Journal of a Not-So-Ready Homeschool Mom:
The Perfect Storm
Ready or not, I’m officially a homeschool mom. Thank you, 2020.
And honestly, I’m not so ready.
Week one was full of tears.
Week two was less emotional but still lacking in the calm, centered joy of learning I’d always pictured for our homeschool days. What were we thinking when we withdrew from the charter school? How am I supposed to keep my kids’ education from being another 2020 catastrophe?
The bittersweetness of it all is that homeschooling has always been a part of my plan; it just wasn’t supposed to happen until after I finish grad school. Splitting my focus between my own schooling and the kids’ just doesn’t seem prudent.
And then 2020 came in like some kind of perfect storm to redefine what’s prudent and here we are, homeschooling and grad schooling and supporting the family simultaneously. My once-balanced life has been tossed around like a little sailboat caught in a gale.
And then the perfect storm of 2020…
Like so many families these days, our home has been rocked by the mayhem of 2020. We’ve adapted to the precautions of the day and we’ve tuned out the heaviness of the headlines. I’ve done my best to make our home a refuge from whatever is raging outside. And yet…my husband’s work in the live event industry is gone with no return in sight; my kids’ activities have all come to a hard stop and their school shifted to remote learning, the work I used to do so peacefully from home while everyone was out at their various places no longer fits into my carefully organized margins.
And then the perfect storm of 2020 wrecked my margins.
This is not what I signed up for when I decided to pursue my doctorate two years ago. The commitment I made to the degree program made sense back then because it fit around my freelance work and my kids’ schedules, and my husband had enough flexibility in his work to manage a lot of the family obligations so I could focus on school for a time. We made a careful decision based on balance and sustainability for the family.
And then the perfect storm of 2020 destroyed my balance.
I chose to add grad school to my load of responsibilities because I love being a student and I thought it would be a good idea to show my kids we can do big things. Right now it seems like pandemic survival ought to be a big enough thing to show them. I’m not sure it’s really a good idea to persevere through a degree I don’t think I love anymore while scrapping together any kind of work that I can so my husband can figure out his future without the industry he loves.
And then the perfect storm of 2020 slammed into all of my good ideas.
My heart wrestled with so many concerns about the way our charter school was approaching remote schooling. The myriad apps had us in a dozen different directions every day, the communication was lax at best, actual instruction and feedback were minimal, and overall pedagogy seemed to have been thrown to the wind. I get it, everyone is just trying to keep up with 2020, but truth be told, my heart had been wrestling with the charter school long before 2020. Deep down, I wanted to be teaching and learning side by side with my kids as we experienced the world around us; no institution could ever provide what my heart wanted.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I decided to put my school in front of theirs; I guess my mistake was thinking if I just pushed through my degree hard enough, we’d be back at homeschooling in no time. Most days it’s all I can do to keep the prevailing emotions enough at bay so that I don’t quit. This storm is not going to knock me down.
And then the perfect storm of 2020 came in and made a mess of it all.
Ready or not, I’m homeschooling, so what am I going to do about it?
Ready or not, we’re homeschooling. I tell myself it is what it is and what will be will be, and rain or shine the show must go on. I tell myself all these things because my dream of homeschooling has finally come true at the worst possible time and every morning I get to decide what I will make of it…ready or not.
I’m told there are other homeschool moms like me who had this year all planned and sorted without homeschool. Maybe you’re sitting here wondering where to start and how to go forward without messing it all up. Perhaps you’re also feeling like you are no longer in the driver’s seat and it’s hard to be hopeful or happy about it. I see you, not-so-ready homeschooler. We can do this.
I’m not a veteran homeschool rockstar, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learned almost one month into my homeschool adventure.
Not-So-Ready Lesson 1: Sometimes the work of carving out a routine is all the rigor we need.
If I’m going to manage my own schooling, plus the kids’ schooling, plus my work, plus the home, we’re going to need a routine. Formal schedules make me antsy, and I get a little rebellious when I’m told what to do and when to do it (even when I’m the one doing the telling). I know there is value in establishing a regular rhythm for our days, so the first order of business has been all about creating a flow and getting the kids acclimated to home and school happening in the same place at the same time.
I’m not unveiling major curricular changes to get our heads around. I’m not laying down the law for performance standards. I’m just trying to train our bodies to expect that school happens at the dining room table after we clear away breakfast. I’ve aimed to err on the side of simple, and for the most part it’s been good; but there’ve been moments when I couldn’t see my way through.
It’s not easy.
Not-So-Ready Lesson #2: We are learning to let go.
Even though homeschooling was a part of my plan, learning to shed the vestiges of institutionalized schooling has still been quite a process. We are laying down the fixation on grades and assessments and standards so that we can learn to discover our passions and approach each new lesson with fascination and joy rather than obligation and duty.
We are letting go of comparing our progress with that of anyone else so that we can simply embrace the idea that life is about learning if we stop long enough to notice and inquire about what we see along the way.
I’m letting go of where I thought I’d be and what I thought I’d be doing in this season. I’m learning that letting go is a long process. Letting go is not linear, it’s not guaranteed, it’s not predictable. Some days it’s about celebrating our four steps forward only to find we’ve moved six steps back the next day.
It’s not easy.
Not-So-Ready Lesson #3: We are grappling with gratitude.
Despite all the wrestling that’s brought me to this place, I know that keeping my kids home and taking responsibility for their learning is a privilege. Remembering that I have much to be grateful for, despite the mayhem of 2020, is my lifeline. I’ve been given all I need in order to educate my kids; I know this and I am grateful.
One way I help my kids see that we all do big things is to celebrate our “glows and grows.” We take turns sharing what’s going well and what’s stretching us. I’m not trying to be profound about it, just to protect our perspective as much as possible. A heaviness sets in when I neglect to give thanks for all the ways in which our needs are met. Gratitude begets gratitude, and so we’re making gratitude a practice and learning to celebrate the little things every day. And yet…
It’s not easy.
I just got to the homeschool party so I don’t have any profound insights or lessons to share. Also, given what’s on my plate these days, I’m ok with not having any profound insights or lessons to share. Maybe the profundity is in knowing someone else is homeschooling, when they are not so ready, and might be encouraged. Whoever that is, I see you, we can do this.
Ready or not, it isn’t easy.
But it’s possible.
Join me for my ongoing series… Journal of a Not-so-Ready Homeschool Mom.