My life these days is a work in finding a new normal. After a very difficult pregnancy, I am exhausted. I guess I did not expect my body to respond this way. I usually bounce back from pregnancy and c-sections rather quickly…I usually feel so good afterwards. This time has been different…bed rest I suspect is the culprit. I feel as if I cannot get a handle on my days yet. Will I ever be able to manage again? I say all this to say this,
“Sometimes I do not get it ALL done. In fact, sometimes this homeschool mom barely scrapes by.”
I have been here before, and I wonder at how I could so easily forget the very thin feeling of barely scraping by. And then it comes to me. Instead of feeling a sense of lack, I should be offering thanks. I know from experience that everything comes together in time and that my anxiety is based on lies…I cannot do this, everything is falling apart, I am not enough. It is my need to push and perform that is driving this anxiety. My husband tells me I am beautiful and that I am doing a great job. Why don’t I believe him?
Today I am trying to give thanks for this very special season and to listen to my husband. I give thanks for this dirty house and piles of laundry…and school books everywhere…and lunch left out on the bar…and thank you notes to write…and clothes that don’t fit… and pain and exhaustion…and all the wonderful undone of my life right now. Giving thanks truly is the first step to the question, “How do I do this?”
How do I do this? How do I homeschool in the midst of finding a new normal? I don’t quite know yet, but I do know what I have done in the past. I imagine some things will change. Below is a list of things I do, and some very important things I do not do. Your situation is different than mine. Maybe its a move, or unemployment, or illness, or burnout, or whatever. Whatever you are facing, the task of homeschooling in the midst of daily life can at times be very challenging. I hope this list is encouraging, perhaps personal, and most importantly honest. Do not give up…I’m not.
Like my daddy used to tell me, “Mandy, you ain’t got no shine.” His reference to my tomboy undone style was not a criticism. It was his way of saying he liked my wild hair, and Wrangler blue jeans, and unpolished manners, and happy- to- be- near- you friendliness. I am getting in touch with that girl today. There is something very attractive about a woman who seems a little undone, real, gritty, and undeniably happy. My life is not always picture Pinterest pretty…in fact it never is…but it is red dirt real. Here is how I do it…the list could go on for miles, below is just a few of the highlights.
Here is the real dirt…
What I Do…
- I do the next thing. That means I just keep going… doing the next task in front of me… trying not to worry about the future. I say to myself, “This is my task, I do it unto the Lord.”
- I get up early…when I don’t I see a marked difference in our day. Getting up early changed my life for the better, and is key to how I get things done…especially homeschooling.
- I pray alot…the kind of prayer that accompanies me as I go about…while I’m cooking, folding laundry, teaching a reading lesson, playing at the park, or changing soiled sheets in the middle of the night.
- I keep close to my mother and listen to her advice.
- I go to the hermitage and talk with my Spiritual Father.
- I buy quality books and avoid high maintenance curricula. I have studied and researched to find simple and beautiful books and teaching materials that do not overwhelm me or my kids. I love to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. We are a hybrid … a mixed bag of Charlotte Mason/ relational/ unschooling/classical/ Montessori/ style homeschoolers. I have no idea how to classify what we do, but it works.
- I go on dates with my husband. This is crucial for me and my husband.
- I ask my husband’s advice and try to listen to his practical solutions to problems that arise. His level headed, but sometimes difficult to accept advice helps me to keep things real. He is my number one go to for help.
- I have one good friend that I share my days and secrets with. I do not have the energy or time to maintain more friendships, and this makes the one I have very special and enjoyable to me.
- I write. Whether I am blogging, journaling, sketching a scene for my novel, or just running a dialogue in my head, I am always writing. I sometimes have a hard time justifying the time I spend blogging, but so far I have managed to keep my blogging about writing which is why I began blogging in the first place. Writing helps me wrap my brain around my life and inspires me to live intentionally. It helps me be a better mother, wife, and person. I organize my thoughts when I write, and this frees me to homeschool from my heart. Writing is crucial for me.
- I schedule schoolwork by the week and not the month or year. I realize that this is impossible for some people, but it is the only system that works for me. In fact, I may not write anything down at all until after we have done it. My curriculum planner is more like a journal…it gets filled up as we accomplish things. I have grade level book lists, math and grammar spines, and a general idea of the seasonal projects I would like to do, and then I just go about doing the next thing. This gives me the freedom to follow my kid’s interests and accommodate special needs. I love this way of homeschooling.
