Beating the Homeschooling Blues (Instead of Singing Them)

Beating the Homeschool 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.)

Give Up

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?

Pick Three

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.

Those are some of my favorites. I’m sure that you can think of more. Just pick three.

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.

So go to an art museum alone (without the co-op). Read a bookyou 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.

The Homeschool Alliance

21 Responses to “Beating the Homeschooling Blues (Instead of Singing Them)”

  1. jo dyck says:

    Julie….just loved this article! You should be so proud of the business you have built that is your vehicle for putting out great writing like this that encourages moms. Wish I could have read it a few years ago. That life seems like forever ago. Our paths haven’t crossed lately …hope you are doing well! Have a great rest of summer!
    jo

  2. Sandy says:

    Love it! Linked it to my blog today.

  3. mel says:

    This is brilliant….its the honesty we all need…and live behind closed doors. Well you have opened the door…and I am very grateful.
    Not everyday is like this…I can have some fabulous days…but I do have some weeks where I could go mad…and I compare myself to ‘her’. She doesn’t even exist anyway…its a waste of time.

    Thanks again 🙂

  4. jennifer says:

    LOVED your piece! It hit me right between the eyes. I heard a quote once…”If you always compare your not perfect insides to everyone’s perfect OUTSIDES, you’ll always loose!”

  5. Jennifer says:

    Wow. I know whereof you speak. This is so excellent. I am on the “Summer Roll” where I get all warm and fuzzy and plan the year-of-all-years of homeschool bliss. I am going to bookmark this for November, when I am just realizing how lofty my goals are.

  6. MamaHen says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Every mom should have to read this every morning! I am going to link to it this week on my blog.

  7. Donna Dorsey says:

    Yes, I am printing this article out and putting it in the front of my homeschool planning notebook. Thank you for this wonderful article. Very encouraging. Very refreshing.

  8. Carole says:

    Thank you for this extremely encouraging post! I like the idea of printing it out and putting it in the front of a planning notebook. Perhaps by bullet points.

    A while back I actually took one of your blogs and turned it into a pretty word picture for our school room. Or maybe it was an email, and not a blog. It said things like, “curiosity over accusation,” and, “acceptance over force,” etc. with explanation for each bullet point. I condensed it and use it as a reminder/encouragement as I teach.

    Thanks!!

  9. Amy Rasmussen says:

    This is so encouraging. Thank you for telling us to quit searching for the all allusive perfect and to start living today in the reality of where we are. I just found your stuff and look forward to using your writing programs with my Junior High boys. Have a great summer!

  10. Lynette Thornborough says:

    “The ones who seem to have it all together are just happy.” Right between the eyeballs on that one. You will be quoted. (Found you via Mommy Life)

  11. Lisa says:

    You always speak to me in your articles. How do you know right where I am when sometimes I feel like I’m floundering so much that I don’t even know where I am? I’ve been doubting and beating myself up so much lately since my older daughter has gone to an accelerated high school. She continually tells me what I’m doing wrong in homeschooling my 10 year old. I end up with very hurt feelings and lash out at her with anger and hurt, but she only sees the mean, angry part. Her criticism causes me to doubt myself and my younger daughter’s abilities and achievements. Reading your article helped me to take a step back and clear my head before we get started on this school year. I look forward to doing another KidsWrite class with this daughter like I did with the older one.

  12. […] to share this blog post from Julie that I thought some homeschooling moms out there would enjoy: Beating the Homeschooling Blues (Instead of Singing Them). She has some good things to think about as we start our school year, and maybe to read again when […]

  13. Becca says:

    Very well written. Thank you! My 3 things: we take breaks in our day as needed; my kids get enough food & sleep; my 7YO is blossoming as she never could at public school

  14. gymnastics says:

    gymnastics…

    […]Beating the Homeschooling Blues (Instead of Singing Them) « A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief[…]…

  15. Tamara Alexandrovsky says:

    What an inspirational blog post! I have a three year old and am nervous about homeschooling him and his baby sister, but it’s encouragement like this that I really needed to hear. Thank you.

  16. Tasha says:

    I am the product of a homeschooling education and I can not begin to say how true this is!! My mother started homeschooling me in 5th grade and those little breaks made a world of difference in how much I learned both about myself and my world. It was the ability to lay around doing homework in my bathrobe,latest haloween costume, whatever as well as the adventures to the furniture store for a new couch or to check out a new sewing store for mom’s latest hobby which made junior high so wonderful. in the reverse, it was the dissapearance of these little pleasures which made homeschooling highschool so miserable. Whereas before we had done spontaneous things which made mom happy, in highschool i was siged up for 4H, religious clubs, you name it as a way to make me ‘normal’.

    Homeschoolers are not normal and that is their biggest treasure. IT was in being forced to conform which made homeschooling highschool a nightmare. Go ahead, sigh your child up for these types of activities because they are wonderful learning experiences. However, be sure to listen to them as well. If they don’t like drama, then forcing them to conform to schedule will be one of their greatest regrets, and don’t ever lose that spontenaity which makes life precious, because your children will notice the difference.

  17. Emily says:

    I guess I’m coming to this late, but I definitely needed to hear it today!! I’m on a journey of ever narrowing my focus and, preposterously, I sometimes wonder if it’s ok to do that. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

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  19. Barb says:

    I LOVE your writing Julie!! Going to share this with our local homeschooling mama support group. I think I’ll print out bits in capital letters 🙂

  20. Destinee says:

    I’m late to the party on this one, but what an amazing article! Amazing encouragement for a homeschool momma with the blues!