thanks, Nate, for the wonderfully dear image of the brothers.
I almost quit homeschooling this weekend. Truth be told, I may end up quitting yet. But this past weekend I spiraled down into a pit of overwhelm and I’m just beginning to see what some of the real reasons were.
If you ask our boys how their first week of homeschooling went, you will see stars in their eyes and giant smiles. They had the best time, you guys. Literally, the best. I was amazed at how much they loved it until I realized it was because I was depleting myself of everything I had in order to teach them. I went into the week armed with my giant box of curriculum, got my lesson plans in order and then began my Super-Teacher-Mommy homeschool program. Copy work and dictation, reading, writing, math, physics, economics, word building, vocabulary, memorization, etc. etc. I’ve done it all this past week, y’all.
Wanna know how it was? It sucked. so. much. Not all the time, no. But the end of the days brought complete exhaustion and despair. I underestimated how much work it would be to homeschool two middle schoolers.. who are in two different grades.. who learn according to their two very different temperaments… who are happy to take all I can give them until my creativity and energy are flat as a tit that has been suckled at for five years straight. I forgot we still have a special needs kiddo who would get home from his kindergarten every day and need an engaged mom. I forgot there has to be something of me left to have a marriage and to be a wife. I forgot what a vital role I play in our business and that, when I’m giving every waking minute to teaching or lesson plans, I can’t work!
I am a strange person. If you know me, you know this. I’m an all or nothing gal. (a huge downfall of mine, and something I hope to grow out of in my .. sixties?) There is a drive in me to make and create spaces of beauty and silence and reverence .. and then to make something new and beautiful in those spaces I just made. If this part of me doesn’t have it’s place and outlet, I lose my shit.
Which is how I got to the end of last week, on a razors edge of crazy, listening to jazz and drinking wine in my trailer out back hoping that none of our kids would find me. They did find me and, when they did, I felt claustrophobic and tired. It’s hard to be Super-Teacher-Mommy and also just be “mom” and Jeremy’s “one and only” and, oh yeah, ash.
This weekend, God showed up in my life and did exactly what he loves to do – remind me of how good he is and how much I am loved by bringing me the stories of other people. I had THIRTEEN different conversations this weekend that gave me new strength and a new focus for the days ahead. That’s a lot of people to “randomly” be there at the right place and right time to give wisdom and encouragement. Seriously, our creativity has nothing on the ways God orchestrates people and relationships.
Thanks to these friends after week one, here are some things I am trying to learn and act out in order to not burn out:
a. It’s homeschool, so I don’t have to be Super-Teacher-Mommy.
The more homeschool folks I talk to the more I hear the same thing, “One of the biggest joys of homeschooling is the freedom from the rigor of a pressure-filled academic schedule.” Sure, I have a responsibility to make sure my kids work their way through the curriculum. But I am free to determine the pace and the means in an effort to preserve my sanity.
b. I can slow down and wade into these waters gently.
I spoke with a district teacher this weekend whose kids are homeschooled. When I asked him why, he explained two things: 1. middle school has become a bunch of kids in a building sitting in front of little glowing screens for eight hours a day. 2. the schools spend at least a month of the school year focusing solely on standardized testing. He reminded me that taking it slow is fine because a good bulk of the year is spent in time wasted on “pointless testing”.
c. I can’t be perfect, but I can be present.
I can’t be perfect at this thing.. not for my kids, not for the schools or home educators out there, not for myself. I can do my best to be present to the person I am made to be, and the roles entrusted to me. This looks like prioritizing time for my own rejuvenation and creative + spiritual development, then my marriage, then the kids. So although homeschooling is a part of my life, it can’t get the best of my days or I won’t have anything left for what’s most important.
d. It’s good to remind my kids that I’m not perfect.
We talked with them this weekend. I shared just how tired and burnt out I was already on the homeschooling thing. They were surprised and sad to hear it, but it made them more eager to embrace a new and sustainable way of homeschooling. They grew in empathy, in maturity, and in the ability to take their heavy hearts to God. I reminded them that their Heavenly Father is the only perfect parent and that this is one of many times I will fail them. Never miss an opportunity to be honest with your kids about how jacked up you are. It’s a beautiful grace for both of you.
e. My kids can learn to take responsibility and initiative through homeschooling.
I was reminded by a couple of adults who used to be homeschool kids that their parents set them on a trajectory to be responsible for their work each day. The parents were available to answer questions throughout the day but the kids were responsible for staying on track and completing assignments. This was so freeing for me, and today we tried it. It turns out, my boys are smart and very motivated to homeschool so they took right to the idea of being responsible and doing the work without me having to walk them through every little step!
f. If I am inadequate or need something to change, that’s ok. ALL IS GRACE.
all is grace, all is grace, all is grace. I’ve been reminding myself of these words all weekend long. If I choose to send them back to a conventional school, all is grace. If I homeschool but need time in the mornings for prayer and a long walk, all is grace. If we decide to go to the art museum tomorrow instead of doing art class, all is grace. If I need to hide away in my trailer at the end of a school day with a glass of wine, all is grace. I believe God loves me fiercely and that love doesn’t waver with my behavior or circumstances. So there’s grace for all of it.
g. I’m growing to accept the fact that I’m strange… and weak
It’s taken me a week away from having the freedom to create and be present as an artist in our business to remember that I love being a creative entrepreneur. I love this thing that Jeremy and I get to do together and I love the work we’ve made. I believe in our vision, I think we have something real and potent to say to photographers in our industry, and I am thankful that I am wired in such a way that I get depressed when I can’t live out that creativity. I am made this way for a reason and just because I homeschooled two of my kids today, doesn’t mean that’s negated. I’m also ok with being weak in this new area. As someone I recently heard said, “In God’s economy to lack confidence in yourself is to grow confidence in God.”
h. The right people and conversations make all the difference.
God has been so kind to putt people in my path this past week who love me and support the choice I make, no matter what that is. To My loving husband, Jaclyn, Amy, Nicole, Liz, Nathan, Katie, Elizabeth, Jessie and Jordan, Taylor, Susan, Mops, and Amanda: I can’t thank you enough. You all are the reason I didn’t jump ship when I was at the end of the plank this week. Thank you for your love and support and for being the kind of people who would care for me equally no matter what happens with homeschool.
.. signing off at the end of a long, but more fulfilling, hope-filled day.