Beating the Homeschooling Blues
(Instead of Singing Them)
You’ve met her. It’s week eleven of the school year and she’s on week three. She can’t bear to let her kids skip a single Saxon problem. She is swimming in writing manuals from last year's convention…and she hasn’t found time to start reading them yet.
Art supplies cost too much. Soccer practice conflicts with dinner. Her toddler wrecks the read-aloud time. And the field trip notice on the refrigerator is past the sign up date. Worst of all, she has unsorted laundry on the bed. Woe is she!
And boy is she tired. Exhausted. Hasn’t slept in six years. Hasn’t eaten a full meal in four. Hasn’t had a hair cut in ten. And what’s a manicure, she asks?
Wait, is this you? I know it's been me at various times along the way.
We all whine and complain from time to time. But when I begin to think, “I could be a much better homeschooling mother if my kids were just in school,” I know I’m in trouble.
What about you? Are you becoming a ‘Joan of Abekka’? ‘Mother Theresa of Calculadders’? Martyrs for the homeschool cause?
Don’t get me wrong. I know you are as committed to your kids as I am to mine. I want those exquisite beings to fulfill their callings, to discover their destinies, to…to…to pass the infernal year-end exams so I don’t feel like a total failure! (Sometimes that’s truer, isn’t it?)
What I need, what our mythic mom needs and what I bet you need, is a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of practical change. Let's go!
Do Something Today
Do one thing right now.
Sort through the eternal mail pile. Clean out the fridge. Order the new math book. Pray. Jog. Read to your toddler. Look at an art print. Cut your hair. Plan one day of school in advance. Shop for the ingredients to the next science experiment. Just one.
Don’t plan to do it. Don’t call your best friend about it. Don’t wait to consult your hubby. Don’t read a book on the subject.
I wanted saffron yellow walls for my kitchen for months. But which yellow paint? How much should I buy? How would I know if I got the best price in town? What if my husband hated the color? And worst of all, how could I paint my walls yellow with five kids under foot?
Then one day, I had had it. I marched all of us into Home Depot, covered my eyes and picked the color card. I got the paint mixed, paid for it and went home. I painted the wall that afternoon while the toddler was awake! (Nuts, I know, but she wasn’t even the one to spill the bright yellow paint all over the apartment rug—ahem—we don’t really need to know who did that, do we?)
Every morning for the next year, I’d come bounding down the stairs and smile first thing. That wall brightened my dreary little apartment immeasurably and it reminded me of the power of follow-through.
Don’t Do Something Else
Don’t call your girlfriend because you're bored. Don’t leave the house with lunch plates on the table. Don’t flip through the Hanna Andersson catalog for the eighth time (you know you can’t afford those dresses). Don’t sleep in... again. Don't get online before breakfast and stay there... until noon.
Pick the most annoying or embarrassing habit and stop it today. You don’t have to promise for eternity. Just today. If you pick one to stop per day, you’ll be amazed at how many changes you can make. At least you'll make a change each day.
I, for one, would pay lots of money for little hand restraints to ‘just say no’ to that mid-morning call to my best friend. When I stay off the phone in the morning, it’s amazing how much better homeschooling goes. (Though the DTs demand some chocolate as compensation.)
That’s right—wave the white flag. You will never be like her. Don’t compare yourself to Miss Perfect.
So what if she does the entire lesson plan for Sonlight every day?Who cares if she can maneuver Cuisinaire rods with one hand while stir frying dinner with the other?
Any woman who can make her own bread, write out daily lesson plans, organize all her math manipulatives into marked bins, and get her hair colored every four weeks is to be applauded not envied. After all, her kids are usually geniuses too. Have you seen their Iowa scores?
So give-up. By that calculation, she's an Olympic athlete; you're not. But you're okay with that when we talk about rhythmic gymnastics. You can be okay with that here too.
Here’s the solution: Do what you can and enjoy what you do. The ones who seem to have it all together are actually just happy. They advertise contentment (which in turn makes the rest of us crazed with guilt). Quit comparing and start enjoying your kids. She does. You can too. They're the reason we all chose to stay home, remember?
It’s a relief to get out of the homeschool Olympics, isn’t it? Don’t wreck these cautiously emerging good feelings by writing a mission statement either. That’s a sure-fire way to end up with a big pile of laundry on your bed next week.
Instead of thinking generally about what isn’t working, start noticing what is. Pick three reasons it is good to be alive and homeschooling. Then go tell someone.
Recite these every time the dishes are stacked too high in the sink.
- Don’t have to schlep my five kids to school by 8:00 a.m.
- Reading all those great books in our pajamas.
- Seeing the firsts up close (first step, first letters, first word read, first expository essay)
- Poetry teatimes!
- Giving my daughter time to write stories about her bunny.
- Listening to my seven-year-old read words that I haven’t taught him.
- Teacher conferences over candlelight with my husband.
Break a Rule
Give yourself a break. Paper plates for lunch. Disposable diapers for a week (how about a month—want to be radical, a whole year!) Listen to old James Taylor tunes. Dance through the living room. Put on a little make-up.
In other words, splurge. By definition, a splurge only happens once in a while. But unlike gluttony or indulgence, there's no guilt.
Homeschool moms simply carry too many causes at once and feel trapped by their “better than God’s laws” rules. The Judeo-Christian God gave Ten Commandments and ‘couponing’ is not on the list. Get it?
So go to an art museum alone (without the co-op). Read a book you want to read. Shut the teacher’s manual and take a nature hike. Nourish your mind, spirit, and body and your homeschool will benefit too.
In the end, we must be mothers who love what we do. When we don’t, we risk the vitality and joy of our children’s schooling experience. Their memories of school will be inextricably bound to us. Who do we want them to remember?
We started in on this weird and wonderful lifestyle for good reasons. Instead of complaining, let’s remind each other of the truly heroic job we are doing—spending twenty-four hours a day with our kids because we love them more than anyone else will.
And be proud of you. I am.