I know this sounds a bit controversial, so roll with me.
Right now, we’re heading into our 14th year of homeschooling. My son is 17, and although we haven’t had a cap and gown ceremony or party (I should get on that), I’m not really “homeschooling” him anymore. Instead, he’s taking college classes and working one-on-one with a Japanese tutor.
My daughter is 14, and we’re heading into high school, so I am still neck-deep in homeschooling.
And I feel confident to say that after years of various ups and downs, starts and restarts, bummer curriculum and stuff that has made it for the long-haul, the actual teaching/learning isn’t the hardest part.
I think these are the things that make homeschooling really hard:
Expectations are a killer, whether they are your own or someone else’s; whether they are on you or your kids.
If you ever find yourself feeling like you are “drowning,” most likely you’re actually drowning not in work, but in expectations.
These are the supposed tos and shoulds that creep up on us.
A friend recently told me that she just doesn’t love outdoors stuff and it was so freeing I wanted to cry.
I’ve wanted for years to be an outdoorsy mom – hiking and camping, and taking my kids on awesome nature walks.
But two things always got in the way:
- I don’t actually know a lot about nature.
- I don’t really enjoy being in nature a lot of the time.
I’m allergic to bee stings – I’m allergic to a lot of nature, actually.
I hate being hot. Or cold.
I get lost super easily.
All of these things make nature walks a little scary and overwhelming.
Still, when my kids were young, I forced myself to do them.
I just wish now that I would have considered other ways – teaming up with a crew – maybe especially another mom who knew more about nature and would also be there if I got attacked by bees or got us lost.
My kids did lots of nature camps, and did nature study with an awesome naturalist who was part of our old co-op.
I wish I could have let that be enough instead of feeling constant guilt and failure about not being “better” at nature.
Instagram is the living worst. It used to be Pinterest that made me feel bad, but now, when I start to get overwhelmed, one of the first things I do is take Instagram off my phone.
I always put it back on, because I also somehow love it? but the exposure to ALL of the ideas can make us feel like everyone but us is “doing it all.”
Theodore Roosevelt said comparison is the thief of joy, right before he hopped off the moose he was riding and wrestled a bear and then made that bear his best friend.
Only part of that is true, but my point is, he did things his own way and was successful.
Teddy would have loved nothing more than to punch Mark Zuckerberg in the neck for thinking up social media without considering social consequences.
A few nights ago, I dreamt that I was at my own birthday party, but I was wearing all kinds of sentimental jewelry and I kept losing track of pieces of it.
So I couldn’t enjoy the insane blow-out party, where I was surrounded by friends and karaoke and cake.
When we worry, it distracts us.
It takes our focus away from what matters most, which is our kids and their overall health and happiness.
We were never meant to be teachers first.
If we wanted our kids to have teachers who cared most about our kids learning just like their peers, we would have sent them to school.
This is not to insult teachers – they work hard and receive specialized training and serve a huge, valuable purpose. I’m just saying, that isn’t our role.
None of that was ever ours to carry.
I’ve started to believe that we can get through most things if we can deal with the guilt and shame surrounding those things.
It’s not the mistakes that get us – it’s the guilt and shame over the mistakes. It’s picking a math curriculum that makes our kids cry, and still trying to force it and then later seeing how much harm it did and not being able to let that part go.
I can’t tell you how many mistakes and missteps have made up the last 14 years.
(That last 44, really. Once, as a baby, I slept on my ear wrong and it got folded over and stuck like a Spock ear and my mom, a registered nurse, called our pediatrician sobbing because she was convinced it was going to stay like that. Sorry Mom.).
When we hold on to guilt, we get stuck in the mistake. Like some kind of emotional quicksand. The harder to try to “fix,” the deeper in we get until we’re up to our heads, still trying to justify and explain.
Let the mistakes go, friends. Give them not just wings, but a ride to the airport.
Worry Over Enough
Because I desperately wanted homeschool parents to know that they were enough. That their family was enough, even if their family doesn’t look like the little Instagram squares that get a billion likes.
I wanted parents to be able to stop wasting their precious time with their kids feeling less than.
This became the whole theme of my book, of course (and shameless plug – it’s now available on Amazon!), but I want to remind you here too – worrying that you are somehow not enough to do this right is nonsense.
No one cares about your kids more than you do.
I have seen it time and again – in every DM, in every email, at every conference where I speak – the parents who worry are the ones getting it right because sadly, the way our love comes out sometimes is worry.
What can we do about that? Maybe I’ll let you know in another 14 years.
Trying to do life too
Where do I begin?
I guess I’ll say this: if all we had to do in a given day was homeschool, it would feel like a Sandals vacation.
But someone has to cook, and clean and do laundry, and take care of pets and cars and broken appliances and plumbing and drop off a casserole and take a sick parent to the doctor and also do our own eyebrows and work-out, preferably before lunch because this afternoon is PACKED.
You’re a damn treasure and we should all get summers off of everything, just so we can sleep.
I just want you to open up to the idea that the hardest parts of homeschooling really come from our mindset.
- It’s trying to force what isn’t working.
- It’s comparing our amazing, goofy families to how we imagine other families to be.
- It’s trying to make homeschooling about school first.
Homeschooling is about not being in school; not trying to replicate school. It’s finding freedom outside of a building where someone made up rules a long time ago.
Homeschooling can be HARD. For so many reasons.
But we can release some pressure by not trying to do it the way someone else wants us to, by not comparing to others, by not letting the fear take over, by not getting hung up on missteps and by stopping the worry that we aren’t enough.
OF COURSE you’re enough.
For crying out loud, you’ve read this far.
Let’s practice the beautiful art of letting go of something we never needed in the first place. 🤍