There are two dangerous times of the year for homeschoolers. The first is two to four weeks into a new school year. Your enthusiasm flies out the window as you realize all of your carefully plotted lessons need to be scrapped because:
- The curriculum your friend raves about, that you spent an embarrassing amount of money on, might as well be written in Greek for all the sense it makes to you.
- Your kids are struck with a terminal case of Leaky Brain Syndrome and forgot everything from the last school year.
- And my personal favorite; you find out that you are pregnant. Again.
The second perilous time for the homeschool mom’s sanity is somewhere in the vast, yawning wasteland of weeks between Christmas break and summer. Your joy in homeschooling is leached away because:
- Between shopping, wrapping, baking and entertaining, you never got a ‘break’ for Christmas. (Holiday break really should last more like 30 weeks or so, yes?)
- As you reassess your children, you find that in the too-short Christmas break they had an LBS relapse and forgot everything again.
- State testing is looming, so any fun you had planned for your school will have to take the back burner as you all prepare to prove to ‘The Man’ that you are indeed educating your kids.
- Your toddler has discovered his sacred calling in life is to disrupt your homeschool as often as is humanly possible. You find that he has super-human abilities.
I spent literally years of my homeschool journey stuck in this hamster wheel cycle. Excitement and planning, followed by the letdown of reality-crushed expectations. The insanity of trying to pull off the perfect holidays followed by an intense need to hibernate. The brain-sucking void of winter that made me feel isolated and lifeless.
It was always in this place that my inner critic began to hiss discouraging lies in my head. “You’re not doing enough. You’re going to ruin your kids. Who do you think you are to try to take this on?”
Then my eyes would turn to the homeschooler next to me and I’d think, “I need to do more crafts, more science, more fun learning. Her kids are perfectly behaved, and mine…not so much. I’ll bet her house doesn’t look like a tornado ran through it. She bakes her own bread? And we’ve had fast food how many times this week?”
I can’t tell you how many times I seriously contemplated quitting. I envisioned myself chasing the big yellow bus that passed by our house, bathrobe flapping, babbling incoherent pleas for the driver to stop and take my children with him. I could see them happily boarding the bus, lunch bags in hand, while I waved from the window of my quiet, clean house.
Frustration, doubt, and the inner critic made me lose sight of why I was homeschooling in the first place. Looking at the woman next to me and comparing her best with my worst only served to make me feel more alone in my obvious failings.
Then one day, a woman whom I admire greatly shared that she was struggling. Now understand that this was no ordinary woman. This was Mrs. Homeschooler Extraordinaire. The one who has it all together and then some. As she told me of her feelings of despair, I was shocked to realize that she understood what I had thought was my own private angst.
I was no longer alone!
I began to speak to other women in our homeschool group. I found that these feelings of failure and isolation were virtually universal. Here we were, meeting each week, smiling and making pleasantries, while inside we were drowning and dreaming of sending our children away. Our time together was so focused on the kids, we moms were not really connecting ourselves.
So we started a mom’s group as part of our weekly co-op. We’ve gone through books, discussed a variety of topics, and even played games together because we all know homeschool moms don’t have nearly enough just-for-fun time.
We’ve built a community.
Now when I feel battle weary, I can look to the women in the trenches with me and know I am not alone. I no longer want to give up. I no longer feel like I’m drowning. Lifting my coffee mug in silent salute to the big, yellow bus passing by, I gratefully turn back to my children and enjoy the fact that I have the privilege of hanging out and learning with them.
Find community. Find women who have forged the way ahead who can give their wisdom and support. Women who will lift you up and pray with you. And remember that there are women who need your knowledge and experience. Cheer them on. Live in a new cycle of soaking in encouragement and pouring it back out. Even when you feel as though you have nothing to give, try it. It’s like magic. You’ll find new strength, and clarity of purpose.
From me to you, my friends: “You can do this. You’re not ruining your kids. You’re not alone.”
Now go out and repeat those words to another homeschool mom who needs to hear them.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT