5 Lessons From My Latest Homeschool Freak-Out

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Last week, I was looking at schools’ open house schedules again. It was a week filled with anxiety, overwhelm, and self-doubt. Granted we’ve been in re-entry from visiting family and world schooling in India, but still, it was more than that. I’ve gone another round with my biggest homeschooling challenge–finding (and losing and finding again!) the balance between structure and freedom.  I am grateful and relieved to report that I am again feeling inspired and excited about this crazy journey called homeschooling. Here’s how I peeled myself off the ceiling, and what I learned in the process. 

Watch, but don’t ride, the internal pendulum.

At times, I can be a person of extremes. If I don’t watch myself, my tendency is to swing from, “This is awesome! Unicorns and rainbows! Why would we ever do anything else? We are in it through high school for sure!” to “This SUCKS! WTF was I thinking? Where is the goddamn school bus?”

I must learn not to take EITHER state too seriously.

“The curriculum should serve the family, not the other way around.” *

When I saw this quote, I made a mental note of it because somehow I knew I would need it later. From the beginning, I wanted to approach curriculum as one of many tools to use within a creative and organically evolving homeschool, rather than a strict format for recreating school at home. The trouble is, my Type A tendencies take over when I get curriculum books in front of me. I decide on a particular unit, and then I become a taskmaster about it, feeling pressure to check every assignment off the list.  And we’ve been getting it all done. But not without me bringing an uptight vibe to our whole thing over here. Where is the joy in that? Nowhere.

I may not be sure about much, but I am about one thing: I am not in this to be an uptight taskmaster on myself and my kids. That is actually the antithesis of what I want for our homeschool. So I am still going to use our curriculum, but it will be a loose outline or menu, not a prescription to be used as directed. I am going to start trusting myself to pick and choose which assignments are worth our time and energy, and which add little for my child at this time and can be let go.

*(I wish I could remember where I saw this quote so I can credit it properly—if anyone knows, please tell me in the comments!)

The way I prioritize our time needs to better reflect our values and goals for the kids.

While homeschooling is generally very efficient given the adult to kid ratio, following a curriculum to a T takes time. It takes us roughly 3 hours a day. That’s pretty good when you consider the length of a conventional school day. But when you add outside group activities, field trips, and time for free play, our days are pretty full.

Somehow, I never quite find the time to facilitate the interest-driven projects I keep saying I want for them–even though they hand me their fantastic ideas on a silver platter! That’s crazy.

Don’t forget to talk to other homeschool parents and supportive friends, and be open to inspiration wherever it might come from.

I didn’t get out of this funk alone. I asked a couple of homeschool moms I admire what their days are looking like and how they approach and use curriculum. And I am blessed with some amazing girlfriends who don’t homeschool, but who witness, support, and add their wisdom to my process.

I happened to notice this gem of a video on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s from a mom who homeschooled five children who are now adults. It came at just the right time, and WOW, what a gift. So much wisdom, reassurance, and encouragement to trust ourselves as home educators, and our children as born learners. I highly recommend it for any homeschooling parent, especially those who have struggled with perfectionism and fear of not doing enough.

Usually, if I’m stuck in anxiety, it’s because I’m not living authentically and I’m failing to trust my own knowing.

At first, I thought my increasing anxiety was because there are just too many things to do between the actual work with the kids and the prep time. I thought it was all about feeling torn between loving this lifestyle for our family and the advantages for my children, and the fear that it is all too much for me to manage with my job and regular family responsibilities. I thought it was about the uncertainty of whether or not we would continue homeschooling after this year. And it was partly that. It is definitely hard for me to sit with uncertainty. I tend to chew on unanswered questions obsessively, feeling enormous internal pressure to get it all figured out, ASAP.

But that wasn’t the main thing. I came to realize that I was anxious because I wasn’t being true to myself and my family. I know my kids. I know what kind of learning environment I want to create for them. But I’ve been afraid to really go with that. Instead of standing in my power as a mother and facilitator of my children’s natural desire to learn and create, I have been allowing some phantom external authority to direct what I “should” be doing.

My beautiful friend Ellen said, “The beauty of what you’re doing is that you get to choose.” I saw that I have been squandering this gift. Now I’m reclaiming it for us. I’ll keep you posted!

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama!  2015

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