I wanted to quit homeschooling this year. I had two separate crises in fact. I got to a place where I didn’t know what was wrong; I only knew something wasn’t working. I felt overwhelmed all the time. I couldn’t figure out how to fit the responsibilities of motherhood, homeschooling, and writing into my life. I kept thinking that one of those three things had to go. It obviously couldn’t be motherhood (duh!), so which of the other two was it going to be?
I got to the end of most school days and didn’t want any more kid-interaction. I just wanted to quit and go hide somewhere. I wasn’t playing games with my kids anymore, I wasn’t reading aloud to them, I wasn’t enjoying them. I felt guilty about my lack of interaction. I complained to my husband that homeschooling was stealing my motherhood. This wasn’t what all the home school speakers and writers promised would happen if I chose to home school. Everything was supposed to be peaches and cream! Rainbows and butterflies! Pony rides in May sunshine!
A friend (and fellow home school mom) said I sounded like I was in burnout. My husband kept asking me if I wanted to put the kids in school. I kept hesitating. We were finally able to sit down to talk about homeschooling in January. I’m the kind of person who feels overwhelmed and doesn’t even know where to begin problem-solving. I need someone to talk it out with me and guide me through it.
So we talked. We talked about what homeschooling gives our family. Things like:
- We can take our vacations and home assignments whenever, and sick days are easy to make up.
- We have long leisurely family breakfasts where we sit and talk together.
- We don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to have said family breakfast.
- As long as the environment is quiet and peaceful, I do actually enjoy teaching, especially subjects like math and science.
We also talked about what made homeschooling so stressful for me. I had to think for a while to come up with answers that didn’t include the word “everything”:
- I was extremely far behind on read-alouds, and it was majorly stressing me out. Our Sonlight curriculum chooses historical fiction novels that correspond to our history lessons, and Mom is supposed to read them aloud during the school day. I was really uptight about these read-alouds. I feared my children would not receive a thorough education if they did not hear me read all this historical fiction to them. But I couldn’t find consistent time to read the books. The daily readings were rather long. That meant I would get really behind if I missed even one day, and by that time I had missed a lot of days. I felt perpetually behind and would not allow myself to read something for fun if I hadn’t finished the “assigned” book. This meant we never read anything for fun. The Sonlight read alouds are supposed to be fun, but to me they still felt like school, and I wasn’t having any fun. On top of that, I missed reading to my kids. When they were younger and had less schoolwork to do, I was able to read to them for hours each day. All the Sonlight books, plus extras from the library. With the loss of read-alouds, I felt like my bonding time with my kids had been snatched away.
- I worried over what I would do if I ever had trouble teaching a particular subject to a particular child.
- There was also the fact that four children in one house can get rather loud rather quickly. Chaos due to age gaps is what home school moms have to deal with if they happen to have more than one child. How to keep your young ones quietly entertained while older ones work? That is the age-old question for home school moms, and its answer had been eluding me.
- Additionally, I had been freaking out for years about how to teach four different levels at the same time. Even when I was only teaching 2 levels, I worried about adding the 3rd and 4th. I dragged this fear around with me each year. I carried it through each day I didn’t quite finish everything I intended to finish. I was so afraid of what the future would hold. (Worry is a common theme with me, have you noticed?)
At this point my husband noted something important: Sending the kids to school wouldn’t cure all my parenting woes. School wasn’t some magic elixir. I might not have the burden of teaching them, true, but I’d have to get up early each morning to get them ready to leave. I’d have to pack lunches each day and check homework and organize transportation to and from school. We wouldn’t have our peaceful, unrushed mornings, and I knew I would miss that family time. Sending my kids to school, just like schooling them at home, was going to have both pros and cons.
So we talked about targeted solutions for specific problems. Most of these solutions came in the form of permission. Permission not to read the assigned historical fiction. Permission to read what I want to read to them. Permission to get tutors or outside help if I ever felt the need.
Permission. Was it really that simple?? All I know is that releasing some of those expectations lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Astonishing how such a simple statement (“I don’t have to read the Sonlight read-alouds”) could so unburden me. Oh I knew in theory that you can’t do every Sonlight assignment. The company says that. Experienced Sonlight moms say that. But I had never internalized it. I had never applied it to my own classroom. Now I had the chance.
Next on the to-do list was searching for a good time to actually read together. As I mentioned, even though I wanted to read, I was having difficulty finding the space in our days. When I stopped pressuring myself to read Sonlight’s books, when the read-aloud timeline was lifted, I found I could squeeze reading into our day.
I started reading aloud during lunchtime. Now, I eat quickly and read while everyone else eats. When we finish eating, I clean up, and we move to the living room where we keep reading. With this approach I’m able to read about 45 minutes each day, and we all love reading together again.
I didn’t find a solution for my fears about teaching four levels at once. I just sort of put the worry off until tomorrow. But hey, that’s Biblical, right? “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Relinquishing the expectation to read every single Sonlight read aloud was enough for now. I could deal with the other stuff later.
Part 2: “Mom Fail”
Part 3: The Mean Mommy