- I enrolled my older kids in an online homeschool program. This has been wonderful. It was time to let them go a little bit so that I can concentrate on the littles. For high school subjects that are very teacher intensive I purchase curriculum that comes with lectures, solution manuals, and built in schedules and grading. This is great for math and science. Take a look at DIVE.
- I drink coffee…
- I cook to unwind…
- I listen to all kinds of music…
- I laugh out loud and try not to take myself so seriously…
- I dance in the kitchen with my kids…
- I say sorry when I am wrong (and that is often).
- I take naps when I can.
- I plan meals a week at a time and shop with a grocery list. I cannot manage once a month shopping, even if it would save me a weekly trip to the store. I have grocery lists and menus set up in Excel, and I print and highlight. This helps alot! (This is an area where I am struggling right now.)
- I never expect the laundry basket to be entirely empty…it NEVER is!
- I plan dinner at breakfast and get it started. (Another routine that I am struggling to resume.)
- I expect the unexpected and I try to be at peace with interruptions and distractions.
- I try to be gentle.
What I don’t do…
- I do not schedule my day in half hour segments…please spare me the guilt. I just follow a rhythm of morning, afternoon, and evening routine.
- I do not knit or sew, or hang around people that do…just joking, but really I am not cut from the crafty mold. My mom, the artist, gave up on me long ago. I am a lost cause.
- I do not own an iPhone, iPad, iPod, or any other handheld device beginning with i. If I did, I would be the worst addict of all. Better keep the cookie in the cookie jar.
- I do not cook gourmet organic meals. I love to cook, and I love to eat. However, I do not stress about organic. I pray this prayer instead, “ if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them.” I buy lots of fruit and veggies, and I cook healthy meals the best I can. Regular veggies are better than no veggies, right?
- I do not apologize for not answering the phone during the daytime rush hours.
- I do not pretend to know the first thing about extreme couponing…I tried it once and ended up in the hole.
- I do not give grades…we just keep at something until it is mastered.
- I do not read blogs that make me feel like pond scum…you know the ones. If they ain’t real..they ain’t worth my time.
- I do not ask advice from people who have no clue of my situation.
- I do not exercise in the wee hours of the morning…I feel like active housework is all I can manage right now. In time, I would like to resume my neighborhood walks.
- I do not micro-manage my two older students. They basically handle their own schedule and online classes. This gives me the opportunity to be with my littles.
- I do not put make-up on everyday. In fact, I have become a make-up minimalist over the years. I rarely wear it, and when I do it consists of mascara, a little cover up under the eyes, a soft blush, and a shear lip gloss.
- I do not make my own bread. I make artisan bread, an occasional sour dough bread in the bread machine, and quick breads, and that’s about the extent of my homemade bread making.
- I do not do co-ops. We have in the past, and they were wonderful when all of my kids were younger in regard to socialization and fun. However, I cannot manage teaching a class outside my own home at this stage in our family, and the tuition based co-op near us has not offered a class selection that I deemed worthy of our precious time. Co-ops are very time and energy consuming, and I always weigh if the cost is worth the effort. In the past it has worked for us, but right now I have decided to stay home and spend my energies elsewhere.
- I do not keep a perfect house. I like to get up and put order to the house before school starts. This seems to frame our day and keep things running smoother. In times past I have set up a daily cleaning schedule, and this worked great for a season. However, I find that we have come into a stage where I will need to do a once a week cleaning on Saturday, and leave the weekdays open. I want to be available as this is vital to relational learning, and this is impossible if I am anal about housework and order. I have to accept this new normal.
I could go on and on, but really anyone can homeschool, and homeschool well. I get comments all the time from mothers who claim that they could never homeschool. I believe them, if their image of homeschooling is this perfect little home, with perfect little children, a perfect little school room, a perfect supportive husband, and perfect days filled with learning and adventure. NOBODY can do that!
However, anyone can share their days with their children…anyone can live life with their children…anyone can learn and grow as a homeschool family…anyone can DO THIS! The trick is to look to the Lord and keep grounded in the heart. Never compare, and never assume that life is perfect for any homeschool family. We all struggle, and we all have areas where we shine.