Monday, August 13, 2012

Encouragement for Homeschool Moms

I need this post more than anyone else, so here goes:  

What You Shouldn't Be Discouraged By:  

Your Own Expectations. It might be the way you thought you'd look. It might be the kind of social life you thought you'd have. It might be zero screen-time and all wooden/organic/natural toys. I think the most silly and unrealistic expectation I have is my house. Somewhere in the back of my mind I pictured us living in a little brick mansion with an old stone fence and a garden in the backyard. The inside would be pristine and the cookies would be from scratch, with nary a laundry pile or Ikea product to be found. This ridiculous vision of domesticity is behind all sorts of guilty, discontented and otherwise useless thoughts that bring me down day after day.

The Solution: Expectations are a drag; realistic goals are much more useful. If you're not happy about your body, your schedule, your house, your job, your finances - make a plan and do a little something about it every day. It's not glamorous but it's a whole lot more likely to actually change your life.  

Other People's Expectations. Your parents, your in-laws, your friends who are sending their kids to school, even your husband will have some picture in their minds for what your homeschool should look like. Don't buy into it. Saying the pledge of allegiance every morning in your primary-colored school room might work for some people, but for most of us homeschooling looks a lot less formal.

The Solution: When it comes to other parents, like your friends who are raising kids or your own parents, often times your decision to do something differently is interpreted as a judgment of their own choices. If you're trying to convince your friends to homeschool their own kids and they are open to hearing about it, then by all means tell them how great it is. If they aren't open to the idea, shelve it for now. No one wants to hear how they're ruining their kids' lives with public school. Likewise your parents don't really need to know how inferior you think their choices were; instead of talking about what you hated about your education emphasize the pros of homeschooling and all the new (emphasis on new) resources out there. If your spouse is, um, surprised at the stacks of books on the table or the piles of unfolded laundry, the best advice I have is to swap it up. The next vacation week he has, let him take a day or two and try to do what you do. I've seriously done this and guess what? My husband knows how hard my job is and appreciates that he gets to go to work! Whatever other people think or say, make sure you don't let other people's low expectations of what you or your kids can do affect what you do or how you perceive your homeschool.  

Money. I saved up pretty much all our discretionary income for two months, and the other night I spent it all on school stuff for Henry, my not-yet three-year-old. I have to admit, placing the orders for this stuff stressed me out. It was a big commitment. I'm worried about spending too much for stuff, about not choosing the right things, and about, oddly enough, not spending enough. We are living on one income, and paying taxes for the school system but not using resources from the public school in return. This hurts sometimes. Maybe you have lots of kids, or one or one and a half incomes, or the economy sucks. Whatever it is, figuring out how to use the money you have to provide your kids with the best possible education is difficult and stressful sometimes.

The Solution: Being poor doesn't mean you can't give your kids a great education. That said, don't feel weird about sacrificing less important stuff so that you can afford the resources you really need. We've never paid for cable (actually not totally true, we had it for the three months we were studying for the bar so the babysitter could watch TV), I haven't bought myself new shoes in two years and we have limited eating out and traveling so that we can afford the lifestyle we've chosen. Get out of the deprivation mindset and look at allocating your financial resources like you're playing a game. Ask "How can we limit spending on things we don't really care about and focus our money on the things we really need or want?" Then, stop comparing what you have to others who have more. If you need to, compare yourself to those who have less and praise God for how rich you are.

  "Wasting" Your Time. I think this is something all SAHM's face from time to time. We put aside the degrees, the careers, all those things we used to get praise and money for excelling at. (Yes I end sentences in prepositions, no my kids will not be idiots because I'm their teacher). We give up alot to do a job that society does not value. So is being "just" a mom a waste of our gifts?

The Solution: Maybe, for you it might be. Ask yourself this: what do you want to do, honestly? Forget what anyone else thinks. Are you happier at home or outside the home? I can honestly say that working makes me proud, fulfilled, cranky, mentally tired and stressed out. Being home makes me happy, relaxed, and physically tired. It's clear to me that I prefer to be home. My mom wanted to work, and she did, and I am fine. Your kids will also be fine if you want to work. But choosing to stay home, while usually less lucrative than working, is not a waste of your time, as long as you don't waste your time at home. What does this mean? It means you're the mom, not the babysitter. Take advantage of the time you have, think of it as a real job in which you have the opportunity to excel. Pray about how to do it better and prioritize the most important things. Just because the world may not value this job doesn't mean it's not valuable.  

Not Doing a Good Enough Job. Even I've worried about this, and I'm teaching my kid to color inside the lines. Not exactly rocket science, but I've still worried that I will be so much less qualified to teach my kids than the preschool teacher down the road that it's led to serious self-doubt.

Solution: It's simple math. Maybe I'm only half as qualified to teach my kid as a real teacher would be, but he wouldn't just get a real teacher if I sent him to school. He'd get 1/30th of a real teacher or at best 1/15th. The fact that I can give him my full attention is worth way more than a few education classes, IMHO. And if you're worried about a lack of experience, remember that you've lived with this kid for years, since the day he was born. This experience makes you uniquely qualified to understand your child and how he learns.

Obstacles. You will fight with your cranky kid all day, only to realize just after five o'clock when the doctor's office is closed that he has a fever and an ear infection. You'll puke non-stop for five months with extreme morning sickness. Your friends and relatives will stop by the house unannounced in the middle of the day. Daddy will have an unexpected afternoon free and want to do something fun.

 The Solution: (Insert expletive) happens. It's not the end of the world. Having a rough day, or week, or even a few months of chaos does not mean you are failing. In regular school there are sick days and holidays, teachers who take breaks by showing movies, time spent lining up and walking around, waiting for everyone to sit down and shut up, and countless instances of busy work or working above or below the child's current abilities. In other words, you can afford to have hiccups in the routine and still get more done than in a classroom. Don't feel bad about needing breaks or unexpected distractions. Shake it off and begin again!

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