Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Homeschooling is Hard

If you’d asked me when we started what the hardest part of homeschooling was, I’d have probably said something about the curriculum, or confidence. At the beginning of last year, it would have been ‘fitting everything in’ or making sure that they didn’t have too many gaps in their education’ – again confidence related with maybe a little scheduling thrown in.

Ask me now, going into our third year, what the biggest challenge of homeschooling is and I say it’s the time commitment; the never-ending constancy of being ‘on’. As either Mom or Teacher, I am on-stage from the moment they wake up in the morning to whenever they finally fall asleep in the evenings (despite the fact that bedtime is at 8PM and not including the occasional during-the-night call to action). I do normally get up around the same time Loverly Husband does in the morning since the kids have started sleeping a little later in the mornings – that gives me a little bit of coffee time alone – but not much.

When my kids were little, I was wholeheartedly committed to the principles of attachment parenting. I remember the kids pre-school years as fun and full of joy, and at that point, we were planning to homeschool so there was no change of scenery in sight. I was happy with that plan, but if I’m honest about it, I admit that there were lots of days that I was exhausted, overwhelmed and in desperate need of a nanny, a maid, and an all-expense-paid vacation to somewhere with sparkling sand and cabana boys.

As much as I enjoy my life, and I do recognize that compared to some situations out there my life has been nothing but roses, there have definitely been a couple of breaking points over the years that meant major changes for our family. These changes were needed, but probably should have been addressed sooner than they were. Once they were made though, the benefit to our family happiness was noticeable.

Never one for a pristine-clean house, when the kids were little it was pretty much always a disaster area. With little ones running around, it was really hard to keep them entertained and out of trouble long enough to get any real cleaning done, and whatever I cleaned, they’d messy again when I was in the hallway putting the cleaning supplies away. Since the kids were my priority, the house suffered. When PeaGreen was about 3 and a half or so, after a fight with my Loverly Husband, we finally got on a good housekeeping schedule (and the mighty Household Bossy Book was born). He and I both had roles to fill and after discussing what we had, and what we wanted to change, we were both more aware of the responsibilities that came with keeping up ‘our family’s’ home. It belongs to both/all of us, and though I don’t mind a larger portion of the housekeeping being heaped onto my plate since I am here, even LH and the kids have their ‘chores’.

Another breaking point came when the kids started school. I was working (unpaid), trying to get a doula business off the ground, and dealing with the constant in-and-out of school, homework, being an active PTO member and volunteer – it was a lot. Since I was gone so much, it was harder to keep up with all the housekeeping myself, and so the Bossy Book got re-vamped, with the kids taking on larger responsibilities as chores. Then, due to a variety of circumstances, including a tragic miscarriage, I decided to put my personal career goals on hold, and soon after that we started homeschooling.

One of the benefits to having the kids in school though – and one that I miss greatly at times – is the amount of time that I had to myself. From 8AM to almost 3PM, even though I was still ‘on call’ for the kids if needed, it’s not the same as having them underfoot all day, every day. The initial adjustments to homeschooling were all about the good – it was such a welcome change from what we had been dealing with that the day-to-day hadn’t set in yet. Even as much as a year or so later, I think we were still in the ‘honeymoon’ phase.

A couple of  months ago, I reached another breaking point. I was ready to quit; even went so far as to look up enrollment information for the kids to go back to school. Part of me was dead serious about it. Part of me was indulging in a fantasy. I was having a super bad day/week, and anything that wasn’t ‘here’ and ‘me’ was better than what we had going on – being stuck in a rut and not knowing how to get out of it. And of course, the reality that going back to school would not solve any problems; in fact, it would only add new and more awful ones to my already stressed-out plate. And so again, a necessary argument discussion with Loverly Husband about what we had and what was and what was not working was called for. He actually had a day off planned that week, and normally when he’s home, we’re off. But after discussing it, we decided to have school anyway, and let him see how things normally went.

