, I’m sad to have them away from me, after having them around so much over the summer. But I also know that I can’t provide for them at home what I want for them fully in life. Do I want to protect them from all of the evils of the world? Absolutely! Do I think I can best do that by keeping them at my side at all times? No way. Here is a snapshot of our first day of school picture on the front door. If you haven’t already read my “what I believe” post over on my sidebar, we are quite religious people. We have gospel discussions in our home on a regular basis. We have daily prayer and scripture study as a family, and encourage our children to do the same on their own. I hear people who don’t know about my faith in the news say that we strive to brainwash our children, but really…I want my children to know the difference about how we live, and how some others may live, and to choose on their own to believe what we try to teach.  I want to teach them to live IN the world, but not necessarily OF the world. The world is a crazy, scary place.  I feel the best way to teach that is to arm them with love and tools and little by little…choose the right path on their own.

When my oldest started kindergarten, I was afraid of what the kids with older siblings would be spreading to him…I was sure he’d be informed on his first day about how babies were made, and where to find the nearest weed. What was I thinking? I loved him too much to send him away…how could I do this to him…and to myself? But I had faith in the process, and always told myself that I could easily pull him out and home school him if I ever wanted to. But it was wonderful, it was amazing…elementary school is a happy place…rainbows and unicorns seemed to pop out in every direction…his teachers were kind…and loving…and welcomed me and my 2 small children (at the time). I got involved, memorized all of the kids names in his class that first week of school. And I felt that feeling of comfort…of peace…that this was the right thing to do for our family.  I hated that everything changed. My second son lost his playmate, his best friend, and I mourned the way things used to be. But then I delighted in watching my #2 start to play with his little sister and become buddies with her…and that melted my heart in a whole new way. It became apparent to me that this is what I wanted for my children, as much as it pained me, it wasn’t about me…it was about them. I made decisions that I was going to tell my kids about “all those things” that I didn’t want them to hear from others. I wanted them to hear it all from me first, not from the kids on the playground with older siblings (now I have a daughter with older brothers that I’m sure some of her friends parents don’t love).

So once again, we make the trek to school.  Last year I walked 3 to school, now we just walk two.  Looking at this picture below, I feel a bit broken all over again. My kids are now split up at 2 different schools. I dropped the littles off at the rainbow land of elementary school, then drove my 6th grader off to the scariest place on earth–middle school.
But guess what? As nerve wracked as I am about middle school–when I toured there last week (and last May), and walked to all of the classrooms with my son, I felt that peace all over again that I so desperately needed. This, too, will be ok. It is an amazing school, I felt peace when hearing the assistant principal reassure all of us parents that we can come on campus whenever (have to hold myself back from that for my sons sake), they have video surveillance cameras (yes, a spoiled fact), an anonymous hot line for kids to report anything suspicious, and so many other things that made me feel ok about all of this. I’ve talked with my son about the “craziness” in the world, and what to expect from the halls of middle school, or the locker room. He knows what is inappropriate, and though I don’t hope that he’ll run into it, I know he will, and I hope we have taught him well enough that he will CHOOSE to shy away from it, and then be stronger than he was before. I have faith that he will…because I remember being there. I was taught, tempted, and chose the path that I am on now. And if not, I have faith in the process of “coming back” after making mistakes.

My 4th grader went up the stairs to his class, and I walked my 2nd grader into hers. She sits right by a classmate from last year, and neighbor.
They were fine, and happily waved goodbye to me. I’m grateful I’ve never had a child cry and beg me not to leave them, because I don’t know if I’d be strong enough…
I drove my middle schooler, gave him a big pep talk, had him write a “cheat sheet” of his schedule to put in his pocket, encourage him to smile at others in the hall (he tends to keep to himself), and he was off. All day, I wondered and fretted.

I was home with my youngest by 8:30 and just stared at her as she ate her breakfast. Once again, just the two of us.  In two years, I’ll be all alone.
Now I’m not going to lie and say that the quiet was kinda nice and mellow, I don’t have much opposition from my littlest about the schedule of our day. I do look forward to getting organized, grocery shopping easier, etc. It is more relaxing, but I’ve got just 2 more years of my baby at home, and I want to make the best of it.

Luckily, we had a lunch with friends planned. We call it tears & cheers. Some are tearing, some are cheering. There was a handful of them there, and we all told stories of our first day. One friend dropped off her oldest to kindergarten with tears in both of their eyes, but as I told her before this day, you just gotta rip the band aid off. I cried a little for her. I remember all too well that day. Then I had a friend tell how she dropped off her youngest to kindergarten and went home and wept…and I cried a little for her too…because that day will come all too soon for me.


I’ll admit, it was fun to chat with my friends with only one little helper…but she played with her friend.  I won’t lie and say I also don’t enjoy the slower pace, more quiet, more time while the kids are playing at school, and I don’t mope around waiting for them…I just miss them. It was fun to see my daughter running to me with arms outstretched that let me know she had a great day.

