Homeschool was a journey I didn’t expect to undertake, but one that has proven immensely beneficial to my family. But as positive a shift as it’s been for my kids, how has it manifested for me?
The answer to that question depends on the day, to be honest. Some days are easier and lighter than others. Then, there are the jagged days, the long days, the up-and-down or downright tired days. Humans are fickle and, well, we’ve got plenty of humans in their safe, free-to-be-my-full-self space involved in this scenario!
My top five personal struggles during my first year of homeschooling have been:
1. Having little personal time. This was to be the year I would have the most kid-free time since before I had our first child. For the first time in 9 years, I was supposed to have no children at home during the day. Oh my, all the things I could do with that time! I could teach more yoga classes, run more errands, meet friends for walks, or take up a new hobby. The world was my figurative oyster. And then… 2020 happened. So, now, instead of having all three kids in school full day, I AM the school each day. Even carving out an hour to walk with a friend or by myself is a feat. That lack of autonomy is probably the biggest struggle for me.
2. Being permanently on duty. We have instituted early bedtimes for our children for many reasons, one of which being the need for my husband and I to have time together when we’re not on kid duty. The problem: I’m always on duty. Whether it’s a late evening need for a hug, a headache from reading too long by flashlight, a sleepy tumble out of the bed, or a sleepwalk stroll to my bedside, I inevitably am the one the kids call upon. My husband is certainly an active co-parent, but there are some things kids insist that only Mom can manage. This makes for particularly long days and weeks, as there is little time in the day when I am not the default parent. It gets to be tiresome in every way. After all, even carrying a sack of feathers will get burdensome eventually.
3. Being perpetually flexible. When my husband’s schedule changes, when a pick-up time shifts, when an appointment runs long, or an errand becomes urgent, I must accommodate the change. Often, this sets my personal plans aside and adds another layer of impromptu planning and unanticipated responsibility onto my shoulders. I am the default parent. Still, as much as the last year has drilled into me the saying, “expect the unexpected” and the reality of rampant impermanence, as a Type-A planner, this is a lesson I never appreciate relearning.
4. Trying to undo the achievement mindset. I attended private school from preschool through college. Though not outwardly competitive, I was and am incredibly, detrimentally competitive with myself. Those pressures to meet certain expectations, to do and be and learn and achieve certain things by specific times in order to be deemed “successful” are still present. How ludicrous those expectancies are! How broadly applied, scantly valid, yet widely damaging they are! And as much as I strive to break away from those lists of must-have, -do, and -be for myself and my children, I find my own inner voice sneakily using them to indulge my self-doubt, tryingto wind theirway into my homeschooling. It is a lifetime of conditioning I am attempting to unravel instantaneously, and that’s not reasonable.
5. Navigating my own lofty standards. The standards I hold for myself as a parent are, generally, too high. The guilt I hold for not meeting those standards is immense. If I teach a yoga class midday and the kids are watching a movie in the playroom while my husband works from home, I feel guilty. No one else is upset or harmed by the situation, but I feel guilty. If it’s a beautiful day, and I don’t ensure that the kids are outside nearly all day long after learning, I feel guilty. If they have too few vegetables in a day, if I have short temper, if I don’t schedule a playdate for them during the week, if I drop off a child (I’m not exaggerating) 2 minutes late for an extracurricular activity, if I don’t call my mom during the week, if I vent too much to my husband during our evening time together, if I don’t take the dog on a 2-mile walk… I feel guilty. It’s ridiculous. I’m aware. And this is my perpetual struggle.
As challenging as these hurdles are, we are all FAR better off homeschooling than we were navigating brick-and-mortar school, especially private school. The kids are thriving. Our lives are more livable and less scheduled. The kids aren’t just learning faster but with greater joy and interest. But, as is the case for most everything in life, there are growth opportunities that present as discomfort.
Will this list upend our homeschool journey? Nope. In fact, the recognition of it may prove to aid us on our continued path.
Perhaps next year will be easier.