Having a visitor for the day was a good thing*. Having Dad here to actually experience the way that we normally do school and the tactics that our (brilliant, clever and witty) kids have developed to circumvent my methods actually did help. I don’t typically harp on ‘discipline’ with my kids, but this is one area where lack of discipline (meaning ‘adherence to a structure’ and ‘self-discipline’ rather than ‘punishment’) was lacking. Instead of sticking to scheduled time frames, I was allowing pleading and negotiation when there really shouldn’t be any. School work is not negotiable (unless it is – in which case, it is presented as such) and is not up for discussion. That’s not to say that I don’t take their wants and needs into consideration; anyone who works with kids knows that in general, they are comfort-led. They’d rather take the easy route and that’s usually not the same as hitting the books (minor note here about child-led learning; I prefer a more parent directed approach until the basics are covered and their foundation is strong, after which their education will be more interest and strength fine-tuned. YMMV {wink}). Having Dad here to see how things work (and don’t) was a big help; his level of understanding what my day is/can be like, while still not the same as being the primary teacher, is better after having been involved all day. His suggestions and discussion with the kids, as well, helped bring us back to an even keel.

Another facet of this multi-layered issue is me. I have/suffer from/deal with clinical depression  issues, and though I wouldn’t normally describe myself as an anxious person, my current medication includes an anti-anxiety component that I am finding extremely helpful. I have been on and off of medication in the past and have known for some time that I needed to go back on them. I did last month and things have been improving. Adjusting to new medication is kind of like a box of chocolates; I’ve been fortunate that my side effects are few and manageable.

Just to clarify, this post isn’t just griping about homeschooling. My point in posting this is to dispel any notion of the ‘homeschoolers are perfect’ style stereotypes and to illustrate how we work through problems in our family. We’re launching into the beginning of our school year, so I wanted to present an open look at what homeschooling can be like on the inside.

Yesterday was our first day back, and we’ve made some adjustments for this year. We generally have an enjoyable routine, though there have been bumps (and will yet be more in the future), we are committed to homeschooling. Helping everyone in our family understand that, and what their roles are, is key to successfully navigating home life – and homeschooling.

Warmly,

~h

* for clarification purposes: calling Loverly Husband/Dad a ‘visitor’ is not meant to imply that he’s not an active part of our homeschooling. As a homeschooling mom, I require his support and participation – but his primary role in our family is provider; mine is child and household care – that’s just the division of labor. Though we both weigh in on the kids’ education, that also is primarily my responsibility to manage. Use of the term ‘visitor’ only implies that he is not normally physically present in day to day schooling with us.

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8 responses

  1. Thanks for your very honest post about the amount of emotional effort and physical effort involved in homeschooling our kids while trying to be a housewife too. I struggle some days with it, especially with getting my 3 year old to toe the line. I hate conflict so I tend to the “easy” option of caving but it is not the best for my children in the long run.

    I need a holiday, without family. Do you think that is possible? Just a breather to get my head together. The problem is I am still breastfeeding and the house is lost without Mama at the helm.

    Oh well, I can dream!

    One day the baby will be grown and leaving home and I will wish I had never wished away these precious days.

    Best wishes
    Jen in NSW

    January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    • I hear you on the conflict and not wanting to be in the middle of it… I sometimes wish I could pull a ‘Miss Nelson is Missing’ scenario and see if that would help!

      When my kids were little, I did a babysitting co-op with some friends and that worked very, very well. With a new baby in the house, even if it meant a 4 day school week, I’d probably give it some serious consideration! Hang in there – as baby gets older, I’m sure things get a little more ‘back to normal’ (whatever that means, lol) every day.

      Thanks for commenting!
      ~h

      January 17, 2012 at 11:08 pm

  2. I, too, could use a break from the family that I love!

    I would love to walk down a little path to a lovely pond with sunlight sparkling on it’s surface, set down my little chair, get out a book and my specs, and READ QUIETLY.

    OH…and go to the john alone…

    January 13, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    • Hi Karen!
      That walk you describe sounds just heavenly! I hope you get the opportunity to take it very soon. And I can *so* relate to the bathroom comment, lol.
      Thanks for commenting!
      ~h

      January 17, 2012 at 11:10 pm

  3. I enjoyed this honest outlook on your experience in homeschooling.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:59 am

    • Thank you, and thanks for taking the time to comment!
      ~h

      January 17, 2012 at 11:10 pm

  4. Another comment in support of your honesty!
    Been there/done that will all of these feelings!!!!
    In fact, just yesterday we had a bit of a to-do, cleared the air and all is golden again…
    for now.

    LOL

    Thanks for the writing!

    Here’s my blog if you’d like to check it out: http://taytayhser.blogspot.com/

    January 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    • Oh, yes – we’re familiar with the frequent revisions to our plans… I think that’s a good thing, right?! Someone please tell me that’s a good thing! LOL
      Thanks for commenting, Karen! I’ll check out your blog 🙂
      ~h

      January 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm

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