My son also had a great day in 4th grade…

…and when my 6th grader walked out with a big smile, I felt so so happy (the half smile on his face below is nothing to the smile I saw…but it is etched in my mind).

So once again, I tell myself…it’s going to be ok. This is what I feel in my heart is best for them (though I know others don’t agree, this is not a bashing home school post, just how I feel… I won’t say I’d never do it if I felt it was right for us), and I must do my part at home to fill them with love and goodness, so they will be armed with confidence and make choices, hopefully in the right direction.  Though my husband often jokingly says I need to loosen the apron strings, I can’t help but fully invest my heart into my children.  As my favorite mommy blogger, Shawni says on her blog, 71toes, this is the life I chose, to be their mother–whole heartedly. Especially love THIS post of hers.

Lastly, here are a few pics of my daughter who indulges me in all of the poses and handful of pictures I like to take.

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  1. Glad your kids had a good start to school. They all look very happy. Mine start a week from today.
    the domestic fringe recently posted..Seeing DotsMy Profile

  2. It’s so hard for me to acknowledge that my kids are getting older and entering stages that are so foreign to me as a parent. But I have to admit that it is sometimes exhilarating and fun to be crossing into that unknown. I cannot believe how old our kids are. I will never forget when you called me to tell me that you had a baby, you were my first friend to jump into that parent pool and it was so exciting!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It is hard to acknowledge the growing up part, but I am having so much fun with my pre teen! I was happy to take that first step amidst our friends to have a baby, but you didn’t follow too far behind, friend;)

  3. This is a wonderful post. That is all. :)
    Jess from Cox’s Corner recently posted..Witches Hat Bow Guest PostMy Profile

  4. Oh wow. I’m so glad that you know your kids will be more than fine in school. I’m a bit ahead of you…just sent my son off to university with over 30K students. For the first time in 18 years, I was struggling to let go. He assured me that he was going to be fine and deep down, I know he will be. I raised him to be independent.
    You and I are quite different on the religious spectrum, but not at all with our hopes for our kids. I think we might even be kindred spirits…my first blog was named Capturing Joy, named after the Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis’s autobiography. Cool, huh?
    You have sweet children! Life is good!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      How fun that your first blog had the same name! And I didn’t know about the Canadian folk artist, will have to look that up. Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine the struggle to let go that I’ll have sending my children to college. Luckily we have baby steps along the way, but I’m sure nothing can really prepare you. Thank you for your heartfelt comment.

  5. I think that’s the key — being at peace with our decisions as parents. If we’re seeking the Spirit as we guide our families, then it hardly matters if we choose regular school or homeschool, because we’re doing what is right for us. I’ve struggled with the decision to homeschool. Really struggled. There are pros and cons to everything. If it weren’t for the strong personal confirmation that I felt when considering it, then I probably wouldn’t be doing it!

    I love that you are so involved at the schools — that really makes a big difference in how your kids view school in general, I think. Kudos to you!

    Glad you guys had a great start this week! YAY!
    kriste recently posted..flowersMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Just reading this! I may or may not have been avoiding the comments;) I totally agree in seeking the spirit in this big decisions and totally agree with the pros and cons to each.

  6. I’m crying thinking of sending my youngest to kindergarten one day!
    Loved your post. I have struggled with the school/homeschool debate continually but for now we’re doing regular school. My 6 year old heads to grade 1 on Tuesday- sad! I’ll miss her & my 3 year old will miss her playmate.
    Heather Lynne recently posted..Lacey & Josh (Wedding Reception)My Profile

  7. I always enjoy your post. Love Corner Bakery!!! We moved from Austin almost 4 years ago. Feeling comfortable in your child’s school is so important. I use to teach in LISD. Our school use to be known as the house of smiles!!!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      The house of smiles sounds like a great place to go to school! North Austin has been a really great place to live, how fun that you used to live here!

  8. Jenny Whiting says:

    Thanks for this post!! I agree, too, that each year we have to think and pray about what is best for our kids. I would really love to homeschool but just have not felt that it was right for us at this time – for many different reasons. Fortunately I can also volunteer a lot in my kids’ classrooms (1st and 3rd this year) because my mom can help watch my two little ones at home once/week. But just today I was at a playgroup/book club where two homeschooling moms were talking about all the fun field trips they can take and all the flexibility they have with schedules and music lessons, and it made me wonder again if I shouldn’t be homeschooling. So thank-you for your post, it helped me remember all the good feelings I have when I’m in my kids’ school – they also have such wonderful teachers who have become some of my dear friends. Hope the school year continues well for your kids, especially for your 6th grader – I am also scared of middle school – what a big step.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      THanks for your comment, Jenny. I agree, the idea of all the fun field trips that home schoolers do does sound fun. But thats what I did in the summer, we had a fun field trip nearly every day. I really see that time as precious. The after school time is tough, too, with activities. I agree, volunteering in the classroom has been the best way to still show my face, or at least going to school lunch regularly!

