Recently, I came across a post consisting of an image by Gottman Institute that spoke volumes to me, especially since I have been feeling overwhelmed for the past few weeks.
It says, “It’s ok to not do it all.”
I felt like someone said what I needed to hear, and what I needed to read at that moment in time. Women, in general, might be predisposed (and this is a generalization from my limited experience and observation, not data) to be a Jack-of-all-trades, doing everything that needs to be done, at the expense of her own self. In homeschooling, this has the potential to very quickly escalate to huge proportions if not controlled.
After all, we are the one on whose shoulder lay the responsibilities of our children’s education, upbringing, and a whole slew of other things. We want the best for them and we will bend over backwards to provide it for them. In doing so, we most likely will face challenges in our homeschooling journeys. It is called a journey for a reason, in that there will be times when things are gliding by smoothly, when the sails are billowing freely and the sea is calm, the sun is out, the gulls are soaring above you, and the clouds are cheering you on. But there will also be times when your sails are so heavy that you can’t even lift them, let alone set out to the big ocean of knowledge. The water might be choppy and rough even if you manage to put up those weighty reluctant sails albeit with a lot of grunting and coaxing, and those cheerleader cumulus are nowhere to be seen. Replaced instead by frowning cumulonimbus looming over you with menacing evil grins in the form of in-cloud lightnings. Not only are we dealing with heavy reluctant sails and an uncooperative sky and ocean, but we might also be weighed down by other on-goings in the home or community. Sure, it’s not the ideal situation. Some might jump to the conclusion that we are not managing our priorities properly. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. Again, that is beside the point.
The current reality is that, we feel overwhelmed. And anything we see of what others are doing becomes a source of stress for us, even if we normally look forward to getting to learn of new ideas and approaches on our good sailing days. Anything that anyone says to us be it of suggestions or advice or problem solving becomes irrelevant and just adds more to the ever-pounding stress. It has the potential to make us feel so unworthy of being a parent, let alone a homeschooling parent. We may feel like we have put so much effort in this journey, but we are just being battered by a relentless typhoon that cuts in and bites us where it already hurts.
This is when we should step back, and say to ourselves,
It’s ok to not do it all.
If we need to outsource, we should do so. If we need to step away from homeschooling conversations in which ideas are being thrown left and right, we should do so. If we need to step away from social media, we should do so. It’s ok to not do everything yourself. Personally, this is a reminder for me first and foremost. I am that homeschooling mom who likes to do things from scratch, not because I want to torture myself, but because it puts me in my element and brings joy to the homeschooling experience. For some people, following lessons plans might be less stressful. For me, following lessons plans is more stressful. Whatever it may be, each family should do what is most feasible in their homeschooling journey.
Realizing this and stepping back to pause, and know that you can only do what you have the capacity to do, even if you had higher capacity years back, is the key to keeping your sanity and grabbing it before it swirls down the drain. I have older kids whom I homeschooled from the very beginning all the way through high school. They are all now in college. Looking back, I noticed and realized that I had more energy back then, than I do now with my youngest. I was exhausted too back then, but not to the extent I am now. At times I do feel like I did more for my older kids and not so much for my youngest. On the other hand, I feel like homeschooling my oldest is quite different than homeschooling my youngest. The dynamics are different, the times are different, my knowledge base is different, and the challenges are different. With that, it dawned on me that with whatever guilt I may be feeling for not being able to do everything myself for my son, it is more important for me to outsource so that I can have enough energy and joy to help my son with his other interests. It is more crucial that I put myself first, seeing that I am being worn down by the different demands, after having tried different things. It is more important that I take care of myself so I can better benefit my family.
Self awareness is something that I personally feel helps us in times where we are faced with an onslaught of external reactions. If we know ourselves well, we know not to feel guilty, hopeless, despair in times of intense stress. If we know that we need to be surrounded by well-meaning people to help us get out of the slump, then we should seek that support. If we know that we need to step away from everything to recover, then we shouldn’t feel guilty doing so. It’s like a prescription a doctor gives. Each prescription might differ for different patients, depending on their health history, ailments, and personal factors.
Whatever it is, in our normal lives, we get sick maybe couple of times per year. Being sick is our bodies telling us that we should and pay attention to our bodies that we may have been neglecting in fulfilling other responsibilities. Our bodies might not have the capacity to keep up with the speed or amount of work. Yesterday, as we drove back from our grocery shopping, the trunk of the car made some noise whenever we would go over a dip on the road.
“This never happened before?” I asked my husband, who was puzzled and concerned at why the car was making the noise.
He replied, “No.”
It was then that we realized that he had never loaded the trunk with that much burden before. We had bought three sacks of jasmine rice, and gone to three different grocery stores. It was one of those weekends where we had to go to the Asian grocery store, Halal store and health food grocery store because we had run out of our staple items at home. Without the noise coming from the back of the car, we might never have known how much we had loaded the trunk, and how it was struggling to carry that amount of weight. If we ignore the noise and do the same thing again next weekend, my husband might have to miss some days off work to get the car fixed. Similarly, if we ignore the stress and our mental and physical well being while homeschooling and keep going thinking we could do it, we might have to send the kids to school to get ourselves fixed.
Having said that, one might say,
What about those people who say, ‘Oh, I can never homeschool! How can I teach all those subjects??’ but they haven’t even tried, or they are not privy to the way homeschooling works?
True. Sometimes, it is a case of not knowing how simple homeschooling can be. There are ways to simplify your homeschool so that it is organic and more enjoyable as well as more aligned to children’s developmental stages. However, there is no one right way to homeschool and with that, each family has the right to determine the what and the how of homeschooling based on their situation, for situations can vary greatly. One family might have a special needs child. Another might have financial issues that require them to have working parents. Yet another might have children who prefer learning the traditional way and thrive in that way.
Regardless, whichever way a family decides the how of homeschooling, there will be bumps and dips along the way, just like everything else in life. When you hit that bump or go over that dip, you might hear some noise in the back somewhere. Don’t ignore that noise. Slow down, reassess your load, take some out, and if you need to take a different route temporarily, or even hand the driving over to someone else, do so. Give yourself that recovery time, so you can take the wheel again and continue on the beautiful journey that is homeschooling.
Juli Herman is a homeschooling mother of four children, two of which are now in college. While pursuing her BSc. in Computer Science, she had her first two children. By the time she completed her final year, she was 100% certain of two things; stay home with her children, and rekindle her love of learning. As a bibliophile, Juli naturally instilled the love of reading to her children from a young age. Homeschooling became an obvious choice of education for her children as she read more about it. Through living a homeschooling lifestyle where love of learning is placed on a pedestal, she witnessed her children blossom into their respective areas of strength. Now that she has been homeschooling for over 19 years, she is glad she documented the journey on her homeschooling blog, which went through its own growth. Blogging has served as a great reminder of both the blessings and challenges of homeschooling to keep her going with the youngest child. Through it all, homeschooling has taught her a lot about the true meaning of tawakkul.