This was a rough day. And because it was so tough, I’m doing what I always do: sit down and write. Call it blogging therapy.
In the space of one day, I had to unexpectedly put down our last cat because of heart disease (the other two died of nasal cancer and renal failure earlier this year) fight a migraine of epic proportions, and manage a doctor’s appointment trying to pin down what’s causing my migraines. You think any school got done today? Nope. Not a smidgen.
As I lay on the sofa with a pillow over my eyes, I thought about a blog I read the other day from a new homeschooler. I wanted to laugh if it didn’t hurt so much. She was talking about how other homeschooling moms seem to have it all figured out:
“You know the ones I’m talking about. They have six kids, all of whom they homeschool, their houses look perfectly curated, and they probably raise bees while volunteering at the soup kitchen on the side. Plus they have cute clothes and perfect haircuts.”
Let’s speak truth here. We don’t have it all figured out. Even those of us who look like we do. Because you don’t see the kitchen counters piled high with stuff on the normal days. You don’t see the stressed and frustrated mom come out when it’s time to get in the car and someone decides they need to poop. You see us at the playground looking like we have it together (until I scream at the toddler running toward the parking lot and ignoring me.) You don’t see reality.
If you’re feeling frustrated and comparing your homeschool to the “perfect mom,” don’t be. Let me share what it’s like for this homeschooling mom.
You can’t walk on my floor without stumbling over toys. We pick things up during the day. We pick things up at the end of the day (sometimes.) I go full-out crazy mom and crack the whip trying to pick things up when I’m fed up about it. We still have stuff everywhere. And we don’t even have that much stuff!
One night we cleaned the ENTIRE floor before bedtime. Nothing out – everything in its place. We ran out of time to vacuum. By the time we got to breakfast the next morning, you would never even know we cleaned up. I still haven’t vacuumed.
My kitchen counters are the dumping grounds of the entire house. Don’t know where a toy goes? That’s ok, put it on the counter. Mom will figure it out. Junk mail with my name on it? No problem – put it on the kitchen counter. A toddler safe space for salamanders, ladybugs, and various live foods? That’s ok, it can sit on the counter for MONTHS at a time!
My counters are piled so high the piles are slipping. I keep fighting back and eliminating one pile after another. Doesn’t matter, they grow. Breed. Expand.
Don’t even talk about cleaning. What do you think I am, superwoman? Pfft. If the kitchen sink is mostly empty, the floors aren’t covered in dog fur, and the toilets aren’t crusty, we’re doing good. Better than good! As I declared this morning, my job is to take care of the kids, teach the kids, and do whatever else I can fit in. And sometimes toilets just aren’t on the priority list.
If you think for a second that every homeschool mom out there hasn’t seriously contemplated putting the kids on the bus instead, you’re deluding yourself. Sometimes we actually do it. Then reality strikes and we end up having to pull them back out of public school because it just won’t work.
We don’t have a plan. We don’t have a lovely schedule set up with neat little boxes checked off. Nope. I optimistically call it “child-led learning” because that how it works. He decides he’s interested in something, and we delve into it. We dive deep into the morass of facts, details, and logistics. We don’t do shallow.
I should clarify that he’s learning. He’s learning a lot! It just doesn’t look like school at all. It looks like … wait for it … a mess! A mess of toys, coloring sheets, chalkboard math problems, and computer programs.
I’m not too concerned about it because he’s working at level or above it. But I do worry that I’m not challenging him enough. That I’m missing some critical component somewhere that he will need down the line. I worry about what he’s missing, what he’s doing, and what on earth are we going to do next?
I worry a lot. I think most homeschoolers do – even the ones who have teaching degrees. Why is that?
We’re bucking the system. We’re going upstream when all the other little fishies are happily swimming with the current. We’re not doing the standard curriculum at all, and some of what we’re doing isn’t even in the curriculum anywhere.
It doesn’t matter who I talk to, what program or curriculum they use, or what co-op they’re doing classes with: we all worry. We all think we’re not doing a great job, or that our kids are missing out, or that we’re screwing them up somehow.
Homeschooling isn’t nice and neat. It isn’t perfect and pristine. Sure, some people have things streamlined, and the experienced ones know what works for their kids and ignore the rest. But it’s important to realize you’re normal. You’re doing great! You are not failing your kids, yourself, or your homeschooling because you don’t meet the picture-perfect image of homeschoolers on instagram or pinterest.
Here’s a secret: homeschooling is parenting cubed. It’s messy, it’s difficult, it’s fun, it’s annoying, and it’s a learning journey. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. And it’s not perfect.
Don’t fool yourself into comparing your life with others – because they’re dealing with the same things you are. They’re dealing with a rebellious teenager who doesn’t want to write, or a kindergartener who refuses to learn to read. We’re not perfect. We all struggle.
I do know a homeschooling beekeeper, though. Just saying.
Note: due to my health issues and my kid’s learning disabilities/intractabilities, we school year-round. Learning always happens anyway, might as well count it. We take days off, we do field trips, we do lazy reading or watching YouTube days. It’s not all about the textbooks, worksheets, and handwriting. It’s about learning.