  9. How fun! I have a fourth grade son too and your pictures of your son remind me of my son and the way he acts!! Too cute! My fourth grader is my baby and it is still hard to believe!
    Tonia @TheGunnySack recently posted..Back To Class with Sam’s Club {College Edition}My Profile

  10. This sweet post had me tearing up. My oldest starts middle school next week but I clearly remember that 1st day of kindergarten when I wanted to chase that school bus down and grab her and take her home with me! Every year gets easier for me (except maybe this first year of middle school) but I think the 1st day will always bring a tear or two for me.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      How did the first day of middle school go? Mine has been in middle for 2 weeks, and I think we’re going to be ok! Oh, the luxury of the bus has never been ours (live too close to the school) but I can imagine the thought right now.

  11. I have to say…this post made me cry!! I have an 8 month old that is still in bed and I am watching him on the monitor as I read this and oh boy does the thought of dropping him at school make my heart crumble! It is inevitable, I know, but hard to even fathom at the same time. Your family is adorable and I absolutely love your blog. I look forward to reading the email of your most recent post every morning :)

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Oh Kim, it’s amazing how time flies by so quickly! There are so many wonderful moments and adventures along the way. I’m so happy to hear you look forward to my posts each morning, made my day!

  12. Great post – I can relate to so much of it. I am a little ahead of you – my youngest is heading into his last year of high school. I am thinking that next year at this time, he will be starting university and my husband and I will potentially be “empty nesters” Time flies, so it is so important to make every day count

    • Kristen Duke says:

      wow, empty nesters–I feel like I’m almost there with all of mine almost in school! But college–exciting new chapter!

  13. You are a thoughtful mom!

  14. Kristen, I loved this post!!! I have so many similar feelings….it was nice to have them articulated by you in this blog post. And I love the pic of Alyssa running to you afterschool with open arms. Made my eyes tear up.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I made you tear up? wow! I’m happy to hear that:) I’m glad I can help articulate feelings, too, it’s tough to put our emotions into words sometimes. Thanks for being a great friend…

  15. Very nicely stated! I completely agree!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Just coming to the comments here (I may have been avoiding them). Thanks, Rachelle, can’t wait to see you guys!

  16. Jacqueline says:

    Your second son looks so different! Did he just get a haircut?
    And my first-grade-teacher-comment: Good for you for being the kind of mom that’s so happy to see her kids after school!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      They all got back to school trims. The boys are loving the longer hair, but I’m trying to get a good middle balance;)

  17. I absolutely respect your decisions/opinions. Making the school decision is HARD. One of the hardest parenting decisions ever. But…

    To raise indepent kids is exactly why I homeschool! ;)

    Most people don’t think about it that way… but remember that being independent means more than just not being at home.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks for commenting! I seriously haven’t come to read any comment yet because I was so afraid to share my thoughts! Thank you for your thoughts, it is hard! I’d love to hear more on your thoughts! I can see how homeschooling would foster independantly doing your work vs. having a teacher hover over you!

  18. What a great post! I couldn’t agree more with you! I LOVE all the photos but my fav pic is the last one, so fun!

  19. We are on the same page kristen!!!!! I do not have any school aged children, but I have thought a lot already about their education. I love all of your thoughts!! You seem to be an awesome mommy! And your blog is by far my favorite!
    Ashley Romero recently posted..Independent WomanMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      You’re so sweet, thank you for your kind words…and I’m honored to be a favorite! Your kiddos are adorable;)

  20. aahhh, reading your post give me tears. My son starts pre-k next week, I’m going to cry for sure. Thanks for a good and inspring read :-).

    • Kristen Duke says:

      How did the first day of pre-K go? It’s a tough fight sending them away!

      • oh boy, I was trying so hard to keep myself together in front of him—- balling in the car. He said “I’m ok mommy, I’m a big boy, I can take care of myself.” He even packed his own snacks. CAN I FREEZE TIME?

  21. Love your blog! Love this post! But I have a pressing questions… where did you get that pink polka-dot shirt your daughter has on! I have 3 girls (the oldest being in 2nd grade) and I would love to get that she for her!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      That is a very pressing question, and I’m so sorry I didn’t see this question until now! I got it at Target…or was it Old Navy? One of the two! I heart it!

  22. love love

  23. tricia dunlap says:

    this post was beautiful and sentimental and brought me comfort as so many similar thoughts have been running through my mind! you are such a wise mom and i am honored to know you!

  24. Oh I am so not looking forward to when Beck goes to school. Even next year when he starts preschool! I’m glad I’m holding him back a year because of his August birthday, because I get another year with him. Seeing everyone post their kids’ back to school pictures made me soooo glad I wasn’t there. I’m going to cry a lot when that day comes!

    I LOVE Alyssa’s silver shoes. I’m all about blingin’ silver shoes!


  1. [...] because I see such value in them being in school, but I love them being home, too. I feel I am raising independent kids by sending them to school….and that’s what I want when they grow up, though it stinks [...]

  2. […] she can do the blood curtling screams. But overall–dreamy. I’ve mentioned before that I battle with sending them off, but I know in my heart it’s best for them, and I also know that I wouldn’t like being […]